Indeed, what made the difference for Badie on the set of Lovecraft Country, when Smollet’s “hair personality” would change constantly, was the hair designer’s advocacy for his department. As he told Filmmaker magazine, “I’ll go to the [assistant director] and say ‘This is important for hair, I need my time.’ I don’t think it’s fair if someone stands over me saying, ‘We’re ready! We’re ready!’ Instead of there being a mystery about it, I find if you talk to people and tell them you’re going to need this time after every take or third take because it’s important for the whole look, then they’ll be very supportive.”
After our work is done in the hair-and-makeup trailer it can sometimes be hours before actors are on set and in front of the camera. During this time any number of things can happen: sleeping, rehearsing, costume fittings, lunch, exercise, chatting in the rain, close-hugging every person they see… the list goes on.
There is allocated time for us to make adjustments and fix issues between the last rehearsal, the final camera and lighting adjustments and when action is called. It’s brief—minutes in the single digits—and everyone is waiting for you to finish your work and step aside. This time is shared between hair, makeup, props and costume. If you can get your hair touch-ups done without spraying another crew member in the face with hairspray it’s a miracle. Some actors are patient and respectful of our work, some less so. Some don’t like to be fussed with, some require endless attention. It’s a dance.
I’d love to say it’s all 21st-century unicorns and rainbows behind the scenes and on set but a lot of pressure is put on ‘the vanities’ (that word again) to work invisibly and at the speed it takes to remove an apple box from shot. It’s frequently a delicate balance between getting what you want to get done while also allowing the actors the space to do their work.
More and more, I’m hearing stories of directors ‘saving space’ for cast once the camera turns over—often because they haven’t had time to run a scene—and completely locking out crew who would traditionally go in for last looks or on-set adjustments. Other times, your actors and their hair are flown (literally) to a mountain or out to sea and your work is in the hands of fate. Obviously, location elements can really work against hair. Badie tells me, “an on-set horror hair moment for me would be if the hair look is to be glamorous but it’s an exterior scene and it’s raining outside. These are never fun days.”
Just know that any time you see hair looking good outdoors—where it’s potentially been windy, damp, humid, sweaty—it’s taken a lot of work, constant attention and speaking up.
Often, you just pray that the edit is good.