When Opportunity Comes Knocking… Vikings Set

When opportunity comes knocking, you should never turn it down.

When I was given the opportunity to gain work experience on Vikings , I could hardly contain my excitement.  Little did I know, I had been put forward by one of my tutors.  Which came as a complete surprise.  It goes to show, you never really know who’s watching.

I work full time.  I really couldn’t afford to miss out on such a big opportunity. Fortunately, my boss was really forthcoming and encouraged me to take the time off and grab this opportunity.  He knew just how important it was for me. So, I set off for Three days; on the set of Vikings.

On my first day, I met a former student called “Katie” and we really hit it off.  Katie was a graduated student from L.A. College. She had experiences working on student films, using continuance, Special Effects and so much more.  We worked so well with each other which is so beneficial, especially for future work.  Having another contact is always a great thing.

We arrived at Ashford Studio’s a little after 8am.  We met some members of the hair team, as others were out on set doing “checks”.  We had missed the morning rush. Over 100 Extras had been in Hair and Make-up, a mixture of dirty skin and greasy hair; stayed true to the Viking look.

If you have ever watched the series, the characters are weather beaten and often look as if they’ve been knee deep in mud.  Their hair knotted by the elements and tied into knots.  Careful thought and consideration goes into each character. Even the Extras.  The importance of the character, who they are and what they do, is created by the Hair and Make-up department.  I really had no idea of how much preparation and work was involved, until I started watching the hair team go to work.

So much thought goes into each look. A prime example of this is Lagertha’s Shield Maidens.  In the picture below, I’m working alongside one of the Hair Trainee’s who’s been doing Hair in Vikings for the last four years.

If Emmet McCauley, originally started out as a Hairdresser in a Salon and moved into working on  various productions.  He’s worked for Penny Dreadful, Ripper Street, Red Rock and many others. An absolute gentleman and a genius to work with. I watched him work twisting hair, back combing and knotting.  I learned so many tricks and put them into practice creating my own Viking look which you can see below.

Even though we missed the morning rush, there were a group of Extras arriving in at 11am. The Make-Up artists were situated in the room next door and we got to see some amazing Special Effects Make-up.  I wish I could go into detail and show you some pictures of the Make-up team at work.. Unfortunately, I cannot, Pictures of that particular work, will give away the plot line and I wouldn’t want to ruin it on anyone!  However, once they had finished in make-up , they were sent through to Hair.

The Hair team were engrossed in tying together the whole look. Barrier cream, will forever be the smell I’ll associate with the Viking Set.  It smells lush despite it’s greasy appearance, and is used to create an “un-washed” look which you can see the team creating below.

Other products included :

L’Oreals Matt and Messy fibre paste

Sea salt spray

Ground charcoal dust

In each Trainee’s kit there are  main items for mastering the look:

Clear Dental Elastics: They’re extra strong and used to tie off braids.

Pony Tail loop Tool: Used to weave braids in and out, they also secure into different sections of the hair.

Back combing brush: Sectioning is key for all looks.  So using the tail of the brush to section is handy with a back combing brush.  Obviously for back combing and tying braids without elastics.

Once Hair and Make-up  has been finished Extras must wait to be called to set.  On set, members of the Hair Team are on Standby to run and check hair before camera’s start rolling.  I was so surprised by the amount of people on set.  Hair Stylists, Makeup artists, Wardrobe, Animal handlers, grips, camera men, extra’s the list is endless.  It was pretty exciting being on set. Watching them rehearse  and shoot.

A lot of the time is spent standing around making sure everything is in it’s place. This goes for hair, make-up, wardrobe and so many other aspects of film that I cannot even begin to imagine.  Noticeable changes, such as a braids falling out or a clip sticking upwards need to be fixed so as not to be caught on camera.  Especially, someone who is visible on screen.

Our day really flew in.  Yet, the average day for hair stylists and make-up artists alike, starts on set at 5.45 am and can often finish at 5.45 pm.  In real time, that seems like torture.  Such long hours, early mornings.  Yet, these are the people who create the magic.  They work long hours, imagine the unimaginable so we can lose ourselves in the story.

My experience that I’ve shared above was spread over three days. One of which I had to be up at 4.30 am to arrive on set for 5.45am. The world at that time of the morning is a strange place. Especially when you are surrounded by Vikings.

A Huge Thanks to: LA College Of Creative Arts :http://www.lacollegeofcreativearts.com/

Katie Keane for our amazing adventure each morning and complete support.

The Hair Team made up of some amazing people, I just want to the thank them for their support and time.  For answering all my questions and giving me the opportunity to watch them work their magic.

Mr. Emmet McCauley for taking the time to show me exactly how to create texture and go wild with my imagination.  Giving me advice and filling me in on his own personal journey.

The Make-up artists who allowed us into their department to ask them questions.

To the whole production for allowing me to be part of the team for the day.


Thanks to all of you.

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