Leaving A Well Dressed Corpse.

Posted April 30th, 2013 by Ben

Harriet Fleuriot caught up with stylist and costume designer Imogen Loveday-Brown to discuss her role in all the dressing and undressing of Nina Forever… and don’t forget one of the best perks on our Kickstarter campaign is a wardrobe detox Imogen – a treat not to be missed.

What’s your role on the film?
I’m the costume designer for Nina Forever, which means I have designed and organised the clothes for everyone you see in the film. My process started last year when the boys called me up with the script. They just said “read it” and I did and I loved it straight away. My first thought was that there’s a lot of nudity, so there won’t be much to do. But once I started breaking down the script I realised that wasn’t true; it spans an intense period of character growth and there are five main roles to cover. We also did a pre-production photo shoot with Nina and Rob so I got a whole rail of clothes together for that, after all- our dead girl had to look amazing!

To begin the design process, I started mood boarding with Damien (Production Designer), and Chris and Ben, using Pinterest we were just flinging ideas around with no real shape, just taking from the Blaines’ influences, seeing what occurred and then we started shaping up the characters. This is the moment when it gets more specific, especially as the casting process develops, because who they cast has a big effect on the final development process. You cannot start buying or sourcing until you have your cast because you’ve got no idea on sizing, skin tone, hair shape, posture…

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And how has working with Cian, Abigail and Fiona been?
Wonderful, all three of them were incredibly giving and very open to the process. It was great having the Pinterest boards to work from and we all threw ideas at them and chatted them through. This was particularly useful for Fi, despite the fact that she spends the entire film naked – Nina felt very much ‘alive’ to both of us and we discussed her costume and backstory a great deal. I knew very much where I wanted to go with the characters and where they were in terms of colour palettes. If you look at everything there’s a very distinctive colour palette journey, especially with the character of Holly. Everything starts off quite pale and muted in tones with lots of washed out greens and pale grey, denim that could almost be white. As Holly goes through her twisted journey she evolves from this dumped “vanilla” girl to a stronger girl, a women. Her pallet becomes darker and echoes Nina’s tones as her relationship with Rob develops. I approach costume design by thinking of the characters as being very much alive. I think of it in all the senses, the changes of environment, personality, mood, a bit like how a production designer will approach it, down to every last detail. Especially in this case, even down to the underwear. Picking underwear was important, really important. Every sex scene you see them in varying degrees of undress and their underwear is a signifier of character development too.

The Leather Jacket
The boys were like, ‘he needs to ride a bike and it needs to be believable, so we need a leather jacket’. I saw some beautiful fashion leather jackets, but we needed this to serve a purpose. For me Rob had to also look cool and we want people to fancy him – that was very important to me. I think that was perhaps less important to the boys, but I was like, ‘please cast a good looking boy!’ And we have Cian who is delicious and perfect for Rob. He looks amazing on screen and he’s got a unique eye colour that really stands out. But this leather jacket, finding the right one… It’s in an accident at the beginning of the film and I had to take into consideration how damaged it would be from that, where it came to on the arm, whether there were zips involved. So Saff (Powell, Make-Up Designer) and I talked and figured out the logistics for all of that. I’ve worked with Saff for a number of years and the process for this film was very collaborative. I had three jackets, two kindly lent to us for the fitting and then one I bought on eBay, which was second hand but brand spanking new. Incredibly, all of them proper biker jackets, but two of them were vintage. They all looked great on him and the boys really liked one of the vintage ones, but I thought it made him look like he was wearing it as a fashion statement rather than to serve a purpose. It needed to look cool, but be completely practical as well. And Cian reacted to that particular jacket too, which was crucial, he said that it made him stand and feel different, it wasn’t like his character. So we went for the right jacket and had to break it down so did lots of sanding and it’s getting more worn in as we dress him in it as well.

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And you’ve worked with the Blaines before…
Yes, I love working with them because of our relationship first and foremost. They trust me an incredible amount and give me a lot of space to do what I want to do, they really listen to me and likewise with me to them. I love what goes on in their minds. It’s a unique relationship that’s formed over the years I’ve been working with them. I’ve never been given the freedom that they give me and that as a designer is great, but also having access to the casting process is something that you wouldn’t normally have. Being approached to help make those decisions is really interesting for my process as well. Both brothers are quite different,but completely compatible, and have a wonderful working simpatico – they are tough to please, as they have such a keen eye for design and precision, but when you get a compliment from both about your work is something special. I feel like we’ve all taught each other elements as we’ve progressed in our working relationship, and I hope we continue to do so for many years. The Blaines always create a family on set, and that’s one of the other main reasons I love working with them. They have their core team around them, some of which they’ve been working with for over ten years.I think it’s wonderful for them that they’ve got that and have maintained those relationships. It certainly makes a sensitive shoot run smoother when you are ableto rely on those histories

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Blood…
None of us knew how the blood was really going to be until we were on set the first day and it gets so sticky very quickly. Fiona (O’Shaughnessy) needed more of it just to move logistically across the bed so towards the end she was covered in the stuff. The sheer amount of washing I have to turnaround every night so everything is set for the next day is phenomenal. We have to consider that it is low-budget so I can’t have doubles of everything, that makes it incredibly challenging. And thank god everything is dark muted tones otherwise if we were doing white linen, well, game over. That’s just something we’ve all had to deal with in different departments, I mean all of our hands were getting stained with orange so baby wipes all around the set!

A typical day on set…
Caffeine first. Check the schedule then ask Ryan (Chandler, 1st AD) if there’s been any changes made the night before, which inevitably there usually are. So an order of the day is priority. Then I lay out the costumes ready in that order and by character, ironing and steaming when necessary, and of course get the actors dressed.
Normally as a Costume Designer the busiest parts of the working day are the beginning and the end, and there’s not normally room for you on set or around the monitor, depending on the circumstances. With Nina Forever I’ve had a unique role in that I’m on set constantly because of the nudity aspect. It’s great because there’s no hanging around for me, but it’s very intense because the nudity is a massive part of production and it’s been a learning curve for all of us. The actors need to be protected at all times and it’s obviously a very vulnerable position to be in, so I’ve been handling the modesty element from behind the scenes. Fortunately, our cast have been amazing, and all those slightly awkward situations one comes across, when dealing with modesty solutions, havebeen dealt with, with a great deal of laughter and a lot of double sided sticky tape!

Could you sum up Nina Forever for us?
It’s a film about relationships, but the key thing for me is the varying stages of grief and how we deal with that, and the knock-on effects of that. Also I think it’s a story about growing and developing, but not the traditional coming-of-age story we all know.

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Ben and Chris Blaine are currently shooting their debut feature film, Nina Forever, a darkly comic love story starring Fiona O’Shaughnessy, Abigail Hardingham and Cian Barry. To get involved and help make the film happen, visit the Nina Forever Kickstarter campaign page and pledge your support: Nina Forever on Kickstarter

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