Costume designer Jill Taylor kicks off BFI x MetFilm School masterclass series

Elise Czyzowska reports on how The My Week with Marilyn costume designer talked to MetFilm School students about her time in the industry and shared some top tips.

My Week with Marilyn (2011)

From My Week with Marilyn to Mission Impossible, BAFTA and Emmy Award-nominated costume designer Jill Taylor has created costumes across a range of Film and TV genres.

Kicking off a series of masterclasses delivered by the BFI for MetFilm School, Jill shared some key learnings from her time in the industry.

The importance of costume design

A costume should always tell you something about the character, and this goes for both the audience and the actor. Whether it’s a super-suit or a pair of blue jeans, when an actor can visualise themselves outside of the script, they can begin to make more defined choices about how they will play their part.

Liaising with other departments

A character’s costume does not exist in a world of its own. It is influenced by every other aspect of the filmmaking process. Will this colour clash with the sofa they’re sat on? How will this material react when it comes to stunt scenes? Is an actor tied to another franchise and unable to change their hair?

One of the most important departments for costume to liaise with is production design, since they will create the ‘backdrop’ which either makes or breaks the costume.

People say that costume isn’t very important, but it is. For a start, if you don’t have the right costume, everything about the movie would feel wrong. And second, it’s often the actors’ first port of call for finding their character.Jill Taylor

The difficult world of continuity

We’ve all noticed continuity errors in films and television shows – try as you might, there are times when these mistakes are going to happen. The best thing you can do as a costume designer is to stay organised and in control of things.

Keep records of exactly what item of clothing (down to the brand name) a character is wearing, even watching rehearsals to note down in a script exactly when they might roll up their sleeves or scratch up their shoes.

Get clearances

When it comes to clearance, you have to ask, otherwise you could be in danger of being sued. For uniforms in particular, approach places directly. Explain what you’re doing, and it’s not impossible that they’ll help you out. However, some places are unlikely to give you clearance, like the Met Police.

Costuming on a budget

Approach theatre schools for help – people are willing to do something for a credit. Also get in contact with costume companies and ask if they have anything they’re getting rid of.

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