Friday, 23 December 2011

Sophie On: Her Costumes

Seasons Greetings!

   First off, Directing films is my major passion in life. Nothing compares to it - creating a world and having control over everything that goes into it is perfect for someone with my creative (and control-freak) nature. But something I enjoy doing as well as Directing, and which has got me more work, is making costumes.

   When I did my Film Production degree I did specialise in Production Design - and we covered Costume Design a bit in that because we all knew we'd be doing both on small projects - but up until then it had been little more than a glorified hobby for me. I first studied it at Sixth Form because I was forced to pick a fourth subject (I couldn't do Media until second year because it clashed with Theatre Design). Over the first few months of doing that course my other classmates dropped away so that it was just me left, and therefore I got to have one-on-one tuition with my two teachers for the rest of the course. I caught up with all the things I should've learnt at GCSE and got sternly criticised when I got things wrong, which helped me not to make the same mistakes again. When I finished the two years, my graded portfolio got 100% - and I learnt to love costume design. In particular, historical design.

   Over the years of practicing sewing, sometimes self-teaching, and watching hundreds of films, I started to evolve into a costume nerd. I can now tell you when a film is set - or which era it is inspired by - just by looking at certain details of what people are wearing. That's not a challenge for most costume nerds but it's good for settling arguments round a dinner table!

   People are often surprised when I tell them I design/make costumes as well as directing (both at the same time if the project is small enough) but I don't see why more people don't do it. Clothes can define a character. Nearly six years ago I started work on a film about vampires and it was in the days where I was a one-man-crew, with my friends for actors; I made a Georgian-style turquoise velvet frock coat for the lead actor and when he put it on, he said to me, "thankyou - now I understand the character I'm playing!" I feel the same way about costumes now. When I'm doing their back stories I also sketch what they would wear because it helps me completely understand who they are.

   Through combining my design skills with my directing, I have a pretty good eye for what works in camera. Obviously though, when it comes to technical skills I don't necessarily have the same knowledge as someone else my age who would've studied sewing or costume design at University. I think it is for that reason I didn't get the job I applied to at the V&A.

    I was pretty darn gutted when I didn't get that job, but whenever I get knocks back like that I try and prove to myself that I am talented so I told myself to get back on the sewing machine and make something else, just for the fuck of it, and to make it good. And big.

   And so my third Victorian costume was born. Here are photos of its creation:

Photo one - the base layer of the skirt, made out of an old curtain, with a bum-pad (that's my term for it anyway!) sewn under the back to support the upcoming bustle:

Photo two, a few steps later - the bodice with pleated front panels and collar tacked on (the fabric for which was made out of a sofa-bed lining from the 80s):

Photo three - the bodice with peplum (which sits on top of the bustle) attached to the back:

Photo four - the bodice is fully lined and assembled with trim, and apron is trimmed and pinned on to test the draping:

Next up I laced and hand-beaded the bodice then finished the bustle with a waterfall of chiffon and some v-shaped ribbons, but I didn't actually get a photo of that. Duh!

Photo five - the dress, completed and ironed, hung up with some of my other costumes waiting to go on set:

And finally, photo six - the finished dress worn by model Lozzi-Beth Godfrey (who I've mentioned on here before) as she has her make-up done off set:

    You can see more of Lozzi in the finished yellow dress in the upcoming costume advert Light Films have shot for me. For now, you can find out more about this dress - as well as getting a detailed look at my other costumes - in my latest video diary:

Enjoy! x

Friday, 16 December 2011

Sophie On: The Conflicting lure of London

Hi guys,

And a quick shout-out to my latest follower, Helen Greatorex!


    As anyone close to me knows, I am a country girl at heart. In late summer, there is nothing I like better than turning off the computer, putting on my walking boots, and setting off into the Derbyshire hills - particularly in blackberry season when I can collect a load in a basket. Sometimes I take a load to my mother and she makes a crumble out of them - my Belper life is genuinely that ideal. I have a wonderful little family, a solid friendship group, pubs that know my face, and a view from my office of rolling hills and beautiful Victorian mill worker houses and architecture. It is for these reasons that I am so glad Neil Oseman has chosen to film Stop/Eject round here.

   At the same time, I work in a very technical, buzzing, energetic industry - one which doesn't always correlate well with a country lifestyle. I've been incredinly lucky with the amount and calibre of work I've found since moving back to Derbyshire, and lately there's been an increase in awareness of the arts in the Midlands, and that's a movement I'm so keen to support - when I was growing up round here there was absolutely nothing film-related in the area and I taught myself film by going out into the aformentioned hills with a Hi-8 camera and a bunch of my friends. 

   But there is no denying the incredible, exciting awareness of the film industry within our Capital. When I studied for my degree I was the distance from London that I am now from Nottingham, so I went into the city a lot, and I got a real taste for it. I fell in love with the architecture - that classic mix of cold shapely steel with the crumbling brown buildings of 100s of years of history (and the odd ship thrown in for good measure) - and I sampled the sardine-like nature of the nightlife. The vintage boutiques, independant little stalls and art shops filled me with inspiration. I've done a theatre workshop at Pineapple dance, attended an evening lecture with Derek Jarman's production designer, Christopher Hobbs, at the British Film School, and I've seen musicals and plays at all the theatres in the west end. Above all, I went to two of the film studios - 3 Mills, graced by Viggo Mortensen and Tim Burton amongst others (and I even got to film there thanks to producer Danni Plater) - and of course, Pinewood. Oh GOD Pinewood. I don't think anything can beat the elation of being there. I hope I get to go again someday - even more so, I hope that I get to have a film crew with me.

   Since I graduated (nearly two years ago) and moved home to Belper, I find myself yearning for the city. I'd be watching London set films and television shows such as Steven Moffatt's Sherlock and I'd find myself saying "oh, I've been there, I waited for a night bus" or "that's a great museum, I've been in there - there's a good Waterstones nearby too" and stuff like that.

    So, when I finished the main shooting block for Jar of Angels - mostly to beat the flat feeling that comes when filming suddenly stops - I did a corporate video (a tattoo parlour advert) to raise enough money to travel down to London for a weekend. This was partly because I wanted to see the people down there who I love and miss an extraordinary amount, but also because I wanted to immerse myself in the culture and the sights again. I wanted to feel like a tourist again. So, armed with my Powershot G10 around my neck (and an unfortunately Marilyn Munroe-esque skirt) I sped around Westminster, Southbank and Covent Garden, determined to see as much as possible in one day. Unfortunately that weekend was ruined by increasingly bad health (I was throwing up on the actual train home!) but I whizzed past Parliament, the London Film Museum, The London Eye, The BFI (inwardly praying that they were looking at my film at that moment and deciding to accept it for their festival), The Tate Modern, The Globe - I actually popped in there because I can't resist the gift shop - and lots of other random beautiful streets before ending the tour with (two) visits to Forbidden Planet. I was shattered beyond belief, but I photographed everything as I went along, and here are the pick of my point-and-click photos from that day to share with you:

    I had hoped that my visit would help me make my mind up as to which part of the country I belong in. But, for now, I am still completely split down the middle. I would love to work in London and attend the premieres there but I would always want to visit home, walk in the countryside and eat Sunday lunch with my family - particularly at Christmas. Plus the charity stores are a hundred times cheaper down here for prop shopping, and I will never stop supporting the local creative scene.
   Maybe one day I won't have to choose. If I ever get rich to the slightest degree, or, more importantly, if I'm successful, I would have a stone cottage in the middle of nowhere with a log fire as well as a teeny little flat in London with a view of the millions of city ants stuck at their desks, and treadmills, and bars.

    And I'd have to buy a Red cam, as well.

Sophie x

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Sophie on: inflicting herself upon Youtube

Hi guys,

     A few weeks ago, I had just finished my work for the day - done a bucket load of emails, prepared for an upcoming casting session, and ordered some rewards for people who donated towards Jar of Angels - then I sat back in my chair, and realised something dreadful. I had nothing else to do that day. And, spare a few emails, nothing to do the next day, either.

     For some, this would be a blessing. Months ago - in the peak of juggling the filming of Wasteland and Jar of Angels, plus preparing for other projects in the pipeline - I found myself literally begging for some time off. Never too seriously, although I was exhausted. I hadn't had a holiday since October 2010. Flash forward to a couple of weeks ago, and I had 'time off' forced upon me. 
     I'm not the kind of person that can just twiddle their thumbs. If I have time off then I do it on my own terms - I'll even want to plan what I'm doing on my break well in advance. (I'm the kind of person that scheduled my Summer Holidays at school).

    So I caught up on my filing, cleaned my pets out, even got back into cooking for a couple of days. I had constant emails and the odd meeting or two to keep me sane. But eventually I had to try and find some more work, so I had a look on creative job sites. That was even more disheartening - a million projects coming up and none of them paid. With myself slipping back into my overdraft, and my pets having to be cleaned out with watered-down spray, I couldn't accept any more voluntary work outside of my usual companies. The few paid jobs I did see, I applied for. I even tried 'regular' job sites and couldn't find a single advertised job that I was qualified for. There weren't even any local retail jobs going. My heart sank.

   I spoke to other creative friends of mine and discovered that I wasn't the only one in this situation. Even people with a minor degree of fame and IMDB profiles confirmed they weren't getting as much work at this time of year. This season is not a productive time for anyone with an artistic proffession - come spring, we're booked up solid, myself included. Not to mention the fact that over 1 million people under 25 are unemployed in Britain at the moment. And I am part of that age group.

   After a mopey week, something in me snapped, and I tried to find other methods of promotion. I went to networking evenings, I joined more mailing lists, I chatted to my PR girl, and I even looked into applying for a grant. Then something else came to mind. Something which made me ever so slightly nervous.
   A few years ago, a young parent got out a dodgy camera (it could've even been a phone camera) to film his infant sons together. The younger boy bit the elder boy's finger, the Dad found this funny, and he put it on Youtube as 'Charlie Bit Me'. This clip was barely a few seconds long and cost nothing to make, but now that family are millionaires.
   Equally, an American teenage boy called Justin went online to record himself singing - as many young aspiring singers do. This boy must've had something special because he got noticed, recieved a record deal, and is now selling out tours and has his own documentary and perfume available.
   I'd rather make (another) perfume advert than make a perfume, but if it's good enough for Justin Bieber...

    Since planning my 'filmmaker diaries' I am happy to say I have become incredibly busy again. I'm still doing the regular daily emails but last week I had an amazing casting session for Ashes; I've got a few artistic projects for over the Christmas period including three shoots (one of which is Wasteland starting again); and I'm pretty much booked up for 2012. I'm even having a little dabble at acting for one music video, just for the fun of it, and as a favour to some dudes.

   All the same, I decided having myself 'out there' in an extra medium can't hurt. So I have started Sophie's 'filmmaker diaries', which will appear on Youtube whenever I'm free and allowed to report back from set. There should be more to follow but the first one is just a brief introduction and a little tour of my office, all filmed by my good friend, Josh Peacock.
   As my director and photographer friends all know, I'm notoriously difficult to put in front of a camera. I can 'play a part' but I struggle to portray myself due to a lack of self confidence. Any interviews of me are heavily edited, and this new video is no exception. But please understand - I'm not putting myself on the internet because I think I have a screenworthy face or because I think I'm particularly interesting. This is just a little video done on a camcorder in an afternoon and I'm not in any way taking myself seriously. I had a little fun with it and I hope you will do too.

    I apologise for the quality of the light in my office and for the marks on the camera. I would apologise for the camera itself but if I could afford a good camera, I wouldn't have to do shameless video plugs for my work.

   Also, Edgar Wright, if you see the video, I'm very, very sorry - it's just my sense of humour. (I do think you're wonderful though!)

   Here's the video. If you like it, let me know, and I'll do even more. And of course, it's all just a shameless please for attention - from one of many young, struggling creative types in this country:


Sophie x