Makeup Artists, Hairstylists Facing Canceled Productions, Halted Jobs and Uncertainty

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'The Morning Show' is just one television show to suspend production amid the coronavirus outbreak

"We are all very stressed and almost all of us are not working at all," says hairstylist Ryan Richman. "If I am supporting social distancing...it is impossible to work in my field at all."

Makeup artists and hairstylists, like many other workers in the country, are grappling with the coronavirus’ impact on their industry and their sources of income. With so many film and television productions put on hold as the virus spreads in the U.S., the makeup and hair departments have faced several job cancellations in the past week.

Some sources say artists have not been paid for canceled jobs, while others think it's too early to tell if contracts will result in payment. Makeup artists and hairstylists working in film, television, commercials and music videos are typically paid hourly with an eight-hour daily minimum, with occasional weekly pay agreements. Thus the lack of salaries is leading to an uncertain financial situation, also faced by other below-the-line Hollywood workers

Hairstylist Ryan Richman was supposed to get on a plane on Wednesday to attend SXSW with a client for the new X Men film The New Mutants. He was then going to head back to L.A. for two days to shoot a big makeup campaign and then immediately head to New York for more New Mutants press Monday and Tuesday. However, all jobs were canceled until further notice, with the entire SXSW festival being canceled, too.

"Most people are staying home due to ‘social distancing’ recommendations," Richman says. "As hair and makeup artists we are required to be around people and touch people. We are all very stressed and almost all of us are not working at all. The shutdown of the production of television shows and movies has halted all work for those of us who work with celebrities on a regular basis."

Richman and his wife are focusing on creating a homeschooling schedule for their three kids, as well as stocking up on gas and food "in case we are placed on a similar ‘shelter in place’ order like San Francisco," he says. "As far as work goes, I have been trying to be relaxed about it for now in order to set a calm tone at home for the rest of my family. I don’t see photo shoots, press or shows starting up again in the near future. If I am supporting social distancing to help my community and country, it is impossible to work in my field at all."

On Thursday, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti limited gatherings to 50 people and this week, the CDC advised the same. On Monday, President Donald Trump recommended avoiding groups of more than 10 people. Magazine photo shoots in Hollywood, for example, typically draw an average of 10 to 35 people to the set, depending on the number of stars at the shoot. 

Makeup artist Allan Avendano — who has recently worked with Eiza Gonzalez, Ariel Winter, Lucy Hale, Joey King and Zoey Deutch — mostly works as a freelancer with SWA agency. "Every job I have on the books has been canceled until April but I have a feeling those jobs will cancel as well. I don’t have any work," Avendano says. "I just purchased a home and remodeled it and it’s scary to know that I’ve drained out my savings. I just figured I would be able to make it back but now I don’t know how."

He started to take extra precautions with talent, including double-sterilizing equipment: "I was fearful for my own health (I have autoimmune diseases), as well as theirs."

Now Avendano is considering looking for a job elsewhere, explaining that before he was a makeup artist, he was an executive assistant. "It was a very long time ago but if it comes down to it, I have to do what I have to do for my husband and immediate family," he says. "It really alarming and worry has not left my mind. It’s also insane that because I want to make sure I can provide for everyone in my life, that though it’s dangerous I would have taken the risk to work, although now, I realize that would not have been a smart thing to do."  

Makeup artist Vera Steimberg, who was day checking on The Morning Show before filming was suspended, told THR that most of her work has been canceled or postponed, including commercials. "When I do work I make sure I use 99 percent alcohol to disinfect everything, and I wash my hands very often," she says.

Randy Sayer, a business rep for the Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild, tells THR that wages and benefits for members during the closures vary from venue to venue and by the type of contract worked. Most live-performance or theater-based productions are shutting down without additional payments for their members, he says.

Some TV and film productions have offered to pay Guild members for a two-day to two-week "wait and see" period, "but I do not know of any production or studio that has offered to pay our members ‘until we resume production — no matter how long that may be,'" he says, noting some smaller productions are going to try and continue to work, while talk-show and sitcom productions are canceling their live audiences and shooting with just cast and crew.

After Disneyland closed, the company offered to pay Guild creatives during the closure for their shifts, since they typically perform maintenance on the "huge array" of wigs and hairpieces. Sayer calls Disney’s move "very generous."

California has responded to the spread of the virus with unemployment policies for those who have lost their jobs or had hours reduced. 

For the industry jobs that do go on, Sayer notes that, "Our makeup artists and hairstylists are all familiar with proper sanitation and ‘best hygiene practices’ from our years of training, experience — and state licensing. We know how to stop the communication of virus and bacteria."

Hair designer Carla Farmer was still working last week, though her project is under NDA and she cannot discuss details. "They have implemented handwashing stations on set. We are shooting a lot outside and the fear factor on my set has been minimum," she told THR on Friday, before production was shut down over the weekend.

As for hair designer Stacey Morris, she was working on America's Funniest Home Videos and recently wrapped Black-ish and Stumptown. "I’ve been avoiding people and germs and taking precautions since before this scare. I am now compulsively obsessed with cleanliness and disinfecting everything beyond a reasonable degree," says Morris, who’s also a personal barber to Eddie Murphy and Will Smith.

Meanwhile, members are calling Sayer’s office to ask about being relieved of their dues payments next month or having additional time to meet their minimum number of hours to qualify for their medical benefits, while others have personal health concerns. "The reality is: it is just too soon to tell what remedies or accommodations will be negotiated or implemented," he says.