A half hour Halloween Special I got to design with my favourite people at Fresh TV and DHX for Family Channel.
Really fun to come up with a new character look for the lovely Julia Tomasone from Backstage.
A couple months late and I clue in that ROPEd won Best Historical Drama at the Atlanta Film Festival. This short film is based on Margaret Atwood's haunting poem 'Half Hung Mary'. I'm terrifically proud of the whole team and Riel Stone and Jordana Aarons for creating a project in which I could add to the historical element of the story through costume design.
20 years ago I started in the film business on a film called Breakout starring James Hong. I was fresh out of Theatre School and the astrologer I hung out with at a used bookstore introduced me to an art director who heard her film was looking for costume peeps. And somehow, though to this day I have no idea how, I got the job. I was paid $300 for a six day week and I thought I was rolling in it! The department had no knowledge of continuity, multiples or why we would have to be responsible for umbrellas, I mean, I'm a grown up and I brought an umbrella to work...
16 hour days, running my butt off chasing after actors (there were lots of kids in that pic), Macguyvering hems and I realized I LOVED it. There was no where else I wanted to be than in a parking lot beside a film set. And funny enough, even with my inexperience, they offered me to be the designer of their next film, but that's a horror story for another time.
Gearing up for TIFF 2017, which really means trying to decide what to wear to my favourite annual events such as CAFTCAD, William F. White's, DGC, The Black Ball.. Perfect time to be between contracts to see what everyone is wearing.
Really looking forward to my costume display of ROPEd to appear at the Windsor Arms for CAFTCAD Celebrates Costume Event.
Haven't decided on my ensembles yet, but with the fall weather we're experiencing already, perhaps I'll be able to wear sleeves for the first TIFF ever.
Mercury goes direct on my sun conjunct transiting Uranus- AKA An Astrological Costume Story.
My friends who know me often come to me to see when mercury is retrograde, often with a groan. Mercury rules communication and when it goes retrograde, (3 times a year for 3 weeks at a time) it is seemingly going backwards in the sky. According to astrologers, and my 20 plus years of observing it, (it was my friendship with an astrologer that really started my film career btw) it means that matters having to do with communication get muddled, twisted and lost- requiring back tracking and redos which is always supposed to bring you closer to the real truth of a situation. This last retrograde period was especially painful and culminated in the story of the perfect/imperfect sweater.
I have a character in my latest show who is described as wearing ‘tacky sweaters’ which turned into entertaining research that lead to quilting, appliqués, bedazzlement kits and genuine sunglass-needing awe. Strangely enough, the costume houses had barely any such stock as one owner said ‘You can get that stuff at Value Village’, but that in fact was not the case. They’re considered vintage now (I know, I know) and therefore off to Etsy I go.
I find one. A light pink cardigan with lace inserts circa 1989 I’d say. It speaks to me of the whole character. I can see the blouses and necklaces and pleated white trousers... Of course I order it right away. The moment I hit ‘purchase’ I realize my old production office address for shipping is listed. I email the shop owner in BC to tell her with my new address. She replies I need to update it in my profile-which I do and tell her I have done so. Great. Sweater purchased and so many other costumes to tackle until it arrives in time for my fitting.
A week later I’m in the Eaton Centre in the midst of an email-through-Kiiji bidding war over a belt (while trying to shop a character we can’t find anything for) when an email from my Mom pops up. A woman named Janet has left an urgent message on her antiquated answering machine- I think it still has the cassette tape- saying she has a package of mine and there’s a phone number that keeps disconnecting. It’s true. The number keeps disconnecting and since my number isn’t in the book (the book, haha) my Mom gets the message. I can’t seem to access my Etsy account to ask shop owner in BC where the package was sent, again, still in the horrible, noisy, snotty Eaton Centre. Totally frustrated I pay my $24 parking fee and depart with very light bags (not a good thing when actors are arriving in a week) and sit in traffic for 1.5 hours to get to the office.
Finally get on the computer machine and find out that BC Shop owner never checked the address and that the sweater did in fact go to my old office, which is not really a production office. Have to call old production coordinator and he knows a Janet there! So much closer to pefect sweater AKA Centre Piece of Entire Character Design. Janet answers, yes she has the sweater. Yes the number was wrong by one digit, but she’s going away tomorrow morning for 3 days and there’s alarms on the office and yes I could pick it up from her house which she will leave between the doors, but oh! She’s got another call and will call me back! An hour later I ring Janet again- oh she’ll still have to call me back. I text her around 8 pm of my enthusiasm for her address, and again at 6:15 am the day she’s to depart at 7.
Nothing. Sweater has now been taken hostage.
Alright. I’ll do as suggested and go off to Value Village. No fancy sweaters there or at Talize. I even try Sears. The sweater racks are actually pretty empty. But I do find lots of animal and tropical print polyester tops. I start to re-invision the character and fill my cart with the strawberry-scented-cleaning-product-they-use blouses and tops. A day later at the fitting all thoughts of summer floral appliqué sweaters are thrown out and I have a stronger costume design than previously planned for this fun character that both the actor and director really respond to. Thanks mercury retrograde. Hate you. Love you.
And here’s the missing sweater. If you see it, don’t send it my way. I don’t need it anymore.
PICS UPDATED AND MORE ADDED- See below
My good friend and costume designer Nina Okens hooked me up with the Teatro Proscenium's production of Sousatzka (opens March 23rd, 2017 in Toronto at the Elgin Theatre) to sell off some of their costume overstock. I was BOWLED away by the vintage goodies and treasures I got to spend the day with.
In generous sizes from size 6 to 16, there are so many unique pieces that have been gathered from vintage boutiques and thrift stores in Toronto and New York. Prices will be starting at half the price tag (if there is one), but bulk deals will also be made.
Labels from Ungaro, Thierry Mugler to Top Shop. Leather pants, leather pantaloons (!), kilts, African Tunics, 80's secretary blouses and their corresponding tweed skirts, sad argyle sweaters (some shows seriously need that sh*t), beaded gowns, slutty party dresses, gaudy belts, cropped leather jackets, silk jumpsuits.... I don't know how much I'm going to not be able to buy for my own collection.
THESE PHOTOS ARE ONLY A SELECTION.
There a 7 rolling racks of treasures to be worn.
There are also Men's Capezio dance sneakers with one white and one black, in sizes 12 and 13 (That's two full pairs of sneakers), White Doc Martens Men's size 6 or Women's 7, and all sorts of other unworn footwear.
There were Judy's for sale but they've been bought already.
PARKING is extremely limited!
And please bring your own BAGS. Like, we really have no bags but I'll check and see what I can pull from under my kitchen sink.
CASH ONLY unless we know you and your company cheque is recognized.
Monday March 20th, 12-4 pm, Tuesday March 21, 10-4 pm only.
158 Victoria St. Stage Door Entrance. 4th floor. You will have to sign in.
EVERYTHING MUST GO.
Please Email me with any questions.
Check out this gallery for a few more pics.
PLEASE NOTE: I have updated these and added a few more since last Thursday's post.
And my favourite part will be seeing you all there, trying on all this awesome stuff.
Since I receive dozens of such queries a year, I thought I'd write the following for everyone who ever wanted me to tell them how.
If you’re wanting to break into the costume-film industry, first look in your heart to see if there is something else you can possibly do. Hours are very long, tiring and can be quite boring, damp or even freezing if you’re on set or the truck. Shopping lines are also long, bags and bags of clothes and shoes are quite heavy, receipts and dealing with someone else’s money boggling, and parking, mind bending.
Egos and insecurities abound in complicated ways only exasperated by actresses starving themselves and producers being smashed down by network executives over budgets. Bad taste is everywhere with peculiar reasoning’s for choices that can shift from moment to moment.
Also being a purveyor of garbage- the purchasing of cheap clothes (as there’s always a budget crunch), the plastic bags and hideous tissue paper the store clerks push upon you- and knowing it’s all a major world polluter, between the waste and fabric fibres getting into our waterways and food- all this can weigh upon your environmentally friendly soul.
Of course there can be huge rewards- why else do thousands of people enter and remain in the film business? It’s the second highest employer in Toronto (or so I’ve been told). The cash is sweet, just fill your pantry when you can (when I first started I literally would take my first pay cheque and buy canned and packaged goods to sock away for the hungry times and there were many of those at first), and contribute to your RRSP’s or other investments. You might get to travel or at least see many a church basement for lunch.
If you ever wanted to join the circus and be surrounded by creative yet odd people, also a perfect lifestyle for you. Those who adored summer camp or after school drama classes where you would create new families and creative projects wherever you went, also up your alley. Getting all the elements together, seeing it well lit, and well acted by beautiful people is extremely rewarding. Telling a story and giving an audience a reason to feel or think or laugh- adding to the general consciousness of behaviour and entertainment, really quite priceless. And the clothes left over and the wardrobe sales...
Ok Jo. Nice preamble. So how do I break into the Hollywood North Biz?
Have skills. Make sure they’re visible on your resume. Can you sew, photo shop, weave pussy willows into gold, DRIVE?!
(Please tell me you can drive). How can you make yourself useful or even invaluable to a costume department? I met one assistant who volunteered at an event and helped me sweep a 10,000 foot studio with a huge smile. I remembered her later and the cute business card helped too. She also had incredible shopping bag folding and organizing skills as well as other huge talents and she’ll take over my job one day, but that’s a few decades away (maybe). Do you have an instagram page or website that shows your painting, pattern drafting, quirky adventures? Share that. Also triple check your spelling of everyone's names. The time I received an updated resume with my own name spelt wrong...
CAFTCAD is an incredible resource for costume professionals in Toronto. Through volunteering on initiatives like the Bespoke Newsletter, the Movie Wardrobe Sales or the Film Festival Party is the best way to meet other costume types who will remember you and hire you when in a crunch. Also by being a CAFTCAD member, other members post job opportunities whether it be a costume for Miss Universe Canada (true story, that awesome and much tweeted Hockey Dress? Through CAFTCAD and designed by Alex Kavanagh), or volunteer on a short film or design a low budget web series- these chances do happen. I have seen many careers expand, grow and jump due to their involvement in CAFTCAD. For reals. Other avenues would be mandy.com or craigslist- I got a period docudrama from craigslist once. Contact the Canadian Film Centre and see if you can volunteer on any of their projects- you’ll meet your future paying employers there. Sending your resume to working designers is also not a bad idea, again make sure you don’t send your costume design resume to a costume designer when you want to work for them. They just won’t hire you. And please tell me you can drive.
As for shadowing- I think it’s a tremendous idea but comes with a lot of issues on most film and tv sets. Firstly, the union wants to make sure that all positions of the department are filled by working professionals from the union (those who pay their dues and stuff) and that the ‘Shadower’ is not taking any one else’s job. And secondly and most importantly is insurance. A Production is insuring its employees, not guests or visitors. I once tried to arrange a shadowing opportunity for my employee on another show and though the wardrobe department was all for it, I would’ve had to have permission from the company. It’s also high stress on a film set and being distracted by well meaning questions can throw some people’s (me) concentration off. Perhaps non union films, commercials, print jobs would allow it but again, permission from upon high needs to be obtained. And a non disclosure agreement signed too.
And if you want to keep working and someone recommends you for a job, send them a thank you call, text, email or batch of balloons. They didn’t have to recommend their competition. Also if someone asks you to work for them but you are not available- respond and tell them thank you, but I am not available. The not returned phone calls make me not want to call them ever again.
Any more questions? Please ask in the comments below. I'm available to answer as I am also looking for a job in the film business...that is until I get a call.
Last Saturday night Fanny Bricewood's body was found in the back alley of the Half Moon Club in the Roaring 20's and Prohibition times- to celebrate a 50th Birthday with terrific characters and even better close friends.
We threw a fantastic Murder Mystery Party from Shot in the Dark Mysteries entitled, A Flapper Murder at the 1920's Speakeasy.
Being artsy people between contracts, my husband created all the graphics from the entrance sign, to matchbox covers, a Temperance Songbook (to take your detective notes), name tags and other various signs. We rented period bar stools and cruiser tables from a prop house and dressed up a Fanny Bricewood to reveal on the back deck when the murder was announced, made period specific canapes from Caprese Skewers, Cucumber cups stuffed with spicy crab to Champagne Jello Shots and of course I helped many of our guests with their costume pieces from my adored collection of treasures.
All our Suspects were given a loot bag (I'm in love with making loot bags!) with their name tag, a 1920's nickel, their temperance song book, character description cards and a set of handcuffs for when they found the real murderer. And at the end of the night I tucked Valentines notes in everyone's coat pockets that they hopefully will find one day when they wear their dress coat again and wonder where the heck did that came from?
A Murder Mystery is so unbelievably entertaining. You don't have to talk about real estate, politics or babies- instead everyone is gossiping about who has a gun in their garter and who had to hide behind a potted plant from someone else. Even those who were strangers at the beginning of the night were hugging it up upon tipsy departures. We're ready for our next one- I'm thinking murder at an 80's high school prom...just where am I going to find a gymnasium?
I highly recommend looking at Shot in the Dark Mysteries for their party games. You can chose and download them quite quickly (once you've been able to narrow it down!) and share the character descriptions with your guests via email. Many different themes from Westerns to Wizards to Disco, even child friendly ones, and you can choose a game based on how many guests you will be inviting. I fortunately found out about them from the founder Leigh who used to attend the same dance class as me.
Lastly, for those crafty types, here's a better pic of my green vintage button headband I made a couple years ago. Buttons range from Victorian to contemporary- there's even a 60's beaded earring in there, and for the party I backed it in left over feather fringe from Backstage Season II, and stuck rhinestone strips from the good old Dollarama. All sewn onto a thick, wide elastic with a satin bra elastic for the back of the head. Thrilled I got to bring it out again.
Speaking about Costume Buying to a great group of new costumers:
"The Costume Buyer is the Knight, the Champion of the costume department. As the buyer, you get to go forth into the world and bring back great treasure and spoils to fulfill the designers'and shows' vision. As well as this treasure, bring back a positive attitude because you got to see daylight and have lunch out in the world and no one wants to hear about your lousy traffic".
I got to coordinate another CAFTCADEMY 101 Seminar series this past weekend. So inspiring to be in the same space with talented instructors who all wanted to share their experiences and keen new costumers who wanted to soak it all up.
More details on the instructors and the event here
Photo by Lynsey Clark
For FPS Doug who coined the phrase, which has now become a meme 'BOOM! Headshot!'. Back in 2010 I got to be one of his back up dancers in the series Pure Pwnage for Showcase, in grey track pants because Doug becomes obsessed with his Walmart sweats (mine were lulu lemons of course). See below for proof.
Just love dressing up, dressing other people up and talking about it. A lot. And laughing too.