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Wardrobe, Hair and Makeup, and Props

In the previous section, you saw how the clothes that the “working people” wore during Leland’s speech (Figure 4.11) contrasted with the hatless but well-dressed politicians at Kane’s campaign rally (Figure 4.12). It is not necessary to have a lot of money to create these differences. The clothing, hair and makeup, and the props that your characters handle, are often among the least expensive parts of your production budget.

In the student film Monsoon, an Indian-born American doctor, Govinda, returns to his family in India because of the ill health of his father, Baba, with whom he has had a large rift.

The two men in this film differ widely in their attitudes, and the bridging of this gulf is at the core of the film. It is thus important to show the characters’ differences. One way in which the filmmaking team was able to do this was through the characters’ wardrobe and hair design.

Govinda is normally dressed very casually in American clothing—jeans and a dark T-shirt. His father is dressed in a white, traditional Indian sari and orange scarf. Though it is clear from other scenes in the film that Govinda’s wardrobe is not uncommon for Indians, the filmmakers never allow these two characters to appear in the same frame dressed in a similar manner (FIGURE 4.14).

Figure 4.14

Figure 4.14 In Monsoon, the two lead characters are dressed and made up very differently throughout the film.

Govinda and Baba also are made up extremely differently. Baba’s hair is flowing and grey, and he has a long, wild beard. Govinda’s hair is much darker and closely cropped. Once again, there are large numbers of native Indian men without beards, but the filmmakers needed to make a clear differentiation between the two main characters.

This striking difference pays off at the end of the film as Govinda cremates his father, dressed in the same color and type of clothing that Baba had been wearing throughout the film (FIGURE 4.15).

Figure 4.15

Figure 4.15 By the end of the film, as Govinda learns the value of spirituality, we see him for the first time in white traditional Indian garb.

It is, of course, easy to give a logical plot explanation for this change in wardrobe: Govinda is performing a spiritual ceremony and is dressed appropriately. However, it is still crucial to realize that this change (for whatever reason) creates an effect in the audience. The filmmakers cannot create this change in Govinda’s wardrobe without it affecting the audience. If this were an area where the filmmakers did not want the audience to feel a change was occurring in Govinda, then they would have had to figure out a logical scripted way of avoiding that change in wardrobe. But it suited the intent of the story to have the American doctor make a move towards his father’s spiritual side at this point in the film, so they have him change into the white sari as soon as he has been reconciled with his dying father.

You’ll learn more about hair and makeup in the next section, “Production Design in The Godfather,” but note that even subtle changes in the coloring of an actor’s face can make a difference in the audience’s perception of him. Make them a little cooler/bluer and we worry whether they are sick, or feel that they are cold and evil. Make them too warm/red and we think they are angry.

None of these are bad choices, they just need to be conscious ones. And it is the places where the changes are made in all of these production design elements that help the audience to lean forward and pay more attention to the context of the film.

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