Thursday, 16 May 2013

Hollywood Costume: Inside the Wardrobe at ACMI

Let me just tell you something, fashion design school is HARD.

A lot of people come into it thinking "I love fashion, I would be a great designer!" And then they flunk their courses and drop out.
For me, I'm pretty much halfway through my three year degree. I'm currently part-time but will be returning to full-time next semester (eep!). It was probably halfway through my first year that I realised I don't actually want to be a fashion designer. I spend all my free time reading, watching television and films rather than looking at current collections or going to networking events. I had a real 'what am I doing with my life' moment, decided I wanted to be a costume designer and looked into courses. The only ones I could find were TAFE courses, I even went to an open day but they were making mascot costumes and their resources looked worse than my current university. So I dropped to part-time and continued on with my course, knowing that what I was learning was valuable to my future.

When it was mid-semester break, I really needed it. It was hardly time off but I did get to relax a little. During this time I was very lucky to get a ticket to two costume design lectures being held at ACMI- the Australian Centre For the Moving Image.

The guest speakers of the first lecture were Fiona Reilly (head of NIDA's costume department), Cappi Ireland (Animal Kingdom, Kill Bill 1&2), Edie Kurzer (Look Both Ways, South Solitary) and Anna Borghesi (Mao's Last Dancer, Pitch Black, Romper Stomper).

The insight they had into the industry was invaluable and oh boy, the stories they told! I learned some unfavourable things about Academy Award winning actors, let me just say! A lot of the time they likened costume design to babysitting and Anna even told a story of a confrontation she had during 'Romper Stomper' where she interupted a certain famous someone while he was in his jocks getting his tattoos painted on and put her foot down (figuratively; literally that might be funnier) expressing that she was the costume designer and SHE decided what would be worn, not the actor. I wish they hadn't cut Anna's time short, she had a lot more to share and we were running undertime!

After an extended interlude (due to the early end to the first lecture) the second lecture began, hosted by the Hollywood Costume curator herself, Oscar-nominated Professor Deborah Nadoolman Landis.
She has worked on 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' where she casually mentioned that Indiana Jones almost ended up in denim on denim, 'The Blues Brothers', and Michael Jackson's music video for 'Thriller'. For someone with so many iconic films under her belt she was an incredibly kind woman and an amazing speaker with incredible insights. She mentioned that she loves doing comedies as they can be incredibly overtop (hello, the sombreros in 'Three Amigos'!)

She even teaches costume design- but not to aspiring designers, rather to aspiring directors who need to learn the worth of costume in films. Costume designers tend not to be hired until after a film is cast as many producers and directors believe why hire someone to make clothing without anyone to wear them? But as any designer knows, the first step is always research. It doesn't necessarily matter who will be wearing the costume as the costume is for the character, not the actor. Alas, this is how the industry works and designers make do.

After Professor Nadoolman's lecture, I queued in line for a good 45 minutes to get my book signed by her. It took so long (there were only about 25 people in the line) as she insisted on talking to each person, not just signing their books and moving them on. When it was my turn I was really quite starstruck and she quickly apologised for the long wait before asking my name.
'Grace...' I replied, probably smiling a nervous, twitchy smile. She looked up at me, dropped her pen, looked me up and down and smiled.
'I can tell you're a Grace. Very elegant.'
I then gushed and told her how I was named after Grace Kelly and told her I thought she was amazing and her lecture was amazing. I'm pretty sure I actually said amazing about three times to her before I left to go home.


I am incredibly honoured to have attended this sold out event and it really has solidified for me that this is what I want to do, it's what I'm good at.
I can't wait to actually SEE the exhibition, I think I'll take my mum when she is in Melbourne, after all, she's the one that named me after Grace Kelly!


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