I'm pleased to have been asked to work with a good friend and colleague, Joana Gil Rico, on her upcoming film project.
This is a film which is entirely consumed by the incredible imagery Joana has written into the script. A creative person and musician herself, I suspect Joana's own life moves to a similar rhythm to that which will drive this film. It is rare that I get the chance to work on a short film for which imagery is so essential, and I am excited to work with our talented crew to fully mature these elements.
As production designer I will establish overall designs for set and costumes and work with a team to execute these designs. There will be moments in this film when the characters' environment helps to define their actions. I briefly describe one of those moments, and the rest of the principle crew explain why they are invested in this project in this brief film.
TRIBE project with photographer Lee Howell has been featured in Dark Beauty Magazine, along some interesting and beautifully written thoughts from Lee. I was grateful for the opportunity to have some of my own thoughts included as well. The photographs speak volumes already, and are even more effective when paired with a little bit of commentary.
“Photography is an accessible medium; it holds great potential to inspire interest in and convey the beauty of a culture. Lee and I wished to create a series of photographs which would explore facets of these cultures through the medium of Lee’s unique photographic style.
Instead of placing the subjects in entirely realistic clothing and settings, but instead focused on creating photographs which would draw an emotional response from the viewer. For these photographs, we blended visual elements which allude to Maasai material culture with extraordinary settings. This series is intended to be a departure from typical “style” photography. This is a representation of the elegance of the Maasai, but also a reminder of the individuality of people worldwide – an awareness which can easily be lost.” -Stacy Jansen
“To have that powder blown up your nose is rather like being shot out of a rifle barrel lined with Baroque paintings and landing on a sea of electricity." - Explorer Wade Davis, describing a snuff-like hallucinogen taken by the Yanomami people of the Amazon rainforest
Watch the video here...
(In fact I'd encourage you to watch all of Wade Davis' TED talks. Pure brilliance, every single one.)
"We're a nation of people who have survived the great holocaust of the past. We're still here, we're still at the table, and we're still demanding our rights."
Government budget cuts have caused funding to dwindle for residents of this reservation, leaving as many of 85% of them unemployed and creating large gaps in law enforcement, healthcare and education. The lack of money is driving many residents off the reservation in search of work, housing and security, and the community is preparing for further cutbacks. The image above describes all too eloquently the effect this is having on the community. They are fracturing, unable to keep their members together without substantial resources to sustain them.
What is the alternative? In a community consisting primarily of low-income families who rely on government aid, cuts like this are catastrophic. However, the seemingly unlikely prospect of the return of funding would still not provide a long-lasting solution. Low education rates and a high rate of alcoholism, perhaps due to the lack of job prospects, seem to stall progress before it begins.
I don't believe the answer is in monetary aid or in new trailers as suggested by this video. Government aid can instigate growth but inhibit progress, and is not guaranteed. Education reform could have a progressive impact on this community. The present must be addressed in light of the future, and not the past.
Watch Cutbacks on "The Rez."
...developing some more ideas for the photography project with Lee Howell. The first sections of the shoot went well (photos to be posted soon) so we're going to continue the project from opposite sides of the ocean! Finished designs and notes will be implemented by a great hair and makeup team and photographed by Lee.
Out of the Ash, a film set jointly in war-torn Sierra Leone and modern-day New York City (and filmed in Scotland) premiers at the Big Apple Film Festival on Friday, November 8.
" I eat raw seal meat. Polar bears live on it. It tastes rich, like eating beef liver socked in oil, but it makes you feel like a fire is burning in your stomach."
...the first pile of sketches for the photography project with Lee Howell. Looking at lots of images and reading a lot about different communities for one of the first parts of the shoot. Below are some images inspired by the clothing of yak herders in Tibet and folk tales and costume of nomads in Tibet and Mongolia.
“At last I fell fast asleep on the grass & awoke with a chorus of birds singing around me, & squirrels running up the trees & some Woodpeckers laughing, & it was as pleasant a rural scene as ever I saw, & I did not care one penny how any of the beasts or birds had been formed.”
— Charles Darwin, letter to his wife, April 28, 1858
Charles Darwin. Chalk pastel and acrylic paint.
...an exciting project in partnership with Edinburgh-based photographer Lee Howell! Exploring the fundamentals of ethnic style worldwide, focusing on less commonly portrayed people and places. The challenge with this project lies in creating an appropriate reinterpretation of cultural elements without misrepresenting the people to whom they belong. Working with Lee's imaginative aesthetic I hope to go beyond the "fashion" norm to create images exciting in style and true in form. Here's a look at some of my initial research; the Mursi tribe of southwestern Ethiopia, some of China's Tibetan herders and some colourful images from Turkey. Beauty in simplicity, in function, and in tradition.
Barcelona, at the Museum of Contemporary Art. This video installation...
...is based on the story of Ulysses. The artist, William Kentridge, collaborated with a puppet company to present an opera based on Monteverdi's "Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria," and the visual material is reused here. Kentridge mixed anatomical, travel, and medical imagery - a combination of sketches, photographs, x-rays and scans - to turn the "voyage" theme into a journey through the body. "A more intimate and emotive art that evokes fragility, pain and trauma."
A thriving arts environment in a place you wouldn't expect; an artistically written article by Robert Draper for National Geographic. "In this chaotic capital, art is one way to survive."
...a Glasgow-based short film with the National Film and Television School. This project has been a bit of a scramble on my part as I took it on only days before shooting and hardly had time to prep costume. The cast and crew have been a genuine pleasure to work with and have been rather wonderfully understanding of what feels like a very scattered wardrobe presence on set.
I'm looking forward with trepidation to several all-night shoots coming up this week, including one night in a chip shop owned by one Luigi Corvi:
Classical music tradition meets fishy British gastronomy! I don't really know what to expect. I hope the final cut will include a bit of work from Mr. Corvi.
Annual pyrotechnics festival in Tultepec, Mexico as photographed by Thomas Prior. Visually stunning and potentially life-threatening.
A Mexican theme park attraction - "La Caminata Nocturna," a three-hour, nighttime, simulated border crossing attempt.
"It’s like dinner theater, except there’s no food and at times participants seem genuinely afraid for their lives."
It's actually a business venture started by young people to discourage illegal immigration as well as create jobs. An intriguing project. Part education, part entertainment and conceived by locals in response to what they consider significant community needs.
Full article here.
According to this article, illegal immigration in this area has been on the rise and is overwhelming the local police force.
I have yet to find succinct and trustworthy information about the effect all of this is having on the community, and on individuals. Who makes the decision to leave, and what are the reasons? What inspired this group of young people to attempt to combat this? Why did they choose to do it in this way?
...all manner of things, and all at once. Progress on Summer on Stage is happening. It is. In fact it's happening so quickly that it's becoming a challenge to keep everyone busy.
The "Mini's" show went by without a hitch; 30 tiny space uniforms with coordinating shiny hats took about 3 days to put together. They looked truly adorable on stage. From an artistic point of view, the bright colours and reflective materials really helped the kids stand out against the grey background. Also, a little ingenuity kept us well within budget, which was an accomplishment in itself. We did, however, have the "cute" factor on our side with this show, as well as the talent of the kids, so I think we were well ahead from the beginning.
So that's one show finished, 2 more upcoming. We're well underway making the props for the big design project, Shockheaded Peter. Below is a sampling of what we've been up to. A new script by director Madelleine O'Reily provides ample opportunities for exciting costume elements. The play is constructed of a series of stories about some "average" schoolchildren and all of the naughty things they get up to. For each vignette, one child changes into the naughty version of him or herself - they become a monster! For this show, we're busy making body parts that elongate, masks that change colour, fish that fall out of hats, and all sorts of bizarre things. The visual theme for the show is "illustration," which is carried through from the storybook themes of the play. We have been making most things from scratch using the materials we have on hand. There has been a lot of patchwork, hand-painting and creative manipulation of all sorts of materials in order to create the look we're after.
The biggest challenge so far has proven to be the costume pieces for the title character, Shockheaded Peter. As called for in the script, Peter needs to have the ability to grow long, black hair (2-3 metres long) as well as fingernails that are pulled out of his hands by the school children. Luckily, we're not looking for high-tech solutions here due to the "illustration" feel of the costumes (and also time and budget constraints, as per always,) so we're currently experimenting with a simple mask/wig combination and chunky gloves with clever capsules for hiding black ribbon hair and fingernails.
Unfortunately I can't post show photos here, but here are some images from the wardrobe during prep:
1. Dip-dying some space uniform t-shirts. Cost saving and colourful.
2. Illustration by Claire Barclay of "Johnny Head-in-air" who falls into a river and drowns. Some helpful children recover his rucksack and hat which appear to be covered in fish, previously concealed in sneaky hidden pockets.
3. Some colourful fish.
4. Ari modelling hat/fish apparatus in progress.
5&6. Wardrobe prep.
"I enjoy what I'm doing, so I don't need a hobby. I love this." - Director Ron Howard
In a town with a population of 4, mermaids perform underwater for an audience seated in an underground amphitheatre.
I got quite caught up in the romanticism of this idea, particularly the part of the article which described the park in its dilapidated state - the peeling paint, the abandoned amphitheatre - it's a very descriptive article. I can see it as a film set.
I feel that my outsiders perspective differs greatly from those of the women who work here. I'd like to know what it's like to work professionally as a mermaid. It's compelling. The latex tail contraption intrigues the designer part of me, but obviously this lifestyle goes far beyond makeup, sequins, and fish accessories.
Full article here.
And here's what the park looked like in the 50's:
...Lyceum Youth Theatre's Summer on Stage. 3 separate shows, 3 weeks, and 90 costumes to be designed, constructed, and fitted for 90 young, talented performers. I predict several industrious days ahead. I'm working with Claire Barclay; we'll be co-desiging and co-supervising the making and fittings. It's great to have a collaborator on this project - Claire has such an incredible, storybook-like aesthetic that really suits these shows.
We'll be working with a wardrobe team of about 9 people. I'm looking forward to meeting some of them today with the rest of the production team.
Pictured below: Strategic spreadsheeting.
Pico Ayer's thoughts probably equate common feelings amongst our generation. Regardless, I found watching this rather like stumbling across a classic portrait with a striking resemblance to myself:
They are a family of travelling entertainers who make their livelihood performing for tourists...
...with their hyenas. Unfortunately there isn't much written about this family beyond this article, written by the photographer. I'll avoid summarising here, because the entire thing is chock full of information and is definitely worth a read.
This unique spectacle was created because of one family's reaction to the growing tourist industry; they in essence adapted to their market, and created this extraordinary lifestyle because of it.
Allow me to speculate on their clothing for just a moment. The function-based aesthetic of what these men wear and what they make has created some truly individual garments. Obviously the fringed leather skirt and additional padding serves to protect the handler's legs from the hazards associated with his chosen employment. I assume these are hand-made. The green, fringed piece seems to have influence, or is maybe remade from some sort of imported garment.
The ankle cuffs with keys and bolts attached could serve some purpose in the training of the hyena or are possibly part of the entertainment routine associated with their performances for tourists. The combination of these unique pieces with Western-style garments is hardly unique as I'm sure that part is based on clothing accessibility, however it does provide a contrast which is visually interesting. Colour is difficult to distinguish exactly due to the desaturated tone of these photographs.
It seems that the equipment for training and restraint of the hyena has also been hand-manufactured, particularly the work on the hyena's muzzle.
These garments and equipment are highly indicative of these men's life. It's similar to identifying a gardener by his grubby fingernails, but in a much broader, heightened sense of that understanding.
This group's unique style provides ample opportunity for conjecture. It's something I'm pursuing at the moment as I put together research for my next project. What can these garments tell us about their owner's response to cultural change? I suppose, in a way, it's the reverse of design - instead of taking what I know about a person and hypothesising what they would wear, I'm gaining knowledge in clothing practice in order to learn more about the craftsperson and their association to a changing world.
Click the link to see more images of The Hyena Handlers of Nigeria as photographed by Pieter Hugo.
“I pitched it to the studio as Romeo and Juliet on a ship. 'It's going to be this epic romance, passionate film.' Secretly, what I wanted to do, was I wanted to dive to the real wreck of the Titanic. And that's why I made the movie. Studio didn't know that, but I convinced them....and I talked them into funding an expedition.” - Titanic director James Cameron
The Act of Killing, a film directed by Joshua Oppenheimer.
Very impressed by the work of photographer Robin Hammond, seen in the most recent issue of National Geographic.
My online brainstorm and sketchbook. Here's what I'm working on and what I'm inspired by.