Image: Lena Headey as Lady Catherine de Bourgh in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Hair by Kathryn Fa. (c) Jay Maidment/Sony.
Laura Gray, features editor for Selvedge, talks to Kathryn Fa to learn more about the fine art of sculpting hair. Kathryn is a hair and make up artist from Gibraltar who has created towering coiffures for the film industry, opera and theatre. When she’s not travelling Kathryn can be found teaching yoga on Gibraltar’s Sandy Bay beach.
How did you end up working with wigs?
I spent a period of time intensely working on student films to gain experience after college. One of the filmmakers was also a director of commercials, and as a thank you for working on his short film he added me as an assistant to work on a commercial.They needed a couple of stunt wigs to match the actresses hair. So I got to work on them cutting and colouring cheap acrylic wigs as best I could. It seemed to work out as one of the costume supervisors offered me a job working on a West End musical. I was petrified!
How do you begin to design a wig for a production?
First you read the script to get a feel for the characters within the period. Even whilst reading, you start getting ideas. You research the period, the genre and the country and jot ideas down. Inspiration comes from anywhere and everywhere, even when you’re in the supermarket queue you are checking out people’s hair. Then you work with the hair designer to create a mood board for specific characters. There is input from directors, producers, actors and costume designers. I’ll also head over to the costume department and look at the costumes they are working on for the characters.
Wigs arrive from the wigmakers with the hair loose, ready for us to set on rollers or dowling and dress out to the desired shape. During the first fitting we meet the actors and discuss character. They will normally come with their costume or part of it so you can get a feel for what they will be wearing. In some cases we take a head wrap and measurements for a wig to be made specifically for them, or the cheaper option to have a wig changed to fit their hairline and head shape. We’ll test out wigs and hair pieces for colour, tone and shape, making notes on what to change later. It’s very important to look at the overall picture, taking into account the width of the dress with the width of the hair. We also take pictures and create a board of different looks for the director. Sometimes you only get one fitting, but If you're lucky there might be two or three.
What is special about designing and creating wigs for film and theatre?
How can we play with the edges and keep it in line with the period but make it something special? It's about defying gravity, the norm, and pushing boundaries. There’s a real buzz in making things work and thinking outside of the box; using different skills, trying stuff out.
What is the most elaborate wig you have worked on?
I guess most of my work is known to be quite elaborate, I always knew from a young age, bigger is better and more is more! The most recent film I worked on Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey was pretty elaborate. There where a couple of fun ones on Pride Prejudice And Zombies where the evil character played by Lena Headey had a vintage tortoise shell fan comb incorporated in an oriental hair style. Also, for the opening scene of the James Bond Spectre film, which we shot in Mexico, there were characters called ‘Paper Brides’ wearing intricate dresses made purely from paper. They were stunning, and we used paper and sisal to make wigs for them.
For more information visit Kathryn Fa on Instagram