Costume Designer Ellen Falguiere on Creating 250+ Costumes for the Biographical Fiction Film, 'Spinning Gold'

Published on in Exclusive Interviews

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.

Some of Ellen’s past credits also include The Comedian starring Robert De Niro and Leslie Mann, as well as the series Echo 3 created by Oscar-winning director Mark Boal. 
In this exclusive interview, Ellen shares her experience creating and producing over 250 1970s period costumes for Spinning Gold, designing Kiss costumes that were historically accurate without using copyrighted designs by the band, as well as working with Academy-Award winning directors and writers such as Mark Boal and Dustin Lance Black.
PH: Hi there Ellen! Can you share some of your professional background? What initially got you interested in custom design?
Ellen Falguiere: My family had a print and film production company that produced TV shows, (mainly) commercials, and print, and I grew up around the industry.  After college, I never  really found my passion until I attended a film school program when they were building Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida. In the program I had studied many aspects of film production, but when I ended up doing the Costume Design of our student film I fell in love with the art of storytelling through that lense, and a light bulb went off and that was it for me, I had a vision for the rest of my life, and had found my true passion.
PH: How do you know when a project is the right fit? How do you choose which projects you work on?
Ellen Falguiere: There's a lot of projects out there, but it depends on the story, and the director's, producers, budget, etc. There's a lot involved when taking on a show, and it's many months of your life you’re putting into these projects. It's not just a job for me. After I read a script, the pictures in my mind start going. I can picture everything, and I start getting excited about the script, and I start to envision the costumes, and then I know it's a good fit and I want to do it.
PH: Can you talk a little about some of the award-winning projects you've worked on, including The Comedian and Echo 3 and what those experiences were like?
Ellen Falguiere: Echo 3 was an amazing experience because we went to these amazing locations in Santa Fe, New Mexico to film.  I rode a snowmobile and ski lifts to work everyday, because we were in mountain tops, dressing stunt men in Taliban Costumes, and doing aerial shots with actors hanging out of helicopters in full on snow camouflage,  backpacks, helmets - and those were not just props, they were the real stuff. We researched all the real military uniforms and everything had to be correct and perfect - not costumey. I loved every minute of it, it was awesome!
DMZ - One of the most memorable times on the pilot was when we had an evacuation scene, and we were told Ava wanted 1,000 extras evacuating, and 70 military soldier uniforms. We had shut down Downtown Atlanta. I had 42 costumers that day, dressing background. It was bigger than I had planned for, but again, when your director goes big on you, you better have a plan. We made it happen with about 3 days of prep. Things get added all the time, and you have to know how to roll with the punches.
PH: How did you become involved with Spinning Gold?
Ellen Falguiere: I got a call from my agent and the Unit Production Manager (UPM), and they put me in touch with Tim the director, and then I also ended up knowing Larry Marks from When We Rise, and it all just came together.
PH: Can you talk me through your pre-production mindset when constructing the design for this project? 

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.

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