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An interview with Community and It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia costume designer, Sabrina Rosen

Last week I got to have a chat with the lovely costume designer of Community and It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, Sabrina Rosen over the wonderful invention of Skype, and here it is:

On Screen Fashion: How long have you been a costume designer? What influenced you to become one?

Sabrina Rosen: I have been an actual designer since 1999, but I’ve worked as a costumer since 1993, and I kind of got into it by accident while I was living in New York and I had given up trying to become an actress. I was studying and working in fashion when my best friend’s husband, a director, asked me to work on one movie, so I thought I would give it a shot. Next thing I know, I’ve given up my apartment in New York and moved to Los Angeles, and that was that.

OSF: How would you describe your personal style? Do you ever get influenced by the television shows or films you work on in your own personal wardrobe?

SR: No, what I really love is the 30s and 40s and since I grew up in the 70s I like a lot of the nice stuff from the 70s era like Ali MacGraw. My main influence for my personal fashion style is my mom, I dress a lot like her and my moms sister was a very well known fashion designer, so with that and living in New York I was very influenced a lot fashion-wise. At work, it really is the character that influences you. In TV it’s more what you can find in the stores on a weekly basis that will work on that character, it’s not like a movie when you have three months to prepare. You can search in the vintage shops and do whatever you want but you’re forced to do it quickly due to the deadlines.

OSF: Which character in Community was the most fun to dress and why?

SR: Obviously Dean Pelton (Jim Rash) but I would say after that, Annie (Alison Brie) but Jim Rash is so much fun to dress. The costumes we put him in are so ridiculous – he’ll let us put him in anything which is great in comedy, plus he’s a really nice guy! It’s the same with my actors in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, they will wear any ridiculous costume, we just did a pilot and one of them is wearing a handmade gorilla costume which was fun. Going back to Community, Annie is so much fun to dress because that is a style I would personally never wear, I don’t know anybody that dresses like that – it’s so specific and very girly.

OSF: You worked on episode 1 of season 3 which opens with a Glee-esque song which has very bright and eccentric clothing – was that fun to work on? Can you explain reasons for the choice in clothing?

SR: Yeah it was fun to work on – it had to be a version of how our characters already dress but with a heightened colour situation, especially with Jeff (Joel McHale) and Britta (Gillian Jacobs) who are always in dark colours. We put Jeff in his classic button up shirt but instead of a dark colour we put him in pink, the same with Britta but with pink jeans instead of dark jeans. Sometimes it’s like, ‘what’s easy and that I can do fast? I knew that there were tons of bright coloured jeans in the stores and in TV a lot of it has to be put together in such a short amount of time. Most of the time you have to just go to the stores and know your characters enough so that you can identify what would work on them – I have to see it to know it.

OSF: Michael Kenneth Williams appears in season 3 who is well known for his super-stylish clothing in Boardwalk Empire – what was the story behind his costumes?

SR: As he always plays the bad guy like Omar Little (The Wire) and Chalky White (Boardwalk Empire) and because we’re all such huge fans of his, we were all so excited that he was coming. He’s a teacher but he had previously been in prison so I didn’t want it to be too much about his clothes but I wanted him to have a little bit of style – enough for him to intimidate Jeff. He wore a lot of Banana Republic jeans and blazers – I dressed him just like that character would think a teacher would dress after being in prison.

OSF: Abed (Danny Pudi) is dressed quite young – is this to reflect his geeky, awkward personality?

SR: Yeah, it is. It’s funny, three years in and I start forgetting how we even got to this point … but it’s funny with TV, you kind of land on a character and the clothing to match the character and you kinda go with it … so you don’t want to have a completely different look from year to year. He’s the best guy, you should expect to see him in a lot of crazy costumes in the new series.

OSF: Do you have any funny stories about the costume and styling in Community that viewers may not know?

SR: I’m sure there’s a lot of Jim Rash ones. I will tell you one thing … this isn’t really a big thing but I will tell you anyway. Joel Mchale (Jeff) is a clothes horse like you have never met in your life. He is OBSESSED with clothes, sometimes I have to remind him that I’m dressing him for his character but he is so obsessed with fashion. He’s the only actor I have ever worked with in my life that loves costume fittings, most actors aren’t too phased by it but if I tell Joel I’ve just bought new clothes he can’t get over quick enough, he is obsessed.

OSF: What is your favourite fashion moment in Community that you worked on?

SR: There’s an episode coming up where Annie wears a yellow 70s inspired princess dress and we found it in the costume shop, it’s so pretty and it kinda reminds me of Valley of the Dolls so I would say recently that’s my favourite costume.

OSF: You’ve also worked on It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia – are there any big differences from Community in terms of costumes?

SR: For one thing on Community, I get to buy new clothes. Two of the guys on It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia have been wearing the same thing for two years because in the show they are not supposed to have much money and want it to seem real. They are both comedy’s so you both get stuff thrown at you at the last minute – the creators will say ‘Wouldn’t it be funny if … ?’ and it always has something to do with some ridiculous costume that you’re sure you can’t come up with in a 2hour/24hour period but you have to do it because it’s your job. In Community, Dan Harmon the creator of the show is always coming up with something like ‘Wouldn’t it be amazing if …?’ as he’s so influenced by other TV shows and movies. In both shows, the creators have seen every movie ever made and every TV show ever made so they’ll come up with an obscure movie with obscure costumes. It’s usually an 80s costume which wasn’t as much my time, so it’s like coming up with something in hardly any time with what you have. You have to figure out how to make it happen, out of nothing and you have to have good seamstresses!

OSF: Are there any other television shows that you would love to work on? Maybe Mad Men?

SR: Obviously Mad Men would be great, who wouldn’t want to work on that? She does such a good job, she’s amazing. I would love to do something that’s 30s or 40s and I would love to do a TV show where they dress like the movie The Artist everyday. I would also love to do something that’s kind of something out of the blaxploitation movies of the 70s where the guys would be wearing a red suit, red hat and red alligator shoes, the sort of thing you would see at a fight in Vegas, it’s very pimpy. I love bad clothes, like I’d love to do a pimpy thing – bright clothes and just bad clothes you could buy downtown but not the nice stores. Obviously Boardwalk Empire would also be amazing to work on but that’s another dream job for all of us, I love the costumes he puts Michael Kenneth Williams in.

Many thanks to Sabrina Rosen

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Oscar 2012 – The Artist and Hugo big winners.

So, it’s early evening here in the UK and I haven’t been able to stop yawning or rubbing my eyes all day. This is the after-effects of watching the Oscars or  an ‘Oscar come-down’ if you will. Due to the time difference I tuned in to watch all the glitz and the glamour at 1.30am and went to bed at 5.00am – it was definitely a fall-asleep-as-soon-as-your-head-touches-the-pillow moment once it had finished. Before you start to get annoyed with my feel-sorry-for-me routine I will swiftly move on and inform you of all the winners (and losers) of this year’s Academy Awards.

The winners are in bold.

Best Picture

The Artist

War Horse

The Tree of Life

Moneyball

The Descendants

Midnight in Paris

The Help

Hugo

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Best Director

Michel Hazanavicius – The Artist

Alexander Payne – The Descendants

Martin Scorsese – Hugo

Woody Allen – Midnight in Paris

Terrence Malick – The Tree of Life

Best Actor

Jean Dujardin – The Artist

Demian Bichir – A Better Life

Brad Pitt – Moneyball

George Clooney – The Descendants

Gary Oldman – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Best Actress

Meryl Streep – The Iron Lady

Glenn Close – Albert Nobbs

Viola Davis – The Help

Rooney Mara – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Michelle Williams – My Week With Marilyn

Best Supporting Actor

Christopher Plummer – Beginners

Kenneth Branagh – My Week With Marilyn

Jonah Hill – Moneyball

Nick Nolte – Warrior

Max von Sydow – Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Best Supporting Actress

Octavia Spencer – The Help

Berenice Bejo – The Artist

Jessica Chastain – The Help

Melissa McCarthy – Bridesmaids

Janet McTeer – Albert Nobbs

Best Foreign Language Film

A Separation – Iran

Bullhead – Belgium

Footnote – Israel

In Darkness – Poland

Monsieur Lazhar – Canada

Best Animation

Rango

A Cat in Paris

Chico and Rita

Kung Fu Panda 2

Puss in Boots

Best Original Screenplay

Midnight in Paris – Woody Allen

The Artist – Michel Hazanavicius

Bridesmaids – Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig

Margin Call – JC Chandor

A Separation – Asghar Farhadi

Best Adapted Screenplay

The Descendants – Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash

Hugo – John Logan

The Ides of March – George Clooney, Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon

Moneyball – Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin. Story by Stan Chervin.

Tinker Tailor Solider Spy – Bridget O’Connor and Peter Straughan

Best Art Direction

Hugo – Dante Ferretti and Francesca Lo Schiavo

The Artist

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2

Midnight in Paris

War Horse

Best Cinematography

Hugo – Robert Richardson

The Artist

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Hugo

The Tree of Life

War Horse

Best Sound Mixing

Hugo – Tom Fleischman and John Midgley

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Moneyball

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

War Horse

Best Sound Editing

Hugo – Philip Stockton and Eugene Gearty

Drive

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

War Horse

Best Original Song

Man or Muppet, from The Muppets – music and lyrics by Bret McKenzie

Real in Rio from Rio – music by Sergio Mendes and Carlinhos Brown and lyrics by Siedah Garrett

Best Original Score

The Artist – Ludovic Bource

The Adventures of Tintin

Hugo

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

War Horse

Real in Rio from Rio – music by Sergio Mendes and Carlinhos Brown and lyrics by Siedah Garrett

Best Costume Design

The Artist – Mark Bridges

Anonymous

Hugo

Jane Eyre

W.E.

Best Documentary Feature

Undefeated

Hell and Back Again

If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front

Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory

Pina

Best Documentary Short

Saving Face

The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement

God is the Bigger Elvis

Incident in New Baghdad

The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom

Best Film Editing

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall

The Artist

The Descendants

Hugo

Moneyball

Best Animated Short Film

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore

Dimanche/Sunday

La Luna

A Morning Stroll

Wild Life

Best Live Action Short Film

The Shore

Pentecost

Raju

Time Freak

Tuba Atlantic

Best Visual Effects

Hugo – Rob Legato, Joss Williams, Ben Grossman and Alex Henning

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

Real Steel

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Best Make Up

The Iron Lady – Mark Coulier and J Roy Helland

Albert Nobbs

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

So that’s that. Hollywood’s biggest night of the year is over until 2013, were you happy with the winners? Hugo and The Artist were the winners of the night it seems. The Iron Lady receiving best make-up? Not sure I agree with that – Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows part 2 is definitely a more deserving winner. I completely agreed with The Artist winning best costume design and I loved seeing how happy Jean Dujardin was when he received best actor and even happier when Bret McKenzie won best original song for The Muppets. 

Let me know your thoughts!

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