Chris Clark's hair department head credits include Pan Am, Scream Queens, Feud: Bette and Joan, American Crime Story, Pose, The Politician, and Netflix's recent TV series Ratched, a psychological crime thriller starring Sarah Paulson.
A hair department head designs all of the hairstyles for the show and manages a team of hairdressers that help with the implementation and maintenance of the design vision for the principal cast, background actors, stunt performers, photo doubles, and any other hairstyle that will appear on camera. This could include hair cutting and styling, wig dressing and application, color services, and maintaining continuity photos and documents. Additionally, the department head may bring in hairdressers with specific skill sets like braiding, coloring, or cutting hair to supplement the team and implement the designs that are needed to achieve their vision on screen.
During pre-production, the department head will research and design the looks that they want to represent each character. This research can include reading the script and researching the film’s time period, each character (including details like their wealth-status), and, if the film is based on real-life, researching the events that inspired the film. During filming, the hair department head will work closely with hair, wardrobe, and sound departments to ensure that the integrity of their hair design is maintained when other departments need to place a costume, microphone, or makeup design. They will take care not to rush this process for the actor, as the actor will need to be prepared mentally for filming his or her scene.
The department head continues to style hair and manage their team until filming has finished and the department has wrapped.
Hairstyling: A great department head hair has a wide range of knowledge and experience working with hair departments in the film industry. In addition, it’s important for a hair department head to be aware of what skills they are not as strong in so that they can bring in people to supplement the crew in those specific ways.
Team Management: In addition to designing hairstyles for the production, a hair department head is responsible for hiring the hair department crew, managing the director’s needs and the actors’ needs, attending meetings, making sure that the trailer is properly stocked with supplies, and collaborating with different departments and producers. This requires skills in communication, delegation, and organization.
Team player: To lead their department and collaborate with others on set effectively, a department head must be a team player. This includes arriving each day ready to work hard and treat others with respect.
Assistant Department Head Hair
Makeup Department Head
Costume Department Head
Start off in the hair department and work your way up as you gain experience and cultivate your personal design aesthetic. Be a team player, have a willingness to learn and practice your craft, and have a solid understanding of the fundamentals of hairdressing.
Pro tip: If you want to get started in the hair department on film, make sure you know how to put in a hot roller on base. This is important if you get hired for a period film.
Salaries for a hair department head vary according to the production budget and whether or not you're in a union. For more information on union salaries and how to join a union, visit https://www.iatse.net/
Each production will require different tools and accessories. Have a broad range of quality hairstyling equipment.
Kit box rate can often be negotiated with the production.
Assistant Department Head Hair: Formerly known as the key hairstylist, this term refers to the assistant department head hair, second in line in the hair department.
“Fashions in Hair” by Richard Corson
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If you have ever dreamt about working in film and television but don’t know where to start, we invite you to get certified with Film Crew 101.