It’s the number one movie this week, and it had no script. I’m shaking my head, trying to make sense of how a cohesive narrative came together from this, and how they pulled it off. Actor Johnny Knoxville goes undercover as an old man for some Candid Camera-style hijinks on an unsuspecting public… and ends up weaving a sweet (albeit raunchy) narrative about family in the process. I don’t want to spoil the spontaneity of the moments for those of you who haven’t seen it yet, so I’ll just cut right to the chase with designer Lindsey Kear.
How did you come to work on the project?
A friend of mine was supervising the project and they were in need of a new designer that could fit in with the tight knit crew.
What was your approach to this project – did your work on Bruno help you to understand what needed to happen on Bad Grandpa?
My experience on Lopez Tonight helped a lot. Lopez was a late night talk show and I was in charge of the comedy sketches. The goal of Bad Grandpa was to create a costume that didn’t look like a costume to the general public. This way, we could accomplish the hidden camera mission without people thinking, “Hey that old man stands out or looks different”
What was the script like? Was it comprised of scenes, or scenarios – how was the narrative created?
There was never a script. We would have treatments/scenarios to go by and the reaction to them was definitely unscripted and unpredictable which helped create the overall story. We shot this project for about a year. This was difficult for continuity since we were never really sure how the story was going to be pieced together. For example, Irving wore a jacket in parts of the movie. Once we had a general idea of how things were falling into place, I was constantly asking about the jacket. Jacket on or jacket off?
How did you approach designing the characters in the film – what kinds of discussions did you have with the director?
I replaced a designer that had created the initial costumes. For the ones I designed, I would read the treatment, assess if it was the regular look for both the characters, if there was a gag and need for multiples in a case of getting messy or if it was a flashback which would require a new look to distinguish the fact it took place at a different time. Then I would discuss ideas with Jeff Tremaine (director) and Johnny (Knoxville). Sometimes we would also need bigger sizes if there was a need for a harness or a pant drop gag for some old man tighty-whitey action.
With regard to stunts – what kinds of considerations did you have? Did he (Knoxville) wear stunt pads? Ever?
Johnny really doesn’t like to practice or wear pads for stunts. He really likes to be in the moment and let it happen naturally. We definitely had to take precautions with Billy though. Especially during the kiddie ride window launch. We were very careful about that entire set up.
Did you ever have to double the kid for stunts, driving, photo doubling?
We had “Willy” which was the Billy dummy. We had him in the car when there were driving stunts like when Irving hit the penguin or the road sign. We then did pick up shots of Billy in the car afterwards to get his reaction.
Were you present for shooting? What was that like?
It was difficult to see everything that was going on because we were doing hidden camera. Especially in the south, people like to ask questions and get involved so I could never be hanging around. I would often be inside a mini van parked around the corner. Lets just say getting “last looks” before Irving or Billy jumped out of the car were quite difficult.
How many copies of the costumes did you have?
We had about 6 sets of each. We also had a button cam shirt for Irving where he would wear a camera underneath his shirt shooting outwards. Towards the end, I had to buy bigger jeans for Billy but some how his feet didn’t grow at all.
You favorite story from the making of this movie?
The entire experience was the most amazing time of my life/career so far. The Dickhouse family is amazing and I am so appreciative to become a part of it. I would have to say my favorite story is definitely one I learned from. Johnny hopped out of the van to get mic-ed. Then hopped back in and started asking me questions about my love life and if I had a crush on any of the crew. I was kind of new at the time and was running my mouth, not realizing that he was mic’ed and that I was talking about our sound guy…..who was listening in as well. Lesson learned! Never let your guard down around these guys, everything is free range.
You’ve had a meteoric rise – from Costume Dept. PA in 2010 to costume designer of a number-one movie in 2013 – how did you make it happen?
For the first string of movies I was a PA on, the crew was amazing. The wardrobe supervisor (Heidi Higginbotham) was a mentor to me and I took everything she taught me and ran with it. I also talked to anyone who would listen to me and asked questions about their positions, what they liked about it, how they got there, could I shadow them, etc. I immersed myself in the costume world and wanted to do everything from TV to film to commercials to print. I didn’t want to be pigeonholed in one facet of design. I also enjoy jumping around from shopper to assistant designer, to designer. This helps me keep my sanity, and my level of involvement on each project is different. Some days I just love having a shopping list to conquer, not the other stress of how the design/movie machine is running. This has created a career for me to work basically full time as a freelancer. Yes, there is a lot of work that has gone out of state, but I have found so much work in LA as well. If you build a network of good people who work all the time, you will too.
What good advice did you get when you started out, and who helped you along the way?
Honestly, people told me to get into hair or makeup. But I never had any interest. For some reason I was interested in the design process from the ground floor regarding costumes. It’s a hard job with long hours and sleepless nights. Even though some days I feel like I might not want to do it anymore, once the project is over and you get to see it on screen, I somehow am able to black out the painful days/nights. I am always so excited to share my work on these projects with my family and friends, especially if they’re outside of LA. I feel like it connects us in some way.
Any advice you’d like to give to people who’d like to design costumes for film and TV?
Do your research. Ask questions and find out if the costume world is for you, as you should do with any job. Be honest and finish every job to the best of your ability. This is a small town and you will always run into people you know. Integrity is a big asset to have.
A few words about your next design project?
I just wrapped filming on an indie called Shiva and May starring Jessica Biel and Zosia Mamet. We filmed in town with an extremely hard working crew led by Director/Writer Diane Bell.
Go to www.lindseykear.com to keep up with what I’m working on!
Thank you so much, Lindsey, and good luck with all your upcoming projects! Thanks for taking a moment to talk with me about BAD GRANDPA! It was a laugh riot, and a really fun movie-going experience. Congrats!