Rūta Padvelskytė is a make-up artist who has worked on various foreign TV series and big screen films, such as “Catherine the Great”, “Chernobyl”, “Clark”, “Agent Hamilton”, “Lea”, “January” and many others. A true professional, Rūta has sometimes worked in extreme conditions, e.g. chilling -40 degrees, and now she admits that she can no longer imagine her life any other way. “After all these years, every time I arrive on the set, I still think that my work is amazing. It’s just that it’s not for everyone,” Rūta admits. She tells more about the work of a make-up artist on the movie set to the Vilnius Film Office.

Rūta, was there any particular moment or period in your life when you realized that you were interested in working on people’s style and make-up?

There wasn’t a specific period, but as a child, my cousin and I used to role-play a beauty salon, and already at that time I felt some kind of spark of interest. However, neither I nor my relatives took this hobby seriously. Back in the day, where I was growing up, the work of a makeup artist did not seem like a serious profession. I planned to study medicine and follow in my parents’ footsteps, but it happened so that I failed entrance exams to the university I had chosen. I wanted to try again the following year, but during the gap year, everything turned upside down – I found a few make-up bachelor’s programs in England and took off to study.

What is the difference between doing make-up for cinema and, for example, fashion shows or events?

Usually, at events, the purpose is to make people look pretty, to see and highlight their most beautiful features. That’s why you’ll never find sweat spray or artificial blood in the event makeup bag. And in the cinema, the character needs to be portrayed in various unglamorous ways: beaten, tired, crying, or as someone who has just completed a run.

Rūta Padvelskytė | Personal archives
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Do you remember your first film project? Was there a lot of excitement and uncertainty?

I didn’t feel confident at all. I learned everything right on the job, because cinema is a completely different dimension, another world that you cannot understand without being here. My first project was the film “Instrument of War” and for as long as I can remember, I was astounded by the simplest things: from the long working hours to the fact that people who work in cinema become close family. Everything seemed strange and unusual.

By the way, people imagine that there is a lot of glamour on the movie set, but in fact I’ve had to wade in the mud and work outside the arctic circle in 40 degrees of cold. I remember really wanting to go home. And now I understand that just being on such a set is an extraordinary memory and experience.

What’s your typical day on set like?

Make-up artists work with the actor’s entire body, all the visible bits of bare skin. A large part of our work is not the usual make-up, but rather painting various bruises, running blood and healing wounds. I once worked on make-up that took up to 8 hours to finish. On the film set, we interact most closely with the costume department, because the actor’s clothes may set a certain tone – the costume creates the character’s image.

If the project is big, then there are more make-up artists on the set. I remember how, during the filming of the TV series “Catherine the Great”, I was surprised by the very long working hours, because almost every day we did makeup for several hundred extras. We used to get up at 2-3 in the morning to prepare the make-up for the morning scenes. It also happens that you spend a lot of time getting ready, everything is planned and arranged, and then the director comes up with the idea of changing the character’s look at the last moment, which means that you have to quickly find the right solution.

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You’ve done make-up for very different TV series and films, from costume dramas to detective stories or drama films. Which films are the most difficult to work on?

Work is work and there is no big difference whether to stick a beard on an actor in a historical or a modern costume – after all, the technique remains the same. Probably my least favorite genre is historical costume dramas. I like modern movies, especially those with a lot of special effects, movies that are set in the future. It’s exciting because you have to come up with something new, you feel like you’re creating fashion for future generations.

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Which project was the most memorable and why?

The TV series “Chernobyl” left a lasting impression. On the movie set, I assisted famous foreign artists, about whom I read in textbooks while learning the art of make-up. I learned a lot from them; I couldn’t even dream that I would be able to see such a high level of preparation up close. Each time I arrived at a shooting location of “Chernobyl,” I couldn’t believe that I was a part of it all; I was amazed by the impressive structures, the scenography, the size of the team, and the world-famous professionals.

The most fun TV series I’ve ever been a part of was probably Heavy Trip, a very warm, high-energy project with an amazing team and cast that we’re still in touch with today. By the way, I had to learn a lot while shooting: participating in the biggest metal festival and even living in a metal community. There was stress, difficult tasks and conditions, and a lot of travel, but the atmosphere redeemed everything.

In your opinion, what qualities does one need to have, what does one need to do in order to work as a make-up artist in the film industry?

I think that one of the most important things is not to be afraid of physical discomfort, because a person rarely feels comfortable and warm on a movie set. Night shifts, cold, wind: a lot of people were telling me about these “horrors” in the beginning. It was really intimidating at first, but the overall atmosphere made up for it. Therefore, you need to have drive and courage – you must be really fond of the cinema world. After all these years, when I arrive on set, I still think that my work is amazing. However, it is really not for everyone.

Thank you for the conversation.

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