What a pleasure it was to chat with the costume designer Janelle Nicole Carothers. Janelle has worked on over 20 productions in the last 12 years, including Seed of Chucky (2004), the television series The Game (2011-12) & Let’s Stay Together (2012-13), and the The Perfect Match – which opens all over North America today!
Matthew Toffolo: “The Perfect Match” is set to hit theaters this weekend. Can you give us a sneak peak to what to expect? How was your experience working on that film?
Janelle Nicole Carothers: Yes! March 11th! It’s a romantic comedy with an amazing cast and the cameos are hilarious. The experience overall on the film was amazing. The perfect marriage of new and veteran talent. The laughter on set was non-stop. The energy was contagious and the canvases I had to dress – I mean come on, you could put Cassie, Lauren or Dascha in a paper bag and they would look amazing. Executing Director Bille Woodruff’s vision whose work I admire was really an honor and with Tommy Maddox as Director of Photographer it really was the perfect mashup of talent.
MT: Is there is film/TV show or two that you’ve worked on that you’re most proud of?
JNC: HONESTLY … I am proud of EVERYTHING I have worked on. I kind of feel like I would betraying my other projects if I picked a favorite. They are all perfect in their own way and each one brought on their own bundle of blessings, opportunities, friendships, funny stories, hurdles I overcame and growth.
But I’m definitely proud of “The Perfect Match” … It’s my first theatrical release. Seeing my name on the big screen is pretty exciting plus if its ok to toot my own horn for just a second the Costume Design in this will send all the fashion freaks into a frenzy.
I also did a film called “Dueces” (an action film) which will be out in 2017 and that is another I would put in the books of proud moments. It was my first action film. So anything that pushes me past my comfort zone. As an artist I critique my work so violently, so I feel pretty good about a project when I walk away thinking ” yeah, I did the hell out of that”.
PHOTO: Costume Design in THE PERFECT MATCH:
MT: What are the key differences when working on a TV series in comparison to a movie?
JNC: Nothing as it relates to the actual Costume Designing aspect to me. No matter the medium it’s all a delicate balance between style and craft. I put 100% into every project so they all require the same amount of blood, sweat and tears.
The difference would be more related to, scheduling, shooting, locations, hours worked.
MT: What type of film would you love to do costumes for that you haven’t done yet?
JNC: I am ITCHING for a period film. ’60s, ’70s, ’80s. Or a musical.
MT: Describe the process of a typical production. How early do you get hired in pre-production? Do you work and report to the Production Designer? Is your wardrobe budget already set in stone by the time you begin your first day?
JNC: I usually get brought on about 1 month before depending on the scale of the production. Sometimes as late as two weeks. I collaborate with the Production Designer. I report to my directors and producers. The wardrobe budget is given to me and I review the script along with the budget and see what the script requires and if it can be done on the budget I was given. Then we come back to the table to renegotiate if need be. But by the time I start prepping we have agreed on what the budget is.
MT: What do you look for when hiring your assistants?
JNC: Ha! … the list is long! I look for people with an extreme amount of street smarts and common sense. I look for assistants who are calm but efficient and diligent. Those who work well under pressure. Timely, strong, and trust worthy. Ultimately someone who brings me more solutions then they do problems. Someone who is just as insane and passionate about the business as I am.
MT: What type of skills do you need to be a great costume designer?
JNC: Be creative and imaginative, have excellent design skills, good communication skills, be skilled in research, know about costume history and modern fashion, have good stamina, be able to work under pressure to strict deadlines, highly organized, ability to motivate and direct your team, team player, ability to put actors at ease, ability to break down scripts in terms of costume plots, know about story structure and character arcs, have good garment production skills and knowledge of textiles, have a wide-ranging cultural knowledge base and it definitely helps if your a movie buff.
MT: Do you have a costume design mentor?
JNC: I have had many a long the way. Mentors are soooooo important.
Right now I am honored to call a Costume Designer I admire tremendously a mentor – Ruth Carter.
I admire all the stylist I assisted along the way. Seriously their mentoring was/is invaluable.
MT: What film do you most admire the costume design?
JNC: Oh there’s sooooo many. I’ll say currently, YOUTH, TRUMBO, GET ON UP, STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON and BEASTS OF NO NATION. I also like low key slice of life, organic types of Costume Design like ROOM and JOY
MT: How did you originally get into the film industry? Was it your goal from the beginning?
JNC: No, my original goal in life was to be a family law attorney or Marriage Family Therapist. I have a degree in psychology. But, ummmmmm, yeah, that didn’t happen. Tried that path and didn’t love it.
While I was in college I was working retail, I knew I loved fashion but the retail side didn’t speak to me either. I met a couple of stylists and started assisting, poured in a LOT of hard work and dedication, fought the good fight and the rest is history
MT: Besides wardrobe, what else are you passionate about?
JNC: I am passionate about continuing to grow as an artist. I am passionate about writing. I am passionate about travel. And I am most passionate about being a good mommy to my 3 year old and making sure he grows up to be a kick ass human being.