Top Ten: Hard Core Costuming Moments.

I’ve been cleaning up my portfolio and putting together a nice website lately, and coming across some of these photos put a smile on my face. There’s nothing quite like independent filmmaking to bring out both your creative side and your survival instincts. Sometimes simultaneously.

Top Ten Hard Core Costuming Moments, behind the cut, with random shoutouts to Rockin’ Raquel and Daniela The Dinosaur. Good times, guys 🙂


Needed a summer job. Spent some time at Disney costuming on a lark. Got shown to a cabinet lined with boxes of Swarovskis, totaling probably more money than I’d ever see in my annual paycheck. Was told to “use these to make that dress sparkly again. They keep on falling off when the girls move around.” Must be nice to be a giant corporation.

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Sanding the knees of costume pants to get them more aged-looking… with the actors still in them. (Hi, Sassy! :-D)

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Working on a soundstage where the air is swarming with particles of brownie mix masquerading as dirt during an extended coal mining sequence. Deciding that boring white face masks were SO last season. (Hi, D! :-D)

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Finding enough Elizabethan costumes for a whole party scene on severely limited cash… even as the producer was calling every other hour to say that he’d booked even MORE actors. Deadline: two days.

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Running around the corner from an on-location shoot to find a perfectly matching purse for the heroine’s dress in a thrift shop… 10 minutes before the cameras started rolling.

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This one’s not mine — it’s actually the incredibly enterprising R’s, when she was left in charge of the department whilst I was off taking care of school matters. Discovering that the KKK uniforms we were making needed badges, and realizing that we didn’t really know exactly what those badges looked like, she manages to track down a makeup girl with a smartphone and browses the web to find the perfect image. Then artistically replicates it with markers, glue and fabric to awesome effect less than an hour before it’s due to be seen on camera. Bravo, girl, bravo.

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Bringing three sewing machines on location to a windy ranch in the boonies of Santa Clarita, because garments needed to be made and mended, darnit. Sewing aprons and robes in a sandstorm, surrounded by tarps held together with an intricate network of safety and clothing pins? Priceless.


Driving down a steep mountain cliff path that was clearly not meant for larger vehicles to a location deep in the Angeles National Forest. Then going back up that path in the pitch black post-midnight hours, after hearing that other cars had already almost fallen over the edge, balancing on three tires. Doing all this while simultaneously hopped up on coffee, immensely groggy, and shivering from the cold and fog. (Hi again, R! ;-D)

2. Hiding out in a car between killer bee attacks and gang shootouts, to film a short featuring kids and animals. (Holler at me for the password to that post, btw.)

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Stampedes. And trying to decide whether to go after the kids or the equipment first if the cows started heading our way.


  1. Kids or equipment, oh man. That’s a tough decision. 🙂

    • Hey, they weren’t our kids, and one sort of assumes that they’d be able to get away on their own feet 😉

  2. Exactly. They have legs! That super expensive camera, on the other hand…

  3. Halfway through. Next year, we basically ‘professionally’ make a short with a crew of other students. I’m pretty excited to actually be able to kind of get out of that student doing-every-single-thing-on-the-film role, and actually get multiple people together creatively to make something. (Although since I’m producing, I kind of expect to be doing a little bit of most stuff. 🙂 )

    Plus, y’know, actually MAKING something as opposed to this term which was lots of sitting around talking about making films, and kind of started wearing on me. I’m much happier with regular on-set time. 🙂

    Then the year after I have to decide if I want to specialize in producing – in which case I have to find money and basically produce a short from scratch – or if I want to be more general and just take a bunch of other classes, too. (I’m already planning on cinematography just because it’s fun, even though I really do not want to be a professional camera operator. 🙂 )

    Plus somewhere in there I should find time to do an internship. Not sure if I want to try to do that around here (since we’re getting more big productions in the area) or if I want to move to LA or NYC or something for a summer. Decisions, decisions. 🙂

    • Oh cool! I’ve worked on a handful of student films at that stage in their program — it’s when you guys usually start calling around to the local design schools and the different departments start forming up 🙂 Lots of fun and definitely a huge learning experience. The main concern that surfaces being that shots which take an hour with a professional crew usually take half a day in student films because of all the tweaking and mini-emergencies that pop up. But at the same time, there’s so much optimistic energy on those sets that you can’t help but enjoy being there. I still take the occasional USC or AFI project when there’s time and I need something to cheer me up. Those sets remind you of why everybody there loves what they’re doing and why you do, too.

      *poke* Do a period piece. I’ll design and send out some girls to supervise 😉 Okay, okay. Something that complicated should probably be left til thesis project. But.. y’know. Just sayin’. *nudge nudge*

      Production! I admittedly love it and hate it. It’s awesome to step back and realize that you’re juggling the entire thing, especially when it’s going beautifully. As they used to say in the A-Team, “I love it when a plan comes together.” But you’re also the first one there, the last one gone, each day and every day. I haven’t met a producer yet, student or professional, that I haven’t wanted to make cookies and chicken noodle soup and send them back to bed. They work like nobody’s business and are usually thisclose to being quivering masses of nervous breakdown.

      That would be the reason I left production for a more specific department, by the way… *g* Well, that and the gossip’s SO much better in the wardrobe trailers…

  4. Actually, that reminds me. I should pick your brain, too. 🙂 Since the producer in what we’re doing next year is basically the problem-solver, and since I KNOW my fellow students will forget stupid little things, I’m trying to come up with a bag of ‘stuff’ over the summer that I can just take with me to every shoot, so that we’ll have all that random little crap that people forget and then need, and won’t need to stop shooting while someone runs off to the store.

    So far, I’ve come up with:

    Extension cord
    3 to 2 prong plug adapters (for plugging equipment in if we’re using an old house with ungrounded sockets)
    Tape (possibly multiple kinds)
    Tape measure
    Mini sewing kit
    Safety pins
    General purpose utility gloves (a couple pairs of those cheap one-size fits all things)
    Bandaids/mini first aid kit. (I’m going to have a normal first aid kit somewhere too, because growing up with medical people in the family has made me PARANOID.)
    Couple of pocket sized packs of tissues.
    Dry-erase markers (because the ones with the slates ALWAYS die. ALWAYS.)
    Flashlight & spare batteries
    Maybe some hand santitizing gel or handi-wipes or something.

    Any other ideas for stupid little crap that it’d be handy to have on set? I obviously don’t want to spend too much money loading it up with stuff that I’ll never use after filming, but from talking to people who’ve done this before, the scheduling tends to be quite tight so I really want to do what prep work I can to avoid filming being held up because of something dumb.

    • Hee! Definitely a very good thing to get started. Please note, however, that every department should technically be able to function self-sufficiently without having to rely on loaners from other departments. It’s the first thing I impress upon all my assistants — if we’re stranded on location overnight, I know that I can live out of my mini-SUV and support whatever people I brought with me, and STILL be ready for call time the next morning. Of course, there will inevitably be the people who don’t do that and that’s where production has to pick up the slack. Lemme dig up the checklist that I wrote last summer…

      I’m assuming you’ve already got the craft services list. Copious amounts of water/coffee/tea/soda/trail mix/fruit being the staples. An awesome and cheap pick-me-up for the crew? Bring along a blender and surprise them with smoothies 3/4 of the way through day. A million plus bonus points, right there 🙂 I’ve only ever seen that done on one set, but it’d so easy that I can’t imagine why. Set a PA to it or something *g* Be careful about overloading crafty with carbs — it’ll lead to a sluggish crew pretty fast.

      The jumbo sized first aid kit is a must, of course. And mini ones in each vehicle/department. In addition to the bandaids, stock up on ibuprofin/tylenol/aspirin (at least 2 options, because of allergies), pepcid/pepto bismol (catering is always iffy), anti-diarrheals, and cystex/uristat (you wouldn’t believe how common urinary infections are when people aren’t drinking enough water, drinking too much coffee, on sleepless schedules and holding it because the don’t want to use the gross rent-a-potty). Tampons and pads for the ladies. Q-tips, disinfectant baby wipes (I honestly just buy these in bulk, because they’re used EVERYWHERE), and lots of hand sanitizer, yes. Calamine/Benadryl/Claritin — something for allergies, both from bites and pollen. Several packets of tissues. Copious amounts of sunscreen, preferably the spray-on kind but also the lotion for faces. Bug repellant spray.

      Tapes: duct, masking, packing, gaffer, double-sided. You’ll be using the masking a lot to label things, so bring some extras and of different colors. Lots of people borrow/steal the camera department’s tapes so they’ll LOVE you if they see you’re supplying extras. String them all onto a sturdy cloth belt and you’ll be able to find them in one place easily.

      Soft rope. Twine. String. Extra points for the mini sewing kit, but you should expect your wardrobe supervisor to be on set with a full kit anyway. Safety pins, clothespins (C47s! Stat!), bobby pins, straight pins!

      Yep, some nice utility gloves. A big pack of those industrial-quality cloth-and-elastic breathing masks. You’ll be glad when the dust starts flying or when people start complaining about their allergies to the smoke machine. Latex gloves (because you never know what you might have to clean).

      Markers, yep! Those keychain Sharpies are fantastic, you can’t lose them.

      Sandpaper. A few good pairs of scissors/shears. Shoe polish, for blacking out logos. Spot remover, for emergency stains. Baby powder. A screwdriver with changeable heads. An exacto knife. A spritz bottle filled with drinking-quality water, to spray down people in hot weather. An iron.

      Carry in your trunk: Sunglasses, a floppy hat, a parka, a rain jacket, umbrella, water-proof boots.

      Extra gloves/scarves/coats/blankets for the cast (and occasional crew) if you’re shooting late in the year or just late in the evening.

      Ear plugs! Handkerchiefs. Notebooks and pens. Invisible thread and needles. A few extra rags for various uses.

      Breath mints! Cough drops! Hard candies to suck on. Make sure everybody marks their water bottles with a Sharpie — it’ll keep down the waste. Flashlights. If you’re using portapotties, a few boxes of baking soda will help ya out with the smell. Febreze and air fresheners, for the matter.

      Hit up the 99 cent store before you go to the warehouse store or anywhere else. You’ll save a bundle. A lot of it is stuff that you *will* use again, either in everyday life, your next shoot or because you had it lying around the house to begin with. The more people you have who bring their own kits, of course, the less problems you’ll have.

      That’s all I can think of off the top of my head, but if anything else comes to mind I’ll drop you a note 🙂

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