'Keep your eyes open' Picnic at Hanging Rock costume designer Edie Kurzer on designing for TV

Edie Kurzer is the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA) award-winning costume designer behind hit TV show Please Like Me and Amazon Studios series Picnic at Hanging Rock starring Natalie Dormer. Here she tells Mandy News how she started her movie and television career, the challenges of designing costumes for Picnic at Hanging Rock and what filmmakers and costume designers can do to succeed.

18th June 2018
/ By James Collins

Picnic at Hanging Rock costume designer Edie Kurzer EDIEKURZER

Please introduce yourself and tell us how you got involved in Costume Designing for TV and Film
My name is Edie Kurzer and I am a film, TV and theatre Costume Designer from Australia. As a kid, I was always making things, not interested in painting or drawing but I was naturally drawn to creating...and then, when I was a teenager, I became involved in a theatre project and I quickly realised I would like to be part of a team working on making something together rather than as an artist in isolation.

I studied theatre design at N.I.D.A. and went on to work in both film and theatre in a variety of roles, then as a production designer and eventually I chose to specialise in costumes.

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How did you get involved with Picnic at Hanging Rock?
I was approached by the producer to see if I was interested/available, then given the script to read and it went from there. It was a little complicated as there were a few directors involved and finances from various sources. Everyone gets to have a say as to who the Heads of Department are going to be, so often it can take some time to be offered the job!

What was the process of working on an episode? What was the turnaround time for episodes?
The way I approached the series (and any others I am asked to do) was to look at each character as a whole, not so much dividing it up into different episodes. That way, you are designing the character’s whole journey throughout the series. For example, Mrs. Appleyard has a complex back story with layers of history going on, so we needed to hide and reveal some of these ideas in the way she dresses. Also, Irma starts off as a young schoolgirl but, by the end, she has learned a number of things that could be visually supported by a change (maturity) in what she chooses to wear.

The pragmatics, once I had a clear idea of the costumes, were determined by the scheduling and when each outfit was required. The turnaround times were tight as we had a lot of costumes to be made and some of the casting came through very late.

Natalie Dormer only arrived in Melbourne four days before we began shooting, so all her costumes had to be made with the possibility of easy alterations if need be.

What was the biggest challenge of working on the series?
Keeping the white dresses clean in the rain and mud when we were shooting the picnic scene....and a lot of the cast and crew became sick at the same time so it was a mess on many levels....

What are you working on for the rest of 2018?
I have just finished a fantastic feature film called Judy & Punch directed by Mirrah Foulkes. It's set among the lower classes in the 1600s and we had a lot of fun getting very grubby and not having to be worried about it!

I’m not exactly sure what will be next. I’m waiting to hear about another film that sounds great but you never know.

What advice do you have for someone wanting to get involved in the costume department, with a view to becoming a designer like yourself?
I think for someone looking for a career in the costume department it’s very useful to know how to sew and how clothes are constructed. I know that might sound a little basic but it is surprising to see how many people can’t.

The next thing is to try to do as many different roles in the department as you can. Having a good understanding of what everyone is doing is very important if you are going to be a head of department and be able to delegate to get the job done.

Costume designing involves a lot of organisational skills, psychology and hard work. If helping create characters through a visual language is for you, go for it – contact designers whose work you admire and see if you can get an attachment or secondment to their department.

Try to work on smaller films or clips or web series anywhere you can get some experience and make sure it’s what you really want to do.

Keep your eyes open and good luck!

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