Last week I attended the monthly Event Marketing Association (EMA) event at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, or the BAFTA, near Piccadilly Circus. This time the event was about the art of storytelling and we were fortunate enough to be joined by Jany Temime, award winning costume designer who worked for the Harry Potter series, Skyfall and Spectre, among others.
Designing costumes is similar to organising events in many ways – we are storytellers working in the service industry. From the moment we receive the brief we need to get in the head of the producer and understand what that person wants and the story he wants to tell. Also, we have great commercial responsibility and pressure to fulfill big expectations and to do better than the previous one.
Understand the brief
The discussion started with a question about the moment she gets the brief and how she goes about it. Jany said that “In order to make costumes for films you need to love and understand film. Costumes for film don’t have anything to do with fashion, it’s a film extension, it’s telling the story via the costume and helping the actor to become the character he has to play. If you like the costume more than the character the actor has to play you’ll be a bad costume designer”.
Have an opinion
Jany was fortunate to come on board of big franchises, Harry Potter and Bond, and with this came high expectations. But even then, when talking with the director she was courageous to tell her opinion and give suggestions about the costumes the characters should wear. She said that the directors respected it and that’s what got her the job because that’s important to have a different point of view and be able to add something to the script.
Have attention to details
Taking the example of Harry Potter where there are different social classes and status in the book, Jany put a great attention to details in differentiating them. She said that attention to details is important even on such big production because you never know what the camera is going to shoot and what the audience sees, therefore everything is important. She added that the eye will fall on something which is not perfect rather than on what’s good.
Work with local suppliers
Many of the films were filmed in foreign destination and because of the big size of the production it was required to work with local suppliers and hire local staff. She added that it’s very important to work and integrate local communities because they know their culture best.
Someone from the audience asked if she ever worked with someone who have been very difficult or had a story very difficult to tell and how she overcame this?
Yes, she said, there were difficulties when decision makers were afraid because the production costs a lot of money and they don’t know how it’s going to turn out. Also, some directors might change their ideas one day before they shoot or during the rehearsal. Therefore, she said “you need to be humble and think you are a service department and what you do is helping someone to tell a story. Client is king and you have to accept this”.
Lastly, she added that there is never enough budget and they usually don’t increase, it can take months to negotiate to get what she needs.
To conclude, when she starts a story she needs to believe in it. It has to be the right director for the right story and the story should be right for the time. The film is made for the public to see and appreciate what you are doing so everything has to fit together.
If there is one takeaway from the presentation it’s this: We’re a service industry to those people so we need to help them deliver upon their dreams.