Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 7/11/2020 (345 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
So let’s says you were working on a TV show that required you to design a suit worn by a person who has just been neatly split in half. Where would you go for guidance?
In Winnipeg, you’d be advised to seek out costume designer Heather Neale, who has worked in the film/TV business for 18 years. She faced exactly that challenge while working in 2011 on the locally shot TV series Todd and the Book of Pure Evil, a show that traded in different kinds of supernatural mayhem every week.
"Each script I got it was crazier and crazier with the things we had to figure out," Neale, 51, recalls. "That show really helped me learn how to figure out complicated things in a really fast way. We were splitting actors in half, so we had to figure out how to cut their costumes completely in half perfectly.
"The mechanics of how to figure stuff out on that show taught me so much."
Neale is sharing some of the fruits of her knowledge in a two-day workshop over Zoom with Film Training Manitoba in an effort to encourage people to consider work in film. The classes take place from noon to 4 p.m., both Saturday and Sunday. (Registration is $50 at wfp.to/costume.)
Neale will discuss the different jobs available in the costume department; there are 16 of them, and at one point or another, Neale has done most of them, including costume designer, costume supervisor, dyer and breakdown artist. (That latter position comes into play often in genre projects such as Todd, where the breakdown artist must figure out how to precisely destroy an article of clothing in creative and convincing ways.)
It is not a job where you can afford to get starstruck. Neale has personally outfitted the likes of Liam Neeson (for the recent thriller The Ice Road), Jennifer Connelly (Aloft), Liev Schreiber (Goon) and Jason Patric (Keyhole).
"The most fun is when I come into a fitting room with the actor and you can really put it all together and have fun and try different things," she says. "That’s what I love the most, when everything comes together."
And no, Neale doesn’t get googly-eyed over celebrities.
"We’re all professional colleagues," she says. "That’s what it is. I don’t see anyone as a big star. You have to be professional."
It’s also a job that presents unique challenges, such as when Neale came up with a pair of haunted gold running shoes for the "Dope Kicks" segment of the recent horror anthology Tales from the Hood 3.
"You have to figure: How dope are they? And you have to augment that somehow, to make them cooler than what you can find in the stores. They have to be pristine every time you’re on camera, so you have multiple people just watching the shoes."
She says she hopes her course will entice people "that are interested in film even a little bit," she says. "I really want to give people an overview of each costuming job to demystify and share some of my experiences."
In a way, Randall King was born into the entertainment beat.