Weird Al's "Mandatory Fun": Lessons Learned By Sean James
Have you been hearing a lot about Weird Al Yankovick lately? He is topping the charts with his online video campaign promoting “Mandatory Fun”, his latest album with 5.5 million hits on the first day and sales already north of 100,000 in the US alone. For those unfamiliar with this 54 year old “singer”, Weird Al is known for spoofing top songs. His 3 decade career began with hits like “Eat It” (Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”) and “I Love Rocky Road (Joan Jetts’s “I Love Rock ‘n Roll”). The current offerings include “Tacky” (Pharrell’s “Happy”), “Word Crimes” (Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines”) and “Foils” (Lorde’s “Royals”).
Creating the “look” for the new collection was key. Sean James, based at Fred Segal in Santa Monica, California, was there to create hair and make up for 3 of the new videos. He prepped for two days and then spent 3 days on set.
“Where do I start,” asks Sean James when asked for the behind the scenes details. “I’ve known him for a long time, working on some of his earlier projects.” The first Sean James/Weird Al collaboration was on Al’s previous Grammy nominated CD “Alpocalypse" and the song " Perform this way “. “It was a blast doing all the wigs for that,” says Sean James.
When he got the call from “AL HIMSELF” asking him to come and do pictures for the cover for the new CD, James admits he was “ecstatic.” He adds “Al has an interesting process. He creates the CD cover before the songs are even complete!” But it really didn’t matter to Sean James. He got busy creating the finish for the cover. “I used Make Up Forever Concealer 325, Laura Mercier Fawn and Bisque, Make Up Forever Bronzer number 10 , HD Press Powder Brow sealer and Make Up Forever Face Wipes. For hair I love Phyto 9 and used the CHI Turbo blowdryer for extra zoom and speed. To really get control on the curl I used the CHI Orbit Styler curling iron which I used on the tips only. For this look I finished with Phytolaque Soie hairspray for hold. I also pulled the hair back, stretched it out and pinned it.” For Sean James, the silhouette is perfect for the spoof on communist type of imagery.
“Making the first video, “FOIL”, was really amazing,” he says. "I was given a lot of direction by Al. He directs all of the videos and is an absolute genius.”
For Foil, Sean James had three back up dancers to "Wig Out”. There were 60’s bobs that “were back combed and sprayed with PhytoPro Workable Holding Spray,” adds James, “and dried with my Chi Touch Sreen dryer and diffuser.”
For the video, Sean James was directed (by Al) to mimic Lourdes hair. “I used Phyto 7 and a little Phyto Mousse and a 1/2 inch barrel CHI curling iron, winding it the direction of the curl.” This look is getting a lot of buzz on line.
There was more excitement to come. “I purposely didn’t read the call sheet because I didn’t want to find out who was coming to the set,” says James. “I was told Jack had arrived…yes JACK BLACK, then ERIC STONESTREET , then AISHEA TYLER then MARGRET CHO and then my all time favorite: ‘Mel’ from ‘Flight of the Concords’, Kristen Schaal. One by one I got them ready hair and make up, with the assistance of Karl Chan.”
-I learned to always get two mustaches when doing a spoof or working on any video. It was so hot and it kept falling off because there was so much activity. It had to be replaced.
-Time is everything...don’t be “on time”, be EARLY. Jamie lee Curtis taught me to set my watch 20 mins ahead. I live by that every day and I m never late. Each day I arrived at the same time Al did. We were always "Ready to go". Professionals always show up early!
-A good support team is essential . My assistant Karl Chan was invaluable They are your right hand when things get busy and you have producers breathing down your neck asking for an ETA.
-Carry everything in your kit. For the alternate ending in “Foil”, where Al splatters blood, I just happened to have a bottle of “blood” in my car from Halloween.
-Be prepared to spend a lot of time on set. It took us 17 hours for "Foil", all done in one day, and 11 hours for" Handy”