Dressed for success in film 

Leo Award-nominated costume designer Glenne Campbell talks about her work

click to enlarge PHOTO BY CATHRYN ATKINSON - Costume creator Glenne Campbell has been nominated for a Leo Award for her work on the TV drama Rogue.
  • PHOTO by Cathryn Atkinson
  • Costume creator Glenne Campbell has been nominated for a Leo Award for her work on the TV drama Rogue.

It was a very dark story. The first episode was the storyline of a wealthy man sitting in a restaurant and a young woman comes in and stabs him to death. That's the opening sequence."

Veteran costume designer Glenne Campbell is sitting in her Brackendale kitchen, describing the assignment that got her a nomination for Best Costume Design in a Dramatic Series at this year's Leo Awards for her work on the TV crime drama Rogue. She was nominated for an episode called "Maria, Full of Grace."

The Leo Awards is British Columbia's annual gala for film and television.

Campbell explains how the plans for costuming went, and like many things in filmmaking it can be trial and error to get to the point of the perfection people see on screen.

"I had a meeting with the showrunner and he told me that he wanted the young woman to be dressed in a kimono-style dress. So that was fine, I drew it all up and got fabric swatches, showed it to him and he said — not that kind of dress, I meant one of those Chinese dresses with the high collar," she says.

He meant a cheongsam.

She'd already bought Japanese embroidered silk and had to sort out legal clearances on the look of it, something those of us outside her industry would know nothing about.

"If you write a script and use the name Joe Blow you have to get it legally cleared, just in case Joe Blow turns out to be an axe murderer. You don't want someone to come back at you and sue you," Campbell explains.

"For any jewelry or printed fabric, I had to get legal clearances."

This was on the Thursday before they were due to shoot that scene on the following Monday. Changing the print style from Japanese to Chinese meant changing the legal clearances, too.

That's when Campbell discovered the Chinese mill that supplied the silk she wanted to use had burned down. The lawyer couldn't accept it.

"So Friday afternoon, I got on Photoshop and designed a Chinese-themed fabric, ran it to downtown Vancouver to a printer, had it printed Friday night. Sent it to the sewer on Saturday, because I needed 15 of them," Campbell laughs.

"And that's why this Leo nomination is of any value to me!"

An Emmy- and Gemini-nominated costume designer, Campbell has been creating costumes for film and television since 1980. She was also the assistant costume designer for the Calgary Winter Games in 1988, overseeing 2,600 volunteers.

Her best-known work is arguably on dozens of episodes of Battlestar Galactica, Da Vinci's Inquest and episodes in the first season of the sci-fi historical series Outlander.

"I went to Scotland one year in advance (of the filming of the first series of Outlander) and did research. It was fabulous and I travelled all over Scotland," Campbell says.

"I spent a week at the national museum and asked them if they had any books on costume... and they brought up a whole cart. They let me photograph or photocopy anything I wanted. It was wonderful."

She got to design all of the tartans used in the filming, a particular point of pride, and worked with weavers in Selkirk.

In her long career, she has dressed actors ranging from Tom Green to Kirk Douglas.

Currently, she is working on a Hallmark Channel series called Chesapeake Shores, now shooting on Vancouver Island.

"They always have the love story going on and I like it because there are no guns, knives and bombs. It's quite refreshing and light," she laughs.

One thing that interests her about her work has been the importance of costume to the way actors move, to the way scenes respond to how actors look in what she has created for them.

It all impacts a story, Campbell says.

"The way I see costuming is that I'm painting and sculpting and providing kinetic movement in a costume. I work with palette, silhouette and how the costume moves to incorporate characterization," she says.

The Leo Awards takes place over three days at the Hyatt Regency in Vancouver; Campbell's category is presented on May 27. The other two nights are June 3 and June 4.

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