Interview with Editor Crispin Green (Game of Thrones, Doctor Who)

Crispin Green has edited some of the top TV shows in recent times. It was a pleasure to site down with him to talk about the craft of editing and his career.

Interview with Crispin Green: 

Matthew Toffolo: Tell us about the “Game of Thrones” experience. How is editing such a unique show where there are 4-7 plots occurring in a single episode?

Crispin Green: It’s an experience quite unlike working on other shows in that the editors are there for the duration of the shoot (about 6 months) rather than blocks of two or three episodes. This can help in the editing process as you get more of a sense of the season as a whole story.

MT: Will you be back to editing the series “Game of Thrones”? How does the process work? Who do you report to and collaborate with? The showrunners? The novelists? The director of the episode?

Yes I’ll be back if the opportunity arises.

CG: When assembling the dailies I work closely with the director, showing him or her cut scenes as the shoot progresses. He or she will give me notes as we go along if needed as they only have limited time for fine cutting when the episodes are complete. Some VFX heavy scenes have to be fine cut early so that the VFX team has a chance to get their work done in time (dragons take a long time to animate!), in these cases the showrunners will get involved with the cutting process. Once the director has presented a fine cut to the producers, the showrunners take over and I will work with them until picture lock.

PHOTO: Game of Thrones Season 5: 

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MT: I have to ask you about editing “Doctor Who”. Another iconic series. Were you a fan of the show before you began editing it? How was your experience working on the show?

CG: Yes I was a fan, I grew up watching the show and couldn’t quite believe it when I got to actually work on it! It was great fun to work on, the showrunners were very open to unusual ideas.

PHOTO: Doctor Who Season 4:

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MT: What’s the key difference between editing a feature film in comparison to editing a TV episode?

CG: I’ve only cut one feature (and co-editor on The Great Rock n Roll Swindle – which wasn’t normal!) so I can’t really comment but I would imagine that TV shows have less time available due to pre-booked transmission dates.

MT: Besides “Game of Thrones”, and “Doctor Who”, do you have a favorite experience and film/TV show that you’re most proud of?

CG: Series one of “Bodies” was a ground-breaking medical drama written by Jed Mercurio where we got to try out some interesting stuff and equally “Misfits” was a pretty cool show to cut the first episodes of.

MT: What are the key qualities to be a great editor?

CG: The ability to get the story across in the most interesting way, understanding the director’s vision and being ready to adapt to what the writer/showrunners want.

MT: What is an editor looking for in their director/show runner?

CG: Someone who is good to work alongside (we spend many weeks together in a small room!) and who has an interesting vision of the project.

MT: What is a director/show runner looking for in their editor?

CG: Same answer as above but also it helps if the editor can second guess what the director wants while assembling the scenes.

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

CG: It’s a three way tie between “The Blues Brothers”, “Some Like It Hot” and “The Italian Job”!

MT: What advice would you have for people who like to be an editor in the film/TV industry?

CG: I started as a runner and worked my way up and I would recommend this route to anyone, you get to meet lots of people on the way who, more often than not, will be happy to help you on your journey. Also, try and cut as many things as you can to develop your cutting instinct, and watch lots of TV shows/movies to try and understand how to (or how not to!) construct an understandable story.

 

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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 Cinematographer Julio Macat (Home Alone, Wedding Crashers, The Boss)

What an honor it was to sit down with Director of Photography Julio Macat. Julio has DP’d most of the top comedy films in the last 25+ years. His list of credits include: Home Alone 1, 2 & 3, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective,  The Nutty Professor, The Wedding Planner, Wedding Crashers, Winnie the Pooh, Pitch Perfect, and the upcoming comedy The Boss, starring Melissa McCarthy.

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Matthew Toffolo: You have worked in the Hollywood Film Industry scene for the last 36 years. What has been the biggest change in the filmmaking process from 1980 to present?

Julio Macat: The biggest change in our industry has been the choice of material that studios and most independent financing companies green light, as what films are made. It used to be that a film like ORDINARY PEOPLE would have no problem going forward, especially with a good director attached. Now, great films like that rarely get made anymore. I miss that.

MT: Of all the productions you’ve worked on, what film are you most proud of?

JM: Without hesitation it’s HOME ALONE, it was a rare combination of all the elements of film making coming together harmoniously with a result better than expected.

PHOTO: Cinematography in the film Home Alone:

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MT: Home Alone is one of the most successful films in movie history, and it’s a film that really stands the test of time. During filming, did you ever imagine that this film would be as iconic as it was?

JM: No I didn’t. My hope was that it would be liked as much as I liked A CHRISTMAS STORY and that kids could relate to and be empowered by it. But It’s unusual to sense that you are doing something that special because you are in a vacuum, trying to do the best you can in your department (the visuals) and just hope that everyone else had their act together as well…Fortunately our young director Chris Columbus, had a great vision of what “it could be” and he guided us all in a great direction. The film was that unique circumstance where every layer that was added made the film even better…and John Williams’ score was truly icing on the cake.

MT: You’ve definitely been a part of some of the most successful films in the last 25 years (Home Alone, Wedding Crashers, Pitch Perfect to name a few). Is there a film that you worked on that didn’t do well at the box office that you consider a terrific film that people should see?

JM: Yes In comedy, I loved MY FELLOW AMERICANS which came out at an odd time and no one saw and the drama CRAZY IN ALABAMA which was a bit too long and did not connect with American audiences.

PHOTO: Crazy in Alabama. Starring Melanie Griffith:

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MT: You just wrapped “The Boss” starring Melissa McCarthy, Peter Dinklage, and Kristen Bell. Can you give us a sneak peak as to what to expect?

JM: I have not been this excited about a comedy coming out since I photographed WEDDING CRASHERS!

JM: THE BOSS is the perfect vehicle to show Melissa McCarthy’s incredible talent. I think she is the present day Lucille Ball, someone who can and will do ANYTHING for a laugh and unlike other comedians, it’s ALWAYS really funny. She has the uncanny ability to step outside herself and correct situations to make them hilarious without being self conscious! There is a scene in which she puts on a teeth whitener to have Kristen Bell clean her teeth and holds a conversation while they are being cleaned. I assure you that this will have the people in theatres roaring with laughter! We had to start the scene again repeatedly, because the other actors and the crew could not stop laughing during the takes.

PHOTO: Melissa McCarthy in THE BOSS: 

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MT: Some of the comedies you work on the director demands the actors stick to the script, whereas other films, like Wedding Crashers, there is a lot of improvising occuring. Do you have a preference when shooting? How does the scene lighting setup change when you know the actors are going to go off script?

JM: It’s been my experience that comedy is an imperfect and individual science. The best results come when you leave an opening for great accidents to happen. So I try to not lock in actors with blocking that is too precise, and for example, if the scene develops into being filmed in an area that we had not anticipated, well, that then turns into a fun challenge!. Hopefully this adds to the piece. Ben Falcone and Melissa were eager to want overlaps in dialogue and action in some of our scenes, to be a part of the looseness of the jokes, so they asked that I cover these scenes with three angles simultaneously. It was challenging photographically, but the results were worth the effort and we got many “improvised “ moments with the proper intercut coverage.

MT: Since you started in the camera department, do you prefer operating the camera yourself? Or does this all depend on what type of film (budget/Union guidelines) you’re working on?

JM: I love operating the camera myself, and on some productions I prefer it.

But since I’ve now done 17 films with first time directors, lately, I find that all can go faster when I spend more time by the director’s side and away from the camera. I do love stunts, however, and I love operating on the tough shot …so that we get it in one.

MT: What’s the main thing you look for from your main crew members? Gaffer, Key Grip, Camera Operators etc…

JM: My most important criteria in choosing crew is PERSONALITY. After this many years in the film industry, I found that many people are qualified for the job description, not as many have the agreeable, kind and respectful personality that I require to be in my crew.

I like to be the example of being respectful to actors, directors, producers and other crew members. I expect my crew to do the same.

It’s amazing how much you can achieve with a hand picked crew that has a positive attitude and general kindness toward each other, I am always amazed at this, especially when we work under such tough circumstances that we often encounter. With this approach, when the pressure mounts with things like weather challenges, not enough time, locations changing, etc. etc. which by the way, are actually the daily obstacles of filming, one can rely on the crew to process it, deal with it professionally and find a solution with kindness achieving much better results.

MT: What do you look for in your working relationship with your director?

JM: A collaboration, Hopefully I look for this person to be someone who will do their homework, roll their sleeves up along with me and work as hard as I do.

I look for the director to be considerate of my craft and the elements I may need in order to help them realize their vision for the film And finally, maybe most importantly, a sense of humor.

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

JM: It’s a three way tie: In this order though…

IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE
LOST IN AMERICA
JERRY MAGUIRE

Cheers
JULIO MACAT, ASC

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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 1st AD John McKeown (50/50, Albert Nobbs)

The role of an Assistant Director – 1st AD on a film includes tracking daily progress against the filming production schedule, arranging logistics, preparing daily call sheets, checking cast and crew, and maintaining order on the set. 

John McKeown has worked in the AD department, mainly as a 1st AD, on over 40+ productions in the last 20 years. He is a fountain of knowledge, which is evident when reading this interview.

jack_1stad.jpgInterview with John McKeown:

Matthew Toffolo: In your 20+ year career, do you have a favorite and/or memorable experience?

John McKeown: Those 20+ years went by in a flash!

I’ve seen a lot of sunrises and sunsets around the world and I have my job to thank for that.

Shooting in India was a truly memorable experience. It’s a place I hope to return to.

I’ve been lucky enough to work on action movies, dramas, comedies and most things in between.

Traveling to distant countries, seeing behind the scenes of cities, places and other peoples lives is a real privilege.

When I really think about it the thing that I value the most is the people I’ve worked with, both in front of and behind the camera. Most of my closest friends are people I have worked with. Spending your working life surrounded by people who are enthusiastic and talented is a real blessing and not to be taken for granted.

MT: In a typical Hollywood production, how many weeks before shooting does the 1st AD come aboard the film?

JMK: It varies. Depending on the project the AD can be in prep for many months or as little as 3 weeks.

I usually start a couple of weeks after the director and a week or two before the DP.

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MT: When setting the schedule for the production, what is the fine line between what is most logical and cost saving to what schedule has the best chance to make the best film?

Knowing when you can economize on a given scene or shooting day in order to allocate more resources to another part of the script is what the schedule is all about.

Achieving that delicate balance is the skill of a good AD. Talking to the director about what is vital to their story telling process and what they are most passionate about is the starting point of prep for me.

Working closely with the director and producers to bridge the gap that sometimes exists is a big part of the AD’s job.

I want to go into day one of shooting with a schedule that the director, the producers and I agree gives us the best opportunity to enter post production feeling great about what we got during the shoot.

MT: What are the key qualities to being a great 1st AD?

JMK: You’d have to ask one!

I can tell you that the qualities I look for in a 2nd AD apply to the 1st AD as well.

– A calm unflappable personality under extreme pressure
– Real attention to detail
– The ability to plan ahead and think on your feet if the plan falls apart
– The grit to do a great job when they are sick / exhausted / just had their car stolen / got yelled at by someone above the line or any number of other things that would put a regular person off their game
– Sense of humor – essential!

MT: How does the 1st AD gain the respect of the crew on the first day to set the tone of the production?

JMK: I try to set the tone during prep and at the production meeting.

I treat everyone with respect and I expect them to do the same.

On the first day at the safety meeting I make it clear that we are a team, that everyone needs to play their part and that I am always available to any member of the crew who needs me.

I make the assumption that they are there to do the best job they can.

In the rare case that we hit a speed bump because someone either can’t or won’t deliver what is expected of them I try to resolve the situation in private away from the set.

MT: Is there is a key difference when you’re a 1st AD on productions of an action film in comparison to a drama?

JMK: In large action sequences it is much more about logistics, safety and planning with the stunt team and special FX crew.

Often the angles are story boarded and detailed shot lists are created and then scheduled.

Running the set is always about making sure that everyone knows what’s happening right now and then what is happening next up.

It’s never more essential than when shooting potentially dangerous action.

Drama is a different discipline. Creating the right environment on the set for the cast to work with the director is the top priority.

Dramatic scenes can seem simple – two people in a room? What could go wrong? A surprising amount!

I try to remove all of the distractions from the set so that the director can work with the cast and get the best performances.

A combination of intense drama and extreme stunts? That’s when it gets really interesting!

MT: If the day or entire schedule goes into overtime, does the 1st AD carry the most blame?

JMK: Only if he/she is the cause of the overtime!

There is a lot the AD can do to make sure that things run efficiently.

Proper planning in prep is essential (The 3 Ps!).

Having a plan B, C and on some days plan D is also something an experienced AD is used to.

All that being said there are some things that you can never predict. Weather can be forecast but change in a moment, a cast or crew member can have a bad day for any number of reasons, equipment can fail etc.

My personal rule is this.

If something happens (however unlikely it was to occur) that I could in any way have expected, predicted or prevented then I carry the blame. If there was no way to know ahead of time that disaster would strike then I accept the new deal and do everything I can to move past it and get us back on track – the expression “It’s not my fault but it is my problem” comes into play here. The trick is knowing the difference!

MT: What is a director mostly looking for in a 1st AD?

JMK: Very much depends on the director.

Some want a drill sergeant, some want a very low profile AD. Most want a combination of skills and experience that the AD can bring to the ever changing circumstances on a set.

I always talk to a director when we first meet and ask them how they like the set to run. In my experience a good AD is really a chameleon, drill sergeant, advisor, morale booster on the tough days. Most of all I think the AD is there to get whatever the director sees in their head onto the screen.

jack1stad3.jpgMT: What is a 1st AD mainly looking for in a director?

JMK: For me it’s collaboration.

The best experiences I have had are when the director the DP and the AD are all in sync and pulling for the same goal.

Sometimes the director and the DP are a creative team and see the AD and indeed “production” as a barrier to getting their vision made.

This is really unfortunate but it is understandable.

A director I love once told me that he came to work everyday with a “bucket of diamonds” that were his ideas for how to shoot that days work. He told me that at the end of the day if all his diamonds had been lost (killed by production in his view) and all he had left was the handle of the bucket he considered that a good day!

The best directors include all the key departments in the plan and the end result is always better. I think the secret to success is to hire smart motivated people in the key crew positions and then let them really do what they are best at.
As a director you have the final say as to whether an idea brought to you is in the movie but having a whole team of talented people offer up ideas is a gold mine of opportunities.

MT: Did you have a 1st AD mentor?

JMK: I was lucky enough to have two. Nael Abbas & Jon Older. Both top AD’s in the UK and the two people who put me on the right path at the start of my career.

Nael gave me my first break and got me into TV. I worked as a PA and then 2nd 2nd for both Nael & Jon.

I moved my way up to 2nd AD working for both of them on multiple projects. Jon Older gave me my very first job as a 1st AD. He was moving up to direct and asked me to run the set for him. I’m very grateful to them both.

MT: Besides the films you’ve worked on, what movie have you seen the most in your life?

JMK: Jaws. I pray they never remake it as it is the perfect film.

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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 tohttp://www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

Interview with Emmy Winning Editor Geoffrey Rowland (Path to 911, The Young Messiah)

Geoffrey Rowland has worked in the film and television industry for over 50 years. We chatted on the phone for 2 hours with topics ranging from our mutual love for baseball, life lessons, being Canadian, and of course film and editing. He was a pure joy to chat with. Enclosed are the highlights of our conversation:

Matthew: “The Young Messiah” is set to hit the theatres this week. Can you give us a sneak peak as to what to expect? How was your experience working on the film?

Geoffrey Rowland: Terrific experience. I worked 77 straight days editing that film. It became a part of me. I gave it my all and I think it’s a very good film.

PHOTO: Still from “The Young Messiah” with actress Sara Lazzaro. Geoffrey called her one of the finest actresses he has ever edited. “Amazing eyes”. He praised. 

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MT: You’ve worked on over 80 productions as an editor in the last 40 years. Do you have a favorite experience? What film/TV episode are you most proud of?

GR: There was a “Cagney & Lacey” episode in 1984 called “Heat”. It was about a hostage situation. The producer of the show called it a movie that was also a TV episode. I’m very proud of that episode because the director Karen Arthur won an Emmy for it. The first time a female won a Best Directing Emmy.

There was a scene where someone gets shot in the episode and instead of showing them get shot down, I focused on the reaction of the husband and let the sound of the gun and his face tell us what happened. That’s editing!

PHOTO: Tyne Daly in “Cagey & Lacey”. Geoffrey edited multiple episodes of the series and considers working with director Karen Arthur as one of his finest working experiences:

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MT: I have to ask about your experience working on “Rocky” early in your career as an assistant editor. The film ended up winning the Oscar for Best Picture. What are you memories working on the film?

GR: I was an apprentice editor for Richard Halsey on the TV series “Peyton Place”. One day as I was driving home from work on a show I was assisting for, I realized I forgot my wallet and had to go back to the Production Lot. I ran into Richard who was looking for an assistant editor for this film called “Rocky”. The only reason I got the job was because and I was lucky to run into Richard at the exact time he was going to hire someone. I wasn’t his first choice, but because I was eager to do it, he went with me. That’s faith! If I remembered my wallet my career could have gone in a different direction.

MT: You then moved onto “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”. You worked on an Oscar winner to Steven Spielberg! What were your duties working on that production?

GR: I watched, assembled the dailies, and organized the footage. From Memorial Day 1977 to the fall of that year, I had two days off. We worked tirelessly on that film.

Steven was a terrific guy. It was all about the film. That’s what made the working relationship great. No one needs to know anything about you except what you know about the film. A sole focus always leads to the best relationships.

MT: You won an Emmy for the “Path to 911” mini-series. I had a few friends working on that production in Toronto, so I visited the set for a few days. Every shot, no matter what, had at least three cameras rolling, sometimes 4-5 cameras. I remember thinking that the editor and his team are going to have SO much footage – it’s going to be a nightmare. What were your experiences working on that film? You must have had a big team of assistant editors to go over all that footage.

GR: There was almost 3 million feet of film shot on that production. Yes there was a lot of coverage – which is amazing for an editor because you have choice and can really dig into the story.

We had 5-7 editors at a time working on the project editing scenes. The trick on that film was to make it look like it was edited by just one person when it came all together. That was my job. The director David L. Cunningham is a brilliant guy. Shoots the film like it’s a documentary in a very unique style. He reminded me of a young Spielberg.

We were proud to receive the Emmy but it wasn’t us who won it, but the entire production and people who worked on the show.

PHOTO: Still Shot from the mini-series “Path to 911”. A controversial series when it premiered in September 2006. Geoffrey wins his first Emmy after 5 previous nominations: 

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MT: What’s the key difference between working on a TV episode in comparison to working on a feature film?

GR: TV is a Producer’s medium. That’s who you’re working with. They know the show and how the episode needs to fit into the context of the entire season and series. Film is a director’s medium. The director knows the film better than anyone else. In TV, it’s a faster process versus working on a film.

MT: What is an editor looking for in their director?

GR: Hand ons. Hands off. Instense. Casual. They are all different and you always learn a ton from them. As long as they are passionate, that’s all that matters.

MT: What is a director looking for in their editor?

GR: Do the job and don’t bring your ego to the film. A director has one focus (to finish the film) and has a 1000 things going on in their head. They want you to be professional. Don’t cross boundaries and tell them your life story or anything for that matter that’s not about the film. When you finish working with them they’ll know whether they want to work with you again and vice/versa. You don’t have to say anything more about it.

In professional situations and when putting a film together, less is always more.

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

GR: The Immortal Beloved. Probably seen it 2 to 3 dozen times. When I want a good cry, I watch it.

Great films leave an impression. My daughter Brooke was 15 years old when we went to see the film together. She just quit the piano weeks before, but went right back to it after she saw the film because she was so inspired. And stayed at it. When Gary Oldman (who played Beethoven) heard that story, he wept.

Stories like that is the reason why most of us get into the business. It’s all about leaving an impression in this world.

MT: What type of film would you love to edit that you haven’t worked on yet?

GR: The next project. Whatever the next project is.

MT: What suggestions would you have for people in high school and university who would like to get into the industry as an editor?

GR: Learn subtext. A great way to do learn is to listen to classical music. Listen to the instruments and how it all comes together. It’s the same way when editing a film.

Get your foot in the door and be a sponge. You have to be obsessed with editing. Nothing else matters.

Also, buy the book: http://www.CUTTINGITINHOLLYWOOD.com

And remember when editing – it’s all in the eyes!

PHOTO: Banner of the book “Cutting it in Hollywood”, where author Mitchell Danton interviews the great film editors, including Geoffrey Rowland. 

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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 Fesival 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 Cinematographer Natasha Braier (The Neon Demon, The Rover)

Natasha Braier is a Director of Photography on the rise. Her list of credits is already impressive, but 2016 could be her banner year. She is set to film “American Express”, directed by Nash Edgerton and starring Charlize Theron. Her film, “The Neon Demon”, will be coming out later this year. It stars Keanu Reeves & Elle Fanning, and is directed by Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive, Bronson).

For more information, go to: http://www.natashabraier.com/

It was an honor to sit down with the Cinematographer:

Matthew Toffolo: Tell us about THE NEON DEMON. What should we expect to see? Nicolas is a very visual filmmaker – shows more than tells. How was your working relationship with the director?

Natasha Braier: I think working with Nicolas Winding Refn is a gift for any cinematographer, because he is interested in visual story telling, in poetry, in suggesting rather than narrating. He doesn’t care about the conventional established representational mode of film story telling, he goes beyond, and for me thats what always been exiting in film making. I always tend to look for directors that are working in this direction, but Nic is probably the most extreme of them, and that’s what I love about him. He pushes me to get the bravest part of myself, to jump the abyss, he doesn’t care if we fall and crash while trying, he would rather try and fail than to stay in a safe territory. So, I love jumping with him, and most of the time, we don’t fall but we fly.

PHOTO: Elle Fanning in “The Neon Demon”

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Matthew: You are set to DP the feature film AMERICAN EXPRESS, directed by Nash Edgerton. We showed Nash’s last short film at our festival last year. Lots of camera movement while showcasing the production design to give multiple feels and emotions to the viewer. How is your experiences in prep been so far?

Natasha: We are having a great time in prep, we start shooting tomorrow. Its very interesting that you mention about his camera movement because I love how Nash moves the camera and that’s one of the things that attract me of his work. Together with his sense of humor and his sensibility.

Matthew: After a string of successful short films, you jumped to features in 2005. How did you obtain your first feature film job? What has been the biggest thing you’ve learned as a DP in the last 11 years?

Natasha: My first film GLUE was directed by my then husband, Alexis Dos Santos.

He won a 30K development grant in Rotterdam and we shot the movie with that money plus another 15 I made on a car commercial. Glue won in Rotterdam and showed in more than 20 film festivals, Lucia Puenzo called me to do XXY after seeing Glue, so did Claudia Llosa for The Milk of Sorrow. So, that’s how it all got started.

Matthew: You still like to DP short films from time to time. What keeps inticing you to work on shorts? Do you like/love the medium?

Natasha: I shot a few in the last few years, Loxoro for my friend Claudia Llosa who I shot “Milk of Sorrow” with. I shot “Swimmer” as I admired director Lynne Ramsay who after that collaboration because a great friend. And a short film for Zegna with director Park (Chan Wook) another big hero of mine, whom I had never dreamed I would have the chance to work with. If these amazing directors are doing shorts, sure, I love shooting shorts with them. Also, short films are a format that allow for more experimentation, more poetry and freedom.

Matthew: What type of film would you love to work on that you haven’t worked on yet?

Natasha: I would love to work with Leos Carax. And I would love to do science fiction. I guess it would be dark, arty science fiction ha .

Matthew: What does a DP look for in its director?

Natasha: Someone you respect as an artist and as a human. Someone who has something to say that I relate to and I feel I wanna help express with the tools of cinematography.

Matthew: What does a director for for in its DP?

Natasha: I guess that depends on the director.

Matthew: What do you look for when hiring your main team? Gaffer. Key Grip. Camera Operator. Etc…

Natasha: I look for the best technical expertise, an artistic eye and sensibility that resonates with mine, a passionate love for film making, and personalities I would like to have around for months.

You are creating a family that will support you not only technically but also emotionally, so the human aspect is as important as the technical one.

Matthew: Where do you see the future of camera/lighting technology in film?

Natasha: I’m very sad to see film disappearing and I feel is our responsibility to keep fighting to keep it alive and to have the option to choose what’s the best format for each project.

PHOTO: Natasha on Set of the film “The Rover”:

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

Natasha: Mauvais Sang, Leos Carax. I’ve seen it so many times I can probably draw it frame by frame.

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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 Fesival 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 Editor Jake Roberts (Oscar Nominated film BROOKLYN)

It was a pleasure to sit down with Jake Roberts, the editor of BROOKLYN, which was nominated for 3 Academy Awards (Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay). Jake has already established himself as one of the top editors in the industry. This year alone he cut two Hollywood Productions coming to a cinema near you. COMANCHERIA, starring Chris Pine & Jeff Bridges. And TRESPASS AGAINST US, starring Michael Fassbender & Brenden Gleeson.

Interview with Jake Roberts:

Matthew Toffolo: Tell us about your experiences working on “Brooklyn”? How many months do you work on editing the film? How does it feel to be the editor of an Oscar Nominated film?

Jake Roberts: ‘Brooklyn’ was a great experience. There was a really positive energy throughout the shoot and it felt like we might be working on something quite special. It was personal to a lot of the people involved and that seemed to come through in the material and that makes you want to raise your game, especially when you’re watching a performance like Saoirse’s unfold you feel a huge pressure to do it justice. Once John and I were back in London we cut for about 3 months and obviously there was plenty of back and forth but at the same time it was quite a calm and controlled process. We had a very strong first assembly and we never deviated too far from it or went down too many experimental cul-de-sacs. This is largely a testament to Nick’s script which only needed the subtlest of refinements so essentially it was about distillation, making it as tight as possible and all the while carefully calibrating the emotional journey through the performances. As for the Oscars it is all a surreal bonus, like I say you hope as you work on something that it is special and obviously a nomination suggests you did something right but the most thrilling thing is that a wide audience gets to see it and thankfully it seems we managed to strike a chord with a lot of them.

PHOTO: Still shot from BROOKLN:

Brooklyn-RDP.jpg

Matthew: You have worked on many documentaries. Is this something you like to continue to do?

Jake: In theory yes as documentary is so much of an editor’s medium but having fought for so long to get into features it’s difficult to turn your back on them. Certainly as a viewer I’d rather watch a great documentary than a fictional film so if the right one came along it’d be hard to say no.

Matthew: What is the key difference between working on a narrative film in comparison to a documentary?

Jake: In documentary you are creating the narrative as you go, effectively writing the script in the edit, but at the same time you are obviously constrained by your material so you have to know both how to tell the story but also how best to illustrate that within the limitations of the footage you have available. Someone once said that it’s like being given a bag of sentences and being asked to write a novel. The fact that in narrative film you get to follow a script that has been very carefully written and developed means that all that heavy lifting has been done for you and your role is just tell that story as effectively as possible.

PHOTO: Documentary film LONG WAY AROUND, starring Ewan McGregor:

longwayaround

Matthew: How did you transition from working on short films to features?

Jake: The very first short film I ever cut was for the director David Mackenzie after which we made a low budget feature together, I was 23 at the time, but then David went on to make a bigger film with actual film stars and the producers insisted on a more experienced editor so I lost that relationship. I then spent years cutting every kind of project that came my way, documentaries, commercials, music videos, shorts, television drama, you name it. Basically I honed my craft and just tried to become the best editor I could always hoping I could return to features one day. Many years later David was preparing his sixth feature film and his regular editor was unavailable so we reconnected and fortunately I had gained enough experience to be given a chance by the financiers. We have now made 5 features together.

Matthew: In the last 16 years you’ve worked as an editor on over 20 productions. What film has been your favorite working experience so far?

Jake: Films are like children and like any parent you can’t really pick favourites but each has their own unique qualities. Being involved in ‘Long Way Round’ Ewan McGregor’s round the world motorbike trip was a great communal experience, working out of a garage in Shepherd’s Bush in the months before they set off we were cutting upstairs as they prepped the bikes downstairs. Everyone involved stayed up all night helping pack up the equipment the night before they left and then months later we were flown to New York to be there when they arrived. We shot ‘Tonight You’re Mine’ in 4 days at a music festival working 22 hour days which was a very intense and disorientating but bonding process. ‘Starred Up’ was shot over four weeks in Belfast but was similarly intense as David was insisting that we have all the scenes fully cut within hours of them being filmed. We were shooting completely sequentially and he wanted to have as clear an idea as possible about the shape of the film up to the scene he would be filming the next day so we basically made the film as we went. We eventually screened the entire movie at the wrap party and locked the picture 3 weeks later so it was ultimately very short and sweet. Just recently I was cutting in a log cabin in New Mexico and every Sunday we would have a barbecue and screen assemblies for the entire cast and crew, Jeff Bridges would bring his guitar. That was a lot of fun.

Matthew: What is an editor looking for in their director?

Jake: Work. No seriously I think a coherent vision that hopefully translates into the dailies and then a sense of collaboration in the cutting room. It’s definitely a conversation and I think I would struggle to work with someone who insisted on doing all the talking.

Matthew: What is a director looking for in their editor?

Jake: You’d have to ask them but I would imagine someone who brings ideas and solutions to the table but doesn’t force their agenda, merely offers it. Ultimately someone who makes them look good, which we usually do.

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

Jake: Probably Jaws or This Is Spinal Tap.

Matthew: What type of film would you love to edit that you haven’t worked on yet?

Jake: I’d love to do a kids film so that my children might be allowed to see what I do for a living.

Matthew: What suggestions would you have for people in high school and university who would like to get into the industry as an editor?

Jake: Start early. I can only speak from my own experience but if you’re clear about what you want to do then I wouldn’t waste time getting a media studies degree, you’re going to have to work for nothing to get started anyway so better to do it at 18 than 22. Get any practical experience you can, firstly to make sure this is really something you want to do, it’s going to take a lot of work and sacrifice so make sure you’re suited to it. Approach established professionals directly and tell them you want to do what they do, most will try and help in some way even if it’s just a cup of coffee and some advice, I always do. Try to edit rather than assist. Personally I think you’d learn more cutting a zero budget music video than you would assisting on a big budget feature. Even if you’re at the bottom of the ladder doing very basic tasks do them as well as humanly possible, listen to any instructions very carefully and never think of anything as beneath you or not worth trying over. Care. I once had to edit 9 hours of obese women discussing their bras in a focus group but I treated it like I was making art. You never know where the contacts who can ultimately give you a break might come from. It might be the guy directing the corporate video you’re working on? He might be making a feature in a few years so do an incredible job and he might remember you. If you are always creative, reliable, conscientious and good company doors will eventually open I promise.

PHOTO: Saorse Ronan in BROOKLYN: 

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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 Fesival 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 Production Designer Jane Musky (When Harry Met Sally…, Ghost)

Jane Musky is one of the top Production Designers working in the industry today. She has designed over 40 productions in the last 30 years, working with directors Mike Newell, Ivan Reitman, Andy Tennant, Gus Van Sant, Jerry Zucker, James Foley, and The Coen Brothers, to name a few. She also happens to be married to the President of the United States (well on the TV show Scandel) for the last 28 years too!

It was an honor to interview Jane and talk about her amazing career, and it looks like she’s just getting started.

Matthew Toffolo: You have been the Production Designer on over 30 films in the last 35 years. Is there a film or two that you’re most proud of?

Jane Musky: My favorite films as a Designer are GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS and THE DEVIL’S OWN.

GlenGarry was a once in a lifetime chance to work with an INCREDIBLE ensemble of actors, great Director and DP and Mamet script. Who could ask for more?

David Mamet’s stories are full of great language, texture and sense of place which feeds his stories. That sense of place, that moment in time is a gift for a Designer to define.

PHOTO: Alec Baldwin gives his famous speech in Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)

glen_gary_glen_ross

The Devil’s Own was not only a large budget film that involved the two biggest male film actors of that time, but was Directed by Alan Pakula and was his last film. Gordon Willis shot the film. I was very lucky to be with this group. Alan taught me more than any other Director I have been associated with.

I had started another film with Alan and Gordon that folded so I was happy when we launched into this story about the IRA. We shot in Ireland and New York. I loved doing the big shootout in the opening with a great Dutch special effects group.

MT: Early in your career, you were the Production Designer on the first two Coen Brothers films: Blood Simple and Raising Arizona. How did you first meet the brothers? After Blood Simple wrapped, what were your feelings? Did you foresee their iconic career?

JM: I met Ethan and Joel through a mutual friend, Mark Silverman. Mark was an up and coming Producer they had hired and I had worked with Mark before.

I was doing Summer Stock at the Williamstown Theatre Festival and they all drove up to meet me. I had never done a film, just smaller TV work. Most of my Design work was in the theatre then. We hit it off.

Blood Simple was really the first film for all of us. We were a very small crew. It all just clicked. We worked so hard and when it was over we all knew we had made a good film full of humor and irony and I thought it was stylish. Ethan and Joel were and still are great in how they plan and execute their work. It is all very lean and mean and cohesive. It was a utopian time for a young designer. We were a great young gang of filmmakers and everyone has done well from that original Coen Bros. group.

PHOTO: Bar Scene in Blood Simple (1984):

blood_simple.jpg

MT: Some will argue that Raising Arizona is a masterpiece. You created a fantasy universe within the context of the reality of Arizona. Do you remember the initial conversations with the directors and your team about the overall look, feel, and tone of the film? How was your overall experience working on the film?

JM: Well, Raising Arizona. We had a blast. I have to say Phoenix back then was such a bizarre place. It was still a small town pretending it had the hutzpah of Dallas.

There was a great collision of the Wild West meets the nouveau riche of Arizona.

Once I got that vibe it was easy to create the fantasy of their world. I enhanced the style that was already rampant. What a confusing place, stylistically. Once I grabbed the idea of the Arizona home I next designed the GRIB for the Boys to get of sense of how far everyone wanted to go with the humor and then it all flowed. Ethan and Joel’s scripts were very much defined as to what happens; dialogue and great descriptions of each character. They really allow their Designers to run with it.

PHOTO: Nicolas Cage and Holly Hunter in Raising Arizona (1987):

raising_arizona

MT: When Harry Met Sally…, is another all-time classic. It has a timeless feel to it. How was your experience creating the world of this couple in a span of 15 years in New York City?

JM: When we began working on “When Harry Met Sally”, New York City was on a roll.

It was a Single’s City full of romance. Harry and Sally’s opening drive to begin their lives after college in NYC had to be as unsophisticated as could be so we could feel their rite of passage into adult life in a complicated city. What are the chances they would meet again after parting at Washington Square, and how complicated their lives had already become after a few years apart?

The passage of time allows for a more complicated story and Nora Efron just hit a great stride in her writing and fed the complications of the relationships which in turn allows the Designer to jump right in to define their lives and begin to ground the story for the audience visually.

PHOTO: The 3 frame phone call shot in When Harry Met Sally… (1989):

harry_met_sally.jpg

MT: Harry/Sally had a lot of exterior shots of NYC, plus interior locations within the city (like the famous restaurant scene). Generally, what is the Production Designers main job when working on a location that is already established and known by many? What do you need to add or remove (or not) to enhance the story?

JM: Iconic locations are picked because they are perfect or almost perfect for the story in that moment. There is little I can do to enhance the Design value of these landmarks other than to pick the right ones for the moment. We had many Iconic locations; Katz’s Deli, Central Park. All were chosen to give us a romantic New York. The more romantic the location or the more counter to the romantic moment like Katz’s, the more we hit Harry and Sally on the head saying…Fall in Love. Iconic locations give the audience a great comfort and familiarity that allows them to fall into the story more easily wishing they were there.

MT: What is a director looking for in a Production Designer?

JM: Each Director I work for has their own different idea as to what they want from their Designer. The Director and Designer are the first ones of the Creative Staff working on the job. Those early moments together are used to dissect the story and begin to give it a visual tone and map the moments. It is during these first weeks the Designer morphs to suit the Director’s vision and enhance that vision and help tell the story. The Director must be followed and a Designer must take their lead from the Director and faithfully back that vision.

MT: What is a Production Designer looking for in a director?

JM: The Designer and Director are first of the Creative Team on a film. That is what I consider my Golden Time. This is when I look to the Director to take the lead as to where the story is headed creatively. We spend a lot of One to One time these first few weeks to set the visual plan for the film. At times I have to work hard to pull at ideas from a Director. The more comfortable this process, the better the journey.

MT: How early do you come into pre-production before shooting starts? When do your hire and bring on the rest of your key team members?

JM: I come on to a film very early on and the earlier the better so I can wrangle the location scouting. I am usually on 6-8 weeks before the DP depending upon the project. My crew comes on about 6- 8 weeks before we shoot but now a days with smaller budgets sometimes this moves up to 5 weeks before we shoot which is scary.

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

JM: Well, of course everyone has seen the Wizard of Oz tons of times, and Munchkin Land made me wonder, WHO creates this stuff?!

I am a fan of To Kill a Mocking Bird. The story is stirring for sure but as a Designer; The Town, The House. I also love, Last Picture Show. Again the subtlety of the Town and easiness of creating the environments. Carnal Knowledge also for many of the same reasons.

For a bit of Romance I love The Goodbye Girl. I’m not as old as my taste in favorite films, haha.

MT: Do you have a Production Designer mentor?

JM: That is easy…Polly Platt and Eugene Lee. Their work has always pointed me in a good direction. I started in the theatre as a Designer so Eugene Lee was a big influence and then I watched him move between Theatre and TV/Film/Concert Sets, (Simon and Garfunkel Central Park). He helped me understand how a Designer could move between these Mediums.

MT: What type of film would you love to work on that you haven’t worked on yet?

JM: I’d love to do a BIG FAT period piece in Europe or Asia.

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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 Fesival 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.

Cinematography Interviews and Production Notes

Read the best of Director of Photography interviews and Cinematography notes from the to people working in the industry today: 

Interview with Cinematographer Chad Griepentrog (The Bachelor Reality TV Series)

https://matthewtoffolo.com/2016/02/17/interview-with-cinemtographer-chad-griepentrog-the-bachelor-reality-tv-series/

Interview with Cinematographer Albert Arthur (Better Call Saul, Breaking Bad)

https://matthewtoffolo.com/2016/02/16/interview-with-cinematographer-albert-arthur-better-call-saul-breaking-bad/

Notes on CINEMATOGRAPHY – SHOTS AND CAMERA ANGLES

https://matthewtoffolo.com/2015/06/01/notes-on-cinematography-shots-and-camera-angles/

Photography in Film. The art of Cinematography

https://matthewtoffolo.com/2015/05/14/photography-in-film-the-art-of-cinematography/

Interview with Harrison Norris, Director of the award winning film “A PEACEFUL MAN”

https://matthewtoffolo.com/2015/11/10/interview-with-harrison-norris-director-of-the-award-winning-film-a-peaceful-man/

Interview with director James Hartley (TWISTED)

https://matthewtoffolo.com/2015/12/08/interview-with-director-james-hartley-twisted/

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.

 

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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 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

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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.