Why costume, makeup and production design is so important to your film

Now that the dust is settling on our ‘Wedding’(film which we shot on 5D last week) I wanted to share some thoughts on certain members of our crew, namely the creative design departments. We live in a time that is obsessed by the ‘the camera’, the formats, the lenses, the kit… I know why and I ‘get it’.

But I wanted to shine light on some of the other creative departments.

Of course movies would be nothing without great actors who can emote the words on the page, amazing locations that support the narrative, and a DP who can put lights in just the right place to create the needed ambiance.

But the great unsung heroes of our film set at least, are the design departments.

Makeup, ensuring our actors look both appropriate AND fabulous.

Costume, again in full support of the cast.

And production design, ensuring that everything in front of the camera is just right.

When working in concert, these three departments create a world that is believable, imaginative and aesthetically pleasing. They also juggle the realities of the budget and the logistics of production.

If they fail to create a vibrant and authentic universe in front of the camera, you will be surfing VERY close to losing that all important ‘suspense of disbelief’ that you need from your audience. One bad prop, one unbelievable costume, one poor background can bring the illusion crashing down and at that moment, your viewer will be popped out of the story. And it’s a fight to re-engage them once you have lost them that first time.

Ironically, these departments are also the first to be pressed hard when budgets get cut. And yet (along with bad sound) there is nothing that will give your budget away faster than ill thought out locations, bad production design, poor costume and dodgy make-up.

So my advice? Find the budget for these departments and give them the time and resources they need to do world class work for you.

When hiring crew, I tend to look for creative people who are passionate about their ideas, who will bring their spin to the party, who relish creative freedom, but who will also appreciate guidance when needed.

I tend to work in more abstract ways, offering words and feelings that emote what I am trying to achieve. ‘Joy’ and ‘fun’ were words I used to describe this film for instance.

You see the simple fact is, Giulia our fabulous costume designer, knows much more about clothes than I do. She also has time in the schedule to really focus on every detail, where I am focusing on a million broader problems. She has experience that she can draw from, as well as contacts in the ‘costume’ business. She can make cunning suggestions on ways we can save money by modifying the script, or offer insight into where we really need to focus our resources for maximum impact.

So why on earth would I micro manage her?

And yet I hear from so many people of their horror stories were directors have literally told them how to do their job. Crazy!

So I choose to allow her to do her job from a place of creative freedom, to support her when she needs help, to keep out of her way the rest of the time, and offer clarity when she herself gets a little lost (which will always happen).

Inspire the right creative person to do their best work then give them the freedom to do it and you will get extraordinary results.

So thank you Giulia and your team, Lisa and your team, and especially, a MASSIVE thank you to Toni and your team.

When people see the film and say ‘Chris, it looks amazing…’ I will get most of that credit. Mattias our DP will get some credit too… Usually it goes like this ‘wow, it looked amazing… who shot it? What did you shoot on?’ Rarely do I asked, ‘Wow, who did the costumes, the makeup, the casting, the production design…?’

It’s not just the camera the lights, it’s also what is in front of the camera.

Onwards and upwards!
Chris Jones
My movies www.LivingSpiritGroup.com
My Facebook www.Facebook.com/ChrisJonesFilmmaker
My Twitter @LivingSpiritPix

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3 Responses to Why costume, makeup and production design is so important to your film

  1. juliehoult@hotmail.co.uk May 19, 2011 at 11:49 am #

    Here! Here! to all the crew! And all crews everywhere! Beautifully written Chris – because as an actor – you are nothing without the crew!

    Julie (Hoult) AKA know to the crew – COUGAR! xx

  2. me@antonialowe.co.uk May 20, 2011 at 10:42 am #

    Chris, Thank you!! It was a great week and good vibes throughout! Can’t wait to see finished film, I’m sure it will be a good reflection of everyone’s hard work, talent and general loveliness!! xx Toni

  3. Antonia Lowe May 20, 2011 at 11:16 am #

    Chris, Thank you!! It was a great week and I can’t wait to see finished film. I think it will be good reflection of the whole team’s hard work, talent and general loveliness! x Toni

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