Originally a fashion design student, Set Costumer and MPC 705 member Rebecca Leigh Adams quickly realized her passion for costuming film and TV. After getting on-the-job training through her experiences on American Film Institute student films and staffing non-union commercials and films, she became a union member and began working on fan favorites like The Newsroom and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Read on to learn about some of her most interesting on set challenges and to get her advice for becoming a professional costumer.
What originally inspired her: a love for costume dramas.
Her most creative short notice costume solution: creating a pregnancy belly from an old hood.
Her advice for aspiring costumers: find a program in LA where you can get costume house experience.
What do you do as a costume professional?
I’ve worked in the industry for six years and held various positions. My favorite job is working as a Set Costumer. As a Set Costumer, I work with actors to ensure their costumes look just like the designer desires on camera. This job requires me to pay very close attention to every little detail, such as which buttons are open or closed on a shirt in each take. Did they have their jacket on or off in the last scene? Where did the actor leave her shoes when she took them off during the scene? And at the end of the day, the most glamorous part: rounding up the dirty laundry!
What are some of the shows and movies you’ve worked on?
Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders, Ten Days in the Valley, Agent Carter, The Newsroom, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Suburgatory
How did you get into costuming?
When studying fashion design in Los Angeles, I was exposed to all the excitement of Hollywood. I had always loved film growing up, especially the costume dramas, and soon realized the existence of a career that would allow me to combine my passion with my education.
How did you educate yourself or get enough experience to get into the union?
I started costuming on student films with the American Film Institute while still in school and then spent 5.5 years working on non-union commercials and films while also working as a Production Assistant in the costume department on TV shows.
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 MacGyver!
I had a character who needed to show a progression of pregnancy, but we couldn’t afford a different pregnancy belly for the time gap. I removed the hood from the actor’s jacket that we didn’t want to use, found an old pillow, cut it open, and used the stuffing to fill the hood, which I attached by sewing extra fabric from her scarf and tying it around her body. I added or removed stuffing from the hood throughout the shoot depending on when the scene takes place in the story. It cost the show $0!
What is your most memorable experience working in the business?
I have found that working on a television show that is based on a true crime story is incredibly rewarding. It offers viewers a chance to explore the lives of the people involved and really think about the extenuating circumstances revolving around each crime. These types of TV shows, scripted and unscripted, can provide a foundation for important societal conversations that might be otherwise unknown.
What do you love most about your job?
I love that every day is a new adventure. You come to work each morning with new stories to tell, new problems to solve, and new people to work with. Making a movie or TV show is like a jigsaw puzzle; there are 500 pieces that all have to coalesce to create something amazing.
Do you have any advice for someone starting out who wants to be a costumer?
My best advice is to find a program in the LA area that will expose you to the industry. Many intensive summer programs or school programs will take you to costume houses and set you up with local film schools, which gives you the opportunity to learn what it’s like to be on a film set with other students. I found that working in a costume house for a year was an amazing training experience and really prepared me for the career I’ve had since I’ve been in the union.