Becoming a Film Hairstylist for Movies or TV

Have you ever considered becoming a Film Hairstylist for movies or TV? A film hairstylist is the person in charge of creating character hairstyle designs and styling actors’ hair on set. Film hairstylists work in both movies and television and are an integral part of the entertainment industry. Once a film hairstylist is experienced, they can become Key hairstylists and supervise a team, plus create and design hairstyles for the film.

Hairdressers can work on feature films or for television programs or stations. They liaise closely with colleagues in the hair, makeup and costume departments, as well as with directors, actors and extras. Film hairstylists create hairstyles to suit production requirements. They also work with wigs, hairpieces and extensions to create the looks needed for each of their actors or presenters.

Film hairstylists are recruited onto films during pre-production and work throughout the production, usually on a freelance basis. They work on principal and supporting actors and, depending on the schedule, usually look after several actors throughout the production. The hours are long and the job can involve long periods working away from home. They oversee hair continuity during shoots, meaning they may have to adapt their work depending on which scenes are shot in what order. When the scenes have been shot, hairdressers wash out products from, and condition performers’ hair. They remove wigs and ensure they are cleaned and prepared for further use. Hairdressers may be required to assist with any subsequent publicity shots.

In television, hairdressers work alongside makeup artists and look after the actors or presenters in particular programs. If they work for a particular tv station, their hours are more regular than in film, however there might be early starts, for example in the case of morning television programs, where the presenters are on air at 6am and have a hair and makeup call of 4.30am. The film hairstylist would also work on celebrity and special guests if need be. If they work for a series, then they would be required to be on set or location to look after the actors and prepare them for their roles. If you are considering becoming a film hairstylist for movies or TV, it’s important to understand that it’s not always glamorous!

What Does a Key Hairstylist Do?

The key hairstylist is in charge of the entire hair department, and reports directly to the production designer. The key hairstylist starts working full-time on designs long before other hairstylists join the crew and are on set every day for the duration of the shoot. Once they’ve done their work designing, their onset responsibilities include:

  • Supervising a team of hair stylists and delegating design responsibilities.
  • Executing the hair styling for one or two principal actors themselves.
  • Working with the key makeup artist in maintaining an organised and professional hair and makeup trailer.

What Do Film Hairstylists Do?

The key hairstylist oversees the hair department and delegates responsibilities to individual hairstylists. The duties of other stylists in the hair department include:

  • Work with the key hair stylist to learn all hair designs prior to shooting.
  • Cut and style the actors’ hair on shoot days.
  • Maintain all wigs and bald caps in the hair and makeup trailer.
  • Ensure that no products, wigs, or prosthetic caps damage the actors’ natural hair or skin.
  • Provide hair care or skin care tips that may help the actors during a shoot.

Qualifications needed for Film Hairstyling

If you are interested in becoming a film hairstylist for movies or TV, like most jobs in the industry, there are many ways into the world of film hair styling. That being said, most professional film hairstylists have some or all of the following qualifications:

  • Hairdressing Certificate. Doing an apprenticeship, attending college, and working in a salon will give you the technical skills to be able to work in the hair industry. The more experience you have, particularly in styling, the better equipped you’ll be to handle working in this exciting environment.
  • Production Experience. Many aspiring film and television hair and makeup professionals get their first professional experience on low budget movies or even student films. You can start as an entry level production assistant on larger films to get additional on-set experience.
  • Build a Portfolio. Up-and-coming hair stylists should build a portfolio of photographs or film clips documenting a wide array of looks they’ve designed for a variety of shorts, feature films, or tv shows they’ve worked on. Portfolios should be constantly updated to showcase new work. Many film hairstylists work part-time in hair salons to maintain their skills when not on set.
  • Network. The hair and makeup department is a fun and social place—it’s where the cast gathers and socialises as they’re getting styled before a shoot. Being a friendly and pleasant presence on set is a key part of being a good and successful film hairstylist. It helps keep morale up, and builds relationships with others in your field who might want to work with you again or would recommend you to other hiring producers.

Keep up to date with the latest in employment and recruitment in the hair and beauty industries at the HeadHunter blog.