VAMP Alumni Spotlight: Hillary Zinks

Tell the world a bit about yourself!

I’m a makeup artist graduate from VAMP 2018! My passion has always been film and when I was introduced into FX I knew that my job would be in the film world. I’ve also dabbled in writing and directing films as well. I’m originally from Orlando but have lived in lots of places including Albuquerque, Las Vegas, LA, DC and many of them twice! My life is crazy, and I love to travel.

From what program and when did you graduate from VAMP?

I attended and graduated from the Spring 2018 Modern Effects Makeup Artistry program.

What was your favorite thing to learn about while attending VAMP and why?

My favorite thing to learn was sculpting. I really didn’t think I was going to enjoy the sculpting process, but it proved to be very relaxing to me. I also loved that the makeup looks we are creating are LITERALLY started from a brick of clay.  The feeling of accomplishment you have when you make a whole mask from scratch, and then you finish it, is like “[WOW] I just did that?!?!”

How many production sets have you worked on? For what films?

I have probably worked on about 50 productions in my life as I was working in film before VAMP. Some of my most recent films that I’ve worked on are Netflix’s Army of the Dead, Wander, and The Marksman. You can see my full list of movies on IMDb


What is a piece of advice you’d give to someone who is thinking about joining the SFX industry?

Do it RIGHT! Before going to VAMP, I had taken a film tech class and thought I knew all the makeup I needed to know from YouTube tutorials. It wasn’t until I took [the VAMP Modern Effects program] where my career really took off. I finally knew real techniques, using the airbrush etc. But not only that, I found out exactly how to get into the IATSE Union. I took every opportunity. Not only that, I always had my resume and portfolio and told them I was available for work. Don’t be catty in this industry. You must be friendly and fun to work with. People will choose the artists who are willing to learn, pleasant and easygoing to work with over talent anyway.

You never know when or where your next job is going to come from, so be nice to everyone. Most importantly, when you’re working on set, make sure your actor always feels comfortable, safe, and happy when they’re with you. I cannot stress this enough. If an actor has a bad time in your chair you set the tone for them the entire day, and possibly for the entire shoot. Be respectful of their thought process as well. Some actors want to chat and have fun, others need to completely focus in silence.

What is something in your kit that you didn’t think was necessary, but you end up using all the time?

LOL – Hair, wigs, and beards. Sometimes on smaller sets you have to help out with the hair department or even be the hair department as well.

Who is your favorite artist that inspires you the most and why?

Brian [VAMP’s Modern Effects instructor] is so knowledgeable and willing to help. [Also], I worked with Frank Perez who’s been in the industry for years and worked on the Goonies Sloth character. He taught me some great techniques and it is amazing how many ways there are to do certain things.

How do you seek out new job opportunities?

I put myself out there. I don’t sit around waiting for a job to call me, I reach out to Department Heads and Key Makeup Artists with my resume and portfolio to let them know I’m available. I reach out to any friends in the industry to see if they have any leads on jobs. I see what they’re working on and let them know that I’m available to be a Day Player if they need extra hands. I hustle.

What are you working on currently?

I just finished a movie called Fry Bread and I’m currently working on my art studio, getting it in shape to reopen after Covid and looking for my next big gig!

What do you geek-out about?

I geek out when I get onto huge sets and I get to work with makeup artists from around the US. [Netflix’s] Army of the Dead was INSANE. There were at least 20 artists just for the background characters, and then there were the artists in the trailers for the main zombies. I also geek out when I get a department head or key role. I LOVE it when I’m hired to make all the special effects and prosthetics for a film.

What would you say has been your greatest achievement thus far?

My greatest achievement was never giving up on myself. When I was at VAMP I was going through the hardest time in my life at home. I was so close to quitting with only 3 weeks left in class. Heather, the School Director, and Brian, my instructor, were so willing to help me get back on track and helped me find the strength to finish. Not only that, when I got my job at Universal Studios working Halloween Horror Nights, I was having a difficult time getting the vampires out in 25 min without them looking awful. One day I got to work and told myself “It’s sink or swim,” and that day I just figured it out and I swam.  (Editor’s Note: Heather was Hillary’s Lead at HHN that year!)

What advice do you wish you could give yourself 3 years ago?

Practice more on the airbrush, practice more at home, practice putting on prosthetics faster. JUST PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE. Not only that, I wish I would have started practicing beauty makeup sooner and making a portfolio for beauty. FX is my passion but not every movie needs special effects, every movie does need beauty artists. I lost a department head job for a low budget feature film because my beauty portfolio wasn’t large enough and I didn’t have my IMDb up to date. Be as well rounded as possible while having your specialty.

Edited for grammar, content, and clarity. AUGUST 2021.