Also known as: Assistant stylist
Hair and make-up assistants work for designers, stylists or artists. The types of make-up and hairstyles they help with depends on the type of production they are on. They could be helping with the hire or purchase of wigs for a designer, sourcing make-up products for a make-up artist or assisting a stylist with a celebrity’s hair.
The role of a hair and make-up assistant can vary in seniority too, depending on the show. On many productions this is the entry-level role, where you may be required to run errands for your department, clean brushes and prepare make-up kits. Or you could find yourself working as junior stylist, assisting a hair or make-up artist with the appearance of on-screen guests. Assistants with more experience are often given more responsibility for key performers or presenters.
On big-budget shows, hair and make-up assistants may be part of a team ensuring everyone on screen looks ready for recordings. Once shooting starts, they are often on set to touch up make-up or maintain hair, and when filming is over they assist with make-up and product removal, cleaning and storing equipment.
Hair and make-up assistants are usually freelance, unless attached to large in-house art departments. They will often be requested by designers or stylists they’ve worked well with before.
You will build up your kit over time. To start with, get a set bag that should include:
A hair and make-up assistant works directly to a designer, make-up artist or hair stylist, or all three. They also work with everyone and anyone on the production, in particular the costume department, to ensure they all create a complete and coherent 'look' for any contributors featuring in a programme. They have contact with studio and technical staff, members of production and have regular updates with the production management team regarding budgets and schedules.
Hair and make-up assistants are often the entry level role in the department. Some start as runners, but others go straight in as assistants. To get in, you need to develop your craft. Get in touch with hair and make-up artists and ask if you can shadow them on productions. Hair and make-up artists usually enter the industry through one of three routes: from hairdressing and barbering, beauty therapy or stage and theatre hair and make-up backgrounds.
At school or college:
Take one of the following Level 3 qualifications:
Get an apprenticeship:
Apprenticeships are jobs with training, so they are a great opportunity to earn as you learn. It can be challenging to find jobs, as an apprentice with production companies as many are unable to take on people for a whole year, which is an apprenticeship requirement at the moment. However, it’s definitely worth looking for a job as an apprentice in the hair and make-up industry in general. This will help you develop your craft and create a body of work for a portfolio that you can use to find your way into the TV industry at a later point.
These are the relevant apprenticeships throughout the UK:
Before taking any apprenticeship, check what you’ll be learning with your prospective employer and college, so you can be sure it will give you the skills you want. Go to where can I find an apprenticeship? to learn how to find apprenticeships in your region, or approach companies directly.
Volunteer to do hair and make-up for student films or amateur theatre. The more time you can spend doing hair or make-up, the better. Work on a make-up concession or in a photographic studio. Get a part-time job in a hair salon or barber shop. The more you can demonstrate having the necessary skills, the better.
Build a portfolio:
This is essential. Go to build your hair and make-up portfolio for details of how to do this.
Get work experience:
Try to get work experience by writing to hair and make-up professionals and asking if they offer any. Keep an eye out for work experience opportunities at the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, Sky and the PACT Indie Diversity Training Scheme.
Take a short course:
Hone your skills in hair and make-up by taking a specialist course. Go to the list of training courses recommended by ScreenSkills to see if there is one in hair and make-up. We recognise courses with our ScreenSkills Select award where they offer training in the relevant software, dedicated time to building a portfolio and have strong links with the TV industry.
Get to know people in the unscripted TV industry by attending events. Meet professionals and ask them questions about their work, while demonstrating interest in and knowledge of the industry. Offer to provide them with your professional contact details and try to stay in touch with them. Go to how to network well to learn how to do this.
Create a LinkedIn profile. See if there are Facebook pages or other social media groups for people making unscripted TV in your area. There might even be groups for runners and trainees. Join them. Create a ScreenSkills profile. There are a lot of crewing agencies that will charge you to be on their books. Sign up to the free ones initially. Wales Screen, Northern Ireland Screen and other areas offer free crew databases. Find a film office near you and get connected. If you do sign up to paid sites, make sure they specialise in the areas in which you’re interested.
Search for jobs:
Research unscripted TV production companies that you’d like to work for and watch the programmes that they make. Regularly check their websites and job listings websites to see if they are advertising for roles. You can also send in a short speculative letter with your CV to the production manager. Register your CV on websites like The Talent Manager, which is used by most broadcasters and independent production companies when looking for staff. StartinTV offers tips on creating your CV and attending interviews, as well as some advice for your first day working in TV.
Being a hair and make-up trainee in film and TV drama.
Covers genres ranging from period dramas to epic fantasies screened at the cinema, on TV or on streaming sites
Involves making sequences on a computer that can't be created on set, like enormous crowds and fire-breathing dragons
Combines art with programming as well as production, design and testing - the UK’s fastest growing entertainment industry
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