Salon photography by Alen Lin
NAILS: What was the process like before you got picked up by TV Guide Network?
Katie: When you came in last February to write your On The Road article, we had just finished shooting the pilot. So the next step was the production company went out to pitch the pilot to the different networks. At the time, so many of the networks were hot on salon shows and there were a million shows that will probably never see the light of day, but once a network commits to a show they say, “Sorry we already have a show about a hair salon.” And to network executives, a salon is a salon — hair, nails, waxing — they just don’t get the difference. Bottom line is it’s a salon. Finally TV Guide Network contacted us and said they were rebranding. They wanted to be more focused on programming that would cover fashion, celebrity red carpet, and all the other fun stuff that was going on in Los Angeles. They saw the pilot and thought it was a great opportunity to branch out into the reality world without it being trashy. I mean trashy sells, and it’s funny because all the press is saying “from the producers of the Jersey Shore” so I already have to deal with that stereotype.
NAILS: What was shooting the series like?
Katie: We found out in December. And in January I went to Sundance to do a gifting suite and the crew said, “OK we’re coming with you.” And all of a sudden, I was never alone. When they were filming in the salon there were 10 guys in here. The private pedicure room was closed off and they used it as their production room. All of the producers with the monitors were upstairs. It was absolute madness. We started shooting and I thought it was going to be for a month. The show is running for eight episodes and they’re only 22 minutes per episode. But we shot over 800 hours. This is their method and I really believe in it. If you set up things, you’re not going to get real stuff. One day I was in tears. The things that happen are crazy. They woke up with me; they were with me all day. At the end of the day, my staff was always happy that they were done and they could go home by themselves, but I still wasn’t done. The crew would all pile in the van and come to my house. They had to install TV lighting in my house and in the salon.
We filmed 12 hours a day, even if I was sitting at my computer all day answering e-mails. During the two plus months we were filming, there was practically always a camera on me. In the beginning I was like “Who’s going to want to watch this?” But then of course there would be a phone call or a customer having a breakdown or something would go wrong or the lights would go out. And it turned into absolute craziness. When things went wrong I’d understand why they were sitting there for three hours filming me on the computer. Nothing happens for two of those hours, but the next hour something happens and that’s what you’re going to see. But you’re also going to see me on the computer and going about my regular daily tasks.
Salon photography by Alen Lin
NAILS: What else can we expect to see on Nail Files?
Katie: They’ll get to see me at work, at home, going out with my friends. I don’t think Walter and I ever actually went out together on camera. We just didn’t have time. It’s mostly going to be my day-to-day life. There will be a lot of functions. I throw a lot of parties. It was Walter’s birthday so I threw him a party. I don’t have children so when it’s my dog’s birthday I throw a party. In March when I launched my new spring/summer polish collection I threw a party. I’m always busy. And I’m going to do these things regardless if there are cameras there or not. I think I ran the production crew ragged. But that’s how my life really is. And I think all your readers know, it’s not easy to run a nail salon. This isn’t a made-for-TV salon. It’s all my money — my whole life.
So I think the show is probably going to be a third about my personal life, a third about running the salon, and a third about my life with Walter. It’s being billed as a docu-reality show about me building what they call a “mini nail empire.” But I still don’t know what will be shown because I don’t sit in the editing bay.
NAILS: How did your employees and your clients respond to filming?
Katie: At the beginning it was very weird and I was like, “You guys need to loosen up. You can tell there are cameras on you. You look too stiff and nervous.” But after a week I think most of the employees forgot the cameras were there. The cameras and producers are really all over the place. But you do kind of get used to it.
Imagine if you were coming in here to get a manicure. You walk in and the windows are all blacked out. You immediately get approached by a producer asking you to sign a release. You don’t have to sign it. If a client said she didn’t want to be on camera, that wasn’t a problem. We’d film around that person and even if we did catch them on camera while they were in, we’d never be able to show that because without a release we can’t by law. And remember, it’s not just one guy with a camera. It’s two big cameras, a few more guys capturing you talking, capturing me at the front desk, capturing the nail techs. And then you’ve got the sound guys and everybody has to get mic’d. And it’s chaos. There are people running back and forth. Producers saying, “She didn’t sign the release, so stop filming her and go over there to focus on these people. Turn the music off.” So sure, some clients complained.
Another thing was they couldn’t film during kids’ parties unless all the parents signed releases and the kids got work permits. It’s a reality show so they have to have work permits. This one mom wanted to have her daughter’s birthday party here and she was so excited because we were filming. I told her that all the kids would have to go through their school to get work permits and they did.