The day before Halloween and we knew what the rest of our 2017 was going to look like. My team and I were going to camera on an action film in Toronto and many multiples of leather jackets, jeans and boots you could run-away-from-bad-guys-from were purchased. It wasn't a very creative costume design but a really terrific group of people, and I was worried about being bored as we were going to establish all the major looks in the first week of camera. Our costume department looked like a clothing store with dozens of pairs of the same jeans- though to the audience it would look like the lead would wear the same pair throughout the picture. And then the word came down that we had to return the entire clothing store. The movie had been CANCELLED.
We spent the next few days returning everything and apologizing to our vendors and costume crew. Kisses goodbye and then back home to stare at my kit strewn cross the living room floor. It wasn't likely a new project was going to come before the holiday season and I resigned myself to pajamas and the second draft of my novel. I did a closet purge, tucked the kit away into it's crevices all the while unaware of the un-suspecting plot twist the Fates were weaving for me.
Then the phone rang.
"Hey Jo. Can you get here tomorrow?" And here was Winnipeg, Manitoba- known for it's neo-classical architecture, frigid temperatures, and warm hearted crew- I was to discover. Over-stuffing suitcases with winter gear and running shoes, I arrived early Monday morning to a Victorian period piece set on Blackwell Island and a terrific director (Karen Moncreiff) and producing team (Juliette Hagopian, Howard Braunstein and Justin Kelly). Sitting in a large, empty costume room they asked me, "Can you really do this?" (Like can you really costume design a film set in 1887 with uniforms, exteriors, breakdown and no period costume house in Manitoba with a challenging budget and oh, 3 weeks to camera?) I answered with the calm smile of naivety, "Of course I can. What choice do we have?"
Geoffrey Rush's belief's in Shakespeare in Love (above), kept us vaguely sane.
My loyal assistant designer Charlene Seniuk combed Toronto rentals which were limited due to two other projects of a close time period having already pulled everything of interest and I was flown to Vancouver for a day to discover the gem of Costumes Period- a rental house specializing in Victorian costume where I thanked the costume goddesses for the available bounty and Beverley Wowchuk who owned it.
Back in Winnipeg, we worked and sewed and laughed and cursed and froze and quickly went to camera where we JUST had enough of what we needed (not that there was ever any time to acquire more) and made it work and people were happy (if not a little cold sometimes) and we didn't hold camera (too much, it WAS a Victorian film with corsets and detachable collars and lace up boots and bum pads and petticoats and shit).
Lifetime has given the green light to Nellie Bly (working title), a psychological thriller inspired by the groundbreaking 19th century journalist, with Christina Ricci (Monster), Judith Light (Transparent) and Josh Bowman (Revenge) attached to star. The film is in production for 2018 premiere on Lifetime.
Ricci plays investigative reporter Nellie Bly, who’s on a mission to expose the deplorable conditions and mistreatment of patients at the notorious Women’s Lunatic Asylum, and feigns mental illness in order to be institutionalized to report from the inside. The movie is an account of actual events surrounding Nellie’s stay beginning after she has undergone treatment, leaving her with no recollection of how she came to the asylum or her real identity.
Below is a quick compilation of some snaps from that whirlwind. Thanks Winnipeg! See you in a few hours as I'm about to return to you to wrap...
Just love dressing up, dressing other people up and talking about it. A lot. And laughing too.