Kelly McCallum, the College Director at Complections, got his start in the make-up industry after doing his undergrad at the Ontario College of Art and Design. Moving from Drawing & Painting to the “Experimental Art” program (with a focus on installation, large paintings and sculpture), Kelly’s love of exaggerated visuals flourished.
Upon his graduation, a job at a small business run by friends taught Kelly the ever-important business management skills which helped prepare him for an unexpected career in make-up and wig knotting. “I heard about the Canadian Opera Company’s make-up and wig knotting courses,” Kelly remembers. Signing up for the year-long course, Kelly was able to work on the company’s six main stage shows.
After completing his education with the COC, Kelly stayed on as an assistant in the Make-up and Wig department, eventually becoming Head of the department three years later. “I jumped at the chance,” Kelly says when telling me about the day he was offered the position. This new responsibility meant not only working with the crew to prepare for the numerous productions that went on at various locations in Toronto, but also “a lot of accounting and desk work. I was responsible for the department budget…and the crew budget,” he says of his daily duties. Kelly left the COC in 2001 after being offered a job at Complections. Teaching is an interesting change of pace for Kelly, who says it makes him “think about everything he does in such detail”, and seeing the progression of students’ confidence and skill is very satisfying.
Working on over 70 productions during his eight years with the COC, Kelly’s accomplishments reach far beyond his time with them. He has built wigs for Christine, the female lead in The Phantom of the Opera, Les Misérables, The Lion King, Mama Mia and Tommy; he has also worked on Kids In The Hall and many films. He has become a licensed hairdresser, and is a member of NABET 700. Kelly has also worked with the University of Rochester on several of their student productions. He has built wigs on several Special Effects projects with Gordon Smith, and for sculptor Evan Penny, and says these were some of his most interesting projects because “they weren’t straight wig-building…there’s a lot of problem solving.”
The ability to trouble-shoot is just one of the many attributes a successful artist must possess, Kelly affirms. “Don’t be late!” he says (a favourite phrase from his Complections graduation speeches). “(And) nobody wants to work with people with attitude.” His most important piece of advice is this: “Stick with it. It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen,” he says of finding work after graduation. Using his illustrious and varied career as an example, they are definitely words of wisdom.