Block 353: February 23, 2014



“Leap and the net will appear.”


Is there a way to leap more noticeably?

Date: February 23, 2014

Crane: 353

Days Spent on Project: 372

Location: Apartment, Washington Heights, NYC

Person I would have sent it to: Emme H.

The Yale School of Drama offers one year technical internship (is that what it’s called?) programs for a handful of students. Every year that I was at the YSD, there was one such person who worked in the costume shop, and also went to a handful of costume design classes.

Emme was that person my second year. When I was busy designing that production of Hedda Gabler that I’ll never let myself live down, Emme was there in Robin and Clarissa’s room. My “vision” was unique (weird) enough that the most of the dresses for the show were built to fit with the concept. Emme built Thea’s second dress really well, taking into account all the crazy ideas that I was trying to fit into an over-thought design.

I’ll get that Hedda off my chest later, in case you’re wondering.

After that year spent in New Haven, Emme moved on to find theater work elsewhere. I think she’s now in Washington DC, working in a costume shop in a regional theater. She also has a very active secondary (or is it primary) passion in her life: cars and racing them. I haven’t kept in touch as much as I should to figure out what the story behind all this is, but it’s really fascinating to see the Facebook updates and Instagram posts from events that she’s at… and also the many different colors she dyes her hair.

It’s pretty awesome.

Music I listened to while sewing: Spotify for the win this morning! It suggested a singer named Florrie and I’m loving it.

Thoughts/Feelings behind the block: I’m about to take a leap this morning.

I think I’m about to turn down the offer to design the 32 episode web-series that has no budget and no means to pay me.

I spoke to a friend yesterday about it, a designer a little younger than myself, and she told me to back out before I finished the question. Costume Design is a lot of work. You’re involved in the pre-production period, working with everyone involved to flesh out ideas and looks. The you get to realize those ideas. Then you’re involved in the production period (in this case, the filming), making sure those ideas are well executed and worn and translate well (on camera or stage),  dealing with all the hiccups (the personalities, the problems you couldn’t predict, etc.), and then striking all the clothes (returning, storing, etc.) afterwards.

Yes, I need to work. Yes, I need to meet people. Yes, I need resume credits. Yes, I need network.

Shooting a web-series for two weeks at minimum at 12-14 hours a day, which also means I’ll have to pay someone to walk my dog for $15-20 a day, actually will cost me money. This doesn’t take into account the materials I’ll need to help make the show happen that I probably (most likely definitely) not be reimbursed for…

My friend was very careful in saying she can’t work for free. I can’t either. She put it bluntly: there is a lot of “abuse” involved with designing costumes, and you should be compensated for it. Maybe it’s a fee. Maybe it’s an awesome connection that WILL get you work later. Maybe it’s a project that WILL be seen by Very Important Person. Maybe the project is a dream project you’ve wanted to be involved in.

But if it’s not, my friend tells me that there is not room for bad product. No one will excuse a bad design in this industry with “I wasn’t being paid and there was no budget.” They’ll ask, “Why do it?”

Why do it? Because there is always that weird and unproven and unlikely hope that you’ll win the lottery and a certain project will be seen by someone and will lead to something else.

I know I take on a lot of work because I care; I was told, by my friend, that I actually care too much. And that care, that “personal responsibility to the work” (to quote my friend), will sometimes be taken advantage of.

So… I’m about to walk away from the project.

I’m not trying to be difficult, and I know some people will think I’m being uppity and elitist.

But, this is my livelihood. I’m passionate about it, true, but I do this in the hopes that I can eke out a living and a life.

Which I’m currently failing at, sadly… precisely because I’m only taking unpaid work.

I’m about to take a leap.

Do we leap daily?

2 thoughts on “Block 353: February 23, 2014

  1. Yes, we leap daily! And you MUST say no sometimes, to make room for the projects you want to say “Yes!!” to!!!

    no pay = abuse of your talent.

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