Center Stage, Film, Television — April 15, 2013 8:52 AM

{C} Magazine talks to “Game of Thrones” Costume Designer Michelle Clapton

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You may not know her name but chances are you know her clothes. Michele Clapton is the designer behind some of entertainment’s most memorable images including Boy George of the 80’s pop phenomenon Culture Club to her latest work on the HBO hit series “Game of Thrones”.  Her work has not only won her the respect of her peers, but also a vast array of awards including a Primetime Emmy and a Costume Designer’s Guild Award.

{C}  When people watch the show ["Game of Thrones"], they don’t think about the costume design, the set design, etc. They are just taken in by it all. Is this a sign of a successful design team?

{Michele}  This was really our aim from the beginning, to create a ‘real’ fantasy. Gemma and I worked very closely to make the characters exist within the created spaces, taking into account climate, the availability of trade, access to amenities, etc.

{C} Who is your least favorite character [on "Game of Thrones"] to create for?

{Michele}  Ah, this is hard as I like them all in their own way. It is hard sometimes when an actor is cast who looks nothing like the image you have in your head. This doesn’t often happen but when it does, it’s a challenge.

{C} You did amazing work in Chromophobia which is not a fantasy but a real-life modern day setting. Is it more difficult to costume something like this?

{Michele}  The problem with contemporary film is that everyone has an opinion as they all feel the know how someone should look. Everyone is an expert! I’ve had said to me ‘how hard can it be’… In fact it’s often much harder and you don’t get the respect you do for period or fantasy design. That said, if you have the backing of your director, it can be really interesting to create the characters. Martha Fiennes was very supportive on Chromophobia; we had very similar tastes… which helped.

{C} I love the costumes in the ball scene of “Casanova”. Was that a fun one to do?

{Michele}  This was great fun, very low budget, again a very supportive director who allowed me pretty much free rein. For me to make sense of this and to do something interesting, in budget, and without being tied to the really correct period costume details was to think of this as Casanova’s memory of his life. In memory we all know that we often just have impressions of color and shape and mood, we exaggerate and embellish stories. It was a much more exciting and, at that time, new approach to period costume design. When we cut to him actually telling the story we were more correct with the period.

{C} When did you first get interested in designing costumes?

{Michele}  I studied fashion at Uni but I was always very theatrical, being one of the original ‘Blitz Kids.’ When at college, I designed for Boy George and later videos for so many 80s and 90s bands. From Annie Lenox through to Muse and beyond. The videos were like sketch books, I could try out so many different ideas, I slowly shifted into film and TV as my daughter grew up and I could spend more time away.

{C} Is it more difficult to create for a movie or a television series?

{Michele}  At the top end of TV there is very little difference from working in film, and I think TV is becoming very strong; the audiences are potentially so enormous.

{C} What are some of the challenges of designing for a show like “Game of Thrones”?

{Michele}  To be consistently coherent and stay true to the path that we set down; actually, that’s easy compared to the logistics of filming with so many actors, directors in up to four countries and running two sets at all times, you have to learn to trust and delegate… and learn to love air travel!

{C} You have been nominated for and won many awards. Is this recognition important to you?

{Michele} Yes of course, it also helps to convince people to believe in you a bit, to give you the space to design.

{C} What is your next project?

{Michele}  I am about to start filming Before I Go To Sleep a contemporary film with Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth in the lead roles. I just needed an antidote to fantasy and loved the script.


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