PhotoServe presents a Q&A from AnywayMGMT, a New York City boutique agency representing photographers, hair and makeup artists as well as prop, set and wardrobe stylists. Two leading members from the agency, Heather Newberger, Director of the Styling Division and Alex LaMarsh, Makeup and Hair Stylist, work very closely together. We asked them to interview each other on how they came to the business and collaborate with other artists, as well as their personal challenges and work ethics. They bring a wealth of down-to-earth information and advice to a profession we sometimes tend to overlook, the much-needed and talented Stylist.
HN: How did you start your career as a professional make up artist?
ALM: I'm originally from the midwest, Nebraska specifically. We relocated to central California where I graduated high school. I've been working as a makeup and hair artist since 2003 but have worked in the entertainment industry since I was 18 or 19. I worked as a costumer in the theater and opera in San Francisco before moving on to model in Los Angeles and New York City.
When I was modeling I often had to do my own makeup for tests with photographers. Photographers started calling me up after the shoot to ask if I could do another models makeup the way I did mine. I always said "Sure!' because I loved being on set. I gathered all my makeup in a small fishing tackle box that I dragged around to shoots. For some reason I never took it seriously, it was just a fun way to pass a day to me. Then when I quit modeling in 2003, I realized that I had built a portfolio over the years and thought, "Why not try my hand at this?" Eleven years later I am still making my living doing it!
Alex LaMarsh, Makeup/ Hair stylist for AnywayMGMT.
ALM: Tell us about how you became interested in and started working as an agent?
HN: I started working as an agent the way most wonderful and funny stories start out - totally and utterly by chance. I studied photography in school, and when I graduated college, I packed two suitcases and took the bus to New York City. Like many of my peers, I was under the impression that my prestigious college education was enough to get me into the doors of the biggest photo studios, and on set assisting the most accomplished photographers. In reality, I ended up sleeping on a lot of floors, and working strange minimum wage jobs (directing traffic for the New Jersey Transit Authority, working as the sole consumer relations representative for Shiseido Cosmetics America, moonlighting as a photo editor at J14 Magazine…)
As luck would have it, my best friend Logan happened to work for a stylist management company. I’ll never forget the first time he showed me the agency’s website. I looked at it, and was very confused.
“What do these people even do?!” I remember asking him.
“They’re artists,” he said to me. And that was the beginning of the end.
Logan was leaving to go to Berlin that summer, and asked if I would be interested in taking over his support position at the company. The next thing I knew, I was redesigning the company website and helping the agents book jobs. What I loved the most about this new role was the opportunity to act as an advocate for the stylists and assist with the production of (often quite complicated) jobs. A few years later, when Anyway MGMT offered me the opportunity to join their team and curate my own group of talent, I jumped at the chance to create and work with a group of smart, like-minded individuals with big ambitions and bigger dreams.
Heather Newberger, Director of Styling Division for AnywayMGMT with office mascot Bean.
HN: What brought you to New York City from Los Angeles?
ALM: I found that I was constantly on the road for work between New York City and Los Angeles for about two years. After living in Los Angeles for 10 years, I decided it was time for a change so I packed my bags and moved to New York City to see how I'd like living and working here. I am really lucky to have developed great networks in both New York City and Los Angeles. It involves makeup/hair artists, photographers, stylists, art directors, agents and directors. When people from my network go out to Los Angeles I can introduce them to people and vice versa for friends coming into New York City from Los Angeles. It’s so gratifying to connect great people with other equally talented people.
ALM: Define your idea of teamwork and collaboration
HN: Collaboration is the single most important aspect of working in a creative industry. Whether you’re on set for an advertising project, an editorial or even a test, communicating and making sure to have a fluid dialogue with all of the people working on set is key. Collaborating with artists isn’t so much about their work adding to yours, but instead building off one anothers' visions and histories. Every stylist comes from a different background, and has had the opportunity to work on a variety of sets, with different personalities. You can learn a lot focusing on your own interests, but you can learn a lot more if you take the time to try and understand where the other artists on set are coming from, and what motivates them to make the work & choices that they do
HN: How do you find opportunities to collaborate with new talent?
ALM: I am always looking for new people to connect with. Word of mouth is the biggest cog in the networking machine. I find so much great talent via word of mouth and I also get so much paid and unpaid work through other industry professionals. When you do good work and have a good attitude word spreads!
ALM: What are some of the challenges you find when gathering a creative team?
HN: Communication can sometimes be difficult, especially when there are varying layers of commitment to a project. It’s very rare that every member of a team is on exactly the same page when getting together to make creative work, so communicating your vision about the project prior to going on set is extremely important. When a group of talented people all get into the same space, things invariably will change so it's key to not be too rigid about the way you see your vision. Some of the best projects I’ve ever worked on have started out being about one thing, and then entirely shifted to something else, more wonderful than I could have imagined on my own.
HN: How do you choose the photographers you work with and the creative projects you decide to be a part of?
ALM: If it’s someone I haven't worked with before I look for an overall quality of photography. Their images must have good teams because if they don't it shows. I like testing with someone before doing a paid job to get a feel for how they work so I can deliver exactly what they need for paid jobs. If it's someone in my network then I will almost always say yes because I already have built a relationship and trust with them and know it will be worth the time involved for everyone.
ALM: Is there any advice you could share about how to approach other creatives on collaborating?
HN: People love compliments, and they want to work with their friends. So compliment them, and don’t be afraid to befriend the people you respect. If you express a genuine love of another artist's work, there is a much greater chance they’re going to want to work with you than if you appear cold or with an ulterior motive. And do your research. Try to learn at least a little bit about the people you’re approaching, and why they make the work that they do so that you can engage them on their level. Everyone has the internet. Use it.
HN: What is your favorite thing about collaborating with other artists?
ALM: To me working as a team is about putting together a puzzle. Every person on set has a piece to add to make a picture whole. If someone doesn't do their job the image falls short and the puzzle isn't complete. For me the most satisfying feeling is when everyone comes together with their specific skill set to create something much bigger then if just one person created it. Everyone lays their piece of the puzzle down to produce a lasting product.
ALM: How key do you think communication is pre-shoot and on set?
HN: I can never stress enough how important it is to communicate with your team, especially before a project. Outlining your vision and expectations of the day is crucial, specifically if you have a very complicated or detailed idea of how you’d like the project to shake out. Sending visual references, key words and shot ideas is always helpful. Once you get on set, make sure your communication of this vision is clear. Don’t be afraid to tell someone no, or that you’d like to see something from them that's a little different. It’s important to be assertive about your vision, but also to communicate it in a thoughtful and open way. There might have been a reason why a specific choice has been made that you are completely unaware of, and I find that it’s always important to try to understand where the other is coming from.
HN: How did you start getting involved with the make up community, and who are some of the people you have met in New York that you would consider to be your "professional network?"
ALM: I do a lot of education for the makeup community in New York City and Los Angeles. I help set the curriculum for one of the largest makeup artist schools in the U.S. each year. It all started with a few features in Makeup Artist Magazine and then I moved into teaching and speaking with different makeup artist trade shows and different cosmetic companies. I’ve been really lucky to have great networks in both New York and Los Angeles. It involves makeup/hair artists, photographers, stylists, art directors, agents and directors. When people from my network go out to Los Angeles I can introduce them to people and vice versa for friends coming into New York and Los Angeles. It’s so gratifying to connect great people with other equally talented people.
ALM: What are some of the habits and behaviors you would suggest creatives not have in a professional setting?
HN: Don’t be on your phone. Always respect the rest of the crew. No matter how accomplished you are or how many high-end projects you’ve worked on, don’t forget to be kind. The biggest place people get tripped up is when they feel they should be treated a certain way because of X or Y reason. When you’re on set, it’s so important to make sure to take into account everyone’s opinions - whether they are the photographer's or his third assistant's. You never know whose going to be able to fix or figure out the solution to a difficult problem on set, or who is going to be "the next big thing" in the industry.
HN: If you were able to give a few ‘words of wisdom’ to an emerging make up artist, what would you want to tell them?
ALM: Leave your ego at the door when you enter the industry. You are never too "big" to test. Always build your network with people you trust and enjoy working with. Always be open to others ideas. Be ready to hustle every day. Keep growing.
ALM: What drives you most to create a positive community of industry people?
HN: I have always been an artist and connector at heart, so I find that there’s nothing as rewarding as facilitating positive collaboration. I joke to my artists that I have no idea how to "sell," but it’s the truth. I have absolutely no interest in pushing people into working together, and I'm much more interested in connecting talented and creative people with one another. I have been very lucky to have had the opportunity to work with some of the most wonderful artists and creatives during my time as the Director of the AnywayMGMT Styling Division, and I look forward to meeting and working with many, many more.
For more information on AnywayMGMT, Contact Heather Newberger @ firstname.lastname@example.org
PhotoServe thanks Heather Newberger and Alex LaMarsh of AnywayMGMT for their contributions. We look forward to hearing from them again on their projects, advice and business savvy for the industry.