“Somebody is going to do it. Why not you?” That is what Scott Wheeler’s mentor told him in college. Now, after many years of professional make up experience, Wheeler is preparing to work on his dream job. I reached out to Scott after finding his credit on the popular Comedy Central sketch show Key and Peele (which is probably my favorite show on the tube right now). I had to meet one of the people responsible for transforming Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele into dozens of unique characters every week. And, as it often turns out, when someone has worked on one TV show or movie that I like, he or she has almost always worked on something previously that I also enjoyed. Scott was kind enough to spend some time answering some questions for LCC.
What exactly does a makeup artist do?
The obvious answer is that we do makeup. It’s also really the only accurate answer since there are so many specific directions one can take as a makeup artist. A makeup artist doing strictly fashion is not really doing anything like what a makeup effects artist in a shop is doing. But it all still falls under the general umbrella of makeup.
What are the differences between a makeup artist and a makeup department head?
Makeup department head is really just a subdivision of makeup artistry. The obvious thing that sets the job apart is one is in charge of the department. Some of us who department head still keep our hands on the work although some department heads chose to just run the department and delegate the work. Ultimately it is the department head that directly answers to production and is held responsible for the entire department’s work. So there is a skill set over and above makeup artistry involved in heading a department. It requires organizational skills, diplomacy and the ability to direct other makeup artists, take directions from production, manage a budget and be the visionary for that department.
What has your experience been like working on Key and Peele?
My experience working on Key and Peele has been pretty fantastic. We do work under difficult conditions with very limited budgets and very tight schedules. But there is genuine artistic and moral support from the top down. That goes a long way in countering the constraints of schedule and budget. Keegan and Jordan are two of the nicest guys I know and they love transforming into all these characters with makeup and hair. They both give us excellent input and are open to our ideas. It’s really a pretty amazing working relationship built on mutual trust and respect. I think ultimately it is our common goals that allow us to relax and all work together so effectively. Keegan and Jordan appreciate the value that makeup brings to their work and I think I have a pretty good understanding on what I need to bring to them that best supports their vision of the show.