Friday, April 29, 2016

Letter to FIlm Director

I worked as wardrobe assistant on an independent film project titled, "Crazy Bitches."  It was a horror film of the "slasher" variety, with a fairly large cast and non-existent budget. The script was not aggressively awful, but the director was inexperienced and untested. She was also bat-shit cray cray.

Like all film productions, the first week on this project was dedicated to doing all of the necessary "prep" work. For wardrobe department, this is an incredibly busy week, spent buying and renting clothing for each character, "breaking down the script" so that you can track all character changes scene by scene, get personal fittings done with all principal actors at their home/apartment. This mean going anywhere from Laguna Nigel to Chatsworth to Burbank to Malibu at any hour of the day or night, (as early as 7 am to as late as midnight) to take their measurements, have them try on whatever wardrobe pieces which have already been purchased for their character(s) and to make sure everything fits and that whatever doesn't fit, can be tailored to do so within our tight schedule) Mikel, the Costume Designer (who hired me to work for him on the project) called me late one evening after having received an email from the director telling him that one of the actors had complained to her about his fitting that day. Now, this actor was one of the minor characters in the movie and not in a position (we thought) to cause waves of any kind, because he could be replaced without any difficulty at all, he had only a few lines of dialogue, and he was only averagely good looking. Apparently, he didn't recognize this fact and immediately started causing problems for the costume designer, by being late for his fitting (at his home! He showed up late for an appointment that he didn't even need to leave home to be on time for!) Anyway, apparently he had called the director to complain about Mikel's treatment of him during his fitting and she sent Mikel a rather rude and sanctimonious email which accused him of being unprofessional to this actor, Blake, and listing a bunch of new demands that she had for him to do for her for the duration of the project. Mikel called me, hysterical, immediately after reading it, begging me to write a response for him since he's "not much of a writer" (his own words, not mine). I dragged myself out of bed and wrote the email below.  (I signed it as Mikel, because that who was going to send it to her. I think knowing that it wouldn't be coming from me made it easier to say what I might not normally say in a way i might not normally say it.)

Please respond in the comments section if you think I was inappropriate, unprofessional or if you thought I was right on. I would love to hear any feedback at all about it!

Jane,

Of course, it is my goal to have every actor in any project I work on feel comfortable with what they're wearing and Blake is no exception. However, I believe that the primary issue he had with his wardrobe was that he did not look like a "security guard."  I reminded him that his character wasn't supposed to look like a security guard, since he was a groundskeeper. Unfortunately, I did not know that he had not been told (by you, the director) that you'd opted to make him and Derek's characters "groundskeepers" instead of security guards to save $150 on uniforms.  I would have preferred not to have had to be the one to notify him of his character's career demotion (as that is not my job), since, obviously, that has tainted Blake's opinion of me and my choice of wardrobe for him.  The fact that he was also late for our meeting did not help, since I had another appointment scheduled immediately after and could not spend the time explaining things to him more delicately.  The fact is--the budget for this project is shockingly small, considering the size of the cast (30, plus extras), half of which have 5 changes, and many of which require matching doubles.  May I remind you, we had a discussion about this two days ago, in which you specifically requested his look be "groundskeeperish" and that you wanted his shirts to be altered by cutting off his sleeves. I am unaware of any security guard uniform which would satisfy both of these caveats. Please just tell me what you want him in. If you want him to be wearing a security guard uniform, then you need to come up with more money for the wardrobe budget and I'll make it happen. 

If you expect me to send you photos of each character's changes so that you can personally okay them in advance, then I'm afraid I'm not the right person for this project. Because I simply do not have the time, nor the inclination, to be spending my time clearing individual looks with you. May I remind you, there are dozens of cast members with multiple changes that I have to shop for and prep in the next 48 hours? If you don't trust my styling expertise and wardrobe decisions, then why did you hire me? 

I'm concerned about the fact that there are numerous other plot points which involve wardrobe (2009 Prada stilletto's, Pucci blouse, for example) which are unrealistic, given the budget. Am I going to be thrown under the bus by you every time a cast member is unhappy about the downgrading of their wardrobe expectations? Because that won't work for me.

Respectfully,

Mikel (Last Name Withheld) 



Shockingly enough, we didn't get fired. But I wish we had because the job was a fucking nightmare. Truly, one of the worst productions I have ever been a part of. And I have worked on a low-budget Christian film in an non-air conditioned wardrobe trailer in the valley in August. It was literally 180 degrees in that trailer at 2 in the afternoon.  I was so dehydrated every night when I went home that my pee looked like lemon-lime gatorade.
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