Nuala Campbell, make-up artist

 12 December 2014

Nualla is a professional freelance make-up artist based in Northern Ireland, but working internationally. She has been involved in many screen productions, such as the Universal Pictures film Dracula Untold. She has worked at both Belfast and London Fashion Week.

"There's a real shortage of people with these skills in the region. It’s a good time to get into the business."


I’m based in Belfast and have my own studio here, but have worked in Ireland on various productions. I go wherever I have to go as you have to be prepared to travel in this business.

What job do you do?

As a make-up artist for the film, TV, theatre and fashion industries, I work on set and behind the scenes, wherever I’m needed. Sometimes the make-up I do might have to support a historical or unique setting. Theatre is different to film, and fashion is different again. 

I have to be resourceful and adaptable. Every job is different.

I also provide make-up services for editorial work and private weddings. I have to be very resourceful and adaptable. Every job is different and you have to have impeccable standards, whatever you are doing and wherever you go.

How did you get started as a make-up artist?

I actually trained and then practised as an accountant originally, but it wasn’t the career for me. I have a passion for make-up so I went back to college.

I took a course at Belfast Met and was able to help out at Belfast Fashion Week. I knocked on doors and emailed people connected to the film and fashion industries. You have to know who’s who and you need to do whatever it takes to get a foot in the door.

I had some lucky breaks and got to work on some designer launches – anything I could get. You need to get to know people in the business and, hopefully, they’ll pass jobs your way. When there are jobs I’m not able to do, perhaps because I’m too busy, I’ll pass them on to people I know.

You need to develop a high calibre of skills through continuous learning. Techniques keep changing.

There are a lot more feature films and television productions being produced in Northern Ireland now, so there are more opportunities for people with the right skills. Plus there's a real shortage of people with those skills in the region. It’s a good time to get into the business.

Northern Ireland Screen can be really helpful. It was set up specifically to provide support and can offer training and advice. Definitely worth contacting them if you want to follow a career in any aspect of film and television work.

Training is important and it never stops. I’ve been fortunate enough to have trained with some of the industry's top professionals. Throughout the year, there are always new things to learn.

You need to develop a high calibre of skills through continuous learning because techniques keep changing and improving. You just cannot afford to stand still.

For example, there’s a high demand for special effects make-up and prosthetics work now. I studied these specialisms so I’m now qualified to design and create all kinds of special effects. It’s very exciting.

What qualification do you have?

I have qualifications in photographic make-up, hair dressing, men’s hair, special effects prosthetics and special effects make-up.

What do you do at work?

There are always lots of things going on. Because I’m self-employed, I’m always switching between being creative and taking care of the business side of my work.

I’m not just a make-up artist, I run a blog called The Beauty Cloud, an online shop and offer holistic drug-free treatments. There are always new beauty products on the market and you have to keep up to date, try them out and talk to other people about them. That’s what the blog is for.

What’s the best thing about your job?

It’s fun and, because I’m passionate about my work, I don’t find it stressful. There’s always something new and exciting happening.

What’s the worst thing about your job?

Working on set is often gruelling. For Dracula we worked in freezing quarries and forests. 

There’s a lack of financial support for small businesses – it would be great if there were dedicated spaces, a hub, for people starting out.

Another big challenge is time-management. I have a number of different strands to my business and each pulls me in a different direction.

If you want to work in films you need to know that working on set is often gruelling. For Dracula we worked in freezing quarries and forests. It’s hard work but I love it.

3 tips for working in make-up

1. Don’t ever stop pushing. You can’t stand still in this industry.

2. Don't ever think there’s nothing new to learn.

3. Help other people. You never know when you’ll be repaid for your generosity.

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