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Designed to win

Art, costume, makeup on deck for kudos

With the award season in full swing, it’s time for Hollywood’s unsung heroes and heroines to take a bow.

Behind-the-scenes talent raised the creative stakes in 2003, toiling away on breathtaking period pieces in far-flung locales (“Cold Mountain” in Romania) and closer to home (“The Missing” in New Mexico). Several notable productions took to the high seas (“Master and Commander,” “Pirates of the Caribbean,” “Finding Nemo”). Others explored frontier life (“The Missing,” “Open Range”), the American working class (“American Splendor,” “In America,” “21 Grams,”) or whimsy and wonder (“Big Fish,” “Peter Pan,” “Elf”).

Some had a chance to help effect career highlight performances — consider the contribution made by makeup artist Toni G to Charlize Theron’s transformation for “Monster.” Others made the difference on at least two of the year’s standout projects — consider, for instance, Ngila Dickson, who served as costume designer on “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” and “The Last Samurai,” or Keith VanderLaan, a makeup artist on “The Singing Detective” and “Pirates of the Caribbean.”

In the coming weeks, various guilds will grant recognition to scores of production designers, costumers, makeup artists and hair stylists. First up, on Saturday, is the fourth annual Hollywood Makeup Artist and Hair Stylist Guild Awards, sponsored by Make-Up Artists & Hair Stylists Local 706. Other key dates follow next month: on Feb. 14, Art Directors Guild Local 800 holds its ninth annual awards for Excellence in Production Design. On Feb. 21, the Costume Designers Guild Awards Local 892 presents its sixth annual ceremony.

2003 also gave crew members cause to celebrate. A three-year contract, which took effect Aug. 1, ensured that about 40,000 members of 31 union locals will continue to pay no monthly health insurance premiums and modest co-pays. They’ll also get a pension increase of 7.5% to 15%.

Let the kudos begin.

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