Ellen Stanistreet

Ellen Stanistreet - Designer & Couturier

australian film

Making a microbudget feature film - "The Greenhouse".

Ellen Stanistreet1 Comment

Earlier this year, I got my first gig as solo costume designer on film,  with my oldest friend as it happens - producer Lizzie Cater. It's weird how our careers have converged: her's from an acting and producing background, and mine from fashion - to costume. At the same time as I was doing my MFA at NIDA last year, another friend of ours, Thomas Wilson-White was also completing his MFA  at AFTRS. We all grew up in the same area of the NSW South Coast, where we filmed "the Greenhouse" , and the story took us home again. To fill out the team we had Dan Bolt as masterful DOP - he's also a south coast baby, and Tom's oldest friend.

As the film was Tom's major work, we had what is called a "micro-budget", which is not an understatement: we had over 20 crew on location for three weeks to feed and house, as well as producing a full-length magical-realist film on what would normally cover petty cash for any other feature. We were lodged at the beautiful location called "the Worrowing", in Vincentia, NSW. We were exploring a landscape that we had all enjoyed as children: seeing it on film was an extra-special personal thrill.

My challenge lay in collating a wardrobe for six main characters to cover the family time-travel narrative, their adolescence, maturing, and prodigal return. In the end it came out at less than $10 per look  - we had over 120 changes for the film. It was a massive challenge physically and artistically in my first film experience as a department of one, with extremely limited resources, but it was entirely gratifying. I loved having the scope and trust from Tom to develop a detailed textile language for the main characters: playing with statement textures on the teenagers, and developing those defining elements in adulthood was so fun. We played with the period a little bit - as the flashback date of 2006 was so deeply uninspiring aesthetically, and we drew on our own experiences as children of weird and wonderful adults who wore unusual clothes, in what was a very conservative place in 1990's and 2000's. 

It rained nearly the whole shoot, and I drove 900km back to Melbourne after wrap, with a car full of wet kit, costumes, gumboots and machinery, determined to get an assistant or three next time and a set bag, and a folding rack that didn't fold up on it's own. So unprepared.

Our film "the Greenhouse" is due for release in 2018.