Wednesday, 12 January 2011

How the FiSH! Retro Mermaid was created

With the short film FiSH! in the closing stages of post-production, we'd like to share some secrets behind the hair and make-up look Vintage Hair Lounge created for Francesca Brown who stars as the quirky mermaid from a forgotten era in the hero's pursuit of chef excellence. Confused? Trust us, the script created and directed by Damian Samuels and Mark Eccleston is a touching stylish feast of comedy, with plenty of light and shade.

Friends of Bettie, Sharon Holloway met actor/director Damian on another quirky project, Losing the Plot, as hair and make-up artist some years ago. So when Damian made contact in September 2010 about the upcoming FiSH! shoot, she jumped at the chance to create an original and iconic look for Francesca. Sharon takes up the story......

Everyone's first image of a mermaid, when the word is mentioned, seems to be influenced by Daryl Hannah in Splash or Ariel in The Little Mermaid, and most fancy dress stores will promote the mermaid look with a bulky long blonde curly wig. But hearing we would be filming at Brighton's beautiful 1930s Saltdean Lido made this an opportunity too good to miss to bring a little vintage life into this intriguing film.

First stage, as with all hair and make-up design is to create a mood board of images and influences to get the feel of the look I was after. These are the final images which summed up the combination of the symbolism of the retro/pin-up mermaid, as well as the hair fetish implicit in the mermaid's look, which seems to derive from Victorian advertising (the Victorians almost worshipped long long long hair on women).

Damian and Mark loved the inspiration, but with no opportunity to do test hair and make-up, we had to get it right first time on the shoot. In the meantime, I was gathering shells and seaweed from our nearby Netley beach, and Gloria was weaving and creating seaweed inspired clip-in hair extensions from our stock of Dome Monofibre hair extensions and Prolin hair enhancers, a perfect way to give Francesca's hair length and mermaidy life!

So down to Brighton I went for day 1 of the shoot, for the first scenes in the hotel bedroom bath. The hair pieces, now on display at Vintage Hair Lounge, blended in beautifully with Francesca's natural hair, and armed with supplies from our Besame make-up stock, the retro look seemed to be made for her. None of the crew saw Francesca in the throes of our transformation so when she finally appeared on set, I knew the gasps of delight and open mouths were a very good sign. The bath shots were stunning. We were underway!

As the day went on and the lovely Damian got some of his own scenes covered were soon in to nightshoot territory at Saltdean. As the light faded, and the crew electricians set up the lighting for the pool shots, despite the freezing cold, this was getting really exciting. The smoke wafting over the water and filtering the light made the finishing touches to some really beautiful cinematography.

Francesca had the most difficult task of the night, in the unheated pool with a shell bra for shot after shot after shot. But for the smoke, it might have been a great deal easier to see her breath in the freezing air. From my point of view, although I was intent with others on keeping her warm between shots, many of the pool shots required submersion of hair and face, a real test for the extensions and the make-up, all of which held up spectacularly. We finally wound down by about 2am, Francesca wrapped, and another day loomed ahead, this time at Worthing Sea Front. But rather than spoiling the surprises of a yet to be released awesome little film, I'll limit our secrets to this. Once the film is released, we'll be bringing behind the scenes video coverage to this blog, because I forgot to say, as well as doing the hair and make-up on the day, I was on unofficial camera B.

All stunning film stills photography by Christian Black at

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