By Katie Chambers
During my first six months as Community Engagement Coordinator for New York Women in Film & Television, I have been struck by how warm, welcoming and nurturing our members are with one another. No one exemplifies this more than NYWIFT member Jennifer Snowdon. At NYWIFT events, it seems as though she knows everyone in the room. And in the rare event she is not friends with someone yet – well, she soon will be. “I’m a major networker,” Snowdon said.
A member of NYWIFT since 2008, Snowdon has taken full advantage of NYWIFT programming, volunteer opportunities and networking events in order to advance her career as a makeup artist. She has been hired frequently to do work on films by NYWIFT members – and then gone on to do even more work through their recommendations.
She joined the organization after she worked with Maria Pusateri and Jendra Jarnagin – both NYWIFT members – on the feature film Split Ends. “Maria invited me to join NYWIFT and both she and Jendra have recommended me for several films,” Snowdon said. “I’ve worked with Jendra on four films and one off-Broadway show, with film as the stage set.”
Around the time of the 2008 financial crash, NYWIFT held open networking sessions with New York Women in Communications, Inc. (NYWICI). Snowdon attended and said the sessions were packed. “We practically filled the place because so many people had lost their jobs. I was going to look for work and also to just support people,” she said. There, she met Barbara Masry, who subsequently hired her for several gigs.
Snowdon has been “in the business” since 1994. “I was the artist who couldn’t figure out my medium. I was a stay-at-home mom and got a divorce,” she said. A mentor called her and asked her to do the makeup for an event – her first professional experience. “It was on the high def camera being built for Sony in 1994. I saw my makeup on one of the first HD monitors. It’s why I call myself an ‘HD makeup artist!’”
Snowdon attended one of the first Career Support Workshops offered by NYWIFT member and career coach Joanne Zippel. “It was awesome,” she said. “You’re defining your own direction, you’re defining your passion, looking at what gets in the way. She has all these exercises to guide you in getting really clear on your direction. It’s so freeing.”
She met NYWIFT Board of Directors member Simone Pero in the workshop, and through Pero she got to be the lead makeup artist at a Global Alliance for Transformational Entertainment (GATE) event in Los Angeles. “[GATE] brings together people who want to do movies with a message,” Snowdon said. She arranged the crew and did the makeup for many of the presenters.
Through other NYWIFT connections, Snowdon was offered a job as makeup artist on the PBS American Masters episode The Ground on Which I Stand about playwright August Wilson. “My first person to do was James Earl Jones. I did 44 interviews over two years. 27 of them are in the film,” she said. She found this job particularly inspiring. “We got to listen to all the interviews about this man who was a self-taught poet and playwright. I didn’t get a higher education because I had a reading disability. Reading is not easy [for me] but visualizing is awesome. It was so encouraging to me that I spent August in Canada working on my first screenplay.”
Snowdon was thrilled to attend this year’s Designing Women Awards, where she was able to reconnect with two former colleagues – Orange is the New Black star Alysia Reiner (“She worked on one of the first films I did 15 years ago and we wrote an article together on healthy makeup”) and Designing Women honoree costume designer Ann Roth. “I met Ann while I was working last summer on [the film] Lounge Act,” which stars Nathan Lane, Gabriel Byrne and Frances Conroy and is seeking distribution. “It’s not been shown anywhere and I’m dying to see it!”
Snowdon also praises social media for helping her make connections. Strangers have reached out to her through LinkedIn, where she maintains a detailed profile complete with glowing recommendations, to offer her work. She feels that keeping her reel on her LinkedIn profile is a great way to promote her skills.
“[NYWIFT member] Amy Leland did my reel and she loved my makeup so much that she asked me to do her short film,” Snowdon said. The short they did together, Echoes, will screen at the NYWIFT Member Screening at Anthology Film Archives on September 29.
“Amy and I met at the NYWIFT Below-the-Line party a couple of years ago – we call it our anniversary now!” she said. The Below-the-Line party is an annual event that celebrates women working in the oft-unsung below-the-line crafts.
Like many other NYWIFT members, Snowdon is committed to nurturing the next generation of artists. “I have apprentice makeup artists. People who are just starting out,” she said. “I’m encouraging them to become [NYWIFT] Next Wave members. I really mentor them when I’m working with them – trying to save them the time, money and agony that I spent learning things the hard way.” She also enjoys teaching, and has offered special classes to NYWIFT members on topics such as makeup for your career and high-def makeup for actors auditioning on tape.
What is next for Jennifer Snowdon? She hopes to establish a writing habitat in Sooke, Vancouver in the next few years and continue to work bi-coastal from there. “Call me and I will come!” she said laughing. She is developing Vancouver and California contacts in the meantime.
Taking Joanne Zippel’s Career Workshop again helped her focus on a new direction. “I have two films [I want] to write now. I’ve picked out a place on Victoria Island facing the Pacific Ocean – it’s my writing habitat,” she said. “Joanne’s second workshop helped me shape this new direction as I have two very spiritual films based on my experience.”
In the meantime, you can still catch her at the next NYWIFT Night Out, connecting with old colleagues — and meeting new ones.
Register for NYWIFT programs, including the monthly NYWIFT Night Out, on our website.
– Katie Chambers is the Community Engagement Coordinator for New York Women in Film & Television. Follow her on Twitter @KatieGChambers.