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! **

BOYHOOD – Interview with Costume Designer Kari Perkins

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I hope that by now, you have had the chance to see the incredible film Boyhood.  Shot over the course of twelve years, we follow the same actors on their journey through life, as seen by Mason (aged 7 – 19).  It’s a fascinating look at the ups and downs of life in all its gruesome messiness.  The costumes follow the characters’ arcs seamlessly, and designer Kari Perkins (Bernie, Mud) has done a wonderful job on the longest narrative project ever! I had some questions for her that I thought you might enjoy…

How did Richard Linklater approach you about this project?   How did he pitch it to you?

Richard was very casual when he first approached me about the project. He told that it would be a 12-year piece following a boy and his family as they grew, documenting a short part of their lives every year. We would shoot 2-3 days a year.  It felt like such a naturally easy project to be involved with.

What were your concerns going in to a long-term project like this?

I was primarily concerned with availability. Our shoot schedule was a surprise every year. I would hope that I wasn’t involved on another project when Boyhood came up. Most of the scheduling was around the actors and Richard’s availability. There were a few times when I had to come in for fittings and rush back to the set of another project and leave the filming to a set costumer.

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What kinds of strategies did you employ to make the trajectory of the costumes smooth?

The character development was always different each year. I would talk with Richard and read the treatment for the year. See where each character had changed and grown. I would watch the rough cut of the project from the earlier years to make sure the new costumes would cut and flow well.

How did you deal with storing costumes for reshoots/additional photography, etc?

I kept the items from my stock, but most everything was packed up and stored with continuity pictures and notes with Richard at his production office. There weren’t too many reshoots.

Did you have ongoing production meetings during the shooting period?

Our production meetings would begin about a week before filming. Richard would have a script treatment and his idea as to how each year would shape up. We would discuss the characters, where they had been all year and where they were at the moment we were filming. That would give me time to pull, shop, research and do fittings just before filming.

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What surprised you most about making this film?

The ease of filmmaking. It was the most present production I have ever done – filmmaking in the moment. Such a small crew and done so quickly every year. We all became a family. It was always so exciting to get a call or email about “this year’s Boyhood“.

Can you talk for a minute about the sartorial “phases” that Mason went through – from innocent to quasi-goth, etc. – how did you come to those costume decisions?

Mason’s and all the actors “phases” were natural and mostly where they were and what they wanted to convey at that time. Richard loves to talk with and work with his actors prior to shooting and has a strong sense of what story their character needs to tell. This was such an unusual project. Every year was present-moment filmmaking. The costumes were picked to subtly reflect the style and trends of each year as well as the arc of the characters. The beauty was the natural change and growth each year. Letting each character mature naturally without forcing a look or a feeling.

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What was your budget, and how did you spread it out over this very long shooting schedule?  Or was there a new budget for every segment?

I had a new budget for every segment. It felt like some years there was only a few hundred dollars and some years there was more. Especially towards the end of filming, I think more people were interested the further along we went. Not too many people could see the bigger picture. Twelve years is such a long time for any project.

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Do you feel like there was a real familial bonding that took place over the course of making this film?  Between cast?  Between filmmakers/crew/cast?  It feels like it!

Huge film family. I love and miss every so much! It was such a special bond. All of our lives are represented by the milestone markers of this film. It is the best film photo memory album, ever! I brought two beautiful children into the world during this film. I see scenes that remind me of difficult times and scenes that remind me of happy ones.

And what happy ones you all must be having now that the film has touched so many people!  Congrats to Kari and her crew on their CDG Award nomination!  The film is up for six Oscars, including Best Picture.  Congrats and best of luck to all involved with the film!

 

– KMB

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