As well as working with Hollywood heavyweights, this dynamic duo teaches the next generation of makeup artists at their school in Auckland
Not many people can say they’ve had chocolate chip cookies made by Ryan Gosling, but Gabrielle Jones and Dianne Ensor can. The pair worked with the actor on the set of Young Hercules in 1998 when Gabrielle, who was the show’s makeup/hair designer, invited Dianne to join her as her key makeup assistant. “We met him when he was a young teenager, full of natural charm and talent. We knew he was going to be a star,” says Dianne.
Both women speak of Gosling with a twinkle in their eyes, but he’s not the only high-profile actor who holds a place in their hearts. Throughout their 20 years working together in film and television, Dianne and Gabrielle have made up the faces of Tommy Lee Jones, Hugh Laurie, Matthew Fox and Kevin Sorbo, to name just a few, and are currently in the midst of production for Toa Fraser’s action thriller 6 Days, starring Abbie Cornish, Mark Strong and Jamie Bell. “Actors are a glorious breed of their own,” says Gabrielle. “I loved working with Hugh Laurie on Mr Pip. His dry sense of humour kept us all going at times when things were getting dire.”
Hair and makeup has taken them all over the world; to Japan with horror film The Grudge, living on an “old rusty 1980s dump of a boat” in Papua New Guinea during production of Mr Pip, the Himalayas for the yet-to-be-released feature film Beyond the Known World and London for the last few weeks of filming of 6 Days.
It was during their time working on the Disney series Power Rangers that it became evident to both that the locally trained makeup artists on set had “significant chunks” missing from their skill base, and Gabrielle says she became passionate about addressing the issue. Having trained at Greasepaint, a makeup school run by ex-BBC makeup artists in London, Gabrielle had, from very early on, worked on everything from fashion to theatre and knew that locally, our makeup artists needed the same type of hands-on experience that would prepare them for the realities and demands of the industry.
“We had a light bulb moment one day while chatting on the phone and thought, ‘Why don’t we open our own school?’ teaching the type of curriculum we both felt was needed to get students prepared for the demands of this competitive and creative industry,” says Dianne, who completed her training at The Sydney School of Makeup Artistry and Pivot Point Academy in Brisbane. The Makeup School was born in 2007.
“It took a great leap of faith for both of us, not to mention immense hard work, no income for a considerable amount of time and a huge learning curve,” adds Gabrielle, who believes it’s integral for both herself and Dianne, along with their team of tutors, to remain active in the film and television industry. “The fashion, television and film industry is forever changing and growing. Having TMS tutors who also work as professional freelancers means they bring the latest best practices to the classroom and have a real connection with what’s happening out there.”
When the school first opened, the pair did everything from painting the studio walls to washing the towels. They now manage the creative direction, the daily running of the school and engaging their graduates in work. Since graduating, their students have worked on productions including The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Spartacus, Legend of the Seeker, Westside and Evil Dead, as well as for makeup brands such as MAC, Bobbi Brown, Smashbox and Mecca Cosmetica.
The school also has a placement scheme with local production company South Pacific Pictures that entitles one student from every full-time course to three weeks’ paid internship on Shortland Street. “The positive [industry] feedback is the very thing that makes it all worthwhile for us,” says Dianne.
And while Gabrielle and Dianne are there to help foster the careers of their students, they insist the key to success in the industry is all in the attitude. “Make yourself useful, be honest if something is beyond your ability and go that extra mile when you really just feel like sitting down,” says Gabrielle. “It’s such a thrill for us to have newly graduated Makeup School artists on set with us. It makes us feel proud.”
MAKEUP ARTIST MUST-HAVES
1. Dermalogica Skin Perfect Primer, $94. 2. Billion Dollar Brows Brow Duo Pencil, $33. 3. Mecca Cosmetica Lip De-Luscious Night Lip Treatment, $38. 4. Chanel Vitalumiere Aqua Ultra-Light Skin Perfecting Makeup SPF 15, $98. 5. MAC Lightful C Marine-Bright Formula Softening Lotion, $76. 6. Bobbi Brown BBU Face Palette, $400.
Words: Lucy Slight
Photos: Angie Humphries