Getting In

Getting In

Whenever I tell people what I do for a living (Tailor and Pattern Maker for film and television) they inevitably say one of two things.

“Wow. How did you get into that?” or “What a cool job!” Sometimes acquaintances will ask me if I can talk to their niece or son or daughter’s friend or cousin or something and give them advice on how to ‘break into’ the business.

I’m never entirely sure what sort of advice to give. As Hunter S. Thompson said (or maybe didn’t say depending on who you ask),

The TV business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There is also a negative side.

There is some truth in that Hunter quote. Especially now when the major networks are increasingly concerned with cost and ratings and everyone wants to do more (and more) with less money. Period television is quite popular right now. The only problem with that is that period television is hard, perhaps the hardest genre.

“But, why?” you may ask, “It looks like so much fun!”

The Devil is in the details

Here’s the thing: period TV is expensive. You have to dress every single background actor and actress as well as the principals. On shows such as Law and Order, often the background (BG) performers are wearing something selected from their own personal closet. What generally happens is that the BG will come to work with a few clothing options. An assistant designer will usually pick which of these options is best and that’s what the actor will wear. Most people don’t have closets full of 1920s or 1880s clothing so, on a period show, the entire costume is provided, fit, and altered. This takes more time and manpower which, in turn, takes more money.

TV is also fast – faster than filming a movie. Most shows shoot an episode in 8 to 10 days, with at least a day or two when they are shooting two episodes at once. (We call those tandem days.) Because of this, you never really get any down time. On a movie, there is most always a point where you’re over the hump – you’ve established all the costumes needed. Or you’re working on something where all the action takes place on the same day and no one changes their clothes. Then, all you need to worry about is multiples and the rest of the work is up to the set costume crew who keep track of continuity and make sure everyone looks how they should in front of camera.

Do your thing & do it GREAT

I guess if I were to give one piece of advice I would say to become really good at the thing you want to do. Then, figure out how to do it very quickly if needed. I may have said this before (I say it a lot) but there are lots of good tailors and pattern makers out there. What there isn’t a lot of are exceptional tailors and pattern makers who can also work really fast. If you want to work in TV and film that will definitely give you an advantage.

As far as finding TV and film jobs, talk to people, contact your city’s (or state’s) film commission. Word of mouth is still the best way to find a job in this business.

Mind your manners

And be nice to everyone, even if you think they have no ‘influence’ or are looking for the same kind of job as you are. You never know who knows who and you never know when someone might need help because they have more work than they can handle on their own.

Oh, and that “What a cool job!” comment… Some days it is and some days it isn’t. I can assure you there is nothing glamorous about it but, at the same time, it is also rarely boring.



Recreation, Meet Sewing!

Recreation, Meet Sewing!

Ever get the feeling that you have 2,394,093,294,032 things to do, but you only have time for, like, 3?

Ever get the feeling that you have 2,394,093,294,032 things to do, but you only have time for, like, 3?

Ever get the feeling that you have 2,394,093,294,032 things to do, but you only have time for, like, 3? Yeah, that. Between work, family, and such, I feel like I just don’t have enough time in the day to tend to everything that requires attention. But I guess that’s being an adult, right?

It’s a real issue to find time for everything that’s a major priority on my plate, but that leaves less time for recreational things that aren’t so big of a priority. You know how long it’s been since I read a book? A while, let me tell you!

But at the end of the day, I’m a southern girl. I like front porches, fresh-picked blackberries and time that’s just for enjoying life. So even with a busy itinerary, I’m all for finding time to relax and do things I appreciate.

In order to have that time, it pays to find ways to mingle productive endeavors with enjoyable concepts to get the best of both worlds, and sewing happens to be a task that allows the kind of openness to let that happen. For one thing, even if I’m working on a business project, the overall process of sewing can already be soooo relaxing. No matter what’s going on around me, it’s a basic process that gives me a structured place to send my focus—straight pin here, needle there, and I’m doing something productive!

And the relaxation element can go beyond the general details of sewing itself, since I don’t have to just sew while I’m sewing. The task is so flexible that working in other recreational hobbies with it is fairly easy!

For me, I sew when I watch TV, which would let me catch up on my favorite TV shows (I’m caught up on none of my favorites!!!) while doing something productive. I say “would let” that happen, because until I get a HDMI cable, anything that I need to watch via computer just isn’t showing up on the flat screen in the living room! Still, TV and sewing can go hand-in-hand for me!

Food Network

Of course, there might be a drawback or two for this TV-sewing notion. For instance, those with louder-running machines might find that there’s too much noise to bother trying to hear the TV. But for those with a quieter machine, those who are hand-sewers, and those who are in various stages of sewing that are before or after the sewing machine comes into play, it’s an option! I might not even know what sewing machine I’ll have in the future, but I do know that I hand sew, and that any project I can think of involves those before and/or after stages in regard to a sewing machine. Basically, no matter the project or the noise level of a machine, sewing is one hobby that I can do while watching episodes of my preferred TV shows — like ones from my darling Food Network.

Cutting fabric, shredding material along the edges, plotting the pattern for a project… These are all things I can do away from a machine, and if I can do them without a machine, I can do them in front of a TV.

I do like sitting on the front porch with some lemonade & mountains like this around me for the visual.

I do like sitting on the front porch with some lemonade & mountains like this around me for the visual.

There are other options as well for the pause-and-enjoy life aspect that can still fit with working on projects away from a machine, and one that I haven’t tried — but might try in the future — is to sit on my front porch sewing, preparing, or plotting. As I said, I’m a Southern girl, and I do like a good-sized front porch! Sitting there with some lemonade and mountains like this around me for the visual? That’s a big yes, and a muse for that matter! Can you imagine plotting a new quilt with this kind of Autumn color scheme in mind? Talk about inspiration right before my eyes! I’m inspired just thinking about it!

I could also listen to audio books while sewing, or plot out a new project when sitting in a waiting room. Sewing truly is a hobby that can be tended to alongside other tasks, letting me do what needs to be done and what I want to do while moving those projects along. I like sewing, and this flexibility might be one of the main reasons!

I’m a TV sewer with an interest in sewing on my front porch, but as I mentioned, those aren’t the only possibilities for multitasking with sewing.

Do you have other activities you like to do while sewing or working on projects? Comment and let me know!