Jordan Pitt is an accomplished actor and award-winning filmmaker.
His latest project, “Untold Stories: Hair on Set,” discusses the challenges Black talent faces in TV and film when it comes to how their afro hair is managed, or not … on set.
We discuss Jordan’s role in bringing together this important documentary to life …
Please introduce yourself …
My name is Jordan Pitt, actor and director from the capital of London … South!
Why was Untold Stories: Hair on Set a project you wanted to get involved with?
When Fola approached me about the project, it instantly resonated with me and enlightened me to a subject that even I had overlooked. It made me think about my experiences on set as an actor and my time in the hair and make-up chair. I realised that the lack of expectation to have my hair catered to (when I had hair) wasn’t normal. That coupled with the revelation of the extent of how actresses were being treated instantly made me want to be a part of amplifying this topic.
How did it come your way, and what was your role?
Fola brought the project to me and I co-directed and co-produced it with her.
We often assume hair issues on set are the domain of black women, but afro hair in all its forms can scare people, have you heard horror stories from men … is there room for a discussion about their experiences too?
Prior to embarking on the journey of the doc, I can’t say it’s something I had discussed with other men. I think men are usually loyal to their barbers, so for me the fact I’d turn up on set with my trim already in place wasn’t an issue. There was only one barber I used anyway. But I guess, if there was a presence of black barbers on set, that would have been different. I wouldn’t have thought I’d need to make the extra effort to be prepared, I would have been more inclined to use the barbers provided on set. So it’s problematic that there wasn’t even an option. It’s only up until the last 2/3 years that I first saw a black barber on set. There’s definitely room to discuss men’s experiences too, as demonstrated in the documentary. Even though I think women suffer worse with this issue, I think it just further amplifies the size of the problem as a whole and shines a light on the range of people affected.
Tell us about your team …
Obviously, my co-director Fola Evans- Akingbola. It was great embarking on this journey with her and seeing her develop into the super producer that she is. We worked closely over the last 2 years and definitely pushed each other to grow. Also my One Umbrella Productions co-producer and DOP Lee MJ Daley, who I’ve worked with on a number of projects before this (‘Coffee,’ ‘Hi John’). We were the core team from beginning to end and also joined forces with Andy Mundy-Castle from Doc Hearts who came on board as exec producer to help get it over the line. And associate producer Geoffrey Williams who came on at the tail end of the project.
What does the story of Untold Stories: Hair on Set mean to you personally?
For me, it’s our small contribution to an issue that most definitely should not exist in 2023. I hope it can be a tool used to spark and contribute to a much-needed change within the industry. Because of the subject matter, It’s definitely one of the most important projects I’ve produced.
Tell us about a challenging moment during Untold Stories: Hair on Set that you had to dig deep to get through it?
Honestly, I can’t say there was a stand-out moment that was particularly challenging to note. With filmmaking, you face challenges every day, but I’d say in general, it ran quite smoothly. We were mostly on the same page and when disagreements did arise, ego was never at the forefront. Every decision made was for the benefit of the project. Fola and I spent a lot of time developing the script and re-editing it as we sat through interviews. I think this was instrumental in things running smoothly, as from there we could be clear in communicating what we wanted visually and also how to approach further interviews. As with every production, once you do the relevant preparation, everything else will fall into place.
Tell us a memorable moment from idea to final edit …
A memorable moment was a trip to Carlisle where we visited a hair exhibition. The footage didn’t make it into the final edit, unfortunately, as is the case with a lot of other great footage we captured. But I learned about the beauty of afro hair and its versatility and also the various ways in which hair is used in general. That was something I was not aware of before visiting the exhibition. But it did reveal that hair is so much more than ‘just hair.’
Which scene best defines what you love about this project and its significance?
There’s a scene with Fola and her mum, which is really touching. It gives a great insight into Fola’s childhood and what it was like for her mum raising mixed-race children and how she navigated that. I won’t say too much, as viewers can tune in to check it out fully. But that scene is definitely one of my faves.
This is a documentary, though you’ve also worked in narrative with your short film Coffee which also won a couple of awards, what’s your favourite medium to tell stories, and is it difficult to make the crossover from docs to fiction and vice versa?
I’m a storyteller at heart, so whether I’m in front of the camera telling someone else’s story, or behind the camera constructing it – narrative or documentary, at the core of it, it’s all the same. I love the diversity of it all and being able to tell stories through different mediums. I don’t want to be boxed in and restricted to only telling stories through one medium. I’d say there is a lot of freedom with documentaries, I do love that. This definitely isn’t the last venture in that space. I haven’t found it difficult to cross over from a storytelling aspect, instead, I have enjoyed embracing the differences between the two mediums and also finding the similarities.
Considering your career evolution, where does this project sit on your checklist?
It’s been important for me personally as it is my first TV broadcast credit, and to have that take place on Sky, that’s amazing.
I have some feature film ideas in early development as well as another documentary. Too early to talk about, but watch this space.
How do we keep up to date with you and your work?
You can find me on IG: @jordanpittofficial or LinkedIn: Jordan Pitt.
Untold Stories: Hair on Set is available to watch on Sky Documentaries and NOW.