Sara Alix has been doing costuming and wardrobe for the past two years. Previously she worked for a tech start-up as an office manager. The two jobs are very different, but in a way, one did lead to the other. In her position at the tech company, she was given accounting and human resources responsibilities she’d never taken on before. As a result, she realized “Wow, I can really do this! I proved to myself that I could do anything and do it really well,” she recalls.
However, since Sara was new to costuming, the only way to break in was to start working, sometimes for little or no money. Sara found a director in the Bay Area who offered her an internship doing wardrobe for one of her plays…and then another. She gave Sara “the freedom to figure it out,” which turned out to be extremely valuable and even enjoyable. “I thought if I could do this every day, I’d be happy,” Sara remembers fondly. Today she is unafraid to undertake a wide range of projects—from films, to plays, and even dance productions.
Recently she worked on an independent film called The Valley, which made the top 10 list at the 2017 Cinequest film festival. (Watch the trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IK007sAPt5Q&feature=youtu.be) That project mostly involved curating, she explains, shopping at thrift stores and drawing on her own extensive clothing collection. (During the premiere, Sara’s boyfriend made her laugh when he noticed a familiar piece on one of the actors. “Hey, that’s your shirt!” he marveled.)
But doing wardrobe for a film isn’t all fun and thrifting; it can also be quite technical. Sara describes the process she goes through at the beginning of a project: analyzing the script and creating a spreadsheet, sorting out all of the actors, the roles they play, the scenes they appear in, what they will be wearing in each one, and so on. “Google Docs is my thing,” Sara reveals, when asked how she copes with this dizzying level of detail.
In films the actors’ contracts specify different things, and Sara must adapt accordingly. “Actors in films are more aware of how their wardrobe will make them look on screen,” she’s noticed. This can result in differing ideas about what they should wear. Sometimes it comes down to the director to make the call, and he or she may have to overrule Sara’s recommendations to keep the actor happy.
“Theater actors are more down to earth,” Sara asserts. Dancers are also willing to be flexible for the sake of the larger artistic effort, rather than just how they look in a given costume, she believes. “Dancers are aware of the whole production,” she’s observed.
Films can be particularly arduous, requiring 12-hour days and sometimes “crashing” on the set. “It’s not for the faint of heart,” she warns, “but people come together through mutual misery. There’s a kind of familial bond that I think is really rare.”
When asked what type of project she likes best, Sara has a difficult time choosing. “I love them all,” she declares. “They’re like apples and oranges” and can’t be compared.
After two years of work experience and almost a year in the Cañada fashion program, Sara feels she has the skills she needs and a “nice resume and portfolio” to present to prospective employers. She is ready to take these assets with her to London and try her hand at costuming and wardrobe there. “There’s tons of theater and a lot of opportunities [in London],” she notes. “People put on productions in alleyways; it’s everywhere!” Ultimately Sara would like to do five films a year and one theater production, working for six-month stretches and then taking half a year off to travel and relax. If Sara’s past is any indication, she will have no trouble realizing this vision for herself.