X-site - Deep Archive - The MBC About our Founder page - copy
About our founder
This website is brought to you by Christine Allsopp a third generation make-up artist who's family's make-up credits can be traced back as far as 1939. She joined the industry in 1981 as a trainee and worked her way up to being a Chief Make-up Artist/Make-up Designer on feature films and prestigious television dramas. She received 2 BAFTA nominations; one for the TV version of "Casanova" for Red Productions for which she was responsible for applying a modern twist of glamour to the period subject. The films on this site were all produced, directed, photographed and edited by Christine and she is the Creative Director at The Make-Up Brush Company.
With more than 45 screen credits verifiable at www.imdb.com, Christine has travelled to locations worldwide including Kenya, Ghana, Hungary, Israel, Russia, the former Yugoslavia, Nassau, Dominica, Jamaica, the South of France, Portugal, Cairo and Greece.
She has been a personal make-up artist for more than a couple of Britain's finest actresses including a 'Dame' and worked with five 'Sirs'. she has also worked at No.10 Downing Street on two Prime Ministers. "It was quite something to be left alone, to wait in the first floor reception rooms of No.10, to wander a little, (not too far), and wonder if walls could speak what could they have told me."
Christine has been visiting sets since a little girl her first appearance being that of the baby in the 1962 version of "Swallows and Amazons" on which her mother was working as Chief Make-up
Artist. "It was an alternative kind of childcare, for which I was paid." Connie or Constance Reeve, was the first woman make-up artist to be trained at Shepperton Studios in the 1950's. My uncle Harold Fletcher who was on his way to becoming the Studio Make-Up Supervisor at Shepperton Studios and his older brother Gerry Fletcher (who went to South America to set up a make-up department and also worked in the United States and Germany) invited Connie to interview to train as a make-up artist. Connie's career as a commercial artist had been interrupted by the war when she was sent to Dunstable Met Office HQ as a draughtswoman to work on maps. After the war she was at a bit of a loss so Harold suggested she might like to train in make-up. (By the way, when you click on these links and see the credits, the position of Make-up Artist was the most senior, the Head of Department in those days).
Having been formally trained at art school, Connie's skills translated well to film and she earned a reputation as being very talented. Once she joined the studio staff she saw Marilyn Monroe when working as an assistant make-up artist on "The Prince and the Showgirl". Connie's notable credits include "Gone to Earth" and "The Tales of Hoffman" for the Powell and Pressberger team. Also included in her c.v. were two films for the legendary Director John Huston with the original version of "Moulin Rouge" in 1952 and "Beat the Devil" in 1953. Connie and I regularly sit together and watch films including "Moulin Rouge"or "Beat The Devil" on DVD. I've explained to her that they must truly be a classics to be available on DVD. My now frail mother who has since suffered a stroke but who in some and especially artistic respects is sharp as a pin, bounces her foot to the music of "Moulin Rouge" as she remembers her experience of making the film. My mother did a beautiful job and I would like to acknowledge her here for her achievement.
Of the Technical and Art Department grades the Director of Photography, SFX and Costume are most frequently discussed, but the main source of emotional engagement, in most films is elicited by the actors faces which are layered into body language, movement and lighting for mood. There is also a whole language of cinematic camera moves which are used to elicit emotional responses, but without faces, they'd mean very little. In the days when DOP's lit more for faces, specifically their leading ladies close-ups; they relied on make-up artists to lay the foundations of light in the face and bone structure that would 'speak' to the camera and reflect their lighting well. You can see how Ozzy (Oswald) Morris's and Connie's work combine to great effect in the leading ladies' close-ups in "Moulin Rouge". It has to be said, it's not all lighting!
Make-up has changed a lot since those days and especially in the last 7 years. Film is much more sensitive, less light is required, the days of arc lights are long gone, and so less make-up is required. Contrary to popular belief film make-up is not generally 'thick'. It's a question of what is appropriate for the characters and the style of the piece and how it is to be lit. Even very effective make-up can be very thin so it conveys the effect required without being noticed as make-up. What is required is thin work that supports the suspension of disbelief required for the audience to enter entirely into the world a film presents. Make-up is about to go through another revolution for High Definition.
Some family history and memories
If we go back a little further, Harold (aka 'Fletch') Chiefed "Georgie Girl" with other credits going back to 1939 and Gerry worked on some of the iconic television series of the 1970's. My aunt, (Harold's wife), Eileen Fletcher, who signs her paintings E V Fletcher, was also an artist, winning the Miniature section of the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in 1934 with 'Tulips'.
You might think that being surrounded by such accomplished artists made being artistic easy, but as any artist will tell you, finding your own voice and expression as an artist is a totally personal journey and you never know how well you might develop or succeed until you persevere. I knew I felt artistic, but didn't find my way very well with the subject at school. I felt artistically constipated most of the time at school, a feeling which my teacher observed and confirmed quite cuttingly on more than one occasion relegating me to seed and string collages at the back of the class. Which just goes to show, you never know when your talents will blossom if you privately and steadily keep faith with them.
|I remember when I was about 6 years old Connie took me to an old warehouse near the river in London to see a person called a Beatle (I'm not sure I'm allowed to say which). Anyway, he sat in a white egg shaped chair hanging from the ceiling and there was a big fluffy carpet. Even though I was very young, I remember how the buzz of excitement in the air was exceptional, I didn't understand the fuss at the time, but I do now.||
One summer's day I remember Connie taking me to work and I spent the day watching filming in a churchyard. Being tired on my feet, I sat on the nearest flat surface which turned out to be a tomb, out of the way but with a good view. I remember there were a lot of very cross men on fast horses galloping away from the church. I was 9 years old and the film was 'Cromwell' and it was the shot when Cromwell followed by his Roundheads are charging away from a church. It brought my mother much mirth to notice I'd been sitting all afternoon on the tomb of a Duke of Marlborough, or was it Wellington? Still at least I didn't get in shot!
|Connie continued to take me to sets through my childhood and teenage years. I was a regular visitor to Moonbase Alpha after school or during the holidays while she was working on Space 1999 on L & M stages at Pinewood Studios. I remember being given one of the silver blue medical bay costumes which I enjoyed using as pyjamas. She also took me to see the filming of the Ballroom sequence of "The Slipper and the Rose", I was hoisted up onto the shoulders of one of the crew because there was a big metal arm thing in the way and I wanted to see all those dancers in their beautiful dresses. It was a little girl's dream. I've recently watched the film and realise now that the big metal thing in the way was the crane which was used to mount the camera for the final pull away from Cinderella and the Prince at the end of the dance re-establising the room in the wide for the finishing of the scene.|
While visiting Ray Harryhausen's workshop when mum was working on "Clash of the Titans" I got very excited about the possibility of actually working in films and this led to my first day's work as a 'trainee' make-up artist on the film, making the extras look tanned for the temple sequence to match the footage that had already been shot in Malta. It took another 3 years before I was able to begin my training proper in the industry, but once I'd started there was no looking back, I'd found my passion, making movies.
My first full-time contract was as an assistant on Peter Greenaway's first film "The Draughtsman's Contract" and I went on to train further on "The Return of the Jedi" with Stuart Freeborn, one of the fathers of animatronics who also Chiefed and made the monkeys for '2001'. I also benefited from the wonderful experience of learning from Tom Smith on "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom", who taught me more in one morning about how to use strong colour thinly when he was making up a caucasian wrestler/stunt man Pat Roach to be Indiana Jones' Indian Assailant with whom he fights in the mines. Tom Smith had also previously Chiefed 'Gandhi', achieving the most incredible ageing in the hot humid climate of India with just brush and stick work, not a prosthetic in sight. Tom is a supreme artist in his medium and is also a brilliant painter.
I learned the first principles of almost everything I have ever done from these men, my mother and keen observation. When I started work in the industry I'd watch everyone doing their job, learning not only how things were done but the reasons for many of the protocols of film making, the unspoken rules and invisible de-markation lines that enable us a crew, an otherwise impossible number of creatives to work together as effectively as possible and get a schedule shot while making space for the artistic process. I've often marvelled at the process of coal-face practicality and ephemeral aristry; logistics and the creative process that's repeated in a logical cycle, entirely originally for between 6-27 setups a day. This is when film making is at its best.
Making movies is always about pushing boundaries, using what you know to do something even better or just for fun finding a way to do something entirely new. Experience counts as a good basis from which to work of course, but as films are always going to bring new challenges, it is common for crews to meet new challenges. At times in my career I may have been exhausted or frustrated, but in 26 years in this work I can honestly say I have never been bored. I've been very fortunate. If you're not rushed off your feet doing your own job 14-16 hours a day, you can always watch another crew member doing theirs and learn from them. There are so many artists around you, so how could you be bored? You can watch artists in photography, lighting, camera, gripping (that's moving the camera around in cinematic moves, a kind of camera ballet in lay terms), energy (actors and directors), art direction, painting, carpentry, construction, props, costume, and sound. The tricks crew members will get up to in order to get their job done in sometimes near impossible circumstances never ceases to amaze me. The commitment most crew give to doing the best job possible is more often than not relentless and the methods they may use to succeed can be staggeringly clever, inventive and delightfully surprising.
I have always wished that I do interesting work, and a huge variety of work has come my way over the years to give me solid experience of almost every kind of make-up you can do for the screen.
Working with so many artists has brought me to a conclusion: that in a world where there is such emphasis on disposable possessions that there is also, perhaps more enjoyment and satisfaction in exploring and developing our own artistic expression wherever we can express it. Skills, though not as immediate as purchases, are more enduring and satisfying than stuff. I hope with our make-up brushes customers will enjoy great tools with which to explore their artistry.
Christine's photos of her make-ups for Nina Sosanya as 'Bellino' in 'Casanova' are reproduced by kind permission of Nina Sosanya and Nicola Schindler at Red Productions. Copyright 2004 Red Productions/Christine Allsopp - All rights reserved.
Nina Sosanya's hair for this scene in "Casanova" was a truly ephemeral work of art
Created by Bea (Beatrix) Archer - film hairdresser extraordinaire
The black and white photo is of my mother prepping the Moira double for 'The Tales of Hoffman which was directed by Michael Powell and produced by Emeric Pressberger. The colour photo of Christine Allsopp was taken by Actress/photographer and friend Emma Croft.