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After the style of Jodie Marie

Sunday, September 24 2017

“My granny was a traditional Caribbean homemaker and loved making her own clothes and sewing for her people,” Jodie Marie recalls of Trinidad and Tobago’s ingrained culture of making or commissioning custom-made clothing. She remembers lying on the bed next to her grandmother’s sewing station, observing the matriarch at work, sometimes jumping in to thread a needle.

She also recalls trips into Port-of-Spain with her mother, buying fabric, and dropping their finds off by seamstresses.

After trying out Law School for some years, she landed her first job in the world of fashion at a private school. “There I had the opportunity to teach an exploratory class, Fashion 101, where lucky hand-picked participants got to experience a broad spectrum of fashion, from body types to illustration, design, fabric choice (with field trips into Port-of-Spain to purchase fabric),” she says of this experience.

It was teaching this class that awakened her interest in fashion show production, and she eventually took the leap and left her stable teaching job to pursue her dreams for a career in fashion.

“That’s where the volunteering started,” she says of this time, having to start over, prove herself, and earn her stripes in an industry she hoped to be a part of.

In 2014, she signed up as a volunteer at the trinidad+tobago film festival (ttff) as part of its public relations team, booking interviews for filmmakers.

“I did my research and knew about intentions to shoot a movie produced by Monk Monté in TT, but the time frame had passed. But I was determined and actively sought out anyone who had information on Machel’s movie, Scandalous.” It was this determination that led her to contact the movie’s line producer, Lorraine O’Connor, and insist she work on production.

Scandalous eventually would be released as Bazodee (2016), and would be just the first of Jodie Marie’s many costuming credits onset.

She went on to work on the costuming team for feature films such as Play The Devil (2016), The Cutlass (2016), and Moving Parts, which is currently in postproduction.

“Simultaneously I reached out to Christopher Nathan of Coco Velvet International (CVI) and trained in fashion show production and management,” she says of the expansion of her skillset. “I volunteered and was hired several times by CVI to work on fashion shows and model competitions like Style Week PoS, Top Model, and The Falls at West Mall Easter and Holiday shows.” She says working onset in the costuming department requires a level of ease and trust with cast members, and it’s a challenge she is always ready to accept. “I have to tell talent what to wear and when to change, and advising you on how to wear it – it could make them feel less in control. But I approach it like, ‘G, be authoritative but gentle and informative about why they’re in this, without giving direction’.” She says what’s most important for her to evoke through her work is a sense of realism: “I want the character to put on their costume and feel transformed into that role; like new skin,” she says of the transformative power of costumes.

“When I’m building a character, I don’t just Google [images]; I ask my people around me what they wear – can I borrow it?” she laughs. “I want it to feel authentic.” For this year’s short film, Salty Dog, which premieres at the ttff/17, Jodie Marie took on the role of wardrobe supervisor. Although accustomed to shooting in remote and exotic locations, her work on Salty was novel given the film’s shooting location off Huevos Island, taking water taxis to the mainland to attend classes, or spending nights onset with the movie’s creative family.

“I worked closely with the art director, Shannon Alonzo, and we played with cool colour palettes that played in thoughtfully with emotions of the characters and their surroundings, which often was the ocean,” she comments on the creative teamwork that is rampant onset. Her favourite wardrobe piece from the film was an old QRC Scouts shirt, which was later donated to her costuming company, Candy Hall Costumes (CandyHallCostumes on Facebook) by the film’s director Oliver Milne.

Describing costuming for film and television as exciting and rewarding, she also points out that the job isn’t as easy or glamorous as some may imagine. “There’s lots of thought and approvals before it’s seen on camera; depending on what type of production it is there are writers, executive producers, line producers, art directors, and usually at the top of the decision chain is the director. It’s a lot of information to interpret and build a character that satisfies the team,” she says of the many moving parts that must be considered and nursed.

She also says costuming can be both mentally and physically draining. “Clothes and shoes are heavy and sometimes the [filming] set is up a steep hill in Paramin (Play The Devil), or in the middle of the Rincon Valley like in The Cutlass so keeping fit is a must!” Attention to detail – and constant attention on the costumes while the actors are wearing them – must be paid, she adds. “Time you spin round twice, you’ll have watermelon juice all over your main character’s costume and all you’ll get are puppy dog eyes… not cute,” she jokes.

And of course, there’s no feeling like seeing her work on television or the big screen. It’s also the knowledge of where the clothes have come from, the stories behind them, and the labour of love that goes into bringing characters and their clothing to life. “It’s such a warm, tingling feeling to know that I borrowed that shorts from my brother, or those ties were a donation from a fellow crewmate. It’s a nice feeling to know my community helped me build that character. Candy Hall Costumes is the realest representation of our people.” She is grateful to the ttff for being her first insight into our local film industry, and their continuing work alongside other local organisations to promote a sustainable film industry for our creatives to bring their visions to life.

“My experiences on productions and with ttff have opened up my eyes more to truly see who’s really interested in supporting local filmmakers, talent, and seeing representations of themselves on our televisions.

“I’m sure a lot of money is spent for the rights to air foreign TV shows – it’s time to put us on primetime local TV!” You can follow Jodie Marie’s handle @ iamjodiemarie for behind-the-scenes snippets from her work on various sets.



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