Chair Gang is a web series set in a hair salon. The first two seasons of the show are available for free on Facebook, with new episodes premiering weekly. It’s filled with confessionals, co-worker dynamics and catty customers. The series is realistic and hilarious and brings the mockumentary-style workplace comedy into a new venue: the hair salon. Workplace comedies are near and dear to many. Shows like The Office, Parks and Recreation and Workaholics can testify to their success. Chair Gang brings something new to the table while still fulfilling the need for a relatable comedy series. Hair salons are often female-dominated places of work, leading the show to focus on women’s experiences. I was able to talk about this and more with writer, director, producer and cast member April Washko.
JH: What’s it like to be involved in so many parts of the production?
AW: Being involved in so many ways in deeply rewarding yet, at times — to be honest — extremely exhausting. I went into this prepared for it, knowing because we’re an independent production starting at zero; with zero budget and zero audience. I would have to put most of the work in myself while we grew. There are days I’m running camera and have to run to audio and start recording, or I’m in a scene and doing audio at the same time. It’s very, very indie, but we’re still growing, so that’s okay. It’s a beautiful platform for me to learn so much about literally every single aspect of making a series. Crash course. I dig it. Being able to have the freedom and control over a world like I do, I’ve found, is something lots of filmmakers would kill for. So I’m very happy to be in the position I’m in, and welcome it.
JH: What inspired the series?
AW: At first, I wanted to be an actor. I spent a good eight-ish years working on the proper steps to make that happen. Went to LA, hustled and bustled, but first I got my cosmetology license so I could hopefully sneak onto sets as hair and makeup and get “in” that way. I did that for a little bit around different places, but this was also before the #MeToo movement, so the environments weren’t necessarily the best as a woman in any capacity in Hollywood.
Between the overwhelming casting couch proposals, things just not working out and streaming becoming bigger, I decided to go home to Michigan and figure something out. I knew in my gut that the days of being required to live in a certain location for success as an actor or filmmaker were over, thanks to the internet.
I worked at a lot of different salons to make ends meet, tried my hand at different styles of YouTube shows that weren’t working and started getting on some sets as a producer or working their social media pages, but things still weren’t working. It wasn’t feeling right. In all honesty, I was super discouraged and depressed. I tried everything, went to every state, sent all the headshots and called all the agencies… I did everything I could do.
Eventually, a friend who was a writer suggested I do something myself. I thought no, I can’t. I don’t have enough money, I’m not trained in camera or anything, I’ve never been to film school, I can’t. He reminded me that people are doing it all the time and asked me about a funny experience I could think of. I told him how in one salon I worked at some teenage boy pooped in our lobby. He was dying, he said “Write that!” Still, no, excuses. I did, however, write a short seven-page episode so I could store the idea just in case.
About four years later the universe punched me in the face with this, and I was in total surrender, so I said, “Why not?” It was time to give it a try, because I had tried everything else.
I threw aside all negative self-talk saying I couldn’t and just pushed ahead. And here we are!
JH: The series addresses gender issues and beauty standards throughout. Were these inspired by specific instances or overall salon culture?
AW: I’ve always been irritated by the pressure society puts on gender and beauty: how there’s some weird, made-up standard to conform to. From inside the beauty world as a bratty professional, I’ve been frustrated by how the beauty industry is only shown to the public as the five-star salons or super high-end types of stylists when in reality… that’s not the majority. It’s what society wants you to see, it’s what sells other products, but it’s not reality.
The majority of the professionals in the beauty industry are exactly like what you see in our show. It’s the salon down the street with the single moms who are working full time plus a midnight job to pay the bills. Young women who don’t want to do this forever but are saving up for school to do something else. The people who are relatable and “normal.” All ages, sizes, shapes, races, backgrounds. It’s not just one type of person.
I want people to see what the beauty industry really looks like; the real normal people that look just like you.
JH: What do you want the future of the series to look like?
AW: We’re working toward distribution, waiting and working hard until we get that call from Netflix or Hulu to join their family of shows. I’m continually committed to creating complex, relatable female characters in a realistic environment that reflects life accurately.
I’m also very passionate about creating careers and jobs for others. I don’t believe the film industry needs to be so difficult and elusive. I want to continue to give jobs to people who wouldn’t otherwise have the chance. To believe in people without credits or a resume, but with heart and passion who would outwork anyone else for the opportunity. I want to mentor people and help them move up the ladder in the film industry, see people succeed, turn people’s dreams into reality. The more we grow, the more I’ll be able to do those things.
We’re growing our stories, our characters, our world, ourselves, and our audience. It’s really a beautiful thing and I’m endlessly grateful.
JH: Finally, how can people support the show?
AW: You can give us a follow on Facebook and subscribe on YouTube. We’re primarily active on Facebook and have our community there we regularly interact with, but do have episodes on YouTube for people who prefer that platform as well.
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