The Reel Canadian Film Fest is set to take over the Vogue Theatre from Jan 15. to Jan 17, offering a variety of independent films. The Fest also features a local interest angle, as it will be featuring Eadweard, which was costume designed by Fernie local, Florence Barrett. The film is opening the festival, playing on the Friday evening, and will feature a Q&A with Barrett and Josh Epstein, producer and co-writer of the film.
Barrett was hired as the costume designer just under three years ago, and worked on the project for roughly six months, including a grueling month-long shooting period. Epstein and the director, Kyle Rideout, took a chance on Barrett, who had little experience in film at the time. Most of her experience was in theatre, which has a different style than film and television work.
“Kyle [Rideout], who is the director, I worked with him probably six years ago now, on some theatre shows,” said Barrett. “We just got along and worked really well together. He talked to me a little bit about this project over the years, and I helped him put together the initial pitch for it. I was so green at the time. All I had done was theatre – I had done two student short films before this. Everyone else they were interviewing was big in the film world. And they said, ‘we would love to bring you on as wardrobe. We really want you to be involved with the project. We think you are great but it’s an independent film and we have to go with what will be best for the film’.”
Barrett, undeterred, told them that her personal style and work ethic made her the best choice for the position.
“I rarely get these bursts of being a boss. I remember sitting there saying, ‘that’s okay. Obviously it is your film. I just want you guys to have the best, just as long as you realize it will never look as good as it could. I’m a damn good designer. I’ll be a great head of wardrobe, but I’m a damn good designer. I may not have the connections, but I’m tenacious’.”
The tenacity paid off, as not only did Barrett costume design the entire film, but she also won a Leo Award for her work on the project. The Leo Awards celebrate work in television and film in B.C. Barrett won her award last spring.
“It was definitely the hardest I have ever worked in my life,” said Barrett. “I laid out the whole chronological journey for Edward and for Flora and for all of these main characters so there was an arc in their costumes, depending on their mental state. It is quite a psychological thriller so a lot of the choices were pulled from there – where is his mind at now, what is his mental state. We made one costume five times and did various levels of breakdown on it. There is this one point, [Flora] lived in a nightdress for a month. So we had to make this nightdress numerous times so each time it gets dirtier and dirtier.”
The film depicts the story of Eadweard Muybridge, who is hailed as the ‘godfather of motion picture’. Because it is set between 1860 and 1890, Barrett did hours of research to ensure the costumes she designed were historically accurate.
“I’m a history nerd. Reading a lot of stuff, going through a lot of stuff. It’s a blessing and a curse because most of the people in this film were real,” she said. “In the fashion world, you are pulling from three different eras. Commercial dyes were invented in 1850 so it was the start of couture in 1855. There was a huge movement in the 1860s and more towards Victorian stuff near the end of the film.”
Barrett and her team were responsible for every garment worn throughout the film. She gave credit to her assistants Poliona Boltova, Christina Doa and Capri Phillip for their work.
“In films you do have breaks, but just the way it worked, wardrobe didn’t get one. We were trying to do a lot with an independent sized budget. All of the girls were fantastic.”
Barrett did much of the pre-production work in Fernie, doing most of her research in the museum.
“I came back and I was trying to work out of my parent’s house. Mike [Pennock, then-museum director] was like ‘come in and work in here’. They had just moved into the new building and hadn’t installed the new exhibit downstairs yet. So they gave me what is now Lori Bradish’s office upstairs.”
Barrett worked closely with the director in the pre-production stages to ensure that the style of the costumes matched the tone of the story. “We just have such a strong connection of trust between each other. I trust him to tell the story and he trusts me to costume it.”
Barrett praises the support she received in high school for helping her find a career path.
“I moved here in high school, Lori Sinclair was the high school drama teacher and she was awesome. I said, ‘this is what I think I want to do’, and she really pushed me to audition for Red Deer College. So I got into Red Deer and from there I got into costume design and the rest is kind of history,” Barrett said. “She was incredible and the high school also was so supportive of me. By grade 12, I said, ‘I want to work in theatre and film. I don’t want to have a normal job’, and they really believed in me. That’s a great thing about the Fernie high school – if you want to do a career that is not 9 to 5, they are supportive of that.”
The Reel Canadian Film Fest will also include the films Brooklyn and Room, both of which have received high praises from critics.
Eadweard has been nominated for over two dozen awards and had toured the globe, playing in film festivals around the world.
It seems only fitting that Eadweard should open the Reel Canadian Film Fest.
“I’m really excited. Everybody in Fernie has known me as the ‘theatre kid’ for a long time,” said Barrett. “I really want everyone to come and see this film. They say it takes a village, but sometimes it takes a city to do this stuff.”
Tickets to Eadweard are $15 and can be purchased at the Arts Station.