By Tyler McClelland, contributor
The “Sketch to Screen: Costume Design” panel on Thursday, Feb. 4 was a spirited start to aTVfest 2016. Not only were attendees given a look into the production process of filmmaking and television production, but also, each of the panelists — costume designers Kristin Burke, Dan Lawson, Lyn Paolo, Meredith Markworth Pollack and Jenn Rogien — had such a unique perspective that made the discussion dynamic and informative in an approachable way.
A distinction was made very early on in the discussion about the definition of costume designing. Rogien, the costume designer for “Girls” and “Orange Is the New Black,” described fashion as a tool and costume design as a language that each of the panelists are fluent in using it to tell a story. She went on to explain that costuming goes beyond styling and further than fashion — costumers are appointed the mission to “access” the development of a character, creating a sacred and safe place for the actors to unleash. The costume designers described themselves as ambassadors for the production. They are the first people to contact the talent, setting the tone of these interactions.
From Burke, costume designer for “The Conjuring” and “Sleepy Hollow,” to Markworth Pollack, the costume designer for “Gossip Girl,” each designer gave personal and practical knowledge for anyone who strives to pursue any part of production design with a kind of wisdom and “stick-to-it-iveness” that applies to any artist. I expected such a visually leading component of production to be one that requires both organization and creativity — however, I was surprised by how personally involved the panelists said they were with every team member on set.
Each of them had captivating stories of their many experiences and personal mistakes on the job. Brimming with pride and passion, the renowned costume designer Paolo shared the struggles she has had and critical choices gone wrong on the sets of series like “Scandal,” “Shameless,” “ER” and “Southland.” Gaining that kind of practical insight from such seasoned designers was a priceless experience. This panel was accessible, open and refreshingly helpful, giving an amazing perspective and paying much-needed respect to a largely anonymous career.