My Debut as a Costume Designer

“CROSSING THE RIVER” was the first film I ever Costume Designed.

And it is finally hitting the festival circuit! The short film was recently accepted into the WAMM Fest (Women and Minorities in the Media). It’s crazy to me to think that I have been in costuming for over a year now! I am most excited to see the string of shorts and other film projects I’ve worked on to finally hit the big screen (or the festival screens, for that matter)!

The idea for the film stemmed from an article Writer/Director Emilie MacDonald had read about a cross burning. From the website:

CROSSING THE RIVER is a narrative short film about a modern-day hate crime. White teenage brothers Grant and Shawn, estranged from their mother, find the connection they are seeking with a racist older man. Michaela, an innocent 13 year old from a mixed-race family, is new in town. After tensions in the boys’ lives escalate, a cross is burned on Michaela’s lawn. The film explores the points of view of both the victim and perpetrators, and seeks to reveal how someone can be influenced to do something morally unspeakable.

I am a little apprehensive to see my designs on screen, but also exhilarated. I had so much fun working on this film; the process, though hectic at times, was relaxed, and the cast and crew meshed well together. The story played out beautifully on screen, and I am sure we will all be proud of the result.

Check out the trailer for CROSSING THE RIVER below:

You can also follow the film’s progress via Twitter.

To Celebrate my Debut, Here’s my “Autobiographical Rap”

I wrote this silly little rap out of boredom on the way to Savannah, GA back in May. It’s basically the story of my first year out of college and subsequent entry into the film costuming field.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t get any video to work on my aging computer, so you’re just getting sound bytes. Sorry!

In Case You’re Curious…

Here are the lyrics (if you can call them that). Yeah.

Give me a sec to introduce myself
My name’s Hayley Hart, and I’m from the South.
North Carolina is where I live,
but I roam through the country like sand through a sieve (oh, oh)
Yeah I’m from the South, but don’t get confused
cuz it ain’t that I just refuse to produce that southern twang
cuz I did spend some time way up in Maine.

Turned 22 and I moved to the North,
didn’t look back cuz I felt no remorse.
I moved to Canada,
where they say “eh”,
Oui, je parle un peu de français.
So I spoke some French and I made some friends,
and I wondered if I’d ever go back again,
but I got a job at a yoga store,
really liked that but I wanted somethin more
cuz I lost myself and I lost my health,
and I had to wait till May for the snow to melt.

But I drank some beer, and I ate poutine
(Montreal’s got some great cuisine)
but eventually, I had to leave,
so I packed my bags and I packed my car,
headed for the border didn’t get very far
cuz I spent some time travelin in the Northeast,
and I saw some states that I’d never seen,
but really, I wanted to be
way down South in the 8.0.3.

When I came home I browsed Craigslist,
tryna find something to hold my interest,
saw an ad looking for a costumer,
decided to apply just outta humor.
Then I headed to set, ready to go,
and now I love those people that I’ve come to know.

And a few months later this is my career,
just tryna gain experience like my peers.

End of a Show, Beginning of an Era (?)

We’re the Millers is over

I found myself strangely nostalgic as I cleared my desk and packed everything from my desk organizer to my mini jade traveling Buddha into the stereotypical cardboard box of the employee who’s been let go. Thankfully, I hadn’t been fired. On the contrary, my boss was disappointed to hear I’d be leaving a little early. But when I told her that I’d be leaving for a Costume Designer position on a local feature film, A SHORT HISTORY OF DECAY, she was very excited for me. The timing worked out very well, as I only had to leave one week before WE’RE THE MILLERS changed location to New Mexico.

My desk in the costume warehouse of We're the Millers

Goodbye desk!

Learning Experience

I could not be more thankful for the incredible experience I had on WE’RE THE MILLERS. Even though I was hired originally as a Costume Assistant, I had the opportunity to work one to two days a week as an additional Set Costumer. Which, besides giving me valuable experience, was a pretty big pay increase.

As a Set Costumer, I (with my fellow set costumers) checked and dressed background actors (extras), prepped stock clothing, handled extras’ vouchers and kept an eye on the background’s overall color palette. We had a big carnival scene, so there were days when we had as many as 300 background all sitting around in a huge tent with air-conditioning blasting in through giant tubes. Most of our carnival scenes were at night, so we had 6pm-6am shifts, and the background tent felt like a hurricane shelter – children running amok, people in various stages of dress sleeping in chairs or on the floor, a woman rocking her 2-year old in her lap.

Vans shuttled us to and from set, and there were snacks and coffee (“crafty”) available. Also, we had a truck. A really big one. And it had a washer and dryer in it, a fridge, office, and tons of racks of clothes! I may or may not have used the cross bars for gymnastics.

Costume truck We're the Millers

Our traveling warehouse.

Saying Goodbye

The strangest, most difficult part about film (in my humble opinion) is knowing that most of the people you’ve worked with and become close to over the past couple weeks or months will head back to their respective homes and you’ll never see them again.

Now, I know that sounds dramatic, but think of it this way: working on a film is a little bit like going to summer camp. You meet a bunch of new people, work with them day in and day out, hang out with them on the weekends (because your last batch of friends left town after the last film ended), deal with drama, laugh about past events, develop these close friendships, and then you’re suddenly removed from their presence. Just like that.

Maybe you keep in touch with these people – via Facebook, Twitter, or other social media, but phone calls are rare occurrences, visits practically unheard of, and after a while they just drift away. After a couple of gigs like this, you stop investing in these relationships. You begin to accept the transience of your friendships and the fact that you may never again have close friends that are also close in proximity. This is part of my struggle with film work: the nature of the work prevents forming close relationships.

Where do I go from here?

That issue aside, I have been finding some success in the industry, and I am excited to see where it might lead me. I’m hoping to do this for a little while still – as long as I can hold out on my social life and other side projects, I suppose (you may have noticed a bit of a hiatus in my blogging. It’s rather difficult to spend hours writing nonsense when you work 70 hours/week).

In any case, I have managed to say no to a couple of projects this month in order to take a little vacation (it helped that I booked my flight months ago). We’ll see if I can keep up that trend. I’ll try to get up a couple posts about SHORT HISTORY OF DECAY and WITCHES OF EAST END soon, so stay tuned. I’ll also try to get up my pumpkin pie recipe this week! Yay, delicious treats!

TTR Fuel Zone: an adventure unlike any other

Believe it or not, I am back in Wilmington (“What!? You’re in town!?” my neighbor said, “I thought you just rented an apartment to have somewhere to leave your stuff.”) To be fair, I’m going out of town again today to return next week sometime (date TBD). But for now, I’m here.

This past week has been crazy! Last Tuesday I was interviewed on the Anti-Semantic Show, a podcast by four hilarious but slightly profane guys out of New York. Then on Wednesday I drove down to Charleston, SC to work as costumer on a short film called “Ticket to Ride” written/directed by Matt Allen and Travis Hicks. It’s a comedy about two men who decide to kidnap the convenient store clerk’s cat after he refuses to sell them the lottery ticket that would have won millions. It stars Danny Jones and Bruce Williamson as well as the two directors themselves.

Ticket to Ride short film by Matt Allen and Travis Hicks

On set – Ticket to Ride

I had to do some serious distressing to practically-new clothing to make it look like it belonged to a homeless person. I filmed myself distressing it and created a time-lapse video. Check it out below!

[Note: having issues uploading the video. Check back later to see it!]

No film project is complete without a few crises here and there. Shaggy, an angry Indian man and owner of Fuel Zone, the gas station where we were filming, decided at the last minute that he wasn’t going to let us use the place for free (I think it had something to do with all the crew and equipment we showed up with…all rented and/or borrowed and with free labor I might add. Apparently he had assumed it was going to be a couple of guys with a video camera. I guess if you look professional, people will assume you’ve got money). But we managed to work out a deal and to prevent Matt from having a heart attack just in the nick of time.

On set at the Fuel Zone for Ticket to Ride

On set at the Fuel Zone for Ticket to Ride

The shoots were all at night and call time for HMU and wardrobe wasn’t until 8pm, so we had a little bit of time during the day to hang out and enjoy the area. I actually dragged my butt out on a jog two days in a row! I even did some yoga at the crew house. Huzzah for sticking to fitness goals. Course, the little bit I worked out hardly made up for how many fattening foods I ate. That’s one thing about set food (or “crafty” as we call it), you’re lucky if you get something other than pizza every day.

Director Matt Allen Playing Steven, the Cat-loving Store Clerk

Director Matt Allen as Steven, the Cat-loving Store Clerk

MUA Crystal Ghanem testing out the blood splatter for Ticket to Ride

MUA Crystal Ghanem testing out the blood splatter

Our longest day was easily Saturday/Sunday. Call time (for HMU/Wardrobe…everybody else was earlier) was 8:30pm, and we all worked straight through till noon on Sunday. Then we headed to bed for a few hours, and showed up later that evening for another 8:30pm call. Whew! What a day! We were getting a little delirious, and Crystal, MUA, decided to practice doing black eyes while I cat-napped. Then I was reminiscing about wrapping turbans for a play in college and decided to turn my scarf into a headwrap. Add a sad face and voilà! Instant refugee look.

Make Up Black Eye

Black eye by MUA Crystal Ghanem

Somehow we made it through the last shot, slept a while and then got up for the warp party, where everyone was able to wind down and enjoy themselves after a long week of hard work. Can’t wait for the final cut!