For the past few months, life here has been absolutely crazy lately. I’ve moved house (twice!), and started a new job. And then there was the TED talk (video will be posted in the next couple of weeks). I’m about to move again (!) to North Carolina to begin shooting of the new job – a TV show – and I apologize for not being more present here because of it. The reality of being a costume designer is that sometimes, we lose our lives to our work for long periods of time.
Designing a TV show is a lot different from designing a film. On a film, you have a pretty clear idea of the script before you take the job. Usually, even in order to bring you in for an interview, they have a script that is green-lit and ready to go. Sure, they can do re-writes as the prep period unfolds, but at least they have something. Not always the case in TV. Painting in broad strokes, I’ve been brought in for interviews when the show was just a concept – no script, no cast, only an idea. It makes for a very interesting prep period.
I remember one TV show I did where we were less than two weeks away from shooting, and the powers that be could not settle on an actress to play the leading role. And like, the series was that character’s name; that’s how big an issue it was. As a costume department, we needed to start making some headway into figuring out the character. So what did we do? We hired a fit model from Central Casting, and did fitting photos with her to show everyone some of the looks that we could try on our leading lady. A fit model. It was crazy.
The decision making process in television is different than it is in film. In film, it’s our job to realize the director’s vision. One vision, coming from the director’s mind. Occasionally you will get other opinions in there from producers and actors, but we are all somehow beholden to the director’s vision. In TV, it varies greatly from show to show. Sometimes the creative execs are the ones with the vision. Sometimes it’s the writers. Very rarely is it the director, as TV directors are guns-for-hire and they don’t stay with the show for more than an episode or two. In TV, we get a new director every week. It’s totally different.
The timetable for production is totally different as well. Depending on the budget of the film, you might have 22 days or 4 months of shooting on a feature film. That’s 22 days to make a 2-hour-long movie. Or 4 months to make a 2-hour-long movie. In TV, you get between 6 – 10 days to shoot an hour-long episode (really more like 42 minutes when you consider commercial breaks). Most shows are like 7 – 8 days to shoot an hour-long episode. Think about it. It’s a lot to cram in to a schedule like that.
Because there is so much to cram in to the schedule, in TV (as well as on film) we often shoot with more than one unit at a time. What does that mean? Well, we will have one shooting unit working with actors A, B and C, and another shooting unit working with stunt actors A and B, and real actor D and F. Shooting simultaneously. Often, if the shizz is really hitting the fan, we will go to three units at a time. Shooting sometimes different episodes at the same time. It can be a crazy, plate-spinning, juggling-on-the-highwire circus.
So as I prepare to hurtle myself headlong into this experience, please have patience with your poor old friend KB. I’m still waiting to hear about how much I can reveal about my new adventure, but suffice it to say that it is a very big, juicy assignment and I am really excited about it. Man, I hope they let me talk about it.
In the meantime, I hope you can all go see THE CONJURING, which comes out in theaters next Friday. I will have more reports from the front for you, and I thank you again for your support and readership! Have a great weekend, everyone.