Interview with Costume Designer Shirely Chan
(conducted in Chinese)
Q: How did you come to this profession?
A: I studied fashion design in Paris, when I returned to Hong Kong, I worked as fashion designer for two years. Then a friend of mine, who worked in the film industry, encouraged me to try working with them. I didn稚 know anything about film making then, so I decided to give it a try. I started working as if I was a wardrobe lady instead of a designer. I gradually learned more about costume design.
Q: How long have you worked as a costume designer?
A: Approximately 20 years, I started in 1980.
Q: What is your job about?
A: When I was assigned with the job of a costume designer, the first thing I値l have to do is to have a meeting with the director who will explain what type of movie it is, give me the script and tell me the story. Then I値l analyze the story and start to design costumes for each and everyone of the cast in the movie. We値l have to understand the setting of the movie and the character of the people in it when designing the costumes.
Normally, the director will give us a deadline and we値l have to come up with the presentation and design of the costumes before the deadline, the director may also give us his opinions on the costumes.
Q: What is your first impression of this job?
A: I thought it should be fun, but after one day痴 work, I found it to be very much hard work.
Q: Are you busy normally?
A: Very busy.
Q: What makes you so busy?
A: When the director agreed to our plan, the busy schedule will start, we値l have to start looking for suitable fabric and materials in suitable colours. Then I will have to cut out samples and stick it to my design plan. I値l have to make samples for everyone in the movie to ensure that the colour matches and that it comes out good on the screen.
Then we値l start making costumes according and try them on the cast.
Q: When you design costumes for actors and actresses, what factor do you consider most important?
A: The script is most important, since it sets out the background of the movie and the character of the people in the movie, which is also important. We値l have to base on these to design the appropriate costumes for a particular character and setting.
Q: Which type of movie do u like best? e.g. modern or historical
A: I like to work for movies with historical settings. But there are a lot of hard work. I値l have to study and research on that particular period of time for the right kinds of costumes.
I like movies where they didn稚 specify a particular time in history, with these movies, we値l be able to let our imagination run wild and come up with very challenging ideas, this could be quite originating and satisfying.
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: It is challenging and exciting.
Fashion designing is a steady job where you design your own collection, but you have no way of knowing which of your designs is successful. But in movies, we値l have feed backs right away and you know which design is good and is liked by all right on the spot, and gives you very exciting and satisfying feeling.
Q: What do you dislike most about your job?
A: Movie making could be unpredictable. Sometimes the filming can be postponed suddenly and then restart suddenly, in this case, we may not be able to have enough time to make all the proper preparation. And we値l have to work very hard in order to meet the deadline.
Q: With the movies which you have worked on, which ones do you find most challenging?
A: I consider my first movie the most challenging. Because then I knew little about film making and costume designing in movies. Like myself, all the other people in the set such as actors, actresses and backstage were new to the profession. Therefore we had to work very hard together to make the movie.
My second movie was my first one with historical background. It was very challenging because I致e never worked for historical scenes before. With this movie, I learned a lot about costume designing in movies. I had to start from scrapes and basics of costume design.
Q: What qualification is required of a costume designer?
A: I値l expect a costume designer to have studied fashion design, to be able to able to draw, to have knowledge about fabrics and the history of fashion, which would make the work easier.
Q: How important do you think costume design is in a movie?
A: A good costume design brings out the character of the actor/actress, it is something that cannot be separated with the cast and setting. So I think costume design is very important indeed.