Film Independent hosts a wide range of educational seminars for its members throughout the year. The ongoing “Know Your Crew” series examines the filmmaking process through the vantage point of different crew positions. Indiewire sat in on last week’s installment of “Know Your Crew,” which consisted of a presentation by costume designer Samantha Kuester. Her credits include the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival Audience Award-winner “Any Day Now” and the 2015 Netflix-Dreamworks Animation-AwesomenessTV series “Richie Rich.”
Kuester, who described herself as a cost-conscious designer who is meticulous about the budget she is given on a project, shared instances in which filmmakers should spend or budget more upfront in order to save money in the long run. “The more money you can put into the department, the better it is because you will be surprised when your designer comes in under budget,” she said.
Here are four of her other time and money-saving tips:
Hire at least two other people to work with your designer.
“I highly recommend that you at least have two people — the designer and either a supervisor or a set person — because realistically, when you are doing a movie, the casting isn’t done until right before you start shooting or even into your first couple weeks of shooting you are still doing your casting, finalizing it,” said Kuester. “So what your designer needs to do is be out shopping and finishing off characters while you [also] need somebody on set to watch stuff for continuity.” Although the task of maintaining overall continuity usually falls to the script supervisor, Kuester said that she prefers to take responsibility for her department’s contribution to the entire production. “In your department, you need to watch yourself too,” she told the room. “You can’t just depend on a script supervisor to catch all of your things because they’ve got 10 other things that they are looking at.”
Give your designer a copy of your shot list.
Your designer will do his or her own scene-by-scene breakdown of the script in order to determine basic costume requirements. Kuester uses a program called C/PlotPro, which is built specifically for the use of film costume designers. But whenever she can get her hands on a shot list, it makes her job a lot easier because at the end of the day, everything boils down to the budget. When you are working on a low budget independent feature, you have to make every dollar count, and therefore, prioritize your costuming needs. “Spend money on key elements of a look,” Kuester said. “If you are only seeing a car and you are only seeing waist up, you don’t even need to worry about the bottom half sometimes.” The only way to know what will and will not appear inside the frame is from the shot list.
If you have multiple locations, then rent a trailer for your costume designer.
It takes a lot of time to unload and pack up every day. By renting a trailer for your costume department, however, you not only reduce the risk of production delays, but you also lower the chance of getting slapped with loss and damage fees from costume rental houses, which can amount to upwards of ten times the amount of the original rental fee, according to Kuester. The trailer enables your designer and their team to keep an organized inventory of all the wardrobe, purchased and rental items alike.
Schedule and budget for a dedicated wrap day.
A wrap day is absolutely critical for the costume department because once filming has been completed, the costume department has to go through all the wardrobe from the shoot, tag it and put it into storage in case there is a reshoot or pick up in the near future. “Most people store wardrobe for six months to a year after a project is wrapped, just in case they need to go and reshoot something,” said Kuester.