I can remember my first job on my first movie and the stunned way that I looked at my new boss as she described how to hold the Polaroid camera to get the biggest shot of the actors and how to read a call sheet. Then she left… day one and I was now in charge of the continuity for all the Costumes, Makeup and Hair… yikes!
Now, just over twenty years later, I can laugh at that day. Since then, I’ve worked in every aspect of the costume department from Dresser to Designer and all those jobs in between. I have traveled the world and learned from so many generous people while shooting in places like the Philippines, Paraguay, Dubai and points even further afield. I’ve work on some amazing shows with truly talented coworkers from in front of and behind the camera who have taught me so much.
And it’s a good thing too because when I left high school there were no schools or programs for specifically working in film costuming. So I took what I loved; sewing and costuming, and went into the Apparel and Design course at NAIT. I followed that up with a scholarship to the Banff Theater of Fine Arts to specialize in Historical Costuming.
With diplomas in hand, a portfolio under my arm and an unflinching spirit, I started to work… and work! Theater in the winter and film in the summer. Great gig if you can keep it coming! (Oh, and a little tailor shop on the side… it didn’t always come in Alberta!)
In my first years of theater, I worked in the sewing room and I dressed back stage — if you have done both jobs, you know the glares I got from the sewing room folks! My first roles in film were cutting, sewing and doing the truck position. As it was thrown at me I ran with it.
I picked up the concepts of continuity as quickly as I could. I learned how to deal with the elements for both the cast and myself, no matter how extreme. I learned breakdown and dying the hard way; if you open too much green dye in a small room… all your underwear is going to be green by the end of the day!
And eventually, I fell in love with the challenges of film work. As the film industry expanded, it became my focus.
I took the time to break in my set shoes… gave myself the time to build and refine my skill set… and after a few years, I was able to move up and work as a Set Supervisor and Costume Coordinator. It took a while of doing all the different positions, and a few moves from Edmonton to Calgary and finally Vancouver, but I soon realized that I had found my home and my path… Set Supervisor was the right position for me. I still look back and remember it all… the good, the bad and the green dye!
Ultimately though, when I really look back, I have my father to thank for where I am today. He worked at a television station in Edmonton and as a child I would get to sit at the back of the sound stage and watch as the cameras, lights and actors danced their dance. I can still remember the actress’ red dress swinging to the melody of the song that she sung while I sat there in the dark and watched. I know now that this is when my choice was made… even though I didn’t know it then.
I can only hope that in this blog I will be able to pass on to you some guidance, advice (sometimes what NOT to do!) and most importantly… inspiration.
To have true passion in the work you do is wonderful beyond words… but to share it with others is perfection.
Dawn Leigh Climie,
Don’t Shoot the Costumer!