Behind The Scenes with Hair & Make Up Artist, Gemma Hoff
Gemma Hoff is a hair and make up artist for many films and the designer of the 2021 film ‘Pieces of a woman’ starring the Golden Globe and Oscar nominated actress Vanessa Kirby.
With the Academy Awards ceremony being held this weekend, we go behind the scenes and find out how Gemma made her way into TV and Film and what it takes to look after leading ladies and gentlemen on set.
Spoiler alert - It includes some top Denman Products!
I started my career as a hairdresser in Hull, I feel very lucky to have trained when I did as I just made the end of the perming era and got to enjoy the 90’s and 00’s doing graduated bobs, under cuts on the wannabe boyband kids and ‘the Rachel’ cut. I was obsessed with my training, and had the best stylists teaching me. They nicknamed me ‘Vidal” after Vidal Sassoon because I was so eager. I went on to enjoy 7 wonderful years as a hairdresser. The job satisfaction of making someone walk away with extra confidence because of your skills can’t be beaten.
At the age of 26, I decided to follow my dream and move to London to work in the Westend as a Wiggy, starting on shows like Wicked, Phantom of the Opera and Jersey Boys. Here I learned how to dress wigs using my hairdressing skills and learning many more. Again obsessed with the industry I just soaked up all the knowledge given to me. I worked in the West End, did UK and International touring for a further 7 years until eventually falling into tv and film.
Denman brushes and combs have been with me since day one. As part of my hairdressing training, one syllable I had to pass, was a Bob blow dry using the Denman D3 Original Styler. The aim was to get a perfect curve on the ends. It was such a great technique to master, controlling the hair and brush simultaneously. The D25 Fantail Comb was used to comb out the ladies sets, when they came out of the hood dryer and the longer perms.
The Denman Pintail Combs are always a vital piece of kit. The pin is so precise and gets clean sharp sections of hair, when doing highlights, setting wigs or hair on rollers. It’s also great for backcombing the hair for period hairstyles like Victorian and 1960’s. Although a game changer came, when Denman released the backcomber..... this makes backcombing so much quicker and easier. It is also great for smoothing the hair into place, the pointy end is used to tuck the whispy bits or push hair into place. It really is a triple threat brush. I love it. The tapered barber comb is also fantastic for blow drying men’s hair into the teddy boy quiff.
I have been lucky to work with lots of wonderful actors in my career..... Angela Lansbury, Lisa Kudrow, Toby Stevens, Angela Bassett to name a few.
On season 1 of The Crown, I was given the task of being hair and make up artist to Vanessa Kirby and Matt Smith.
Vanessa and I developed a strong bond and working relationship that lead us to do Hobbs & Shaw, The World to come and Pieces of a woman together.
Working with Vanessa is always creative.... we really get into the characters, and spend hours discussing the look.
Last year I also had the pleasure of working with Lily James on The Pursuit of love and Whats Love Got To Do With It. Lily, like Vanessa is a perfectionist, which I love, we can really get down to the finer details that audience will probably miss but we know the character has it. For one example, making nail varnish slightly chipped, it’s so real, we all rock a chipped nail varnish from time to time.
On set, my job is to watch the scenes on a monitor and look for any faults or continuity errors, then between takes I run in and correct it. One of the main things we look out for is hair falling in the wrong position.... that’s why it’s so important to have all the right kit in your bag to fix it as quick as possible, to not hold up filming or distract the actors whilst they’re in the acting zone.
I always say to every actor when it’s our first time together, I want you to feel so comfortable with me that you hardly notice when I run in for checks. Meaning they can concentrate on the scene and not have to worry about what they look like on camera. When Lily or Vanessa ask me to check their make up or hair because they didn’t notice me, it makes me really happy, mission accomplished.
When it comes to fashion and red carpet looks...... it’s completely different to filming. It is a machine with different cogs and wheels, one person for each. Hair, makeup, nails, a tailor, jewellers, designers, stylists, PA’s, photographers, publicists and many more. There is a stylist that tells you how they want the artist to look. There’s not much collaboration in this field but it’s a lot of fun and the pressure can be challenging..... I did Vanessa Kirby’s nails for the 2021 awards season. For one award ceremony, I was told 2 hours before arriving that there was a specific red they wanted by Tom Ford. All the stockists in London were closed due to lockdown, this resulted in me running around the shops that sold varnish to find the correct colour and getting to the hotel on time. I was thrilled to succeed and find an OPI varnish that was a 99% match.