By: Colleen Monroe
Imagine you’re on set at the top of a skyscraper in New York City. It’s raining. Your lead actor has curly hair and his stunt double has straight hair. The downpour is causing the lead’s hair to get even curlier while the stunt’s hair gets even straighter. How do you keep continuity?
Cue the onset hairstylist to jump into the action…
Film and TV hair stylists come to set prepared for every scenario thanks to their expertise in anatomy, science, and special tools that can transform thin hair into a lush pompadour that defies gravity.
We recently met up with Samantha Wiener, a hairstylist and wig maker in New York who works both for Broadway and the big screen. Her credits include Puzzle, The Punisher, Difficult People, and Iron Fist. She was prepping for her next project and gave us an inside look at the kit she planned to bring with her to set.
Types of kits:
There are all different types of kits depending on the specific job you are requested to do.
If you’re assigned a period show you may be styling hair for hours in old-fashioned rollers for an extensive background day. This would require a more period-specific kit with special tools like vintage Remington Hot Rollers, most likely found on eBay.
Other jobs require day-playing to cover for someone. This means being assigned to styling one specific lead and only watching their hair for continuity. Below is an example of the type of kit Samantha would bring with her to set for this position.
In addition to the kit, stylists bring with them the empathy and strong listening skills necessary to the job as caretakers of the actors.
As Samantha mentions, “Outside of wardrobe, we have the most intimate contact with the actors… we are there right before they go out on set and right after they get off set…we are there through all the stresses and emotions of the job, helping actors facilitate their presentation of the role and assume the identity of others.”
Inside the kit:
When Samantha heads to set to cover for continuity, she comes equipped with an arsenal of supplies for any hair situation, like styling hair in the rain on top of a skyscraper (which she actually had to do!)
She also needs to be quick to jump in for last looks, to ensure that the actor’s hair matches the shot prior. This requires her to create a temporary beauty counter that allows her to access her supplies while touching up the actor in minutes before the director calls ‘Action‘.
Everything about Samatha’s set bag is designed to be compact, easy to open while standing, and with the ability to reach any item on the fly!
Samantha’s Go-To kit essentials:
First, she’ll start with the basics to keep her alert during long hours on set:
- Set chair
- Personal items
- External phone charger
- Rosewater spray
- Face lotion — it can get dry on set!
Then, it’s on to the hair products:
- Small pin tray
- Clamshell box from Straight Pin Studio that opens up to reveal the following:
- Hairnets, hair ties, larger cloth hair ties, black and blond large hairpins, black and blonde french hairpins, brown, black, and matte bobby pins that won’t shine on camera, shiny bobby pins to do basic wig prep, and large black and blond bobby pins.
- Travel-sized pill container — Samantha modified a twist top pill container to hold 7 different types of hair gels. This saves her space in her kit and avoids all the packaging of multiple bottles.
- Travel-sized Dry Shampoo
- Tancho – hair glue used for flyaways or hair that doesn’t want to cooperate
- OSIS dust it – a root grip used on really fine hair, or to style a pompadour
- A small bottle of hair oil or anti-frizz gel to prevent frizzies and flyaways
- Travel-size hair spray
And finally, the tools of choice:
- A variety of different types of combs
- Tail comb to move hair out of the way and part — plastic and metal for frizzy-prone hair
- 5-prong tail comb
- Wide-tooth tail comb for curly or wavy hair
- Boar bristle brush
- Denman wide-tooth brush
- Jao Hand Sanitizer
- Spray bottle of water
- Notepad and writing pen to jot down notes
- Nail kit — if Samatha’s nails chip while she’s working, one snag can ruin a hairstyle!
Samatha keeps all of these supplies in a clear plastic makeup bag (similar to this one by Monda Studio) with a main compartment in the center and pockets on the side.
While this is a general overview of a hairstylist kit, keep in mind that no kit is exactly the same. Stylists work on all kinds of different projects, talk with each other when they are on set, and exchange tricks or show n’ tell new tools and products that they’ve accumulated from projects over the years.
Hollywood hairstylists are forever learning on the job, and helping one another problem-solve because there are often so many different ways to approach a hair dilemma. This way, when they find themselves on that skyscraper in the midst of a rainstorm, they are equipped with the right tools and knowledge to save the day!