INSIDE dressing the stars with King of Thieves costume designer Consolata Boyle
Consolata Boyle is an Emmy-winning and three-time Oscar-nominated costume designer known for her stunning work on The Queen, The Iron Lady, Florence Foster Jenkins and new crime drama movie King of Thieves, starring Michael Caine, Jim Broadbent, Paul Whitehouse, Michael Gambon, Tom Courtenay and Ray Winstone. Here she offers up advice to aspiring costume designers, describes her process on King of Thieves and shares what's coming up next with Mandy News.
Please introduce yourself and tell us how you got involved in costume design for TV and Film?
I'm a costume designer and my journey to designing for film and TV was indirect. I studied archaeology and history at University College Dublin and, when I graduated, joined the then training course for set and costume in the Abbey Theatre, the Irish National Theatre, which was actually called an "apprenticeship".
Gradually, I began to focus more on costume and then decided to go to art college, this time studying period textiles in England. After that, I continued to design for theatre for a few years, but gradually moved more and more into TV and film. All of these experiences have been useful and have contributed greatly to how I approach my work. For instance, my love of research which is not only vital for all designers but hugely enjoyable - as long as you have sufficient prep time!
How did you get involved with King of Thieves?
I was sent the script via my agent, read it, was fascinated not only by the characters, but the details of the robbery itself – the procedure – and then had a good discussion with the director, James Marsh, whose work I'd admired. I was then lucky enough to be asked to do the job. Another attraction of the project was that it was completely different from the film that I'd just finished, Victoria and Abdul, which was a period film, set at the end of the 19th century and the very beginning of the 20th.
What was your process like working on the film?
With every film project, I like to research as widely as possible, particularly when dealing with actual events and real people. However, and this is very important, there comes a moment when this has to be left behind and we must move into the area of the imagination, of creativity. Designing period costumes when there is plenty of surviving actuality/archive (i.e. paintings, photographs, film and sometimes even the original garments) is not a matter of careful reproduction. It's crucial to remember that we're telling a story and must always be guided by the script.
You have also worked on many different productions, stylistically. What are the challenges you face as a costume designer?
With each new project, an overall vision (principally the look and the feel) is initiated by the director and this massively influences all the heads of creative departments: camera, art, costume, and make-up/hair. From that, as far as colour is involved, for instance, there's a palette for either the whole film, or different sections, scenes or individual characters, so that the Art Department will liaise with the Costume Department about the colour of walls, carpets etc and vice versa. Naturally, the style and the mood of the lighting is key to all this.
What are you currently working on that you are allowed to tell us about?
Earlier this year, I did a film about Marie Curie, called Radioactive, which was shot in Budapest. I've just completed a contemporary project for television with Stephen Frears, with whom I've worked with quite a lot, State of the Union, which was filmed in London, and am now enjoying time with my family.
What advice would you have for people wanting to get involved with the costume department and/or to become successful costume designers, like yourself?
Immerse yourself in film! Endeavour to experience as much as possible, study every aspect of your chosen area – costume, dress, clothes – by going to museums and art galleries, watching film and television, reading books on the subject and noticing what people are wearing in the street, on the bus, on the beach, but also be aware of other aspects of life as well. Don't have tunnel vision because everything is interconnected: fashion, social context, politics, sexuality.
However, in order gain a foothold in a busy (and highly charged!) costume department you have to be not only single-minded, but willing, very hard working, punctual and always cheerful!
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