Welcome to FrockTalk, the web’s only costume-based movie review site. The goal of Frocktalk is to shed light on the magnificent artistry of costume design in motion pictures. Reviews on this site are written by working costume designers in the entertainment industry – people who know, better than anyone, what it takes to make it all happen. The focus of FrockTalk is not to comment on the big flashy costume dramas, but to call attention to the seemingly ordinary costume design work in film that silently and persuasively moves the audience toward understanding the characters. Costume design for motion pictures is an art form that deserves more recognition than it usually gets. Fancy, pretty costumes do not always equal effective, appropriate costumes. The art of the costume is in letting the audience know who the character is, before the actor even has a chance to open his mouth. Read on, and enjoy. ** CAUTION: ALL REVIEWS CONTAIN SPOILERS! **

The Cost of Long Hours

Very nice steer at our location yesterday.

Very nice steer at our location yesterday.

Hey there, Frocktalkers – here’s another installment in the life of episodic TV costume design… I’ve been doing kind of insane hours here – seventeen-hour days, on average.  We’re shooting two full units and I have to keep an eye on both of them, which means that if A unit has a 6AM call, I am there for that.  And if B unit has a 4PM call, I am there for that, too, sometimes until the bitter end.  And then up and at it again for the next day.  It’s not enough sleep, and I am struggling for a way to mitigate this kind of thing.  It’s very hard when we shoot two episodes at once, establishing on both units, and I am responsible for both, having to be present for all of it.

It makes me really wonder how anyone who has kids or a family is supposed to do this kind of work.  You have NO life.  None.  It makes me think about the toll that all of these hours take on a person.  I mean, on a film, there is light at the end of the tunnel.  You work for a few months and it’s over – you can sort of ride the crest and it eases off once things are established.  But in TV, our work is never done.  Just as we are cresting one episode, the madness begins on the next episode.  The pace is relentless.  The schedule is constantly mutating, the goalposts disappearing and reappearing on another field. It is a constant struggle to keep up.

In my view, there are three areas that make a job worthwhile: the creative challenge, the people, and the money.  You have to have two out of the three in order to be able to make it work.  On this show, the creative challenge is amazing; I love every minute of it.  The people are awesome – I love everyone.  But the money (and this means compensation for the hours that you work, not just the raw dollar amount) is the thing.  As costume designers, we don’t get hourly overtime.  We are considered managers, and as such, we are on a weekly flat rate.  If I’m working five days a week at twelve hours per day (60 total hours) I get paid the same amount as when I work five days a week at seventeen hours per day (85 total hours).  It’s the same amount, a flat rate.

As it is, I’m working more than five days per week (for which I am compensated on a daily overtime basis, negotiated in my contract).  The dollar amount of the money isn’t the issue.  The issue is – how can I possibly be compensated for all of those hours? All of the time in my day? With this kind of relentless schedule, with very little time off – just enough for a quick sleep and a shower – what of my life am I losing, and what is the cost of that? What price do you put on your life?

It’s something we all have to consider, working in this industry.  We sacrifice so much, and we have to evaluate what it is all worth.  Most of us struggle to hold on to relationships, whether they be friendships, boyfriends/girlfriends, spouses, family, and so on.  Working 85+ hours per week takes us out of the loop for just about everything.  We cease sharing common experiences.  We miss talking about our day over the dinner table.  We miss out on listening to our kids, our friends, and our spouses, and we lose touch with what is going on in their world.  We miss out on the connective aspect of life with those closest to us, and it is a tragedy.  It’s as if we are out of town, even if we are in town.  So in that sense, working in a tax-incentive state, being on location for months, affords a similar distance as being as home while working those hours… only you sleep in a foreign bed.

So before a job, I always have to stop myself and consider the real cost – monetary and non-monetary – of a job before I accept it.  We lead a vagabond life.  It is very hard for us to put down roots when we know we have to pull them up just as soon as they’ve taken hold.  The longing for connection is ever-present, and it is no surprise that location romances are so commonplace. When you mix exhaustion with isolation and a longing for connection… it happens.

Hopefully, I will be able to have the Labor Day weekend off here.  I will probably sleep most of the days away, and still not replenish my sleep bank of hours.  I guess I just need some KB time to recharge my batteries and sit with myself at the bottom of the well and contemplate all that’s gone on in my world in the past few months.  It’s been a lot, and I haven’t had a quiet moment to reflect on any of it.

Hoping you guys have a great long weekend, too, if you are here in the US.  More to come next week – including some great stuff that correspondent Lauren Fonville is working on! Have a good week, everyone.

-KMB

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