Friday, April 3, 2009

Costume Design Meeting

Most merely call them clothes, but for Beverly Safier they're “costumes.” For over 30 years she's created the look for film and television actors. Yesterday, she met with Joe, Jim and Steve to start work on the look for each Endure actor.

As the writer/director for Endure, Joe O'Brien has long had an image in mind for each part. Before she met with Joe, Beverly read the script and wrote costume notes. Throughout the meeting Joe often remarked how Beverly's vision was close to his own.

(This blog wants to give you a peek behind the scenes, but not reveal too much of the film. So bear with us as we stay coy about character and actor names and descriptions. Still, it is interesting what goes into costume design.)

Before the meeting Beverly and her partner Armando met with a representative of the Lakeland police department. As law enforcement is seen in the film, Beverly wanted to see how current law enforcement dresses; even down to little details as to where detectives like to wear their badges.

Since many background and extra parts don't fill until the last minute, sometimes the costume must come before the actor. Able to borrow some extra uniforms from LPD, Beverly remarked, “We'll get people to fill those uniforms.”

The film is made in Central Florida, and Beverly first confirmed that it is also set there. “We are shooting this Florida for Florida?” She wanted to make sure all costumes match what is expected in the region.

Though the discussion moved through the film scene by scene, it wasn't just the matter of dressing a character for each scene. They would also consider the arc of each part. For example, Beverly felt one key character's clothes should start out light but go dark for a late scene.

Even the look of scenery dictated costume design; storyboards are consulted and Director of Photography Stephen Campbell would pull up location images and the crew would discuss what costumes would fit that room. Even wall and car seat colors could cause Beverly to change an actor's costume.

In a couple of cases, seeing the actor cast for a role gave her new ideas for that character's costume. Especially for those actors she remembers from previous films. She already knows what would work on that actor that would still fit the character. For one actor, Joe to remarked, “Her voice is as petite as she is.” Understanding how voice and body size also helped Beverly offer ideas for that actor's character. Another actor already cast for a role prompted a discussion about how the actor's body shape would affect costume decisions. It's the rare actor that can look “right” in every costume. The crew discussed how dressing against that actor's shape would fit the character. As Beverly said, “That's totally wrong. So it's perfect!”

The crew took much longer to work out a look for one pivotal character. Much care was made to how the character would have dressed even before the film opens. They considered how those clothes would look in various scenes, and as Joe said, “What does the audience expect?” Though he liked Beverly's ideas, Joe decided to ponder the character's look for a bit before committing.

It was interesting to note that Joe felt one character's normal clothes would be a costume to that character. In Joe's mind the character had reached a position in his career and now wears the clothes he feels others expect him to wear. “He dresses the part,” Joe said.

For some experienced actors, Beverly and Joe agree the actor would have some input on what might work. In those cases, the crew agree on a general look, but leave the final details until the actor comes to work.

It's even easier to dress the extras who must wear their own clothes. Beverly mentions they give them guidelines for what to wear to filming. “We ask them to bring three choices,” said Armando.

For one character, Joe thinks aloud that he sees the character as having an almost “hippy” look. Beverly said her notes say “Earth child.” It was obvious they had the same image in mind and it was just a matter of perfecting the details,

Ideas for other needs also came up during costume meeting. When Joe remarked that a particular actor could play piano as called for in the screenplay, that gave Stephen the idea that he could pan up from her fingers to her face. If she wasn't a pianist, they would have had to fake the playing or shoot someone else's fingers playing and cut to the actor's face.

The meeting concluded as each crew member took his or her notes and started work. After many meetings about money, Joe remarked that “It's nice to get to the creative interpretation of the script.”

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