“Makeup is honestly what started everything,” says Hannah Yumi (’17) of her career story. Yumi grew up in Japan with a passion for cosmetics: she liked using cosmetics to make people feel good about themselves. She wanted to go to beauty school, but her parents encouraged her to consider college. After examining various programs, she selected Liberty University’s Cinematic Arts degree. Perhaps, she thought, I could be a producer.
At age 20, Yumi traveled to the United States and entered her first year at LU. Although fluent in English (her father was American, her mother Japanese), she initially found American culture socially challenging. In her junior year, the Cinematic Arts Department assigned her to a cohort of fellow film students under the guidance of one professor. Yumi and her group learned how to work together throughout their classes, forming friendships that became the foundation of their professional networks later, when they helped each other find work.
In the Cinematic Arts program, the biggest project of the junior year is the annual spring production, a film that brings in department heads to train students in various crew roles. As Yumi considered signing up for a producing role, Professor Scotty Curlee offered her an opportunity to help with hair and makeup. She accepted and learned a lot from the two professionals who mentored her. “I really, really enjoyed it,” she says. They encouraged her to pursue a career as a makeup artist. She continued trying her hand at makeup in her senior year, assisting classmates with their thesis film projects.
After graduation, a fellow alumna helped Yumi and several classmates get onto the crew for the CBS show, Hawaii Five-0. Yumi worked as a Production Assistant, a typical entry point in the film industry. Even though it was not her dream position, she recognized the opportunity to demonstrate her skills and build her professional connections. Her wisdom paid off: her reputation and connections brought subsequent jobs, some in makeup, from small commercial projects to a Japanese series for Netflix. Hawaii proved a profitable location for Yumi because her bilingual ability allowed her to work on both Japanese crews and American crews. In 2018, she worked on her biggest project to date: Disney’s upcoming film, Jungle Cruise.
Yumi advises film students not to say no to jobs at the beginning of their careers: “If you’re not willing to work as a PA, and you’re not willing to put that effort in, you’re not going to survive in the industry.” Socializing off set is also important, she says, as long as you stick to your personal convictions: “If you can show you have a personality that people want to work with . . . then it’s easier to get other jobs after that too.”
For Yumi, makeup started everything, but what sustains her and moves her toward her career goal is relationships. Relationships help productions succeed, open new opportunities, and foster friendships. These days, Yumi is considering how to balance family relationships in her career plans. She admits that is not easy to do in the film industry, but experience has taught her not to shy away from a venture with a worthy reward.