Monday, August 15, 2011

Dayna Pink, costume designer for Crazy Stupid Love talks about telling a story through clothing and why bad taste is so much better than no taste

Right now, I’m starting a new novel, and so much of that is about character arcs. What makes a person the way he or she is? How does he or she change and how can I show that? I always keep photographs of what I think my characters look like pasted around my desk, right down to what kind of clothes they wear.

That’s were Dayna Pink, the phenomenally gifted costume designer of Crazy Stupid Love, The Uninvited, Hot Tub Time Machine, and the upcoming The Lucky Ones comes in. I so loved Crazy Stupid Love, and part of it was the clothes. It wasn’t just that I seriously coveted Julianne Moore’s green dress, but I loved the way everyone’s clothing also seemed to tell a story. Being an intrepid googler, I tracked Dayna down and asked her if I could talk to her.  I had a seriously great time because Dayna’s not only fascinating, she’s also funny and whip smart, and I loved what she had to say about creativity and crafting a story. Thank you, thank you, Dayna.

So how do you do what you do?

I started as a stylist. I always loved clothes. I did a lot of bands, a lot of celebrities. I worked with Tenacious D and then I had an opportunity to do a film and I began to realize how different it was. When I was a stylist, my job was to make someone look good or cool or beautiful. That’s not costume design. Costume design is about the story behind the person. Where are you from? Where did you travel? Did your grandmother give you that necklace? For example, in dressing the kid in Crazy Stupid Love, I asked, who is this kid? Is he popular? Does he have friends? It all plays a part in how he dresses. Kids don’t have a huge wardrobe, and actually the actor was much hipper in real life than we made him!

When you read the script, you look for the character arc, the transformation. Sometimes it’s subtle. A woman falls in love and she might dress more confidently or sexier. It’s collaborative and I have a lot of conversations with directors, and actors. It all boils down to this fact: what we wear tells the story of who we are.

How long does the process take?

Depending on the film, eight or nine weeks. You have to research, make boards, figure out the whole direction.

What about you? How do you orchestrate your own wardrobe?

I live in L.A., which is pretty casual. I’m always shopping more for other people. I think because I’m involved in fashion, I’m interested, but I wouldn’t say that I’m trendy. I’m still a jeans girl. I usually don’t wear heels, but lately I’m obsessed by my Prada striped platforms.

Do you try to influence what your friends wear?

Oh no, I don’t think that way at all! And actually, bad taste is so much better than no taste. That’s what makes this world interesting, the differences, how people choose to present themselves in the world. If everyone was all wearing perfectly fit trousers with Prada, everyone would certainly look great, but it wouldn’t be as interesting. It’s like saying everyone should have plastic surgery and get these nice tiny noses. What’s interesting about faces is always the character, not the perfect nose.

What’s obsessing you these days?

When, I’m not on a movie, I really try to take care of myself. When you’re on a movie, it gets really crazy and it can be really tiring.  I also want to spend time nurturing my relationships with my girlfriends and my daughter, as well as doing yoga and learning something new. I feel better when I have a minute to care for myself and the people around me.

I know writers are always worried that they don’t have another book in them, that the well will run dry. Is it that way for costume designers, even a highly successful one like you?

Everyone worries that they will never work again. It takes a certain type of person to work for him or herself, and to take that chance. When you’re creative, you can’t do anything else. You have to do what you are supposed to be doing, and if you can realize this, then part of the worry is gone. You just need to know that this is the path you’ve chosen. For me, the art is on the body, in clothing. That’s my passion.

I really want to meet you so you can correct my wardrobe!

But I wouldn’t!


a gracious plenty said...

I very much enjoyed this interview. It made me realize I need to think more about how my characters dress. Even if I don't include it in my story, I, at least, need to know how they dress.
Great interview on both sides of the questions.

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Smithe said...

I very much enjoyed this interview. It made me realize I need to think more about how my characters dress. Even if I don't include it in my story, I, at least, need to know how they dress.
Great interview on both sides of the questions.
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