MARCH MEETING ROUNDUP
By Mary J. Schirmer
At the March 2015 MCA meeting, hosted by Patrick Barlow of Barlow Productions, experts on costumes and props took time from their busy schedules to offer insights on providing these services for stage and film productions. These panelists, noted below, have worked on major theatrical and film productions in Missouri and elsewhere, including the George Clooney-starrer UP IN THE AIR filmed in St. Louis, the Ben Affleck vehicle GONE GIRL filmed in Cape Girardeau, and the recent MARSHALL THE MIRACLE DOG filmed in St. Louis starring Lauren Holly and St. Louis native-gone-Hollywood Bill Chott.
The most successful props and costume crew members are able to think on their feet and improvise to solve unforeseen problems. Even so, the more notice a production can give them, the better.
Like many other professions, the best way to learn is to jump into the trenches.
Their motto: “Be Prepared for Anything.”
Property masters haunt resale and antique shops, props warehouses, college theater departments, and the basements and attics of family and friends.
They’re trying to build a look with accessories and props. The more comfortable the actor is, the better the performance will be.
For long shoots, the props masters might live onsite to be available for last-minute needs and to duplicate items that “walked away” or broke. In fact, on big budget movies, the crew keeps duplicate props along with a catalog of these items.
For both props and costumes, items that would have to appear perfect in a camera close-up don’t have to be in immaculate condition on stage. The 10-foot rule for stage productions says that the audience will be at least 10 feet away, so you might get away with a quick fix with duct tape or with nicked furniture.
If the script calls for weapons, even fake weapons, check regulations before putting these items into actors’ hands.
A costume often begins as a drawing or photo of what the client wants. The costumer works to locate or sew the costumes, as opposed to the wardrobe crew who work with the actors on set.
If you’re the actor, tell the costumer if you have allergies — for example, to wool — or if you perspire a lot. Kindly wear underwear to a fitting. Tell the costumer if you’ve lost or gained weight since your measurements were reported. Sometimes actresses have a baby between the time they’re measured and production begins.
Also, if you have to hide props in your costume, such as a weapon, tell the costumer so appropriate adjustments in fabric seams can be made.
If you’re the costumer, take your “tools” to the set. You might have to sew on a button that pops off the lead actor’s trousers — while he’s wearing them. You might have to “fix” fabric folds with your all-purpose knife while an actress is suspended from rigging.
The costume defines the character, not only for the audience but also for the actor. Costume colors, fabrics, and accessories often change as a story progresses.
Sandi Blair, costume (unable to attend) robert schmidt costumes
Kathleen Gratz, costume firstname.lastname@example.org
Sheila Lenkman, costume http://www.repstl.org/costume_rentals/
Bruce Mai, costume http://www.casamai.com/slcg/index.html
Megan Power, costume email@example.com
Tim Stephens, props www.artmonkeystudios.com
Jim Tudor, props www.ZekeFilm.org
Cathy Wilke, costume (unable to attend) firstname.lastname@example.org
Clark Woodman, props email@example.com