I am often asked how to become a hair & makeup artist and where did I get my start but never am I asked 'how-to be on set'. This is VERY important as you are paying your dues in the ladder of artistic life. I saw Ms DeShawn Hatcher's Blog today and not only is it a MUST-READ but I am adding my 4 cents (inflation from the ever popular 2 cents) because I've been meaning to blog about assistants and set etiquette forever!
First: I must say when I get emails from up & coming artists wanting to assist me I feel very flattered! [Thanks!]
Second: I answer EVERY email. Maybe not immediately but usually within 24 hours. Whether looking for advice, saying 'Hi' or looking to work with me; I answer.
Third: If you want to assist me there are many things you should know before you come to set. a) I live in Singapore now, but still with representation in Canada; which means that I need more assistants in Singapore than in Canada but still do contact me, stay in touch; ya never know... :D and b) PLEASE READ BELOW
ALL hair & makeup artists need assistants. Some more frequently then others; it depends on their type of clients and demand. Assist as many as you can as this helps you develop your own style, not just artistically but also professionally. We all have our tips and tricks we do on set!
- Come prepared. We don't expect you to have a full kit but do have basics. Makeup: brushes are a MUST. I have had assistants show up with no makeup brushes. This is a NO-NO. You need brushes and brush cleaner. A basic kit helps but I prefer my products so if you assist me and don't use the brands I use chances are you will work from my kit. Hair kits NEED TO BE PROFESSIONAL! I am a licensed hairstylist, there is a huge difference between a $15.00 blow-dryer and a $200+ one. Invest in your kit; spend the money on good equipment.
- Do not hand out your business cards. Please click on Deshawn's link as she touches on this as well. You are there to assist and learn, NOT schmooze your own clientele. If you feel the need to schmooze then you should not be on set as an assistant. Photoshop can't fix it all. There's plenty of time to grow. Walk before you run.
- Do NOT Twit-Pic! Social media is a huge grey area. No one should be blogging or uploading any images before a job/editorial sees the light of day. This includes showing what is in your key's kit. You want to twitter what we use? Ask if it's ok. Some artists are very protective of their kits and you need to respect that.
- Do NOT answer clients with your words of wisdom. Confused? If you are a hair & makeup assistant and the client has a lighting question you say 'Let me get the photographer'. Or are they concerned about the wardrobe? 'Let me get the stylist'. A makeup question? 'Let me get my key.' See the pattern? You are assisting; it's not your place to be the Cliff Clavin of the set.
- You cell/mobile phone ringer should be OFF. Do not take calls everytime your phone rings and if you need to take a call be brief. In the freelance world everyone is understanding of the need to be accessible but you also need to be present on the day.
- Know your peers. I can't tell you how much of a turn off it is when I talk to junior artists and mention another world reknowned artist's work and they say 'who's that?'
- Knowledge is power. Read, practice, test. The ideal is to get a regular assisting gig with a few artists. I have had many assistants who have grown up to be very strong keys in their own right - the longer they worked with me the stronger we were as a team. They were my second eyes and hands. Check out Dee Daly who as one of my previous assistants, is a killer talent with US agencies wanting to sign her.
- Don't embellish your work history. I had an assistant who bragged to the entire tv commercial set how he worked on Madonna's tour. He spent more time bragging about Madonna than doing makeup. I was wondering why he was assisting me if he had already toured with Madge. Well, turns out, as his stories unfolded, he had worked on one of the third string back up dancers...at the makeup counter he worked at, NOT on set. If you weave a web you will get tangled. Besides, if you aren't truthful you won't get far.
- Ask. Ask. Ask. Not sure what you should do? Ask. 'Shall I clean your brushes?' 'Can I get you a coffee' 'Can I plug/unplug in your irons?' Always be aware of what's coming up next. You should be the shadow to your key. And since you are learning ASK ABOUT BEAUTY! And ask about others on set, ie: What's a gaffer? who cares! [just kidding]
- Take care of the talent. As a team player, you are to help take care of the talent (person in the beauty hotseat). Ask if they need anything periodically, ie: if they want a drink.
- Don't ask for a pic with a celeb. Celebrities are in our chair for a little peace and beautification. I don't care what AAA-list hair and makeup artists Twitter and Facebook pics of themselves and the celeb prior to a Red Carpet photo-op. Don't do it. Many celebs nowadays get endorsement deals your mugshot with them could infringe. If you are desperate for a photo, ask the celeb's 'people' if it's ok. Never ask the celeb themselves as they will most likely say yes to be nice but you don't want to be on the 'do not hire list' after the day is done.
- Don't gossip about others. I can honestly say I never gossip. Everyone has good and bad days. I have heard and seen lots; my philosphy is 'zip-it'! As my grand-mother used to say 'If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all!
- Don't put down other peoples' work. If you do, you are a Douchebag. See above #12.
If you didn't notice the link in the start of this post please click as: DeShawn loves to share too! And she is very talented, needless to say.
Another ladder rung to step on on the way up: Crystal Wright's Hair, Makeup & Styling Career Guide.