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      Catherine Martin on Bringing ‘Elvis’ to Life Through Costume Design and Production Design

      ByMonelo Gabriel

      Feb 26, 2023

      Costume designer, production designer and producer Catherine Martin and her collaborators helped bring to life her husband Baz Lurhmann’s grand visual story “Elvis” by building the iconic sets in Australia, including Elvis Presley’s Graceland mansion.

      He also created more than 90 costumes for Austin Butler’s Elvis, a mix of re-creations and fictional outfits, and more than 9,000 costumes for the film overall. She earned a Costume Designers Guild Award nomination for her work and earned three Oscar nominations for her work on the film, including Outstanding Costume Designer, Production Design and Producer.

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      Here, she talks about how “The Wizard of Oz” impacted her, as well as Luhrmann’s respect for crafts.

      Where does your love for fashion and design come from?

      “The Wizard of Oz” is such a seminal movie to me. I remember my father explaining to me how revolutionary it was to go from black and white to color, and that it was a real change. So when (Dorothy) opens the door, it’s in black and white, and when you cut to what she sees, it’s in color and there’s no visual effects. It’s just an editorial trick, but he always explained how those things were mapped.

      When I was watching a terrible soap opera or whatever, and there was a dream sequence and another flashback, it would tell me that they were just reusing footage from previous episodes to keep the budget down.

      I have always been interested in doing things. I wanted to learn how to sew on the sewing machine when I was 6 years old, my mother taught me and I loved the act of making things because you could have an idea and then out of nothing, you could make something. I have always been interested in crafts, candle making, painting and art. She just loved it, and that’s what she wanted to do.

      Baz Luhrmann is a visual person. What does it mean to you as a creative to be there in the room with him as it happens?

      It’s an incredible privilege because he’s very interested in the visual storytelling aspect of filmmaking. He cares. I think (director of photography) Mandy (Walker) would say that too.

      Because it respects and values ​​what we do, that means that the culture of respect is present throughout the process. You see the sound, the visuals, and the whole world as part of an interconnected ecosystem that creates something bigger.

      “Strictly Ballroom”, “Romeo and Juliet” and “Moulin Rouge” are part of pop culture. What comes to mind when you think of them?

      One of the funny things is that from being a minimalist in drama school he seems to have been in some weird dance of death with Swarovski crystals.

      With “Strictly”, we needed to recycle them because we never had enough. I remember being in trailers and removing the crystals from one costume to put them on another.

      In “Elvis,” no one questions how many Swarovski crystals he has, but no matter how big or small the project, he’s still struggling to get it done, at any level, to push the limits of resources. have. If you’re not saying, ‘Well, I really don’t get enough of that. Or I really need to do better here,’ then I don’t think you’re trying hard enough. I think it’s that desire to romantically elevate whatever you’re doing to make it a little better than it’s possible.

      What I hope I kept from “Strictly” was that desire to not just think it’s a low-budget movie, but how can we serve the story? How can we make it as beautiful as possible? How can we elevate what we are doing? How do we do this in a better way? How do we add value to the experience? You don’t start with that constraint, you start with the idea and come up with the best idea you can, and then you try to figure out how to do that with what you have.

      How does being both a production and costume designer help you in your creative process?

      What I love is that we are dedicated to creating the character, the atmosphere and supporting the story. When you’ve worked with an actor, in a very intimate way on a costume, and then they walk in and they’re on set, and it feels like they’re at Graceland, they can suspend their disbelief of where they are. , even for a moment. I hope there’s a synergy between supporting the wardrobe and supporting the set to find the story they want to tell. To me, they are working in constant concert.

      It means that stylistically, you are consistent. It also means that because you’re only dealing with yourself, it means you can be more consistent in the rules you’re applying.

      Is there a costume or outfit you’ve designed that you’re most proud of?

      I hesitate. The first big outside set I did was in “Romeo + Juliet”. The first great outdoor stage was the Verona beach with that disused and damaged cinema. So, I have a great love for exterior sets.

      But those two blocks of Beale Street (for “Elvis”) mean a lot. It was a tour de force to build Beale Street in Australia.

      To find a spot with the correct topographical orientation to the sun and to be able to see your team, just kick goal after goal after goal. Every price tag was on every window, the fruit bowl was a vision. What Beverley Dunn did on that street was incredible. What Damien Drew did with the vehicles, supervising to be the art director on the whole set, was just extraordinary. That whole department did an amazing job getting something done in the suburbs of Australia.

      WHAT: CDG Awards
      WHEN: February 27
      WHERE: Fairmont Century Plaza

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