Film and TV costume designer Ellen Falguiere most recently worked on the biographical fiction film Spinning Gold, based on Neil Bogart, the founder of Casablanca Records, who is credited with discovering music legends like Donna Summers, Kiss, and Village People.
Ellen Falguiere: My mind set was a bit like, “fasten your seat belt honey, this is gonna be a wild ride.” LOL.
PH: Creating and producing over 250 1970s period costumes for this film must've been an incredibly daunting task. How did you prepare - and what did your process look like?
Ellen Falguiere: When I started, I read the script, and broke it down into story days. That's usually the first thing I do to get a handle on the size of the project. It also helps me determine crew and budget. I basically immerse myself in research, from as many sources as I can find. I started pulling costumes from various rental houses, started shopping for vintage clothing, started sourcing fabrics, and creating boards for each one of the characters and background so we all have a sense of a blueprint to follow so I can navigate and create the design of the movie.
PH: What were some of the challenges you encountered?
Ellen Falguiere: The challenges were the number of costume changes for each character, because almost every scene was a new story day. It was almost like the whole movie was a montage, but also a memory. Each artist had their own story within the film, besides Neil Bogart. For instance LaDonna Gaines before she became Donna Summer, Gene Simmons and Paul Stanely before they became Kiss, so there's quite a bit of regular non stage costumes we had to produce in addition to all the stage costumes. We really researched their early days, and what they wore as far as their non Kiss Stage costumes. That's really the art of it.
PH: Where did you draw inspiration?
Ellen Falguiere: These characters in the film were all real people, so I based all of their costumes on photographs, research, and costumes from what they wore back then, as well as the ‘70s styles. They were styles from the music industry, rock and roll, disco, and funk.
PH: You also had to design Kiss costumes that were historically accurate without using copyrighted designs by the band. How did you navigate this?
Ellen Falguiere: We had three stages of costumes for them. Stage Costume 1, which were early days of discovering and figuring out the costume which was basic black, spandex, and boots, and maybe leather jackets and vests. Costume 2, which were more put together, more studs and some feathers, and platform shoes. Then the final Costume 3, in which we added feathers, capes, more studs, and added more trims and spikes, and really just more of everything. We kept building upon the basic foundation of the same costume. As they grew in fame and success so did their stage costumes.
PH: Can you share what your experience was like collaborating with Academy-Award winning directors and writers such as Mark Boal and Dustin Lance Black?
Ellen Falguiere: Mark Boal likes everything to be real and authentic. As in, what would these military men do in real life? Or what would the hostages really be wearing? He likes to keep it real, and simple, and he likes to concentrate on all the action. It needs to look really great, and it needs to look like these characters really belong in these amazing locations. He's great to work with.
Lance Black really likes to keep true to the story. He likes the costumes to embody the essence of the story being told, as well as in the spirit of - it's not just about being period accurate all the time, it's about capturing the character.
PH: How has your role evolved over the years?
Ellen Falguiere: I love doing period projects lately, and I am loving working on military projects as well.
PH: What's a big focus for you this year (personally or professionally)?
Ellen Falguiere: I'd like to work on a project with great locations and costumes, but it's most important to work with great people.
PH: What makes you most excited about the work you do?
Ellen Falguiere: I love doing all the research, I love doing the prep, building, drawing, and figuring it out, whatever the challenge may be. The fittings are the most fun - to watch the characters come to life with the actors.
PH: Can you share any upcoming projects you have in the works?
Ellen Falguiere: Nothing I can share at the moment, I have a number of irons in the fire, just looking for the right fit, and am in discussions with a number of projects.