Archives for the month of: March, 2013

Another Year Done Gone

I woke a year older and started to think of birthdays past. Some feel like yesterday while I have no recollection of others.
Turning 4, I am at my grandmother’s house in Denver with my mom and my sister. There is a knock on the door and a man in a uniform delivers four red roses which, to my astonishment, are for me, from my dad.
Turning 5, I am on the swing set at recess with a friend, asking her if it feels different to play with me, now that I am a year older.
Turning 14, I am in London, with my British pen-pal, waiting in line for half price theater tickets in the rain.
Turning 18, I am in Germany, on a month long trip with my high school German class. It is Easter Sunday, I have the flu, and am sitting through a five hour long Wagner opera, wishing I was in bed.
Turning 22, I am depressed, realizing for the first time that the years will just keep coming and that it is up to me to make them good.
Turning 26, I am in a motel room, hitting a pinata with a sword. It was the first of several birthdays I would spend shooting a movie in Las Vegas, NM.
Turning 30, I am sad because a dear friend has recently passed away. But, I am also happy because he appears to me in a dream the night before my birthday and I know he and everything is ok.
Turning 31, I am on the set of “True Grit” and it is a rough day.
Turning 33, I am in Colby, a fake town in the desert, drinking a vodka tonic.
Turning 34, I wake to a beautiful day. It is a three day weekend and I have a few hours to get things done before the festivities begin. Before realizing that my birthday would fall on a Saturday, I was sure I would spend it standing in blowing dust on the set of yet another western, but instead I am home, clean, and well rested. I feel optimistic about the year ahead, happy that I seem to be evolving and retaining wisdom from lessons learned, becoming more and more comfortable in my own skin as the years pass.

Working on location. It’s not a vacation, it’s longer than a normal business trip, it feels almost like living somewhere, but it is definitely temporary.  Every once in a while you luck out and end up somewhere really cool, somewhere you’ve always wanted to go, on a show that is mellow enough to actually let you have the time to enjoy and explore your new surroundings. But, more often, you end up in a tiny town in the middle of nowhere and are glad that the show is a crazy one and that you don’t have too much time to sit in your motel room wondering what’s happening back in your other life.  

I’ve been lucky enough to end up in some great cities and to have come away feeling that I really know them.  But, much more frequently than being sent to Austin, New Orleans, or New York, I find myself in places such as Wilmington (Ohio), Las Vegas (New Mexico), and Shreveport (Louisiana) and am forced to figure out ways to continue living some semblance of my life, while away.  

I used to find myself counting down the days, putting my “real life” on hold, and waiting until the job was over to return to it.  But, slowly it became apparent that it was all my real life and the quicker I realized it the better it would be.  Waiting caused me to miss out on things I may have enjoyed in my new town and to place my life in between jobs on a pedestal, only to realize that while I’d been away, things kept moving along without me and I had to find my new/old place in the current layout.  

In addition to a suitcase of clothing and shoes, I started packing a bag of things that make me happy no matter where I wake…Vintage Earl Grey, coconut oil, my yoga mat, books, my ipod,  a wine opener, my linens and pillow, and a candle.  Upon arriving in my new town, I take a few hours to “move in”, rearranging furniture if I need to, until it feels like somewhere I can live for a bit.  It took me a few years to figure out little ways to keep my life running while out of cell range, or the state, for months on end, and I realized, with some planning, it is possible. I’m dependent on timers to water my plants, the postal service’s premium forwarding service to send me my mail, and an expandable file folder which serves as my office while away.  For most of last year, while on location with “The Lone Ranger”, a cardboard girl scout cookie box served as my medicine cabinet, full of the supplements and vitamins that kept me going for ten months.  

There is a camaraderie among people working on location that is a relief when in a strange place.  It’s easy to tag along with a group to dinner or find somewhere to meet on Saturday nights.  It’s a strange, gypsy life we have all adopted and though it has its good and bad, most of us keep coming back for more. It was only after I started to look at all of it as my “real life”, that I began to enjoy it, seeing it as an adventure, and trying to find the good in wherever I landed.  Trusting that home would still be there when I returned.  

Heading West. Again.

It’s been almost four months since my last movie ended and tomorrow my next begins.  Because it will be another Western, I’m dusting off the boots, packing jeans, flannel shirts, and straw hats, preparing for three months of wind, sun, and dust.

When I chose to base myself full time in New Mexico, instead of LA, I resigned myself to the fact that I would spend most of my days outdoors, working in the elements, rather than on a soundstage. When I do end up on the occasional stage movie, I am amazed at how much easier it is than what I am used to, if for no other reason it involves pavement, which makes rolling a wardrobe rack exponentially easier.  But, alas, I end up working on Westerns the vast majority of the time.  They are beautiful, dirty, and everything about working on them is more difficult than any other type of movie.  The locations are in places where no roads, cell towers, or power lines are visible, thereby making them hard to get to and hard to work from.  The cast and crew are at the mercy of the weather and the light, which makes the completion of a day’s work a real feat.

I know many costumers who avoid Westerns like the plague and I understand why. I spend my days dealing with leather, wool, fur, fake blood, and dirt when I could be dealing with the cute, latest styles if I was working on a clean, romantic comedy somewhere. Chaps, corsets, and detachable collars are just a few of the clothing items I have become an expert on and each makes me so happy that our styles have evolved. Many of the costumes I set in actor’s trailers weigh more than a small child and when people ask me if I work out, I laugh. No, I work on Westerns and lug wet wool through the dirt.

But, I also get to be around really interesting costumes, horses, to see beautiful sunrises and sunsets almost every day, and to get a really great tan. On my last day of freedom for the next few months, I am dusting off the boots, finding the dust goggles, and packing the bandanas.  And it all seems so normal.

Time

I recently remodeled my house and part of the reason was to create a studio out of my old bedroom. I needed a room in which to store my fabrics, books, miscellaneous collections, typewriter, and tools. My pre-remodel house had a laminate wood counter which served as workspace, office, dining table, and I was tired of having to put away my current projects, just to make dinner.  My new studio has a door that can be closed, so the mess can just hang out, waiting until after dinner when I will return.  I installed four track lights in the 120sf room, so it has a lot of light, in addition to a large window.

The room has a great, creative vibe, but the strange thing is that I don’t actually work in there. It has become more of a display case and I still find myself at the dining table, drinking tea, at the computer, sitting right in the middle of my small house.  Initially this realization bothered me, I wasn’t sure why I had just created this new room if I wasn’t going to use it. But, then I saw that I actually was using it, I just wasn’t sitting in it.  It has become my stage, my backdrop, and my place where anything goes. I get inspired when I walk in and spend hours arranging the photos and images on the wall or repositioning the photos on top of the bookshelves.

I think the weather may also have something to do with it. In these early spring days, it is still quite chilly out, and my body craves the light and warmth which the southern facing windows in my kitchen let in. My studio faces north and as the days get hotter, I think I may find myself escaping the sun and cooling off in there more often.  But, either way, who cares? If it is only ever my display case room, so be it.

My Display Case of a Room

Working as a costumer on films, I am frequently reminded of how clothing helps us convey who we think we are, or want to be, to the world. While working on a film, the costume designer, actor, and director bring their different visions together in order to best relay who the character is through clothing. The actor will arrive at a fitting in their customary uniform of expensive T shirt and designer jeans and will transform once the uniform is replaced with the costume. It is my job to then care for the costume, keep it looking as it should, and deal with a multitude of issues involving the actor’s comfort while wearing it.

While working, I have a uniform of my own, built around ease and functionality. Often working on location, out of a suitcase, at the whim of the weather, and on not enough sleep, I rely on jeans, boots, and layers of shirts in cooler weather. The heat presents more problems, because in the end all I really want to wear is a sundress and flip flops. I spend my days squatting down to tie shoes, climbing through odd, small spaces to get to actors, holding coats, fixing zippers, taping down lapels, soothing actor’s blistered feet, and dealing with any number of problems arising from uncomfortable clothing. The last thing I want to do is add myself to that fray. I have to be prepared for the unexpected dust storm, rain, and to be in mud up to my knees at any moment. When people hear what I do for a living and tell me how glamorous it must be, I laugh. While working on The Lone Ranger in Moab this past July, I finally embraced shorts to keep from turning into a puddle. Scarves soaked in ice water and wrapped around my head and shoulders were another necessity. It is a feat to try to look decent while working on what is really a dirty job site all day long. My life is too fussy for fussy clothing.

When I am not working I have another uniform of sorts, with moccasins in place of work boots and blouses instead of T’s, but jeans and leggings are a constant. I try to remember to wear the jewelry I forgo while working. Recently I was going through my closet, trying to see it as a costumer looking at a character’s line on a wardrobe trailer. Did it look cohesive and like it was one person’s closet? Or, were there pieces that had been bought on a whim, with the hope of becoming someone else for a moment, but had been hanging there ever since? After getting rid of several bags, I liked and related to the person I saw revealed in the clothing. She was someone I would like to be.

Costumes and Uniforms

Dear Mom,

Dear Mom, will you please make German pancakes? I love you, Love Claire
A note left on my parent’s bedroom door circa 1985. Further proof that I have always been slightly fanatical about brunch.

German Pancake Recipe
1/4 C butter
1 C all purpose flour
1 C milk
6 eggs lightly beaten
1/8 t salt

Preheat oven to 350. Melt butter in medium baking dish, a cast iron skillet works great.
In a medium bowl, mix flour, milk, eggs, and salt. Pour the mixture into the prepared dish.
Bake until puffy and golden, usually 30-40 minutes.
Serve with lemon and powder sugar, syrups, fruits, jams, anything.
Really easy and delicious, serves 4-6.
Can substitute gluten free flour and your choice of milk. And can use coconut oil instead of butter.
Delicious.

La Cieneguilla, NM