Diary of a hair and make-up trainee

Diary of a hair and make-up trainee

ScreenSkills’ Film Trainee Finder programme is a paid placement initiative for new entrants. It pairs those looking to begin their screen career journey with a film production to provide valuable on-set learning in key areas.

Alice Flesher was part of this year’s cohort and received a placement as a hair and make-up trainee on the production of forthcoming feature, Tales of Babylon. This is her story of her time on set.

Days one and two

I arrive on set and am told to locate the assistant director (AD) and head of department (HOD) to find out where to set up. I find out that the filming location is outside on an abandoned train and head there to meet the team. My initial task involved dressing a blooded wound on the hand of a principal cast member and touching up of facial wounds upon the assistance of the special effects (SFX) head of department. On the second day, more wounds rely on continuity from scene to scene, alongside the application of male make-up and touch-up’s on set. I’m told this is vital and I’ll be shown how to maintain continuity during my placement.

Days three, four and five

After finding the AD and HOD and setting up, I first check for continuity. This involves checking a lot of photos against previous days’ looks so we can best match the styles and different marks when applying the new make-up. Day three’s location is on a bus and means I’m travelling around London to the different locations. As well as touch ups, I apply a white streak to one character’s hair and apply full natural make-up to the main cast. I style their hair and match different age styles for different cast members.

I’m quickly learning how important communication is on production. Every day involves regular conversations with the costume department to help maintain continuity and monitor the style and appearance of the cast before they are ready to appear on camera. As a department, we also speak regularly with the art team to go over the design brief of the shot and how any props may interfere with make-up or hair.

Day six

After yesterday’s studio shoot, we’re back outside today before filming in a large warehouse. I know there’s a lot on today and am able to do the most work of my time so far. We applied eye bags, camouflaged sunburn on some actors and pale complexions to others, We also maintained blood continuity from previous days of filming. I also assist with spraying blood effects and provide help with a full prosthetic application of stab wounds.

Alice (left) on set

There are a number of roles that become daily tasks – revising call sheets, packing set bags for the department with ready-to-use products, cleaning brushes and palettes and preparing drinks for the cast and make-up team. There are daily conversations with other teams too. The camera crew provide feedback on how the make-up looks on screen and are regularly on-hand for playback to assess the final look of each shot and, as a make-up team, we discuss the final checks with the ADs and find out about any changes to schedule.

Day seven and eight

There’s more hair styling today, slicking back a male cast member’s hair and re-applying a strong white streak to another’s. There are some detailed work elements too which is fun – Perfecting a red lipstick make-up and applying sweat in-front of the camera, as well darkening blood and wounds to adjust with the change in lighting.

I have to be available and on-hand each day while shooting for any touch-ups needed, to reset make-up and hair after lunch or any breaks. At the end of each day on production I must remove all the hair and make-up styles and cleanse and moisturize the actors before tidying up the make-up stations and preparing for the following day.

Day nine

It’s day nine on set and I get to work applying blood effects on the face and neck of some of the cast, ensuring continuity between shots and matching blood spatter to previous shots. I check the look of the make-up on the monitor and liaise with the director and HOD on any adjustments required depending on the lighting. Communication with the director has been crucial throughout production, confirming any new changes and running over final checks before filming starts.

Every day on set has been different, each one with its own challenges and new experiences. My early nerves about joining a set of experienced crew members were quickly eased as I got to know people across various roles. Thankfully communication among all crew is a vital part of production life which helps provide a great understanding of the different departments and how they all come together on set.

I’ve picked up so much information as part of the placement. Working as a trainee alongside those with years of experience has enabled me to learn industry standards in hair styling and how to effectively log photos and maintain continuity. It improved my knowledge of skincare and how to work with different skin types and taught me new ways of applying bold make-up looks with precision.

While learning some of the role specifics has been great, what I’ve really enjoyed is the confidence the placement has given me. It’s improved my ability in making quick decisions, adapting to new challenges and solving on-set problems. The understanding I’ve gained around departmental roles and the terminology I’ve picked up have allowed me to talk with more confidence and network with those around me, even if they’re more experienced.

I’m looking forward to taking these skills further and using them to develop my career.

Learn more about the Trainee finder pogramme.

Find out more about getting into the screen industries.

Tales of Babylon production crew
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