So to follow on from my previous post ‘Attention All Newly Fledged Costumiers’ I thought I would go into a few of the pro’s and con’s of pursuing a career in costume. I have to point out that these are from my point of view entirely... what is bad to me might be good for you.
The In Between
1. The money –
For the first few years the money is shocking as you will be expected to build up contacts and do lots of ‘expenses only’ work. Unless you’re really lucky you will have to juggle a part time pay-the-bills job with costume work. This in itself is difficult due to the unpredictable nature of this industry... your part time job is going to have to be pretty understanding and flexible when you get a call through about costume work the day before. However, it does get a lot better and depending on what aspect of costume you decide to make your career in the salary is usually pretty good.
2. Catering –
Ok possibly not the most vital aspect but I like my food, and trust me when you’re working 18 hour days in the wind and rain you want a decent meal. On set catering can be massively hit and miss and not just based on the budget of the job. I’ve worked on a student film where the directors mum cooked for everyone and it was phenomenal, and also on a BBC show where the rice pudding had burnt flies cooked into it. Its usually pretty good though, plus it’s always fun to sit on the catering bus!
1. Travelling –
This is one of those points that you might put in ‘The Good’ column, but for me travelling just means time away from home. I like my house and all the crap that I have in it, including my two dogs and occasionally the husband. Most of the TV work I have done was in the north, so I could drive to location each day. Though this sometimes meant a 2 hour drive each way, which when you have to be at unit base for 6am isn’t fun. The commercials are usually great and other than a Foxy Bingo shoot that had me driving all over the UK in one week they are usually only a day long so not too bad. It’s the films that really get you. Four weeks to six months (longer if its a big film) away from home, and when you’re working 16-18 hours a day 6 days a week there just isn’t time to get home.
2. The instability –
This is possibly the thing I hated most. For some people not knowing what you’re doing next week might be fun, but not for me. I like to know if and when I am working and more importantly whether I will be able to pay the bills next month. I’ve had producers phone and ask if I can design and buy for a whole cast and be on set within 4 days because their previous designer quit and I’ve had directors cancel a job on me because their friend wanted to give costume design a go, you can’t rely on anything!
3. The long hours –
Believe me the hours are long, and the type of work is tiring. The costume department have to be at the unit base to prepare the days costumes at least an hour before the first actor is due to get dressed, and then about an hour to wash and sort all the costumes after wrap is called. So you’re usually starting around 6am and ending around 9pm. And in this time you’re either running around manically trying to get actors and supporting artists ready or your sitting in silence whilst their filming – which is when its hardest to stay awake and on the ball.
4. The lack of social life –
Whilst the social life on set is nice, if you want to plan anything with friends and family... don’t bother. The hours are unsociable anyway when you’re working from 6am – 9pm but added to that you could get a call about a job the day before your due at a friend’s wedding, and because your self employed you have to think really carefully if you can afford to turn it down. Also in this industry if you turn down a job with a director who likes you, that gives another designer a chance to work with them. Then for their next project they’ll probably just remember that you were too busy and you won’t get the call.
Like I said – this list is entirely from my point of view, you might love the sound of aspects of the job that I hated... all I know is this type of work isn’t for everyone. You have to be patient beyond belief, seriously well organised and to be pathologically work obsessed is a plus too!