Monday, October 31, 2011

How to make a Costume Drama

How to make a Costume Drama

Costume Drama!! Ruddy Costume Drama, that's all we seem to get nowadays, so if you want to see your film on screen then it seems like the way of the 'your impertinence astounds me Master Jones' is the way to go.

OK...Number One - The Costume

Go rent a load of frilly clothes - tops hats etc.

Buy a job-lot of stick on sideburns. Remember, two for every actor, if after that you have any spare stick 'em on the actresses, it'll keep the audiences interested.

Corsets - allows you to cast any actress you like and still have Kate Moss size characters - simple pull the cords tighter!

Locations - using a bit of black gaffer tape create 'leading' for your french window/kitchen window (y'know those black lines) - ta! da! instant Stately Home. Failing that, get in costume and pretending you're a bit strange go see a Stately Home. Pull the old video camera out and shoot a couple of scenes with authentic backdroppery!!

Period detail - remember, hide everything that might give the game away about when you filmed it, so digital watches and cellular's are out. Don't worry too much about haircuts though. If past form is anything to go by you can get away with anything. Check out some 70s costume drama and they all have 70s haircuts, in 80s costume drama they all look like Neil Morrisey etc. so you should be able to get away with a few dreadlocks and Jennifer Anniston Shag cuts. Besides if people get lippy you can always mention that it is a 'radical adaptation'.

...which brings us onto Number 2 - The Drama.

Nip down to the bookshop and buy one of those Penguin Classics. In the UK it should be 50 years old or more which means that it's out of copyright (75+ years in the USA), so for the price of your book, you've just bought the rights to a classic novel. Alternatively hit up Project Gutenburg, download your classic text and you don't even have to pay a penny - hurrah!

Now the tricky bit, the adaptation. Because these books tend to waffle on a bit (jaysus! I saw Little Dorrit the other day - it was six hours long!!) take a pair of scissors and randomly hack out about half of your book. Throw this in the bin. Now give what you have got left a good read through, if it doesn't make sense don't worry, remember its a 'radical adaptation'. If its looking a bit boring spice it up by inserting a few choice sex scenes or a bit of violence. Authentic period violence and sex includes hunting for wild animals, gardening at the Chatterley's or anything that takes place in a scullery.

If you're stuck with a scene or two that doesn't make much sense 'cos there's all this internal drivel going on with the character then give them a companion to talk to. They can basically splurge all the details about what they have been up to in India or how they are suffering inner torment to their companion. Sample companions include pet whippets, token Americans or mutes (remember, it worked for The Piano).

If you fell asleep during the Costume bit, or frankly reckoned that was way too much effort why not make your costume drama a 'loose adaptation'? This is basically like a costume drama with all the advantages of not having to pay for the rights but without all the frilly bits. See 'Clueless', described as a 'loose adaptation of Jane Austen's 'Emma' or the latest version of 'Romeo and Juliet'.