Dig Baton Rouge

Dressed to Thrill

By Tara Bennett

When well-executed, the right costuming can take a movie to long ago eras or far away galaxies.

The latest class from NOVAC:BR, held this past weekend, took on the art of costuming. Students stepped behind the scenes and explored collaborations between directors, actors and costume designers that bring to life some of the most unforgettable and beloved screen characters.

Taught by costume designer Suzanne Chambliss, the course was an introductory study of costume production and design. During the two-day course, students explored the process of creating costumes for film and also television. Research, style and design, budget and management, plus useful techniques were major units of study. While the course focused on costuming, Chambliss said knowing how to sew was not a requirement for the class.

“Many costume designers never pick up a needle and thread; that’s all taken care of in the sewing shop,” said Chambliss.

Originally from Voorheesville, NY, Chambliss first became interested in theatrical costuming in high school, and now holds a BFA from Utah State University and a MFA from the University of Southern Mississippi, both in design and technical theatre. She spent several years as the costume director at Central Michigan University, where she taught stage makeup as well as costuming 11 shows a year. While pursuing her Ph.D., she designed eight opera’s for LSU’s School of Music and was introduced to the film industry here in Baton Rouge. She maintained steady work as a designer, costumer, and seamstress in Louisiana. A few of her favorite design projects to date have been Willie Stark & Cosi Fan Tutte for LSU and Warbirds for the Sci-Fi channel. This is the first time Chambliss has taught for NOVAC, and it was very refreshing for her.

“Everybody that’s here is here because they want to be,” said Chambliss. “Teaching in a university setting, there are a lot of students that are there because they have to be. So there’s a difference in attitude, which is really nice here, and you can tell the excitement level from the input and you get a lot more input with a group like this because everybody is here, and they are here for a reason. They want to learn.”

Upon completion of the course, students had gained experience in how to break down scripts and analyze costume needs, how to maintain costume stock, effective research techniques, procedures for costume continuity and how to assemble a costuming kit.

“[Costumers] need to be people with a strong work ethic, willing to do whatever needs to be done and they have to love story telling,” said Chambliss. “Costume designers are visual storytellers, and they have to have respect for other people and be a team player.”

In an added segment of the course, Chambliss reviewed areas of student interest including shopping, illustrating, software, and dying and aging. One technique demonstrated was how clothes were aged using bags of synthetic dirt, which were used to dirty up the clothing on the actor.

“No wonder they call it dying and aging, these colors are crazy,” said one NOVAC participant during the course.

Up next for NOVAC will be there Grip and Electric course, where attendees will learn the basic skills needed for each department. The course will be taught by industry veteran Phil Beard, a member of local 478. The final deadline for applications is Friday, July 10, and the course will be held on July 18-19, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at NOVAC:BR’s office at The Creative Bloc located in downtown Baton Rouge. Interested applicants should submit their online application through NOVAC:BR’s website. For further questions, contact Elizabeth Hutchison at elizabeth@novacvideo.org.

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