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From The Super Bowl XLIX Half Time Show To “House Of Lies” In Cuba: Makeup Artist Tym Buacharern

Makeup artist Tym Buacharern

By: Marjorie Galas

There have been many professional highlights in makeup artist Tym Buacharern’s career.  He’s been the personal makeup artist for Cher, working on her concert tours and Vegas specials.  He’s also been the personal makeup designer for Janet Jackson, creating her looks for feature films, concerts and her 2004 Super Bowl Halftime performance.  He’s contributed to the makeup teams on “The Hunger Games” franchise and was the makeup department head and designer on “Dreamgirls.”  And, his television work, to date, has resulted in two Emmy nominations –for “Glee” and “So You Think You Can Dance.”  Recently, his career reached a new high point: as makeup department head on Showtime’s “House of Lies,” he was part of the first US production team to shoot in Cuba.

“It was truly mind-blowing and an eye-opening experience,” said Buacharern.  “I was so proud to be part of history. No one can take that away.”

“House of Lies” follows a pack of cutthroat management consultants apt to lie and cheat to achieve their goals.  The storyline took advantage of authentic political events surrounding Cuba’s lift of its ban on US citizens entering its border.  Marty Kaan (Don Cheadle) leads a group looking to capitalize on Cuba’s emerging market now that their doors are open to foreign interests.  Working with local crew, Buacharern was surprised to discover their extreme inexperience with contemporary techniques.  For example, the local crew had never used transfers when bruises or cuts were required for the shot.  Instead, they used the timely technique of creating the wounds with wax.  When not on set, Buacharern provided classes for the local crew to bring them up to date on advancements in the makeup world.

Despite the Cuban crew’s uses of many outdated applications and material, they were able to match – or enhance – what was needed for the shots.  Buacharern frequently found that he lacked colors that replicated the palette the Cuban makeup artist used.  He often had to mix a variety of products together to create a proper match.

“It was really taking it back to basics.  They made magic with so little,” said Buacharern.  “It was fun to share knowledge and exchange ideas; we truly learned from each other.”

Making magic with very little is not a foreign concept for Buacharern either.  Working in high-pressure live situations often requires the ability for one to think on their feet and find ways to create beautiful makeup in little to no turn-around time.  Working on the 2015 Super Bowl Halftime Show featuring Katy Perry, Buacharern and his seven person team created high-impact makeup styles for thirty five dancers.  There were no camera tests and only two days of rehearsals at the USC Coliseum prior to the live event, held at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Arizona.

The trickiest part of the show was a roughly five minute makeup change.  Buacharern had to find a way to swap faces covered with a matte silver makeup to a 1950s pinup girl style.  He developed a few conceals that worked perfectly.  Collaborating with the costume designer, the headpieces of the Chess costumes covered the forehead, allowing Buacharern and his time to pre-design cat eye lined eyes on the female dancers.  Bright red lipstick was protected by hockey mouth guards that were molded and fashioned with a pie slit. Working on the darkened sidelines, Buacharern and his crew quickly removed the silver makeup, applied foundations and blush, and touched up the lips and eyes.

“The pressure isn’t such a problem, it’s the time,” said Buacharern.  “It was crazy.  We were working with miners lights. You have to think on your feet in live situations.”

Buacharern’s innovative makeup styles on Super Bowl XLIX resulted in his nomination for a 2016 Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild Award for Best Makeup, Commercials and Music Videos.  He was busy on the set of “House of Lies” in Cuba when he learned he was up for the honor.  Voted onto the Executive Board of the guild in November, Buacherarn was extremely humbled to learn his peers responded to his work.

“It is such an honor. I know it sounds like a cliché, but it is true.  They are the people that are aware of the hard work that goes into a show like that.  To be recognized by the experts in my group is extremely humbling,” said Buacharern.

Some additional recent news that has thrilled Buacharern was the announcement of the “Miles Ahead” release date on April 1st.  Buacharern was aware the story of jazz musian Miles Davis was a passion project for Cheadle, who wrote, produced, directed and starred in the film, and was eager to be involved.

“Don spent ten years on the project. When it was (getting off the ground) Don didn’t ask me to be involved, I told him I wanted to be a part of this creative movement,” said Buacharern.

Eager to create a makeup design that captured the attributes of the jazz legend, Buacharern would run ideas by Cheadle, who left the choices in the head makeup artist’s hands.  Recognizing Cheadle’s many hats didn’t allot for much time in the makeup chair, Buacharern knew he’d have to find accessible means of transforming the actor.  He avoided the choice to use prosthetics and instead used some mild texturing techniques.  These became incredibly important in highlighting the thirty year time shifts presented in the film.

“Sometimes the most important part of being a makeup artist is knowing when to stop,” said Buacharern.  “Prosthetics sometimes gets in the way. The audience has to get past the makeup.”

The choices made in concert with the costume and hair department resulted in a look that satisfied the Davis estate.  During a visit to the set, the family members were so touched by what they saw, they became overcome with emotion.

“Because what they saw was Miles,” said Buacharern.

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