29/03/2020

Member Profile: Lauren Widdicombe

Name: 

Lauren Widdicombe

Department / Role: 

Costume Department – whatever role is needed.

More recently is has been as a Costume Supervisor.

How / where did you start in the industry?  

Whilst studying at WAAPA I had to complete a secondment (industry work experience). I managed to do two weeks work experience on a short film on the Gold Coast and then straight after three weeks on Bran Nue Dae in Perth 2008, where I got to work with Lyn Askew and Margot Wilson.

WAAPA is very theatre and sewing based and I wanted to see what film was like and if I liked it – I haven’t left since! After the work experience my first paid job was as a costume assistant on the feature film ‘Wasted on the Young’ with Noel Howell in Perth 2009. 

Who are some people that have inspired and/or mentored you?

I think everyone you work with has a way of guiding you or has something that you can learn from them – both what to do and sometimes what not to do.

I have been able to work with some incredible people along the way and lots of incredible women as well. I guess you can’t go past the infinite wisdom, skills and outrageous stories when you get to work alongside Andrea Hood!

I have worked a lot with Lyn Askew too who has guided me through a lot from a kid on work experience to an assistant, moving interstate and now as a supervisor. Working with Lyn has also introduced me to lots of other incredible designers and crew like Terri Lamera, Margot Wilson, Kerry Thompson, Andrea Hood, Mariot Kerr…

In terms of inspiring outside of my department I don’t think I could go past 1st AD Chris Webb. I have worked on 7 projects in three different states that he has lead us through – from heavy surfs to the trenches of WW1 to the depths of Tasmania and the islands of the far north of WA. Seeing his leadership skills, watching how he interacts with the widest range of people and how he has the upmost respect and support of nearly all the crews. I think that is something most people can look up too. His ability to run a complicated set in outrageous conditions and still notice the smallest of crew member, the most distant extra and looks out for everyone with a bit of a laugh. To me, that has always been very impressive.

What is the most challenging part of collaborating with Costume Designers, Production Designers or other production staff to discuss and execute costume design details?

Having the conversation about whose budget things are going to come out of and why!

Are there any tips or bites of wisdom that you wish you knew when you started?

Take notice of everything, not just in your department but everyone and their role on/off set. Be aware of what other people’s jobs are and how hard they are working then that makes a respectful and aware set and company. You’ve got to pick your battles and know when you need to step back or let it go – there are bigger issues at hand.

I reckon nearly all experience is good experience, just because you have done a role once doesn’t mean you know everything about it. Start at the bottom – learn from lots of people, experience lots of different types of jobs (contemporary, period, comedy, thriller, kids, animals, stunt, film, TV etc.) If you are multi skilled for a department you can go in many different areas and that makes you a more desirable hire option. Every single production is different – different stories, people, cast, crew, locations and challenges. You can use past experiences to draw on how you might handle situations but no day will ever be the same. You also need to be quick and flexible, you’ll have a plan and then it will change, so then you have to ditch that and move on to the next plan. When you are on set – listen to the radio always, there are clues on what’s going to happen everywhere, stay ahead of things.

Be ready for the down time too. Mentally, physically, financially and separation from loved ones – especially on away jobs. You make decent money (hello overtime) then you make no money – be prepared. You’ll have no work lined up, no idea where to start and the fear of ‘what if I never get hired again!’ – calm down, for a little while (easy to say right now but current situations eep!). Generally by the end of the job your body is running on adrenaline, so when you stop look after yourself.

Separation – everyone works so closely, its social, so many new friends, adventures, parties and things to do – then you go home and it all stops and everyone goes back to their own lives.

And lastly make sure you are personally prepared for the day – Raincoat, jumper and appropriate shoes. Don’t you ever turn up to a night shoot with just one hoodie, no matter how hot it is that day! 

What is the one thing/s on set or in the Costume Office that you can’t be without?

My ‘Whiteboard of Lies’. I think a lot of you know I’m pretty proud of my whiteboard.

Career highlight so far?

Working in Cambodia on a foreign language feature for Netflix called ‘First They Killed My Father’ directed by Angelina Jolie. Set in the 1970’s through the eyes of a 9 year old when the Khmer Rouge took over the country. It was one of the most eye opening experiences and amazing times I have had. The first day onset we had 40+ main cast all wearing the same thing, over 500 extras, crew of hundreds and about 50 water buffaloes and other animals too! The first day was so hard (I came into the production after the Christmas hiatus) it moved so fast, there were language barriers, working deep in the jungle killing fields – I remember thinking ’this is it – this is my limit, I actually have no idea how I am going to do this for the next 8 weeks’ but we got through one day and then the next and it became easier and bigger.

We found ways to communicate and get through things and it was incredible. The Cambodians were so lovely. I never got sick (thank you fresh chilli) and I had such a great time with the local kids, adults, orphans and lots of other crew from around the world. Our last day of shoot finished by shutting a town down, most of the main cast and 7,000 extras. Brad Pitt took a picture of me holding an umbrella one day and it’s printed in a coffee table book at his house.

I would also say one of my favourite jobs I’ve worked on was ‘Deadline Gallipoli’ in South Australia. I was the main cast bus girl with two key standby’s, over 300 cast, stunt team of 30 and looking after 6 or 7 double ended cast trailers. I was run off my feet everyday but felt like I did a pretty good job and like the Cambodian job – it was a story that needed to be told. You get a different sense of show on a period piece and I think even more so on a WWI piece. I’ve done a few war films and I love them. I don’t know why there is always mud, dirt, everything is always wet and your fingers get ruined on the leather belts and the webbing. But its most likely because of the crew and the cast who work their butts off and because jobs with utility stunts are actually so much fun!

Thoughts/hopes/dreams for the WA film and TV industry?

Right now I hope everyone stays healthy and can make it through this year with Covid-19 on the loose. Plus with the federal Arts Department now gone I don’t know if I feel qualified to comment anymore in so much uncertainty.

But I hope we bounce back strongly with some consistent, well supported and interesting jobs for everyone. To get to a production level where we can keep training up new people and not apologising for not being able to offer them another role and then the pool of people with talent keeps disappearing. 

I hope we get some better facilities to back up and support our industry too, I have always wondered how many jobs haven’t even considered coming to WA because we don’t have facilities and it is quite difficult to set up everything from scratch each time…not to mention we could present a bit better.

Let’s be honest we could take on Adelaide and be just as busy as them!

Our Sunsets are over the ocean – it’s got to count for something!

Favourite film?

Recently – Thor Ragnarok, because it makes me laugh.

Always – A Knights Tale, because Heath.

Also – Young Victoria, because I like it.

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