I love costuming in film. It is not what you think it is, however. I do not pick the clothes the actors wear. That is the job of the Designer and it’s our job to make sure the vision of the Designer is what is in front of the camera. Although I completely understand the design job, I’m not creative in that way. If I were to design, it would be technically great for the department, but I would be fearful about how it would look. It’s just my job to make sure they are wearing the right thing at the right time. At least, that’s what I do as a set costumer.
The set costumer is responsible for continuity and has to fix ANYTHING bad that comes up during the filming. Continuity is making sure all the different takes will match when the editor cuts the footage together. The shirt collars have to lay the same way, the same number of buttons buttoned up, jewelry worn the same way and all other issues dealing with the clothes have to match shot to shot. Quite often things are shot out of sequence, and that means sometimes I’m guessing about how dirty an actor is going to get in a fight not yet filmed. Things that are bad can be anything from a seam busting open to an actor spilling a drink on the clothes. Life is fun when the entire crew is watching and waiting on you to make repairs.
The other job I do a lot is supervising, which is basically managing the department. It’s as far away from actual costuming as you can get and still be in the department. It involves creating a budget, tracking labor and other costs, setting up vendor accounts, making sure the crew has everything they need to do the job, scheduling the department, finding whatever the Designer wants and wrapping at the end of the show. The kind of costumer I like to hire knows and does the job without a lot of direction. That costumer will have other skills that can be used to help out teammates in the weeds.
There is also aging and dyeing, keeping the warehouse in order, stitching/sewing/tailoring (three different levels of skill), and shopping. Shopping and sewing are the two jobs where I’m not so good. But I know lots of people who are.
The hours are unbelievably long and the commitment to the project means I basically drop off the face of the Earth for three months or however long the filming lasts. It also means when a film wraps, I’m out of a job. But it beats working for a living, as I always say.
If I Left a Note on Your Door…
This week I’m working for NBC’s tv series called “Good Girls”.
If I left a note on your door about scouting for a location and you are interested in the next step, when you call me I come by to take pictures. You can pretty much count on me taking pictures of everything, mess and all. In nearly all cases, we are looking at the bones of the place, not your life stuff. The film will probably replace all that life stuff with set dressing anyway. But you don’t have to do that. We’ll get to your part at the end.
What I am asking is just to take pictures. Those pictures go in front of the Production Designer, sometimes the Art Director, the Director, and my boss, the Location Manager. They decide if it is close enough to what the script needs. If it is not the best match, you probably won’t hear from anyone again. If you ask me, I will make a note and let you know if I hear something. But I don’t always hear anything. My job is just to look, and once I hand in my day’s pictures I’m kind of out of the loop at that point. But I’ve been around long enough to know the process.
If they like your place, you will get a call from the location department to set up a scout. This is when the people mentioned above come by to look at your place. They may come all at once, one at a time, and maybe more than once. If they decide to use your place, there will also be a production scout that involves a lot more of the crew.
Then the art department moves in. They could wind up doing all kinds of things. They will let you know and there will be an agreement on the scope of work. They will finish just before the production company arrives.
It is amazing how many trucks and people are invoked in shooting a movie. Plus the trailers and catering of base camp. It might get so crowded the show will provide you lodging for the shoot. Then there will be a couple of days of the art department coming back in to make sure it looks like we were never there. You will still know it’s your place when the work comes out, though.
Now for your part. It is a paying gig, so there will be some papers to sign. There will be a lot of phone calls and coordinating with different people who have wildly different needs. They won’t ask you to do the work, but they need your permission to do just about anything. That’s really all there is to it.
Still interested? Can I come by and take some pictures?
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Lights, Camera, Action
One of the careers I’ve had in my life has been in the film business. My first film was building the sets on Black Rainbow, a film no one saw. My second film was Glory, filmed in Savanna. I was hooked. I got my first costuming job on the pilot of I’ll Fly Away, filmed in Atlanta. I also worked in the Greens department, the AD department, the props department and now my focus is locations. In fact, if you want to see most of the projects I’ve worked on, lookhere. Not all are listed. I don’t include a show where I day play, for instance.
It’s been a lot of fun and I do have a lot of great stories, but I’m a bit old school with that. What happens on a set stays on a set. Even though it is a very public biz, that is not a public space.