Saturday, October 07, 2006

Glam Squad

Overall, budgets for high-end music videos are down over the last five years. Record labels and artists now spend less on locations, less on post-production, less on building/dressing sets and so on. There is one area of production where the labels are not spending less – the glam squads.

Glam squads are the make-up, hair and wardrobe stylists that make the artists (especially the female artists) look their best on camera. Glam squads are important, they make the “product” look amazing, which is obviously key to the video. But, glam squads are also often the “professional friends” of the artists – and they can ask for almost any amount of money if they know the artist will insist they are hired. Being tight with a famous artist can mean hundreds of thousands of dollars of work per year if the artist will insist that they need a certain stylist.

Wardrobe, hair and make-up artists should be paid well, but the out-sized costs for these professionals are actually hurting the finished videos. There are times where the lead make-up artist ends up making more than the DP/cinematographer and nearly as much as the director on a given video.

The lead make-up artist will have at least one, if not more assistants. If travel is involved the lead artists fly first class and the assistants fly business class. Sometimes, these assistants are responsible for making up dancers and extras – but the real “superstar” female performers make sure that all the assistants are focused on them and the production hires other, lower cost make-up/hair staff to dress the less important talent.

The wardrobe stylists get large budgets ($10-20k is very reasonable for big-time female artists) to buy designer clothes – and then they often get the clothes for free or at a greatly reduced rate and pocket the left-over wardrobe budget. The wardrobe stylist may even be getting paid money by a clothing designer/manufacturer to have their brand name on the body of the video star.

Well how much do these glam squad types get paid? Lead artists often get $5000 per “day” and their top assistant gets $2000. If there is any work ahead of time (like a wardrobe fitting or production meeting) they often insist on a half day rate for that day. These fees are on top of the first class tickets and hotel rooms, plus a “travel day” fee. Multiply that by three for the hair, make-up and wardrobe pros. Whew!

These “day rates” are for only ten hours. Working ten hours may sound like a lot to “normal” people but in music videos, 14 or 16 hour days are very typical. What this means is that even when the rest of the crew is getting paid on a 14 hour day before their overtime kicks in, the glam squad types have already collected four hours of juicy OT. I am not clear on the exact math, but if a video shoot goes 17 hours (not rare at all) the 5 grand per "day" is now well over 8k. Plus the assistants and times three for the other glam departments. You might be thinking, “So what, if they work the long hours they should get paid…”

But what if the video goes past 15 hours, because the artist has been in the make-up trailer 2 hours longer than she was supposed to be? What if the hair or make-up person is the reason the shoot is going into triple deadly overtime?

Most female artists take longer to come out of their trailer than they are supposed to. In the production meetings the producer will ask how long the artist will need for hair, wardrobe and make-up. The manager will say two hours, and the producer will ask if that is really enough time. The manager will insist that two hours is plenty and the producer will set the artist call time at 9am, so they can have her in front of the cameras at 11am. But on the day of the shoot, the artist arrives an hour late and takes four hours in glam instead of two and now the artist is ready to be shot at 2pm (after the crew has already eaten lunch, since they started working at 7am). That is how budgets get away from productions and you end up seeing a video where the last verse and chorus look boring – because the director had two more set-ups planned, but they had to blow them off because they were already waaay into overtime.

Make-up and wardrobe artists do important work and they should have the time they need to get a good (and hopefully great) look. The DP lighting the set and the art department putting on the finishing touches are right there in front of the director and if they take too long, they hear about it from the AD. The glam squads are hidden away in their trailers and reading them the riot act might upset the artist, and that would mean more, tear-stained delays.

Which female artists take too long to come out of the trailer? Essentially all of them. If the word “diva” has ever been used regarding a singer – she will take extra time and slow production. Slowed productions mean extra money. A smart director and producer will build some of these delays into the schedule/budget but a certain singer noted for exposing an unusual piercing at a televised sporting event routinely takes nine hours befores she is ready to be filmed.

It is only money, and I personally don’t care if the label has to pay more. What I do care about is videos, and in the modern world, labels have very firm budgets they must stay under so extra costs like high-end make-up artists and crazy OT means less money is spent on other, more important (in my opinion) things like dancers, or more locations or post effects – but they never skimp on the “beauty clean-up” post effects they do to make artist look good after they have spent 6-figures to make them look good on the day of the shoot.

One ultra-famous female singer-actress was shooting in LA and insisted that her favorite glam people be flown out from NYC. The glam types were pricey and the decision to use out of town people meant more costs. When a winter storm shut down Eastern airports – the artist still insisted that her glam people be used so the shoot was postponed (more $). There are many make-up and hair types in LA that could have done a great job, but the production was put on hold while money burned and everyone waited for workers to clear snow off runways at JFK.

This has an “Emperor’s New Clothes” air about it. No one wants to tell the artist that their glam squad and the delays caused from getting the look just “right” are costing them serious money AND costing them a good video. Since shoots are two day jobs at the most and often one day – every hour lost to waiting around is a killer. Every artist wants a great video, but I bet they don’t know it might be their fabulous friends in the hair and make-up trailer that are keeping them from getting it. Even as they get rich themselves.

Update - 27 November 2006. Gossip blogs are not to be trusted but here is an example of the kind of thing I am talking about. Jessica Simpson allegedly lost out on a high fashion celeb-model gig by insisting on using only her own personal hair stylist.

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much the same here in the olde worlde. there's no limit to the greed: i had an (imposed) glam squad present an ot bill where hour 1 was 1x, hour 2 was 2x, hour 3 was 3x and so on. they ended up asking double in ot than their daily. (we did manage to deal them down.)
it's not really about glam, of course - just about abusing trust.
Of course there is corruption and greed in all facets of the process but ...

The glam people are usually tight with the artist so they are much harder to call "bullshit" on. They also usually work away from the rest of the set, out of the watchful eye of the producer/AD.

The biggest factor, to me, is that their rates continue to climb while other rates drop or stay static. High end DPs are of ten paid less per day in 2006 than they were a few years ago. Glam squad people make more. That is not a crime, everyone agrees to the going rate - but the artists don't know how bad they are getting boned by their glamorous "friends" in the hair and make-up trailers.

All those words and i still didn't quite make my point.
well put and spoken like a true producer. Its the same in the UK and its pissing off a lot (if not all) producers here since our rates&mark-ups have to come down to accommodate the glam squad all the time. Plus all the costs are recubable by the label so the Artist is paying it at the end without realizing it for sure.....
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