My name is Melissa Malone. I’m the creator (among other things) of the web series, “Or So the Story Goes,”- an anthology series that takes classic children’s literature and adapts it with a modern, horror twist. The series began as a project to teach teens about filmmaking and has grown into a full-fledged award-winning web series.
My bi-monthly column ''Or So the Web Series Go(es)" will discuss all the things that we “work” with throughout the web series world and my experience/advice in each. Obviously, take it with a grain of salt but… I’m happy to offer some insight (and take any questions along the way)!
If you prefer a lengthier look into who we are, check out my previous post It Better Make Your Heart Sing (aka If Not, Don’t Bother).
Wardrobe in your series, as well as in life, can say a lot about the characters before they ever speak. On screen, there are other factors to think about as well- color schemes, time period, etc. It’s important to really think about these things early in the pre-production stages.
In pre-production, begin setting out a plan for your character’s wardrobe. We always come up with a basic feel or idea for the character. Following our basics, we do a google search for images and pull together a collage using the ever helpful Pickmonkey.com. These are used later to send to the actor cast in the role to see if they have anything with the right feel we can pull from their wardrobe to help with budgeting costs.
We then move on to specifics that are a must. In the case of “Happy Thoughts,” this was a green hat for Peter, a maroon jacket & croc gloves for Hook and stripes for Percy (our Smee character). In “Sweet Truth,” it was a necklace for the witch and in “Golden Rule,” it was the killer costume, police uniforms and a letterman jacket for Scott. As a horror series, it also means buying any wardrobe characters die in- seeing as how they will most likely get destroyed (and we will need doubles of them for pre-death scenes shot after death scenes).
These become items we put in our budget as nonnegotiable and our responsibility to find and buy. Malls, big box stores, and Amazon become our best friends at this stage and it becomes all about finding the right items at the least expensive cost. I happen to enjoy the process of wardrobe shopping but if you don’t, find a crew member or friend that does and send them on a mission! Each season we also like to feature an Etsy shop or artist with a wardrobe or prop item in our season. We do this via social media and on a “As Seen On” section of our website. Sometimes they are willing to give a discount in exchange for being featured in the series. This is what we did for Hook’s gloves and the witch’s amulet.
When you’re close to production, send out your collages to each cast member and confirm which items you would like for the shoot. Make a character wardrobe folder and save photos of each item there. If you can, make a collage for each complete wardrobe (for corresponding scenes) and save them to the folder as well. This way you will know exactly what you agreed upon and can send it out with call sheets during production to ensure everything shows up on set.
Get a wardrobe rack/wardrobe box to keep things in while filming and label everything making it easy to find. Take photos of each actor on day one of each wardrobe and add that to your wardrobe folders, ensuring they are wearing everything they need each shoot day. I highly recommend you keep the wardrobe items on set through out production. However, it’s often hard with low budgets to make that happen thanks to space and the face that most actors are wearing their own clothes. If that’s the case, make sure you send a photo out to them with their call sheet of exactly what they need to bring to set with them. There’s nothing worse than delayed production because an actor drove 2 hours to set with the wrong wardrobe- eep.
As with production design, a few little things can go a long way in increasing the production value of your series. As a teen slasher, a lot of Golden Rule took place in a high school. We had a few high school shirts printed with a logo design of the school via Vistaprint (they have great $6 sales on white tees often). We also used this as one of our crowdfunding rewards and later to sell at conventions and in our merch shop. For the police uniforms, we made sure to buy the correct patches and also had flag lapel pins on hand for the male detectives. We also have a tradition of buying a few funny graphic tees for each season if the budget allows.
Wardrobe is something often overlooked. However, not having a lot in the budget for it doesn’t mean you can’t (and shouldn’t) still create the look you want for your characters.