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Whither the beard wrangler?
December 8, 2013 9:25 AM   Subscribe

TV shows and movies frequently feature characters with five o'clock shadows or a day or so worth of beard growth. Given that production schedules often require long shooting days, how do they keep a five o'clock shadow from looking like 8 am the next morning? How are actor's beards kept at the couple of days growth look when a sixteen hour shooting day could easily have them well on their way to looking like one of the Boston Red Sox?

Or even in the case of perfectly clean-shaven actors... that's not the kind of condition that can be relied on to last. There are any number of beard/stubble/shaving related conditions that must require careful attention and maintenance for continuity reasons. Is this something that's just handled quietly and discreetly by makeup staff? Are there continuity people on hand who have to pipe up and point out that an actor who is supposed to be clean-shaven in this courtroom scene has turned into a Baldwin brother at dinnertime? Are there special tools for shaving someone down to various points of apparent non-shavenness?

I realize that this is the exact kind of question that lends itself to idle speculation from people with a certain familiarity with the TV/film production business. My partner and I have been doing that on our own for years. It's no longer satisfying. The ideal answer will be something along the lines of, "Well, on our set..."

Settle our debate, MeFi... lay bare the science of beard wrangling.
posted by DirtyOldTown to Society & Culture (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Jon Hamm Shaves Three Times A Day.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:27 AM on December 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

There are tools for maintaining stubble, (even for non-pros) and this is why there are hair and makeup people as well as someone in charge of continuity on set.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:39 AM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have worked at several locations used for film and tv shoots. Actors spend most of their time on those 16 hour days waiting between takes while lights and cameras are moved around. A chunk of that time is spent back at hair & makeup.

Are there special tools for shaving someone down to various points of apparent non-shavenness?

Electric shavers come with "guards" that enable hair to be trimmed to any necessary length. This is not really a complicated or confusing part of a shoot.
posted by bcwinters at 9:56 AM on December 8, 2013 [4 favorites]

Yep, what they said. And you have to remember that hair and makeup people are always present on set - ready for touch ups or "last looks" before the camera rolls. So they're on it. Not beard-related, per se, but some actors really despise this part - the fact that hair and/or makeup peeps may want to touch them up super frequently, even in between each take depending on what's happening in the scene.

Lastly, all of this is documented in continuity photos that are constantly referred to.
posted by BlahLaLa at 10:02 AM on December 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

In re: to "perfectly clean-shaven," there is make-up on top of whatever tiny stubble they may have.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:14 AM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

They're often using hair clippers, like you'd use on your head.
At least, that's how my perfectly manscaped gay friends do it (as opposed to the non-manscaped, scruffy gay friends. Ha!).

More Info:
Hair clipper guard lengths
posted by Elysum at 1:20 PM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Back when Don Johnson's Miami Vice stubble was all the rage, stores sold special shavers to help men achieve that look.
posted by Oriole Adams at 1:52 PM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

I was just about to don my pastel t shirt and white jacket and mention the Don Johnson shaver. Same deal with Indiana Jones.
posted by plinth at 4:57 PM on December 8, 2013

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