Candice Stafford-Bridge likes to keep busy. She’s one of Western Canada’s best and most prolific Movie and TV Makeup Artists, rising to the position of Head of Department and Makeup Designer for multiple high profile productions. And if that wasn’t enough, somehow she also finds the time to act as Chairperson of the Makeup Department of the IATSE Local 891 Union in British Columbia and the Yukon.
It’s plenty of work, but Candice relishes the responsibility. In fact, she’s loved every step of her journey through the industry from the moment she graduated from Canada’s #1 Makeup School almost a decade and a half ago.
“I love being around creative and crazy like-minded people,” smiles the Vancouver native. “And it’s fun! There’s a reason they call this business the circus, because it’s crazy. I’m crazy, so I like that. I’m not a 9-to-5 girl. Long hours in strange places, filming in the middle of the woods, suit me. The creativity is there in every aspect of every job. I thrive in the pressure and love making it happen now! There’s so much work that goes into every shot. And it’s a joy to be part of that process.”
Of course, there are perks to every job when the cameras stop rolling.
“When I did Hot Tub Time Machine the party and the fun you could see on screen was nothing compared to what our days were like. They put us up in Fernie, BC for three weeks. We worked nights, so the hotel would open the bar at 6am for us. Needless to say, shenanigans ensued.”
You’d be correct in assuming that Chairperson of the IATSE Makeup Department sounds like a serious job. It is. But talk to Candice for just a minute and you’ll realise you’re in the presence of a fun-loving, instantly charming, naturally creative spirit.
“I was artistic and social at high school,” she recalls. “I got A’s in art and D’s in math. I often got into trouble for talking too much; which serves me very well now. I wasn’t allowed to wear Makeup until I was 15, so I’d sneak into the bathroom at high school with my frosted pink lip-gloss and blue mascara. My Mum told me about maybe becoming a Makeup Artist. I thought, ‘Nobody gets paid for doing that! That’s fun, not a job.’
“She took me to see Blanche Macdonald and I went, ‘This is school? This is great!’ I enrolled and loved every minute of it. The whole thing was a wonderful experience, but when we reached the film and TV part of the program, and we got into the blood and bald caps it was beyond great! I was like, ‘That stuff in the movies isn’t real? That’s not a real beard?’ A light bulb went on inside my head.”
Candice had fallen in love with movie makeup magic. She’d had a taste of professional sets as a child actor and was hungry for more. Once again, her mother was there to help.
“My Mum was really on top of it and started investigating getting into the Union. The application at the time said you needed at least 60 days credit. I wanted to go in with much more than the bare minimum. I volunteered for everything. Instead of buying dinner or coffee I’d buy a lipstick and eye shadow. I worked at Act-1, the movie makeup store – which isn’t there any more – so I knew what was new and got to play with it, even if I couldn't afford it.
“I was volunteering for shows at Shaw TV and student movies. At Shaw I’d do a show in the morning, get on the bus to work at Act-1, get back on the bus after work and do an evening show. That’s how badly I wanted it. More shows became available, and I volunteered to do them all.”
Meeting Vancouver’s Makeup Elite at Act-1 definitely helped. Candice met artists like Victoria Down (at the time, the head of IATSE) and studied every product in the store. When her contacts started generating jobs, she was ready.
“My first day call was for Stargate,” she recalls. “I remember thinking, ‘This is pretty cool’. I had a huge silver kit that was totally impractical but looked amazing. All my rain gear was new, so I probably stood out like a sore thumb. I did a day call once and turned up in high heels, on the docks in North Van in the rain at night. You only make those mistakes once.
“Eventually I got a day call for Andromeda, and that one day turned into four years. I’d told the production that I’d done prosthetics before, but I hadn’t. They didn’t teach them at Blanche Macdonald back then. So I was one step behind the effects team, watching everything they did and copying them. I knew the products but I’d never done it for TV and film before. Andromeda was a sci-fi show, so it had a bombshell leading lady and monsters. There’s nothing better than a show like that for Makeup Artists. We had a girl that was purple! Who turns people purple in real life? I got to work with the prosthetic guys who were super awesome. They taught me a lot, I got to do more characters and I ended up becoming a member of IATSE. The rest is history.”
That prodigious history includes stints on series and movies like Battlestar Galactica, The A-Team, Underworld and Goodnight For Justice, and has seen Candice rise to the positions of Key Makeup Artists, Makeup Designer and Department Head.
“I did three Goodnight for Justice TV movies. They’re westerns, and the Executive Producer is a close friend of mine. Working on those with him have been precious experiences. There’s always the leading woman who has to be beautiful and perfect and glowing, and a set full of dirty and grungy male characters. And I get to work with cowboys, which is always a good day.”
After Co-Chairing IATSE’s Makeup Department, Candice took the Chair and the added responsibility herself.
“I thought to myself, I can do that! A vote went out and people said yes. It’s not easy. I’ve had to learn a lot. But it’s a great way to support the members and I’m getting to know a lot of people. Since I’ve become Chairperson I’ve communicated with Blanche Macdonald a lot more. I’ve seen how the program has expanded and how awesome it is now. You need to know prosthetics when you step on set now and Blanche Macdonald teaches that.”
She’s also in a position to offer insider advice to any new Makeup Artists looking to join the Union.
“We’re looking for people who think and work outside the box. If you’ve just been to Makeup School and apply to the Union you won’t get in. We want people to challenge themselves once they exit school. We don’t care what you got paid for. We just want to see what you did. So look for those Makeup jobs. Volunteer wherever you can. Do stuff at home. Create your own jobs. Call people who think they don’t need a Makeup Artist. Blanche Macdonald students tend to understand what it takes. You’ve got to start in the mud and the rain at night. People need to see the fantastic exciting side, and the pulling-your-kit-through-the-mud tough side. In my mind there is no bad side.”
Candice’s enthusiasm is infectious. Because at the heart of her life, both as a Makeup Artist and the Chair of the Union’s Makeup Department, is a passion for what she does.
“If you want to be a Makeup Artist go for it! Don’t stop! Live, sleep, breathe and eat Makeup. If you’re willing to do that you’ll make it. It’s art. And to be an artist art has to be your world.”
Of course, even in a world of art, there’s always time for fun.
“When I was on The A-Team, Rampage Jackson and I went ripping around on a golf cart. Those moments are special. I still get Christmas cards from people my husband can’t believe I know. I’ve had some great parties with some pretty amazing people. Thank the Lord facebook wasn’t around then!”