‘Brooklyn’ Make Up Designer and Hair Designer – Morna Ferguson and Lorraine Glynn – In Conversation

Hi Film Folk!

It’s the final week of awards season and Film Doctor brings you yet another In Conversation. 

This time with the BAFTA-nominated Hair and Make Up Designing team for Brooklyn –  Lorraine Glynn and Morna Ferguson!

Saoirse Ronan and Domhall Gleeson in Brooklyn - photo courtesy of Lionsgate
Saoirse Ronan and Domhall Gleeson in Brooklyn – photo courtesy of Lionsgate


When did you realise that film was your passion and how did you set out to achieve it?

Lorraine Glynn: I trained to be a hairdresser. To become a hairdresser in the film industry, you need to be a qualified hairdresser. I trained for 15 years in salons, worked in a salon, then decided I wanted to get into more creative stuff…I accidentally got in, through a friend who was in the film industry. There was a big film in Ireland, “Far and Away”. They did huge big scenes in the city centre, in Dublin, with lots of extras – so they needed extra help. So that was my launch into it. I knew that’s what I wanted to do. In order to be able to do period films, I worked with wig makers and wig dressers; studied more for period film, to be able to dress wigs and apply wigs on actors, etc. 

Morna Ferguson: I was very lucky. I started out in the 1970s in the BBC. You had one month intensive training and then you got allocated to different programmes. It was a great training ground, you got to do very different things every day. You know, when you’ve got a film, it’s one film and it’s one look, whereas when you’re in TV you’re going in between different studios, you’ve got different genres – it could be comedy, it could be drama – so you’re doing different things all the time. 


So, going from that one opportunity to then getting constant flow of work – was that a case of just getting the phone numbers or asking people for recommendations, etc.?

Lorraine Glynn: Yes, just getting names of people in the film industry and sending your CV out. You know, the more work I got, the more connections I made. I would email people, with my CV, “Please, if you need extra help”. Sometimes you would go and just watch, and just be there. You might not get paid initially, just to get your foot in the door, you know.

Then, once you do 2-3 movies, you’ve made some connections and a lot of it becomes word of mouth. I suppose now people have IMDb; people check your IMDb profile, see what movies you’ve done, what you’re working on, you get a call through. But a lot of it is word of mouth really.   


For those out of the know, what is the film/TV industry like in Ireland at the moment?

MF: It’s expanded. We’re very busy at the moment. Maybe 20 years ago it was a very small industry and was just gradually growing.

LG: We’ve got a lot of TV films. And Penny Dreadful!

MF: Yes, big TV shows, drama shows, that come in.

LG: And history channel, HBO – they’re all doing big dramas, for things like Netflix. That had a really big impact on film all over the world, and Ireland, in particular. We’ve also got a new studio in Dublin.

MF: And there are new studios in Belfast. It’s expanding massively.


For any aspiring Directors/Producers – general guide notes on Hair & Make Up regarding logistics, timings etc?

LG: Well you would get 2-3 weeks prep, generally – on a contemporary film. You would meet the actors, talk with the Director, the Producers. Get an amalgamation of everybody’s ideas. Then, when you’ve decided on the look, generally the Producers and production houses tend to keep the time to like an hour in the morning, for costume, hair and make-up. On a period film, of course, the preparation would be a lot longer.


Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn - photo courtesy of Lionsgate
Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn – photo courtesy of Lionsgate


On Brooklyn, what sort of conversations did you have with Saoirse [Ronan] and John [Crowley, the Director of Brooklyn] regarding her character?

MF: Well you know, it’s a progression: she starts in Ireland, 1950s, not a lot of money around, not a lot of prospects for young kids; there was a huge immigration wave. So she’s this small town girl, who’s very simply dressed, not a lot of make-up.

LG: Quite plain.

MF: So, her sister organises for her to go to America. So, from a make-up point of view, I was mapping her internal journey. She’s very homesick at first – she’s quite pale and has a no make-up look. As she gets more confident and meets people, and tries to make a life for herself, then she puts make-up on – so it’s really just to show how she becomes more sophisticated and more self-confident. 

LG: Regarding the look for hair – again, Saoirse is blonde, so we changed her hair too, to a more natural colour, brown, with a hinge of red. And she was very simple and, again, as we took her into a more sophisticated look, she started dressing her hair – you know, looking at magazines, living in New York, the girls in the boarding house she was staying at also helped her, “Do you hair this way”, etc.  We all chat together, try out looks.

MF: Yes, it was a collaboration – we had to follow Costume department, etc.

LG: Yes, we work very closely with Costume – you know, for colours, for styles.


How long was the overall shoot?

MF: What was it – 8 weeks?

LG: Over 8 weeks.

MF: Two prep weeks and then 3 weeks in Ireland, 4 weeks in Montreal, and a week and a bit in New York.


So any particular challenges on this film, that made your job particularly difficult?

MF: Time. It was a very tight schedule.

LG: When we were in New York, logistically it was very difficult. We’d have a make-up trailer, then wardrobe trailer, the actress would have her own trailer, but when you’re shooting in a city – any city and particularly, New York – there’s no space to park up any trucks.

MF: And lots of scene changes.

LG: You might have her in the morning when she’s just arrived in New York and is still this plain, Irish girl, and then, in the afternoon they’d want to use another location, where she’s into her sophisticated look for the department store. So you have to change her hair, make-up, and costume in the back of a motor home, on the side street in New York City. That was pretty stressful [laughs].


Domhall Gleeson and Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn - photo courtesy of Lionsgate
Domhall Gleeson and Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn – photo courtesy of Lionsgate


And when doing exteriors – how do you go about working around the weather conditions (sun, wind)?

LG: Well… For example, the beach scene – it was so cold, we had tents with gas heaters, hair dryers…you’re trying to keep them warm in between scenes, to stop them looking blue and goose pimply.

MF: And they were blue [both laugh] And we had to do a quick turnaround. It was April and they had to go for a swim on a beach in Ireland, and we had to change them and put hair and make-up on top of blue faces. And very quickly!

LG: And in between takes, you’d be literally hugging them, to keep them warm.


What advice would you give to an aspiring Make-Up Designer or Hair Designer?

MF: It’s not glamorous. You have to be prepared to work very long hours. You have to be prepared to work in any weather conditions – it could be +40 or -3 degrees. It’s not a glamorous business and you need to be really dedicated. Sometimes your schedule might overrun – you can’t plan for a big social life [laughs].

LG: My advice would be to get as much training as you can in hair cutting, hair blowing, barbering – then, you start off as a trainee, handling pins and just paying attention. Watching I think is most important – every day you’re learning something new. Try and get to work with as many people as possible, as everybody has a different hand, you’re learning something different. In this industry I AM still learning, you know. You never stop learning, because each movie is a different period, different actors, different hair, different looks. And I love working with other Hair Designers because I’m learning something from them.

MF: Observation is key. And since a lot of things are in HD, that’s challenging.

LG: For wigs it’s really challenging – HD is ruthless.

MF: It’s really important to liaise with the DoP all the time – with HD you see absolutely everything, so it’s important that you collaborate, for lighting, angles, etc.

LG: You can do some stuff in post-production, but sometimes post production is out of our control so it’s always better to rectify any kind of visual problems with the DoP and the camera man on the day.

MF: The other important thing for people starting out is to learn social history. You know, if you’re researching for a period piece, you can look at the paintings or photographs if there are photographs. It’s really important to research the social history. There’s a wealth of information there and it gives you a good feel for the characters, the time.    

Thank you, Morna and Lorraine!



Saoirse Ronan and Emory Cohen in Brooklyn - Hair by Lorraine Glynn and Make Up by Morna Ferugson - photo courtesy of Lionsgate
Saoirse Ronan and Emory Cohen in Brooklyn – Hair by Lorraine Glynn and Make Up by Morna Ferugson – photo courtesy of Lionsgate


BROOKLYN arrives on Blu-ray, DVD and EST from February 29th, courtesy of Lionsgate Home Entertainment.


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