The 705 Spotlight: Bethany Jane Bohatila, Women’s Finished Key Costumer

Bethany Jane Bohatila has been in the film and TV business for nearly three decades, costuming actors of all stripes on soap operas, game shows, cable prestige shows, and feature films. Her wide range of experience runs the gamut from working as a shopper to serving as a costume supervisor. 

Her biggest creative challenge: find multiples of costumes for a last minute food fight scene, including some impossible-to-find Hawaiian shirts.

She loves: how every day is a new adventure.

Her advice for aspiring costumers: persevere, keep an open mind, and have a good attitude.

What do you do as a costume professional and how long have you been doing it?

I am a Women’s Finished Key Costumer. I have been a costumer for twenty-nine years, although I have been in Local 705 for the last nineteen years. In that time, I have become a very well-rounded costumer with a varied skill set. I have worked as a set costumer, becoming the final set of eyes, costume continuity keeper, and the actors’ go-to-gal on set, as well as the trailer costumer, organizing, keeping the changes straight, prepping and setting costumes in a timely manner. I have shopped as a costume department shopper, finding just the right garment, fabric or supplies needed to fulfill the designer’s vision and create a well-supplied department, as well as key-ed where I have researched, shopped, organized, prepped and dressed background artists, helping the supervisor and designer get the costumes on the actors in a timely manner. I have also supervised, where I have broken down scripts, budgeted, attended the production meetings and ran the costume offices in general. Every experience has made me a better costumer who is able to step in where needed at any moment.

What are some of the shows and movies you’ve worked on?  

I have worked on Drunk History, Silicon Valley, Maron, Vegas, General Hospital, Passions, Price Is Right, Hollywood Squares, Champion and The Wedding Ringer, to name a few from each category of film or television show I have had the pleasure to be a part of.

Tell us the most creative or original thing you’ve ever done to pull something together on short notice to build or procure a costume. Think McGyver! 

I was the costume department shopper on a particular show and it was my job to procure a large amount of multiples for every cast member involved in an upcoming scene where there was going to be a food fight. The designer and supervisor (whom I love dearly) were notified of the food fight at the last minute, due to rewrites, when most of the costumes were already established (seen on camera). It was now my job to find the multiples. I found most of the pieces fairly quickly — after all, I had purchased most of it myself earlier in the season. However, there were some Hawaiian shirts that were no longer in stock at the major retailer where the designer had first found them. I had been all over town, making calls to the company that made them and who couldn’t get them to me from Miami in time, when I decided to make one more last ditch effort stop at studio services. As I stood there, sweaty and desperate, they finally found a few that had just been returned at a specific location about a half hour away. Knowing I had just lucked out, I had them put aside for me as I raced through town to pick them up, getting them to location just in time for them to be prepped and covered in food.

What is your most memorable experience working in the business? It could be something really meaningful where you saw how your work made a difference, or maybe it’s the craziest thing that ever happened on set or behind the scenes (costume-related). 

I had been working on a show where I was working on the trailer. Working on a trailer, you inevitably take off and put back on the trailer many rolling racks. This particular trailer had a very steep lift gate, which made the off-loading a pretty wild ride at times.

I was the person who set the actor’s room with the appropriate change for the scene. I have a collection of decorative pieces made from tags, highlighters, and sharpies (three of a costumer’s best friends) that were shaped like various hair pieces, jewelry, hats, etc. that I used to make the setting of jewelry fun for the actors. I make, for instance, a pirate face out of a few bracelets and a ring. One day an actor I had a good relationship with saw the wind take my full rack of clothing as I came down the steep lift gate and send the rack sideways to the ground. He ran over to help me pick everything up even though I kept saying he didn’t need to. We had had many great conversations about life, the industry, and our families and I had helped him all season, giving him his special socks and undies — but that’s my job, so I thought nothing of it. At the end of the season, on his last day when he wrapped, he left me a face of his own with his jewelry made of bits of paper and found objects in his trailer and a note thanking me and telling me how great it was to work with me. It may not sound like a giant moment, but taking the time to say thank you in such a special way made me feel so appreciated and fulfilled. I knew I had made the right decision becoming a costumer.

What do you love most about your job? 

The thing I love the most about being a costumer is that every job and every day bring a new adventure. No one day is the same as another.

How or why did you get into costuming? 

I started out as an art student. I love art history. As I took the art history classes in college, I realized what I like about the art was what the people in the paintings were wearing. I was also taking a lot of dance classes (my other love) and I was talking to a friend in class as we were doing pas de bourrées back and forth, when she told me she had been acting in movies during the summer and she thought I would be really good at costumes. Turns out she was a fairly well-known B-movie actress working for Roger Corman. She introduced me to Roger, who put me on a costume crew and I worked on my first film that summer.

How did you educate yourself or get enough experience to get into the union?  

I have a bachelor’s degree in Costume Design but mostly I learned on the streets. Independent film and theater were my training ground. I was lucky to have a number of mentors take me under their wing, for which I am very grateful.

Do you have any advice for someone starting out who wants to be a costumer? 

My advice to a new costumer is to have perseverance, keep an open mind to new experiences in the costume department, keep your eyes open to learn as much as possible and, most of all, keep a good attitude. No one likes to work with a Grumpy Gus.