But before I hurdle myself headlong into gingerbread and mulled-whatever mode, I wanted to get this blog out to you all in answer to a question from a friend and new costumer I received a few weeks ago.
The phone call went like, “Help! I have to build a ‘truck kit’… what on earth do I put in it?!” The language might have been a bit more saucy but she was under the gun. You get the idea.
At time I received the call, my team and I were in the process of loading our kit onto the truck. So it was the perfect opportunity to help my friend out and have a discussion about truck kits for all those new and future truck costumers out there.
The truck ‘kit’ is a grand supply of equipment, expendables, office supplies and clothing accoutrements that we load on to the trailer for use during the shoot. A good kit will cover your butt in a 101 different ways… each and every day.
The costume trailer, aside from being loaded with the cast costumes and accessories that are supplied by the production, also houses the truck kit which contains everything the costume team needs to clean, maintain and do basic (sometimes more than basic!) alterations on the costumes. Just as important, the truck kit also contains items to help keep the actors warm, dry and comfortable while on set. Cast comfort may not be the biggest challenge if you are shooting in LA, but if you’re shooting with actors who get thrown into a river in Prague in November, or have to survive a plane crash on the glacier fields of British Columbia, these things become vitally important!
We have socks in all colors and weights, panty hose, bras, undies for both men and women including panties, spanx (like girdles or compression wear), thongs (yep, even for the guys), long johns in silk, wool, cotton, and Gortex for those pesky rain towers… shall I keep going? Nah, go ahead and take a look at the lists below.
It is not your responsibility to go out and buy all the items on the list. Quite often the coordinator or set supervisor will have a fully stocked kit ready to go that they will rent to the production for your use on the truck. During prep, the collection of boxes, sewing machines, steamers etc, that makes up the truck kit will be loaded onto the truck… then organized for the most efficient working conditions… and finally prepared for travel.
Remember… trucks move! Ratchet straps and bungee cords; it’s a love hate relationship.The first thing you want to do is go through the entire kit and make sure you have everything you think you’ll need. This is where the checklists come in really handy!
So the rule is; what can you think of? Because however many time saving, actor safety, weather specific, stunt proof, love scene modesty, soaked by a rain puddle pieces of gear you can think of to have on the truck… ready for that one time when you might need organic non-toxic tree sap remover, nipple pasties or a Gortex onesie… well, the producers, the designer and the cast can think of plenty more. So we try to have a little bit of everything.When it is your first time being left to load the trailer and go through the kit… chances are you have worked on or at least seen inside a working costume trailer a few times… it seems simple, right? Boxes go on shelves, easy-peasy.
Kind of like my 10-year-old niece who said, “Yeah I can drive, it looks pretty easy.”
Don’t be fooled!
“All Knowledge of reality starts from experience.” Albert Einstein
It will take you a few shows to get the understanding of the basics that will be needed for the everyday… it will take your entire career to learn how to foresee what you may need for the problems that will arise depending on type of show you are working on.
Each show has its own quirks, some shows have rain towers… yep I mentioned those above… what is a rain tower that you ask? Well it is basically a water truck hooked up to large sprinkler systems that dump down a ton of freezing cold water on the actors during rain scenes. Yep, even in Vancouver, Crazy I know!
I am sure that you get the point.
The first time I went down to the states to work I was shocked to find that there was no kit on the show I was on. Yikes! I asked what we were to do when some one needed a pair of socks, a t-shirt, or when some one fell in the pool? (And yes someone does usually fall in the pool, the river or even the ocean!) The answer I was given was just to grab something from the actors’ line up.
You should have seen my eyebrows shoot up. No way!
That weekend, I went out and bought a small supply of white undershirts, some plain black sports socks and a few towels. And did we ever use them…
Not all areas use truck kits; I have worked with a few designers that send costumes to the trailers completed. That means the costume will come to us with all the under garments and accessories needed, basically the costume is ready to place in the actor’s room.
Most often we will only receive the outer pieces of the costume that will be seen on camera. The bras, undies, stocking, long johns and often belts, earring and purses will be added after the costume arrives at the truck.
This is why we have the kit!
I do have a kit, a very large kit. This has grown over the years. I have spent thousands of dollars to build it, maintain it and store it. Productions do pay a very small rental for its use on a show. This money very rarely covers the wear and tear. So why do I have it…
Saying that, you don’t need to have a truck kit. You do need to come with your own small set kit. In a pervious blog… “Chew Tobacco, Chew Tobacco, Chew Tobacco, Spit.”… I listed all the things you should have in a day call set kit and I am currently working on a list for the set supervisors kit. This kit list is a little longer.
I say wait for a while before you start looking into buying and building your own truck kit. You may find that you will always work with people that have one or that know where to rent one. It is much less hassle and much less expense on your part.
Keeping a checklist from show to show with the things that you use most, or that you have had to go out and acquire, is a great way to learn what the essentials are.
A few years ago, two good costumer friends and myself sat down and gathered a list of all the things that we thought should be in a kit. Over the years we have added and removed from the original list, so our check list is ever changing.
Print these lists, take them with you when you start a new show. Then keep adding items that you think of along the way. A checklist comes in handy when you are surrounded by boxes and just need to figure our what is missing!
Have fun checking it twice figuring out who’s been naughty or…
Oops wrong list!!!
and away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night.”
Clement Clarke Moore