Monday, 31 October 2011

The Ghosts of Costumes Past and Present

Happy Hallowe'en everybody!

Hi to my new followers, Jen, and Katie Lake, the Costume Designer who worked alongside my Production Design for Stop/Eject. She's a very talented new colleague and, even better, a new friend. Hop on over to her website for more information:

The news down my end is that the Jar of Angels edit is looking fabulous, plus I have started the pre-production for my next directorial project, Ashes - plus there have been some interesting developments in the world of my last directorial short, The Opening Night - so more on those to follow soon! 

However, for today's blog, I wanted to give you all a little treat. (Let's hope it doesn't turn into a trick!). In honour of Hallowe'en - one of the favourite holidays down my way - I have decided to delve into my costume vote and show you some of the costumes I have personally worn over the last decade - good or bad is up to your judgement! As a costume designer, this time of year is always huge for me because it's a chance to be a walking advert (I certainly hand out business cards at Hallowe'en outings) and the competition between me and my friends is always interesting! Remember that I'm often available to make costumes on request for clients so feel free to contact me if you ever want something lovely created!

Right, the first picture out of Sophie's Costume Vault comes from 2008, and my best friend's 19th Birthday party. The theme was 'Heroes and Villains', and I decided to go as one of my all-time favourite comic book heroes, Phoenix. However, the best costume for her came from one of her worst portrayals - in the film X-Men:The Last Stand. Phoenix's main outfit in that film (designed by Judianna Makovsky) is actually in my top 50 costumes of all time so I couldn't resist giving it a go:

(Judianna's Phoenix costume)

(My Phoenix costume in progress, Summer 2009 - I didn't have time to do the trousers!)

(Me in my finished Phoenix costume with my friend Sammie as Poison Ivy - I also made her leafy bodice!)
 (Me showing off the back of the costume after a few drinks!)

The next costume out of the vault is more of a life lesson than a technical example of brilliance. Easter 2008 - the snowiest spring I've ever known - I was invited to a Fantasy/Myths/Legends type party. I had a handmade sorceress dress to wear, and disaster struck - with less than an hour before the party, i discovered that it didn't fit me properly! In a rush, I grabbed basically a strip of fabric and a pen and made a Celtic Warrior costume! Which goes to show you that anyone can make a costume with minimal time and resources:

(My 20-minute rushed Celtic Warrior costume. Sword from a stage production of Lord of the Rings, where I played an Elf).

Although I have many, many costumes in my vault now, and I would love to show you them all, I want to show you a diverse range today - showing you my Moulin Rouge dress, for example, might seem too similar (to some) to my Phoenix costume. Therefore, the next costume I'm going to show you is from my 20th Birthday party, when I got to live out a life-long fantasy and re-create Belle's dress from Disney's Beauty and the Beast:

(The dress in Beauty and the Beast - one of the greatest films of all time?)
(Me in my interpretation of the dress at my Disney themed 20th. I had less than 3 days to make it!)

(The second time I got the dress out - and had to take the bodice in - for a Disney party at University two years ago)

The last costume out of the vault is my Hallowe'en costume from last year. I had a bit more time and a lot more money back then so I decided to pay tribute in two ways - one, to a great costume, and two, to one of my top three directors, Tim Burton. The character? Emily the Corpse Bride!

Anyone out in Derby this time last year would've seen me walking round, slightly cold, slightly inebriated, and very very blue. The dress was made from multi layers of vintage & modern hand-dyed lace and chiffon, and it was surprisingly comfortable! Although I did leave blue roses everywhere... Here is the story behind the costume:

(Still of Emily from The Corpse Bride. I think the Costume was by Michelle Scattergood)

(My interpretation of the costume in progress, on my mannequin)

(Me in the finished costume around the streets and pubs of Derby)
(Close-up of the bodice and the rib cut-out detail)

And now onto this year's Hallowe'en costume...

Personally, I didn't think I could beat last year's effort and I certainly didn't have the time or funds to attempt it, but I did have one source of inspiration. For Jar of Angels, I had to make a load of hand-painted Venetian masks, which I loved doing, but I didn't get to make any for myself. So this October, I made a quick bird-like, 'plague-doctor' style mask:

This ended up being the base of my costume this year, and last Saturday night, I went into Derby as a Harpy. Here are the photos:

I hope that you all have a wonderful, devilish night - if you have any good costumes to show me then please send them in, because I would love to see them!

Spooky love for now,


Saturday, 15 October 2011

The Wasteland Script Read-through (and girls' costume fittings!)

Hi guys,

Things are a little crazy down my end right now so not a huge update today, but I thought I'd share the following photographs with you.

Last week, the soul cast for Wasteland (minus the legend that is Carl Bryan) met up for a read-through of the script with director Tom Wadlow and writer Tommy Draper. So I came along too and used the opportunity to get the female leads into their costumes - the girls' outfits have been finished and on display in my house for months now so I literally couldn't wait any longer!

Once the girls were dressed we decided that they might as well stay in costume for the read-through, so they did, and the result was pretty awesome. A fun, slightly silly evening was had by all and the script sounded really good read aloud as an ensemble piece.

Here are my photos from the evening - enjoy, and I'll chat to you all again soon!

Shameer Seepersand - Scott
Lucy Varney - Beth (in the white and brown)
Rachel Benson - Lolli (in the blue, purple and yellow)
Ed Nudd - Max

Sophie x

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Sophie Speaks!

Hello my little droogies! (Guess the film reference for one free hug)

There was a time when I wanted to be an actress. I gave up that dream for one simple reason (I cannot act) and since then have devoted my life to being behind a camera - be it directing, designing,filming, assisting or whatever. I feel comfortable in this place.

Then I joined Light Films, and the lovely people I work for have decided it would be a good idea to put me in front of the camera again. Never mind the fact that I get really nervous and turn into a bit of a nerd (plus I don't have the chin for cameras. Perhaps for a Jupiter stand-in, or at least a beach ball, but it shouldn't be on camera).

However, the latest interview I have done is about my Production Design for Neil's Oseman's lovely upcoming film, Stop/Eject, and he has managed to cut down my nervous waffling into quite an interesting little speech.

So here I am in all my chinny glory. Enjoy:

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Sophie On: The Search for Myles' Typewriter

Hello everyone,

   A couple of quick shout-outs - firstly to Tom and Chrissa, the father and mother of Light Films Ltd (My Director and Producer on Shelf Stackers and Wasteland) who finally brought their baby girl into the world last week. The second shout out is to the wonderful Miss Stephanie Murphy, who I met on the set of Jar of Angels, and is now not only my official Clapper Loader but also now in charge of my PR! (Therefore, look out for a shiny new website soon).

   Apart from one pick-up day at the end of October, Jar of Angels has now wrapped, which concludes one of the most challenging but equally wonderful projects of my life so far (next step for me will be the marketing of the edited film). So, to help promote its post-production, as promised, here is my first blog about my work towards the film.

   As I've said before, there is always at least one prop/set dressing piece which proves difficult to find. On Jar of Angels, as I was not only the Production Designer but also the co-Writer of the script, I set myself a lot of challenges, but there was one prop which I wrote into the script which I thought would be easy to find: Detective Myles' typewriter.

  One of mine and Crash's Taylor's biggest filmic influences for the script was the wonderful film Se7en, and I took a lot of inspiration from it for my set dressing. One bit which really stood out to me was the classical nature of everything surrounding Morgan Freeman's character, Somerset. The film was set in the mid 1990s and it portrayed a world on the cusp of technology but, whilst Brad Pitt's Mills talked of new policing methods and did his research on a computer - like the other detectives - Somerset was very set in his ways and chose to research in a library... and type up his work on a typewriter.

(Mills and Somerset in Somerset's office: note the typewriter on the lefthand side. Se7en, 1995. dir: David Fincher.)

   When I wrote towards the screenplay for Jar of Angels, my goal was to have it reminiscent of a bygone time without being specific (although we made a note of 1996 at the top of the script to satisfy the script doctors), so I made sure that nothing looked too modern. In fact, a lot of the sets and costumes in the detective scenes were suggestive of 1940s film noir detective movies (one scene even had wooden blinds) but the lead antagonist, Wilson, wore a costume that was comparable to that of a 1980s Bother Boy! Therefore, I knew we would get away with having the lead detective - Myles - using a typewriter in one of the film's pivotal scenes.

   I didn't for one moment think that it would be difficult to get a typewriter. At the time of writing one into the script, I knew that my close friend, Josh Peacock, had one in his possession, and I intended on borrowing it:

    Shortly after the script was locked, I discovered that Josh no longer had his typewriter (note to self - always ask people for things well in advance!). By then, the typewriter was pivotal to the scene and so - after finalising my budget and figuring out how much I could realistically spend - I set about searching for another typewriter.

    Although obviously it varies from place to place - and whether or not you are the first bidder on an online auction with a low starting place - the majority of typewriters I found were £30 or over. I always pride myself on spending as little as possible on props and I certainly couldn't afford to spend that much on something which I had originally intended to borrow for free. Although I was tempted by this one in Magpie, Matlock (coincidentally the location for Neil Oseman's next film):

   During this time I was still asking around - by word of mouth and through all the social networking sites - to see if anyone had one that I could borrow. I even put a bulletin in the local Methodist Church in case anyone there had one! I later learnt that Rik Winter (the talented Cinematographer and Editor of Jar of Angels) had one in his possession - although it was a little bit too old and too small - which shows you that you should always ask EVERYONE in your crew before you try and buy props!

   It was less than two weeks before the shoot, and I had put the typewriter at the back of my mind, when I accidentally found one (or rather, two). I had other props/set dressing to worry about and I was also searching for a raggedy arm chair (for free) to put in Wilson's house, for which I travelled to Milford: an elderly lady was moving out of her home and had many years worth of furniture that the family was trying to sell/dispose of, and they said that I could have one of the arm chairs from her living room (which solved that problem, anyway!)

  While I was there, I was also allowed to look around upstairs to see if there was anything else I could use on set that they didn't need. I was picking through old boxes, moving aside some old leaves, and I lifted up a plastic case on the windowsill, then........ TA DA!!!!!!!!

    I couldn't believe my luck! Then, as if by magic, whilst I was rifling through all the old boxes in the bathroom, I stumbled upon a second one (sorry about the blur):

   Although my preference will always be towards things looking as old as possible, it was more realistic for Myles to use the more 'modern' typewriter (plus the family weren't so keen for me to borrow the older one), so I took the first one home with me. I spent most of a day cleaning it, re-threading the ribbon, and playing with its settings (with a little help from the older generation in my family) and eventually I got it working. Sort of. There is definitely a reason we stopped using typewriters (the delete function on a computer is one example) and it was always going to be a bit temperimental. To avoid any risk of it cutting into our shoot time, I pre-typed a letter for Myles to add to on set.

   And so that is the story of how I found Myles' typewriter! Here are photos of it on set, taken by the film's  amazing stills photographer Martin Dance, and starring Toby Bradford as Detective Myles:

(Photos are the property of Martin Dance and Jar of Angels dir: Crash Taylor 2011. Note the green lamp on the desk - another of my homages to the design of Se7en).

  More than words can express, I am looking forward to seeing the final edited version of Jar of Angels. Make sure you all keep an eye out for the typewriter scene - it's a good one! 

  I'll give you more stories from the set soon,