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CDG nominee Catherine Martin for designing the ‘Elvis’ costume

4 min read

Costume designer, production designer and producer Catherine Martin and her collaborators helped bring her husband, Baz Luhrmann’s, visually stunning story “Elvis” to life, creating iconic sets in Australia, including Elvis Presley’s mansion Graceland.

He created over 90 costumes for Austin Butler’s Elvis, a mix of re-creations and fictional costumes, and over 9000 costumes for the film overall. He earned a Costume Designers Guild Award nomination for the work and received three Oscar nominations for his work on the film, including Outstanding Costume Designer, Production Design and Producer.

Here, he talks about how “The Wizard of Oz” influenced him, as did his respect for Luhrmann’s craft.

Where did your love for fashion and design come from?

“The Wizard of Oz” is such an important film for me. I remember my father explaining to me how revolutionary it was to go from black and white to color and that it was a real change. so when [Dorothy] The door opens, he’s black and white, and when you cut to what he sees, it’s in color, and there are no visual effects. It’s just an editorial trick, but he always explained how these things were mapped.

When I was watching some terrible soap opera or whatever, and there was a dream sequence and another flashback, he’d tell me they were reusing footage from earlier episodes to keep the budget down.

I was always interested in making things. I wanted to learn to sew on a sewing machine when I was 6, and my mom taught me, and I loved making things because you can have an idea and then make something out of nothing. I have always been into crafts, candle making, painting and art. I just loved it, and that’s what I wanted to do.

Baz Luhrmann is a visual person. What does being in the room with him mean to you as a creative?

It’s an incredible advantage because he’s so invested in the visual storytelling aspect of filmmaking. he cares i think [cinematographer] Mandy [Walker] It will also say.

Because he respects and values ​​what we do, it means that a culture of respect exists throughout the process. You see sound, visual effects, and everyone as part of an interconnected ecosystem that creates something bigger.

“Strictly Ballroom,” “Romeo and Juliet” and “Moulin Rouge” are part of pop culture. What comes to mind when you think of them?

A funny thing is that from being a minimalist in drama school I seem to have been in a weird dance of death with Swarovski crystals.

By “strictly”, we had to recycle them because we never had enough. I remember being in the trailer and picking up crystals from one dress and putting them in another.

At “Elvis,” no one is faking how many Swarovski crystals you have, but no matter how big or small the project, you’re still pushing the boundaries of the resources you have to make it to the level you have. Unless you’re saying, ‘Well, I really don’t have enough. Or I need to do better here,’ then I don’t think you’re working hard enough. I think it’s the desire to romantically elevate what you’re doing to be a little bit better than is possible.

What I expect from “Strictly” is not to think of it as a low-budget movie, but how do we serve the story? How can we make it as beautiful as possible? How can we improve what we are doing? How can we do it in a better way? How do we add value to the experience? You don’t start with that limitation, you start with ideas, and you come up with the best idea you can, and then you try and work out how to make it work with what you have.

How do both production and costume designers help your creative process?

What I love is that we all support the characters, creating the atmosphere and the story. When you’ve worked with an actor, in a very intimate way, in a costume, and then they come and they’re on set, and it’s like they’re in Graceland – they can suspend their disbelief where they are, even for a moment. I hope there’s a synergy between the costume support and the set support to find the story they want to tell. To me, they are working in constant concert.

This means that stylistically, you are consistent. This means that you are only dealing with yourself, which means you can be more consistent in the rules you apply.

Are there any costumes or sets you’ve designed that you’re most proud of?

I get restless. The first big exterior set I did was in “Romeo + Juliet”. The first major exterior set was on Verona Beach with that disused broken-down cinema. So, I have a great love for exotic sets.

But those two blocks of Beal Street [for “Elvis”] In many ways it was a tour de force for the construction of Beale Street in Australia.

Just shoot goal after goal to find a spot with the correct topographical orientation of the sun and be able to see your team. Every price tag was on every window, the fruiterer had a vision. What Beverly Dunn did on that road was incredible. What Damien Drew did with the vehicles, overseeing being the art director on the whole set was amazing. That whole department has done an amazing job of doing something in the Australian suburbs.

Tip sheet
What: CDG Award
When: February 27
Where: Fairmont Century Plaza
Web: costumedesignersguild.com

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