Interview with Costume Designer Malgosia Turzanska (Maggie’s Plan)

Chatting with Costume Designer Malgosia Turzanska was inspirational, educational, and fun! She’s a true talent and someone who is obviously in love with her job. Maggi

To learn more about Maglosia, go to her website: http://www.turzanska.com

maglosiaMatthew Toffolo: I recently interviewed director Rebecca Miller about the film “Maggie’s Plan” and she raved about her working relationship with you. How did you find working on the film and collaborating with Rebecca?

Malgosia Turzanska: Rebecca is a wonderful artist. She is a fearless writer and director and honestly, she took a chance on me. The images I brought to the first interview were so abstract, that it really took courage to trust they would end up as regular clothing rather than people dressed as snowflakes. I am very grateful to her for that trust, because it lead to one of my favorite collaborations. I am very proud that the costumes ended up a little pushed and I have Rebecca and our fantastic actors to thank for embracing them and encouraging me to push further. Julianne, Greta and Ethan are such smart and sensitive artists and working with them was very inspiring.

The rest of the team as well — DP Sam Levy, Production Designer
Alexandra Schaller, Producer Damon Cardasis — they’re wonderful to work with and created an environment where we could really find the world of the film together and end up in a very satisfying place, having a lot of fun on the way.

PHOTOS: Original Maggie design sketches from “Maggie’s Plan:

MT: Do you have a favorite working experience? What film are you most proud of?

Malgosia: I’ve been incredibly lucky to have worked with talented directors whose vision I fully believed in, so I enjoyed basically every project I’ve been on, but there’s a few stand outs.

“Ain’t Them Bodies Saints”, directed by David Lowery was an amazing
experience. David Lowery is one of the most brilliant directors of his
generation, and I absolutely love the lyrical, sensuous movie we made.

The people I met during that shoot have become my dearest friends and I hope to continue working with them forever, as they bring out the best in me.

“In A Valley of Violence” directed by Ti West was an absolute blast. It’s a
revenge western set in late 1870s, with Ethan Hawke, John Travolta, Karen Gillian, Taissa Farmiga, and Jumpy the amazing dog. It was just joyous, and brought back together part of the ATBS team. I am very very proud of that one and can’t wait to share it with people. It’s opening in theaters this September, but will screen at BAM in New York during the upcoming cinema fest if you want to see it before then! That shoot was a also a beautiful adventure, including rattle snakes, tarantulas and a whole lot of mice. I also learned the hard way how difficult it is to shave a buffalo hide.

But I’d go back in a beat.

“Hell or High Water” was another favorite New Mexico escapade. A modern western with Jeff Bridges, Ben Foster and Chris Pine, it was written by Taylor Sheridan, who also wrote Sicario, and directed by David Mackenzie.

David was wonderful to work with and fearlessly walked the tight rope
between bleak and sexy, hopeless and funny, making a film that is
enjoyable and entertaining, but also incredibly heart wrenching and valid. I really can’t wait for August, when it’ll open in theaters.

PHOTOS: Original sketches from Malgosia and on set photos from the film “Hell or High Water”:

MT: What type of film (genre, setting etc..) would you love to do costumes on that you haven’t done yet?

Malgosia: I love movies that are firmly set in reality, and then have an unexpected, magical element introduced to that reality, shifting the rules and creating a new logic, unraveling into a different dimension. My absolute dream would be an adaptation of Mikhail Bulgakov’s “Master and Margarita”, which is one of my favorite books. I get goose bumps just thinking about it! The second one would be an adaptation of “The Tiger’s Wife” by Tea Obreht, who is an outrageously talented young author and whose next book I’m waiting for very impatiently.

MT: Rebecca talked about you building a character from the inside out. How you need to know the person before you dress them. Can you share your plan/structure when you begin a project?

Malgosia: It starts with the script. I read it once or twice and create a primary, emotional response to the whole piece or to specific characters. That phase tends to be pretty abstract, raw and untethered. I’m often drawn to images that are seemingly not relative to the story, but I later discover that they become the core of the design. So I don’t censor myself at that phase and just go with my gut. Then I do a proper breakdown, which helps me learn the script by heart, and research it properly. I study the specifics of the period and environment where the story takes place, which includes reading books, looking at photos, going to museums, watching movies — whatever is available. That’s one of my favorite stages, because you come across so many unexpected tidbits that gradually shape the design. I then create a moodboard for each character and start sketching. I find that sketches are a crucial part of my process. It’s a moment where I start asking specific questions about the characters, when the initial abstract ideas begin to take a concrete, realistic form. Fabric swatches are very informative and inspiring during that phase too — color and texture are my favorite things to play with, and often I’ll dye or fade swatches to see what happens to the color or pattern and find surprising outcomes that I wouldn’t necessarily think of off the bat. Of course throughout the whole process, I talk to the director, DP and PD and exchange ideas to make sure we’re on the same page.

Then comes the actual shopping/building stage. We use the sketches and boards as a roadmap, and decide what we’re making from scratch and what we’re buying or renting. Usually the things that are purchased are either altered heavily or dyed, so very few things actually are off the rack, unless the character calls for it.

For Maggie’s Plan for example, my design for Georgette was inspired by frozen twigs and cracked ice and various textures of snow and fur, to emphasize her Viking nature, so we ended up building quite a few pieces in house. Her grey leather minidress, the fur vest and one of the fur stoles.

We added leather trim to a few tops for more detail. She also wears beautiful custom-made No.6 Store clog boots that I ended up changing the color of to fit in more with her controlled palette. But there were a few pieces that we were in love with from the very start that became her signature, like the gorgeous blush pink Ryan Roche sweater which was just perfect the way it is. For Maggie’s costumes, it was crucial to feel the handme-down and reused nature of the clothes— she is so practical and so careful of not being wasteful that we did not want anything of what she wore to feel new, but still wanted to retain the unabashedly vibrant hues.

We used a lot of vintage clothes that we altered and dyed (a big thank you to my husband for letting me turn our home bathroom into a dye room for weeks) and also were very lucky to get pieces from Archerie NY that have the feel we desired but fit a modern shape beautifully. We found a lovely men’s double breasted coat and turned it into a single breasted women’s one for her, changed buttons on pretty much every garment for various reasons (like the ones on the dressing gown that Ethan Hawke’s character unbuttons, one by one). And just all in all, made every garment personal to the character.

I feel this specific process is emblematic to my general way of working. And it’s exciting every time!

PHOTOS from “Maggie’s Plan”. Pictures taken by Jon Pack:

MT: 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?

Malgosia: It varies from project to project, but around 5-6 weeks of prep is what I’ve usually been given so far.

The budget discussions happen during prep, so all should be agreed upon, unless there’s a huge change to the script, or for example a shift of a number of period extras from 20 to 200. It’s all a living, shape-shifting organism until it’s picture locked!

The collaboration with the Production Designer as well as with the DP is
crucial. We perform a creative cross-pollination of sorts, exchanging ideas, lookbooks, comparing fabric swatches and paint chips and making sure the various layers of the world we’re creating are congruent and that we’re not stepping on an another’s toes in any way.

MT: What are the key differences when working on a TV series in comparison to working on a movie?

Malgosia: In film, you have the luxury of having a complete arc of the story and of each of the characters from the get go. You can break down each character and graph their progress through the story and plan out the emotional or practical changes to the costumes to design it from the
beginning to the end. In TV, you have a script to an episode or two and
then a general idea of what’s happening further in the season, but without the specifics. Also, the arcs are more open-ended, as you’re never sure if season 2 will or will not happen, or will a certain character be involved in the following season or not.

MT: What do you look for when hiring your assistants?

Malgosia: I’ve been very lucky to find incredible people that I work with over and over again, who are talented, hardworking and generous. They know me through and through and speak my language perfectly, so there’s no need to establish an alphabet every time we start a new project. I hope they know how much I treasure their presence in my life, both professional and personal.

But when hiring new team members, I look for honest people who are not sissies, who are curious, efficient, don’t melt under pressure, have a sense of humor and who treat work as an adventure and an opportunity to learn rather than clocking in and clocking out.

MT: What type of skills do you need to be a great costume designer?

Malgosia: I think imagination and the love of story-telling are key. Not being afraid to get your hands dirty, whether digging through batches of moldy thrift store bails for treasures, or some last minute distressing of a too-pristine hem.

Finding sunrises enough of a reward for getting up at ungodly hours.
Creative problem solving. Letting little things like an unusual button or a
faded piece of lace speak to you. Being ready to be creatively challenged at every step, and to challenge others if need be. But most importantly, understanding that the initial sketch is not the be all end all — it doesn’t exist in a vacuum, it’s not a fashion plate, but a tool to collaboration with the whole team.

MT: What movie, besides the ones you’ve worked on, have you seen the most times in your life?

Malgosia: It’s not the movie that I’ve seen the most, but it’s seminal enough that I feel I should mention it —Almodovar’s Kika was the first movie that I ever saw that made me think of costume design as an art form. I was in high school probably skipping a math test or something like that, and happened upon its screening. I had no idea who Almodovar was, and sat there saucereyed, having some sort of a religious experience. I was especially blown away by Jean Paul Gaultier’s creations for Victoria Abril’s character. Such joy!

But the two films that I love beyond anything else and that perfectly reflect my own film aspirations are Gondry’s “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (Melissa Toth’s costumes) and Spike Jonze’s “Being John Malkovich” (Casey Storm). Both written by Charlie Kaufman, so I guess there’s that!

But also, I would be dishonest if I didn’t mention my guilty pleasure —
Wayne Wang’s “Maid in Manhattan” with costumes by Albert Wolsky. I love that it’s a Cinderella story where the magical garment that transforms a maid into a princess is a pant suit! How brilliant!

_____

Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 10-20 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto on the last Thursday of every single month. Go to www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

Advertisements

Interview with Costume Designer Janelle Nicole Carothers (The Perfect Match)

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!

janellleMatthew 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:

perfect_match.png

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.

____
Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 10-20 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto on the last Thursday of every single month. Go to www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

Interview with Costume Designer Linda Muir (The Witch, Bitten)

A costume designer is a person who designs costumes for a film. The role of the costume designer is to create the characters and balance the scenes with texture and colour, etc.

What a terrific honour it was sit down with the talented costume designer Linda Muir, who is based in Toronto, Canada. She has worked in the industry for the last 30 years, on many successful films and TV shows, which she talks about in the interview. A must read for anyone working or wanting to work in the industry today: 

Matthew Toffolo: The horror film “The Witch”, will be hitting theaters this weekend, and it’s getting great reviews! How was your experience working on the film? 

The Witch was the most rewarding costume design experience I’ve had to date because the writer/director, Robert Eggers, is an extraordinary collaborator and because the film plays out at extremely close quarters so much of the detail put into the costumes actually reads.

I loved the script (it was certainly the first time I’d read a feminist take on Puritan hysteria) and I found Robert to be serious and intelligent with a wickedly sharp sense of humour. I felt camaraderie: we both tend to say what we think and we both learned to create tableaus while working in the theatre.

During my first interview (of three), Robert handed me a spiral bound book; it contained a presentation of images from his research for the film, everything from inspirational Goya paintings to photographic examples of corn rot.

PHOTO: Still shot from “The Witch”

the_witch_costumes.jpg

Research is my thing, too: obviously most of the time I am not the same as the characters for which I design costumes (such a Puritan man or girl living in 1630), so I do thorough research to inform my designs. In preparing to design costumes for The Witch I read approx. 1,800 pages of material in books produced by British historian Stuart Peachey, covering every aspect of 17thC clothing, such as weaving and dyeing wool, garment construction and pattern making, and notions like buttons and braided ties.

Throughout the film the audience sees the characters in every state of dress therefore I needed to know what garments were worn (and how they were worn) from the skin out.

While researching headwear, I found a website created for 17th C re-enacters which shed light on the way in which hair was dressed at the period, using woven linen (ribbon-like) tape braided into the hair. I then found a company stateside that sold the reproduction linen tape we needed to create the style (along with reproduction brass straight pins to secure Katherine’s neckerchief). That information turned out to be vital to the look of the film: not only was it accurate, it beautifully reflected the tightly bound up and covered beliefs that eventually unravel. As we see Thomasin and Katherine become more and more out of control their coifs (linen caps) come off, revealing the hairstyles and in the end all the hair comes down with yards of tape left dangling — Katherine crazed and defeated, Thomasin sensual and alive.

So, though The Witch was a real challenge, it was also a true joy.

Matthew: You have been the costume designer on over 40 productions in the last 25 years. Is there is film/TV show or two that you’re most proud of (besides The Witch)?

Long Days Journey Into Night, directed by David Wellington is a favorite, as are September Songs, and Mulroney: The Opera, both directed by Larry Weinstein, as well as Exotica, and Thirty-Two Short Films About Glenn Gould.

The young editor who cut my reel in 2007 was thrilled to have had the opportunity to see so many fantastic Canadian projects. He wasn’t aware of the Rhombus catalogue, for instance, because programs such as CBC’s Opening Night, that at one time commissioned and aired challenging, imaginative work, no longer exist.

PHOTO: Still shot from “Mulroney: The Opera”

mulroney_the_opera.jpg

Matthew: What are the key differences when working on a TV series in comparison to a movie?

The major difference is the lead creative thrust and decision making: when working on a film it comes from the director (who is often also the writer) and the film’s producer(s), while with a series it comes first from the show runner/head writer and the series producer because there are typically different directors for each episode; usually it would not be possible for the director to shoot an episode while prepping the next —the work is simultaneous. The directors consult with the show runner and producer to ensure a continuous tone for the series, regardless of the differing directors. Therefore, costume meetings for a series involve many more people than for a film.

During the prep period for a feature I can deal with the script as a whole. There is a beginning, middle and end to the character arcs. The audience will have the entire viewing experience in one go. I have more control over the impact of a character’s visual evolution over the course of a film (which I chart) with the use of colour for a particular reason, or style changes, or the story told by the breakdown/distressing/aging on the costumes.

More of the entire project is prepped up front for a film and then once the film starts shooting work continues on costumes needed later in the schedule, either for the leads or for day players who weren’t cast until after the film started to shoot. It’s a dual focus for the costume designer: facilitating the ongoing filming of established costumes, dealing with problems that can (and will) arise, while continuing to design characters that haven’t been in front of the camera yet.

In a series, such as Bitten, the first one or two episodes (of ten or twelve) are prepped during the initial prep period, prior to shoot day 1, and that is as much of the season’s storyline as is available to the various departments.

Even though our producer JB Sugar and show-runner Daegan Fryklind were exceptionally helpful with giving a heads up about upcoming plot turns, wardrobe would still find that a character whose costumes were designed (and in a modern-day series that can often mean purchased with direction to a particular look) a month before, was then scripted to die a bloody death in the current episode being prepped. The costume had already been filmed and the character was on the run and had no opportunity to change clothing so the task for costume designer and wardrobe department became that of matching the wardrobe, either by making or finding more of the same wardrobe pieces that had already been shot, but in multiples to costume the actor for multiple takes of the action in new episode and, additionally, for the stunt performers, also for multiple takes.

PHOTO of Laura Vandervoort’s costume in “Bitten Season 3”:

bitten_laura.jpg

The other major difference (for the projects I work on) between a film and a tv series is the overall duration of the project. Costumes for a film typically prep over a 4 to 5 week period, shoots for 5 to 6 weeks and then wraps, whereas a series has an initial prep period of 4 to 5 weeks, shoots an episode in anywhere from 7 to 10 days while simultaneously prepping the next episode, and the shoot period lasts from 4 to eight months, and then the show wraps. Developing the designs for series characters is ongoing throughout the shoot and is dependent on the needs of each new episode.

Matthew: What type of film would you love to do costumes for that you haven’t done yet?

That’s a great question. I’ve been extremely fortunate in working on a wide range of projects but I really enjoy scripts that winkle out insights into society. Perhaps an alternate version of an existing book or film. Like Middlemarch set in the 1960s…

Matthew: 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?

“Typical” has changed over the years: financing for projects seems more precarious than ever and that impacts the total budget of a project, which in turn impacts start dates, department size, departmental budgets and the amount of time offered for prep.

Collaboration with the Production Designer is always crucial. The Production Designer has had other conversations with the Director that impact costumes. The palette for a film starts with the sets and extends to the wardrobe. Collaboration with the DP is also important; to be aware of lens choice, proposed light levels and filters.

The Witch, though totally a-typical, turned out to be an ideal pre-production and budgeting model. It took around four years for Robert, Jay, Lars, and Jodi to get the financing together for The Witch. Once I was offered the job of Costume Designer, I discovered that the proposed budget for costumes was ruefully low. After discussing all the areas that the costume budget would need to cover, it was agreed that I would devise a costume budget during a pre-production period far in advance of the actual prep period. Building that budget required extensive research and consultation with Robert; it actually meant designing and costing the family’s costumes. But ultimately it meant that the producers had a realistic number to budget for costumes (which shifted downward during prep as other production costs surfaced), and it meant that Robert and I had a solid starting point for the actual prep period.

Robert and I broke down the script to arrive at the number of script days depicted over the film and after discussing many options made the decision to limit each character to one costume with all the layers realistically represented, with multiples for blood or mud, or rain where needed. Even though it may be a stretch to imagine the family had so few clothes it paid off in the end because there are no distractions around the clothing—they have little, they care not for adornment, they have much more pressing problems to think about the changing a waistcoat.

I knew that we had to design and fabricate the costumes for the family of seven; we couldn’t rely on renting existing costumes since we needed multiples to accommodate the scripted action and we wanted control over the colour palette. We opted to put our limited money and time (which meant money) into creating perfectly detailed clothing that would bear scrutiny and help hold the audience in the period.

Costumes for the Meeting House cast of 50 were rented from Tirelli costume house, in Rome, shipped to Mattawa, Ontario and were augmented with collars, cuffs, coifs and aprons sewn on set in the middle of a forest.

Matthew: What do you look for when hiring your assistants?

“sewn on set in the middle of a forest” pretty much says it all.

Matthew: What film have you seen the most times in your life?

It’s likely a tie between E.T. and Backdraft, my son’s favorites that I watched with him on VHS (over and over) when he was a child. I don’t do multiple viewing, unless it’s for research purposes or to share a favorite; I think, like books, there are simply too many films to experience.

Stylistically, I’m sure that I was influenced by films of Hollywood’s golden years, as presented weekly by Elwy Yost, and since I worked designing Trade Forum environments and parties for T.I.F.F. (then The Festival of Festivals) from 1979 to 1984, I had a Staff pass enabling me to experience many new films by influential filmmakers like Fassbinder, Bergman or Tarkovsky.

Matthew: What makes a great costume designer?

A Teflon exterior? The nerve to pitch and defend out-there ideas because you really believe in them? An ability to empathize (fictionally, at least)? Curiosity, curiosity, curiosity? Being, or at least learning to be, a team-player? A refined sense of less-is-more?

Matthew: How did you originally get into the film industry? Was it your goal from the beginning?

Big smile. No, when I was in grade school I thought I’d be an English teacher. Then, in high school and university, I found Theatre Arts. Up until that point, the situations of the characters in novels had provided stimulation and illumination for me, but in plays they actually voiced those themes!

I have real respect for actors: they are the ones who must take it personally, their being is on the stage or in front of the camera. To produce a pertinent, convincing costume design seems to require similar insights into the character’s psyches —but I can remain anonymous.

At the start of my career I designed costumes for the theatre, at The Theatre Second Floor, Theatre Passe Murialle, Tarragon, TWP, Royal Alexandria, and Mabou Mines, for instance.  Folks kept telling me I should design for film because of the detail in my work and eventually the opportunity presented itself.

Now, after over forty years of designing costumes, it’s very special when an actor says that they feel like they are wearing clothing, not a costume, or when an actor cast at the last minute without benefit of rehearsal says that I have handed them their character. That’s a terrific feeling.

Matthew: Besides wardrobe, what else are you passionate about?

Other than my family, reading and cooking. In my fifties, I went back to school for a Chef Certificate.

Matthew: What advice do you have for high school or university students who are looking to work in the Costume Department in the movie industry?

Each path is different. Some are attracted by the stories; maybe they come to costumes by way of an arts background. Others come from fashion school. I suppose I’d say that however one arrives at the idea of being a costume designer, know that for most it is not a glamorous job. It involves REALLY long days; impossible amounts of stress (over lack of money, lack of time, lack of staff, and sometimes lack of collaboration); and the only thing that is certain in production is that nothing is certain.

Don’t rush it. Many young costumers that I meet think that they should be designing costumes for a film or a series immediately.

Take the time to learn the job. Observe. Work with designers from whom you think you can learn and when you do work on projects, be a team player. Commit. Commit to the project for its duration and commit to your department.

Learn to sew. You may not be a competent seamstress but you do need to know how clothes are constructed.

Learn to render a costume sketch. Again, drawing may not be your strength but you will need to convey your ideas.

Learn about fabrics. It’s unlikely that you will be able to afford the real thing so learn how to imitate it.

Learn how to do breakdown/distressing/aging of costumes. It is an important skill that adds dimension and personality to cloth.

Learn how to organize yourself and a department. There is a huge amount of paperwork that goes into costuming, from breaking down the script to scheduling all the work that ensures costumes are fit, altered and ready for camera. Learn how to read a Day Out Of Days, Shooting Schedule, One-Line Schedule, etc.. Delegation is important, but in the end the designer is responsible for the department running smoothly.

Observe. Watch people on the street, see what they choose to wear and think about what those choices reflect. Be aware of differing styles, their origins and the cycles that they have taken.

Nurture an interest in helping to tell the story and figure out what that means to costume choices. In my opinion the best costumes are not random, they are not simply beautiful or cool or whatever but they reveal something about the character who wears it in the story that is unfolding.

 

_____

Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 10-20 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto on the last Thursday of every single month. Go to www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

Art Department Interviews

Read interviews from top people working in the Art Department in the movie industry today. Production Designers. Art Directors. Storyboard Artists. Costume Designers. 

Interview with Oscar Nominated Production Designer Anne Seibel (Midnight in Paris, Bonjour Anne):https://matthewtoffolo.com/2016/02/19/interview-oscar-nominated-production-designer-anne-seibel-midnight-in-paris-bonjour-anne/

Interview with Oscar Nominated Production Designer Michael Corenblith (Apollo 13, The Blind Side):  https://matthewtoffolo.com/2016/02/04/interview-with-oscar-nominated-production-designer-michael-corenblith-apollo-13-the-blind-side/

Interview with Costume Designer Ginger Martini: https://matthewtoffolo.com/2016/02/17/interview-with-costume-designer-ginger-martini/

Interview with Graphic Designer Tina Charad (Maleficent, Fifty Shades of Grey): https://matthewtoffolo.com/2016/01/25/interview-with-graphic-designer-tina-charad-maleficent-fifty-shades-of-grey/

Interview with Storyboard Artist Stephen Forrest-Smith (Star Wars, Harry Potter, The Dark Knight): https://matthewtoffolo.com/2016/02/02/interview-with-storyboard-artist-stephen-forrest-smith-star-wars-harry-potter-the-dark-knight/

Interview with Art Director Jeremy Woolsey (Pitch Perfect, Million Dollar Arm, Dirty Grandpa): https://matthewtoffolo.com/2016/01/19/interview-with-art-director-jeremy-woolsey-pitch-perfect-million-dollar-arm-dirty-grandpa/

Interview with Storyboard Artist Kurt Van der Basch (Star Wars Episodes VII and VIII): https://matthewtoffolo.com/2016/01/23/interview-with-storyboard-artist-kurt-van-der-basch-star-wars-episodes-vii-and-viii/

The ART of ART DIRECTION and PRODUCTION DESIGN in the movies. https://matthewtoffolo.com/2015/05/13/the-art-of-art-direction-and-production-design-in-the-movies/

Interviews performed by Matthew Toffolo from WILDsound. 

 

 

Interview with Costume Designer Ginger Martini

A costume designer is a person who designs costumes for a film. The role of the costume designer is to create the characters and balance the scenes with texture and colour, etc.

ginger_martiniInterview with Ginger Martini www.gingermartini.com:

Matthew Toffolo: You have worked on over 60 films as a Costume Designer, plus over 24 films as a Makeup Artist in just the last 9 years! You’ve been busy. Is there a film or two that stand out for you that you’re most proud of?

Ginger Martini: I’m proud of the majority of them. I’ve been quite lucky, every script that has come my way, I’ve quite enjoyed working on. I’d say Fall, Portrait of a Serial Monogamist, At Home by Myself… with You, BackCountry and Air Balloon Circus are some of the most visually exciting projects. I love working on the CityLife projects as well, with the Remix project, those films always hold a special place in my heart.

PHOTO for Portrait of a Serial Monogamist:

portrait_of_a_serial_monogamist_costume.jpg

 

Matthew: You seem to be the go-to person when dealing with tight budgets. Your task is sometimes impossible. What’s your secret to do costumes for an entire cast with little money?

Ginger: Some of them were tight budgets in the beginning years, but for the most part, I get what I need to make it look proper. Realistic goals is key. I draw up a reasonable budget and submit it to my producers and pm at the start. They usually find a way to make it work.

Matthew: You started out doing short films and you continue to do them. What do you enjoy about the short film experience?

Ginger: All about the script, I’m a sucker for an interesting story whether it’s short or long format.

Matthew: What type of film would you love to do costumes for that you haven’t done yet?

Ginger: In sept/oct I designed some costumes for the band XO-IQ on Nickelodeon’s Make It Pop, that was probably my favourite version of designing, anything along those lines would be where I’d like to head from now on, lots of color and fun fabrics. They let me be as creative as I wanted and the results are really cool : )

Matthew: What film have you seen the most times in your life?

Ginger: Oddly enough, The Perfect Storm with George Clooney and Mark Walberg. It’s on tv alllll the time and any time I come across it, I’ll stop what I’m doing and watch the entire thing.

Matthew: What makes a great makeup artist?

Ginger: Talent and personality

Matthew: What are you looking for in a director when you start a production?

Ginger: We need to be on the same page creatively and they need to be someone I can easily communicate with.

Matthew: Does working on big budget Hollywood productions that have a large costume department appeal to you?

Ginger: Of Course : )

Matthew: What advice to you have for high school or university students who are looking to work in costumes or makeup in the movie industry?

Ginger: It’s not as easy as it looks on tv. The hours are beyond gruelling and at first the money is non existent. But keep at it. Be nice to everyone, cuz you never know where your next job is coming from and who that Production Assisant will be later (maybe your next Production Manager) and only work for free for a little bit. Then bill what you’re worth and if you are good at it, the money will come. Make sure you like your scripts and it’s easier to live with them 24/7 for months on end. Take advice from people who are successful in the department you want to be in, and learn to take criticisms well and not personally.

PHOTO from At Home by Myself… with You:

at_home_pic

_____

Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 10-20 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto on the last Thursday of every single month. Go to www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.