“Reality leaves a lot to the imagination”


John Lennon

I love… I mean love, love, love… working on a certain types of movies. I do work on all styles of film and TV, from high style to fantasy… what I adore are grubby, dirty, bloody action shows. Be it a western or a thriller, contemporary or period, I love to be able run around and make people dirty, sweaty and bloody. Blow things up… great! Strap the cast in harnesses and fly them about… fantastic! It makes the days go fast. There is always tons of things that I have to think about to keep everything going forward and looking good!

I was picking up a few groceries the other day and, as always, scouted down the magazine isle. I am not a reader of the fashion mags… I know that they have a lot to do with our jobs, but I am a ‘set girl’ and yes I do look like one as well! No matter where you go in the world you can pretty much walk on to any set and pick out the crew members for various departments by how they’re dressed and what is hanging off of them. I try not to walk around with all those Ziplocks pinned to me, but sometimes I just can’t help it… I mean really, how did my husband fall in love with me?

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But I digress… magazines. I am currently shooting a western in Alberta, as I said in my last blog. In June, the area of Calgary, Canmore and Bragg Creek had a truly disastrous flood. The Special Edition of Maclean’s Magazine this month is, ‘The Great Alberta Flood’. There are so many stories of stricken lives and the horror of it all… there are also stories and photos of the amazing people that stepped in to help; the volunteers and rescue workers. These magazines, and others, are a fabulous place to see what our remarkable uniformed and non-uniformed rescue workers look like during our times of need.

Our EMT's, Firefighter.  I love the life vests over the turnout gear. Amazing photo. Magazine Maclean's

Our EMT’s, Firefighter. I love the life vests over the turnout gear. Amazing photo. Magazine Maclean’s

The aging on the helmet, the glasses around his neck, the natural curl to the collar. Magazine Maclean's

The aging on the helmet, the glasses around his neck, the natural curl to the collar. Magazine Maclean’s

I think one of my proudest work moments was when I was watching a documentary on earthquakes and saw footage from the movie, ‘Aftershock: Earthquake in New York’, that I had worked on. Myself, several costumers and many other crew members spent long, dirty hours trying to create the look of reality for all the victims and rescue personnel for the show. It was a stupendous challenge, and what a compliment to all of us that our footage was used to help everyone understand what our cities could be like after such a disaster.

Someone said to me once, “I don’t need to research anything, the office just hands me what I need to know and I use that.”

For shame!

I love to do research! I want to know for myself what the people and their clothing should really look like in all situations. This way I can have intelligent conversations with the designer, director, props, makeup and the many other departments that costumers work with to help actors create their characters on set every day.

Great shot of what the flight suit look like in action.

Great shot of what the flight suit look like in action. Time Magazine

For on-set costumers, the research photos you are looking for aren’t so much about the style of the costume, it is more about the authenticity of the costume. We are working on the dirt, the blood and the authentic time-worn wear of the look created by the designer. My research photos are more about being able to talk with the designer about how they would like the finished costumes to look on their characters for camera.

The mud and filth, realism at work. Photo of volunteer, Magazine Maclean's

The mud and filth, realism at work. Photo of volunteer, Magazine Maclean’s

I used to have binders loaded with photos, information and references that could be pulled out depending on which type of show I was working on. I still do have a few quick reference pages that I keep in the back of my script binder, as well as my military regulations guides, only now it is a little easier. Those piles of black binders are condensed into computer files that can be carried on my iPad for an easy show’n’tell

The internet is an amazing tool for quick look-ups, and a great asset when you are searching for that last minute picture to help explain what you are talking about. But still I prefer the glossy images from magazine and books. They seem so clear and vibrant to my eye. You can hunt for these images on-line but sometimes they’re just not available or of such a bad resolution that they are hard to look at… and forget about printing them out. So what to do…

If you do find images that you like on-line, see if they are available as a large jpeg files so that you can download big clear, useful images. If you can’t find the images you like on the internet, you can scan the images directly from the book or magazine, or even take photos of the images, so you can keep digital copies.

Remember to take notes on the images you keep, what you liked about them, it will help trigger your memory when you go back to look at them later.

The mud is so fabulous.  Photo of volunteers, Magazine Maclean's

The mud is so fabulous. Photo of volunteers, Magazine Maclean’s

Side note: you are able to keep images like this as long as you are using them for research or educational purposes only… remember that everything on the internet is protected by copyright law, as are books, magazine and everything else created, and should be respected as such.

Right… magazines. This week on the shelves is a Time Inc. Special Edition magazine called, ‘Special Ops.: The Hidden World of America’s Toughest Warriors’. I picked this magazine up because of all the diverse and fabulous pictures of the US military that we see so often portrayed in the shows we work on:

This is something!  He has sweat so much that it has run through his helmet and is freezing into icicles.  Amazing

This is something! He has sweat so much that it has run through his helmet and is freezing into icicles. Amazing. Time Magazine

The sand sticking to the sweat is amazing.  The top button closed on all of them.  I wonder about the red string.  I will have to look into that ...

The sand sticking to the sweat is wonderful, I can feel the itch from this photo. The top button closed on all of them. I wonder about the red string… I will have to look into that … Time Magazine

Amazing image, film worthy for sure.

Wow, film worthy for sure. Time Magazine

After purchasing, I realized there was a special treat in the back; an article, “Warriors On the Screen” by James Poniewozik. A great look at how the film industry has portrayed Special Op’s in Hollywood, starting after the 2nd World War.

It’s very tempting to look at all the wonderful film references available and emulate these in our own shows… but real, authentic images can be found in the books, news sources, magazines and websites that are around us everyday… it just takes some times to look for them. Our challenge, as always, is to create truth within the context of story, to help make the image believable and real for the viewing audience.

A group of Mosby's Rangers during the Civil War. Its great to get these private images, the old uniforms are interesting.

A group of Mosby’s Rangers during the Civil War. Its great to get these private images, the old uniforms are interesting. Time Magazine

Take a moment the next time you are at the bookstore or standing in line for groceries. Look at what’s in front of you… you never know what will help you on your next show!

I just had to add this as last photo.  It went all over face book.  Now seeing that smile in such a awful moment must have been a blessing in time! Magazine: Maclean's

I just had to add this as last photo. It went all over face book. Now seeing that smile in such a awful moment must have been a blessing in time! Magazine: Maclean’s

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