The Background Actress’s Guide to Costuming


(Circa: Late July 2017 on the set of "Isn't It Romantic?")

Originally I had pitched this idea to Racked.com as a contributing writer. However they declined because they had articles of a similar nature. I was going to pass on writing this for my own blog. However, the store that I purchased the above cocktail dress from is hiring, so now this essay has become relevant.

Where to start? The beauty about working a background scene is that they give you a list of examples of how you need to dress for the scene. Like:

Gucci
Zara
Tory Burch
Prada
Etc.

They will also give you visual examples of cuts and fabric, plus what tones they need you to wear. Much of this depends on the scene you are shooting too. If you are playing a lawyer, obviously you would be expected to wear a suit of some kind. Playing a hipster would require a different wardrobe and so on and so forth. If they give you specific brand names as the type of look they are going for, it would behoove you to do some research. The best place for this is Instagram, with the next being Pinterest. Look at how your favorite celebrities dress and that will help you.

The roles I typically get picked for require me to be a wealthy, socialite type. Think Hillary from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air:


(Source: IMDB.com)

When you're in my position of very little money and expected to look rich; what do you do?

This is where my friend the consignment store comes to play! The gold dress I'm wearing above is from a higher end retail chain. It's original price is closer to, if not above, $100. Yet I only paid $16 for the dress and an additional $20 for all of the jewelry. (The purse I received as a gift and the shoes were on loan from the wardrobe department, since my original pair were considered to be too shiny.)

The next thing you need to do is to bring options. Yes, I bought and used this dress specifically for this shoot. However, if the director's vision for this scene has changed in any way, it is as simple as changing into a different outfit.

A warning though: if you only brought one option this will force the wardrobe department to loan out an outfit and take your pay voucher (and maybe your driver's license too) for safe keeping until it's returned. This also means that you have to be extremely careful with the clothes (which you should anyway whether it's yours or theirs) and make sure you don't cause damage of any kind. (Or that could affect your pay or chances of being hired for other shoots in the future. One of the shoots I did, an actor walked out with a suit that was loaned to them. Needless to say that person didn't get paid and is more than likely not working for that agency ever again.)

A few other things I keep on me for the shoot as well:

A jacket or hoodie (for when it gets cold.)

A luggage lock (so no one tries to break into your bag.)

Lotion that absorbs well. (So it doesn't damage the clothes.)

A stain removal pen.

Deodorant that dries clear.

A robe or some kind of covering you can wear while eating or applying makeup.

A couple of other things I would add would be:

1) never bring real jewelry to a set. There was an unfortunate instance of an actress that brought real gold bracelets to the set and lost them, only to never find them again. Even if you get camera time, no one is going to know the difference; so keep it fake at all costs.

2) don't wear anything with a very distinct pattern or logo. Production crews do a magic trick what's called "cheating the shot." Meaning to make a scene look like it has more people than there really are hired on set. They do this in many different ways, by adding an accessory, or changing your hair or putting you in deep background. This means more camera time for you, so help them out!

I hoped you liked this essay as much as I liked writing it. I also hope I get the job at this particular consignment store since I do get a lot of my clothes from there. Fingers Crossed 🤞

An Update to the Update


(Source: Yuri!!! On Ice. Viktor Nikiforov 💗)

So what I thought was "No" was actually a very delayed "Yes" the film project wrote me back and sent me a script. I still have no idea what part I'm playing (there are only 2 female speaking parts and the rest are background.) I sincerely hope I have one of the parts as I really need the experience to list on my resume. The only reason why I agreed is because of the concept of the script.

I can't go into too much detail but what I will say is that I could be a witch in this shoot. (Since I'm a crystal hoarding, tarot reading, incense burning, somewhat clairvoyant woman with a very loose Christian affiliation; playing a witch is probably closer to who I really am.) This also fulfills my dream role of playing Hecate in The Scottish Play. (Which was already cast when I came to audition last year 😢 However, I'm not playing Hecate in this shoot.)

Another good thing about this film is that they want us to wear as much black as possible. (Easy enough for me, that is the staple color in my wardrobe.) They also want us to bring a prop.(My tarot cards of course!)

One more thing to add about this film is that it is structured very similarly like my story writing prompts. This is a film competition with the contest runners making up strict rules that the production crew has to follow.

•A specific set of lines need to be included.

•A specific character and their background has to be included

•The production company has a time limit as to how long this film will run (roughly about 5 to 6 minutes.)

Both the lines and the character were selected in a random drawing last night and the writers had to structure the story around that. All of this shoots tonight and be a completely finished product by tomorrow night. (Talk about pressure!)

Hopefully, with their permission, I can share the final product with you on a later post.

Anticipated Rejection

I recently put in a pitch for a unique writing segment based upon my background experience. So far they like the concept and when I submitted my writing samples…crickets.

I'm not trying to take this as a "No" quite yet, however, it would not surprise me.

If you've been following my blog so far, the overall theme has been rejection and lots of very sad pitfalls. It's been very frustrating, but many of the "No's" have been to my advantage (keeping me away from things that didn't serve me well.) So I'm trying to keep this in mind.


(Source: A Random Share on Facebook)

Which leads me to this: there may be a reason why I am not going to school in Ireland. There also may be a reason why I'm not signed by an agent. Why I haven't been able to book any further film projects; and why I haven't been able to pick up any additional side income since the beginning of the year.

Although how it got to be this way was really shitty if I say so myself.

So what to do now? Well, I still have that audition for As You Like It coming up. The movie I shot background in asked me if I was available for additional days (still contemplating it since it was such a struggle to get to on Friday and it's not an official booking, just an availability check.) I also may have a possibility of a regular job soon.

Still, no guarantees. No rejections either.

Just more financial limbo.

Crew pt. 2

(Source: Backstage Badger Tumblr page and Pinterest)

The musical production of You’ve Got Red On You is coming together quite nicely and I was sent a newly revised script that will be covered in notes by the end of this evening. Being a stage manager in this production is a little simpler due to that fact that I will also be acting in it. I’m working with the special effects crew and managing props as well. Lights and sound are on their own, but we are such a small theatre they wouldn’t need me to call cues anyway. 


(Source: Backstage Badger Tumblr and Pinterest)

In addition to working on this show; God must have heard my tearful plea about moving on with my life since I failed to pay for school. Three job notices for Crew work in Atlanta popped up on my social media newsfeed last night and I applied for all of them as a Makeup Artist (since that is my strongest skill and most recently used). It’s high time I updated my makeup kit (most of the stuff in the kit expired and I had to trash it). I hope one of the gigs reach me back for an interview soon. 

The Dream is Dead

The more I keep getting denied for a loan, the more I keep getting fed up with my life. My dream of attending school overseas is swiftly dwindling and now I must figure out alternatives to continue to make my career work. Student aid is denying me on all fronts, so going to college in the United States won’t make a bit of difference. Instead I will have to pay for training out of pocket and continue to work low paying gigs in order to support myself. I guess it makes no difference, I would have had to take a low paying job in Ireland anyway to stay afloat. However, I really wanted to move away from my family and Delaware; to move to a city that supports the arts. 

But all is not lost, I could go back to training where I started up in NYC at Studio 4 or stay in the Philly area and go back to Playhouse West Philadelphia. I’m still going to make a goal to move out of my family’s home. Staying in Delaware while working on an acting career has become cumbersome in traveling, opportunities, and expenses. Plus like I said the environment has become toxic (even though I love them) which is also dragging me down. 

So I put myself out there to see if there are any opportunities that could make me union eligible and provide more paying opportunities along with more opportunities to have speaking parts. I’m probably going to have to make a customized reel and seek an agent as well. I have to keep going or I will be trapped in a void forever.

My First Sorta-Stunt Gig

All tears and sadness about school aside, I want to talk about what I am doing for my current show You’ve Got Red On You: A Musical Parody of Shaun of the Dead. I was originally hired on as a stage manager, and that is still part of my duties; however, I now have a small part as a florist and as multiple zombies. This, of course, is due to making sure we have enough people to play zombies and get killed off. I will have 6 costume changes in this show, and I will be doing a lot of stage combat. So much so, that I can now consider it a stage combat category on my resume. (A stunt category too since I have a planned fall.)

 

(I feel like I’m back in competition cheerleading doing this show.)

So this is cool! This play, I will be speaking in a British accent, fighting, falling, dying (multiple times), and spraying blood everywhere. It is helping me take my mind off of my reality for a little bit….

Clubbing in Vegas

             (Source: bitchycode Tumblr)

I went to Hakkasan last night and I really just wasn’t cut out for it. In fact I left before Steve Aoki went on to spin. I like going dancing and listening to DJs spin is really fun…but being packed in like a sardine and having drinks spilled on me wasn’t my idea of a good time. I kinda wanted to see Calvin Harris since he was performing at the club directly across the street from my hotel. When I got home you could hear his set bumping from my room. Alas and alack, no one wanted to go see him last night. Instead we are going to that club tonight to see Hardwell.

Personally I think the best way to enjoy big events like that is to be friends with the DJ, you usually get access to space near the booth without completely being in the fray and still have a good time. That, or I may just be getting old and the night life may not be my scene anymore. Sigh…

I Received Some Great Support

Yesterday was my last working shift at Firefly. I bumped into the HR woman in charge of hiring me. I gave her my thanks as she was super helpful in giving me the information I needed not only for the bartending gig, but for the stage crew gig as well. I gave her the whole rundown of the events that happened: getting hired for brew crew, not getting called by the stage crew people until the day of the festival when I already committed to the other job, the stress of having to turn down the crew job I wanted for the job I committed to first. She was very sweet and gave me this word of advice “No worries dear. Sometimes you have to go to the dance with the boy who asked you first. It was just meant to work out like that.” Mind-blowing and she was right. I’m now going to use that advice with whatever I do from now on. Maybe I’m not actually the Goddess of Poor Timing.

I’m the Goddess of Poor Timing pt. 2

As of right now, the festival is already 10 minutes and I’m still not assigned to a bar tent or making any money right now. As you very well know, I turned down the stage crew position because it was so last minute, and that position is now gone. Now I’m working nothing and missing out on money that could definitely go towards my education. I may be super emotional just because it’s incredibly hot out here today and I need to pee. But honestly looking at how my life operates in general…well constant misalignments like this is one of the reasons I’ve just don’t want to carry on anymore. I’m cursed, I swear! 

I’m the Goddess of Poor Timing 

It’s the first day of Firefly and I’m already over it, and I haven’t even started yet! Why am I so upset? Well it’s due to the fact that I WAS actually hired for the Firefly Stage Crew, but had received no correspondence about this position until today! My feelings are so hurt right now as this poor timing thing is a life pattern I’ve never been able to shake. I always miss golden opportunities, meet the right guy at the wrong time, and like today, I’m scheduled to work something different on the same day. This is really upsetting…