In celebration of the 76th Golden Globe Awards, we sat down with MPC 705 member and Black Panther Specialty Costumer Federico Cervantes to discuss his biggest challenges and successes while working on this critically acclaimed blockbuster. Read more to learn how Federico got started in costuming and how he stays safe on the job!
What does a Specialty Costumer do?
Specialty Costumers have a range of duties that are specific to costumes and elements outside of what we would wear in daily life, leaning more towards fantasy, tactical, futuristic or otherworldly.
Some duties range from creating costume elements through sculpting or fabricating, sometimes molding and creating multiple pieces as needed. Specialty Costumers are also responsible for assembly and mounting of costumes or pieces by use of sewing, hardware or adhesives. Some of our members specialize in painting, distressing, or the finished look of a finalized costume.
How did you become a Specialty Costumer?
Fellow union brother Robert Phillips and I had met working in makeup FX houses. He asked me to assist in making custom Moto Cross vests for the stars of Charlie’s Angels 2. Thanks to that opportunity, I was able to complete my hours/days to join MPC 705.
How do you work with other costumers to get the job done?
Being familiar with deadlines and the desired end product is key. Understanding everyone’s roles/duties and responsibilities, eases the flow of communication to work as a team and reach our goals leading toward progress reports in the way of camera tests and eventually a completed costume for principal photography.
How do you keep yourself and other crew members safe while you are building costumes?
It’s almost impossible to avoid working with materials that are inherently dangerous when creating specialty costumes. As my personal responsibility, I wear the necessary protective gear on the job including a work apron, dust mask, respirator, gloves, goggles and ear protection as needed. Although we are all trained to work safely in the work environment there is always room to inform others of what type of ventilation and safety equipment is needed to perform a task. Communication with the project’s supervisor and fellow costumers is the best way to ensure safety when working directly or indirectly with potentially harmful materials or tools.
What was your biggest challenge on Black Panther?
I would say time and deadlines are always what keep us on our toes. We had a lot to do on this film to fulfill the needs of costumes across various characters and tribes. The challenges came from keeping with these needs as we worked through fittings and developed final looks that honored the concepts and due dates.
From a practical standpoint, a constant challenge was in the upkeep of all the costumes that were used in heavy action sequences. Once you are in the process of filming, repairs can become a daily routine to keep a costume functional and its aesthetic true to its look.
What are you most proud of on this film?
I was excited as a fan when I heard of a version of Black Panther that was in some stage of production in the ‘90s. When I walked into my interview and was told what the project was, I was hooked! To see the buildup of excitement and the way the project was received by the world is just beautiful. It is fictional, yet a needed film, in a time in which this country (in particular) can benefit from such an uplifting story and strong characters.
How do you feel that your work contributed to the success of this film?
I was fortunate to be hired in a key position where I had to communicate not just within our department but with production, VFX, props, stunts and makeup FX. I hope that the experience and knowledge I was hired for helped ease the way the costume department achieved our goals on the film as a whole.