Elise Phillimore, who graduated from BA (Hons) Costume Production & Associated Crafts at Plymouth College of Art in 2018, has worked on an upcoming Netflix Original comedy film, Eurovision, following multiple successful projects since graduating, including creating costumes for Marvel’s Spider-Man: Far From Home, and for the Royal Opera House and Birmingham Royal Ballet.
Provisionally scheduled for release in 2020, Eurovision is written by, produced by and starring Will Ferrel. Other starring actors include Rachel McAdams, Dan Stevens, Pierce Brosnan and Demi Lovato. Freelance costume maker Elise worked on Eurovision creating crowd costumes and alterations for the cast for around three months, from start to finish of the filming.
Elise said: “Eurovision was the first film production where I’ve worked on the full run, which was very exciting. I got to go on set and watch some of the filming, and to attend the wrap party at the end with the rest of the cast and crew.”
Elise, who grew up in Watford and now spends her time divided between her home in Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire and Central London, studied at Plymouth College of Art from 2015 to 2018. Supported by Marie Dunaway, the Costume team and her fellow students, Elise was able to utilise the strong network of performance industry experts linked to Plymouth College of Art to facilitate her aspirations of gaining work experience in the performing arts industry.
Elise said: “Before choosing a university, I knew that I wanted to study costume-making and that if I studied in London I’d live at home with my parents and miss out on the university experience. As soon as I found out about the facilities at Plymouth College of Art I made the decision to study there, and never regretted it. For anybody thinking about studying there, I found that if you put the work in then you can get a lot out of the experience.
“The things I loved best at university were the live briefs and outside collaborations. In my first year, I created a Victorian dress to go on display for the National Trust as part of a costume exhibition in Castle Drogo. We also worked on a theatre production with another local university, altering costumes backstage, which taught me so much.
“I remember my time at Plymouth College of Art fondly. There was always somebody who had the knowledge to teach you new skills, so that I’d be learning about tailoring one day and how to make a tiara the next. There was time to immerse yourself in research as well – I spent three months on one costume, learning how to create everything from start to finish, whereas now that I’m more experienced my clients would expect me to make the same costume in a week!
“The most important thing that happened to me at Plymouth College of Art was when I realised how interested I was in making tutus and contacted Anna Maria, the founder of Tutu Maker Studio, to ask if she’d accept me for a work placement. I learned so much from her and kept in contact afterwards, asking for advice when I was working on a tutu for the college Degree Shows in my final year. There aren’t many people in the UK with such specialist skills, so I was fortunate that Anna Maria made time to support me. As a result, in September 2018, not long after I graduated, Anna Maria contacted me because she needed some extra help on a film production that she was working on. And that was how I ended up working on my first Marvel movie, at Warner Bros Studios in Leavesden!
“Creating crowd costumes on Spider-Man: Far From Home was an incredible experience. I came in towards the end of filming, so was only in the studios for around five weeks, but I learned so much. My role mostly focused on creating costumes for a scene set in Prague, as part of a small team. We were given fabrics and vintage trims and asked to create costumes from scratch for the background crowds, so we made waistcoats, skirts, aprons, belts, all kinds of things.
“I met so many people there. There were a lot of different teams in the production area, some creating jewellery and millinery for the crowds, screen printing patterns for the skirts that we made, one embroidery team for the Mysterio character’s cape and a team dedicated to Spider-Man’s costume. It taught me so much about the scale of work that goes into big-budget film productions and I even got to go onto the Venice film set on my lunch break one day.
“The film costumes that I’ve made so far have been mainly during the summer season, with my winters spent making tutus with Anna Maria for different national theatres. The two biggest productions I’ve worked on are the Nutcracker at Birmingham Royal Ballet, creating sugar plum fairy tutus, and Coppélia at the Royal Opera House, creating tutus for the wedding scene. To contribute to some of the biggest ballets in the UK within less than two years after graduating from Plymouth College of Art is an incredible feeling.”
Other projects that Elise has worked on include the Black and White Swan costume for the Birmingham Royal Ballet production of Swan Lake, working on costumes for the new Hamilton cast, and making costumes for Rambert’s Invisible Cities at the Manchester International Festival.
“Due to the lockdown, theatres have obviously closed so projects have come to a stop for me, but I’ve been keeping busy working on creating personal protective equipment (PPE) and accessories for some friends who are key workers. A couple of friends who work in care and the NHS were finding their ears were getting sore from wearing a mask all day so I created some buttoned bands that go around the back of their heads to give their ears some relief. One of them is a nurse working in A&E, so I also made her some scrub hats and a laundry bag so she can carry worn scrubs safely home to be washed. Hopefully I will get back into costume work later this year, but for now at least I’m able to contribute.”
Deadline recently reported on BFI findings that the UK’s film and TV industries are undergoing an unprecedented boom, with production spending in the UK “exceeding $4.7bn (£3.6bn), a 16% increase on the previous highest on record”. High-end television productions accounted for a record $2.16bn (£1.66bn), from a total of 123 TV productions in the UK last year, including The Crown, His Dark Materials, Killing Eve, Avenue 5, and The North Water.
This trend looks set to continue post-lockdown, with Netflix signing a long-term deal to make Shepperton Studios its UK production hub and seeing an increase of 16-million subscribers due to the coronavirus outbreak, and Disney entering a similar deal at Pinewood Studios, with 22-million subscribers joining the service since lockdown began. If this trend does continue, the range of opportunities for UK graduates with costume-making skills will continue to increase and provide a wider range of potential employment opportunities.