Hallmark is known for its romances, but a lot goes into the process of making these films and it’s all done in a relatively short period of time. Actors, producers and directors work to complete a film over the course of just a few weeks, with a lot more going on behind the scenes to get it all done and in the desired manner.
One of the most important departments is costuming. The outfits that the characters wear are what help create that bright and cheery aesthetic of a Hallmark movie. To understand what exactly goes into the process of determining clothes for each character, International Business Times asked two veteran Hallmark costume designers – Tina Fiorda and Rafaella Rabinovich – to break it all down.
1. Read The Script And Break It All Down.
Tina Fiorda: “Every script has a certain amount of script days that the storyline takes place in. So, the first thing I do is I read the script and break down the script days. First time I read it, I read it just for the story to get acquainted with the story. Then the second time, I break it down into script days and that’ll help me determine how many changes each character has.”
Rafaella Rabinovich: “The first thing I do is I read the script and I break it down. You break down the characters versus the amount of changes that they have and specialty things.”
2. Make Sure Everyone Is On The Same Page.
Fiorda: “I will have a talk with my producer, local producer to five executive producers, to find out what look they’re looking for. If I need to talk to the Hallmark producers, executives in New York or Los Angeles, I’ll talk to them, too. To make sure that I’m on the same page as them.
“It’s a collaborative effort and it’s really nice because Hallmark has a brand, they have a look and it’s my job to make sure that I deliver that brand for Hallmark, that look for Hallmark. And the look that they have is pretty classic and timeless and fun, where needed, so it’s a really good partnership that I have with the executives at Hallmark, when I do these Hallmark projects.”
Rabinovich: “You’re reading the script, you’re breaking it down, you’re asking questions, you’re making decisions, you’re making mood boards to kind of understand the look. In my case, you sketch. And you start to present that to the people that you’re working with on it. Like, not within the department, but producers and director, and just kind of talk about how do we want this character to look, what’s going on in this scene.”
3. Brainstorm Look Ideas Using Psychology, Symbolism And Hallmark’s Signature Look.
Fiorda: “I look at the character and I look at the psychology. Because the way my job is, I don’t dress actors, I create characters with the fashion, with the clothing. So, I look at the colors that I put in, what the symbolism of a color would be on a character. Like, if they’re a female for instance, an actor or a character, who starts off innocent, I would put them in maybe whites and creams to portray that innocence. Anger, you would put a hot color for anger, like red, for instance. It depends, a character who is shy, for instance, instead of having a blouse unbuttoned down her chest into a v, I would button it all the way up to portray that she is a closed character.
“For instance, to portray the character, if it’s a woman who’s more outgoing, I might put a dress on her that’s more form-fitting. If it’s a woman who is shy, I would put looser clothes on her, button her up to the top.”
Rabinovich: “In the best way possible, Hallmark can be… there’s some cookie-cutting in Hallmark sometimes. Sometimes when you watch Hallmark, you’ll see the design, it’s very up-to-beat with fashion, but it’s also not, like, you’re not going to see… you don’t see blood and sex in a Hallmark. So, you don’t necessarily see women’s hands, you don’t see cleavage. You work around a very specific boundary there. Which is a lot of fun because you get to really touch base with texture and color there because you kind of have to. Cardigans is something that you find yourself using a lot in order to cover hands. You want to make sure that families are comfortable looking at this and also showing it to their kids.”
4. Arrange The Clothing According To The Storyline.
Fiorda: “There’s little tricks that you can do with characters, and then you can have an arc for them as their character shifts. I can shift the clothes that she wears to portray the shift in the character.”
5. Come To An Agreement On The Budget.
Fiorda: “[Hallmark gives] me a budget and then what I will do, I will break down the costume changes, how many there are, what’s required for the department and then I’ll give them my budget. I’ll give my producer my budget. So, my budget may not always jive with their budget because they may not know all the little nuances and so we come to a happy agreement, a happy compromise. Yeah, I find that they’re very supportive.”
6. Include The Film’s Stars In The Process.
Fiorda: “I try and get [the actors] involved, too. When we’re doing the fitting, we’ll have a talk with them because they’ve obviously read the script and they have ideas about their character, too. So I will talk to each actor before, and especially the main actors, before I start shopping for them. And we’ll discuss the character, I’ll discuss with the actors what they’re feeling for the character and I’ll try to marry that into what Hallmark’s looking for, as well, so that I can come up with a happy medium.”
Rabinovich: “I’m a big believer – my process is I will never ask an actor to go on camera with something they’re uncomfortable with or they’re unhappy with because it doesn’t serve me, nor does it serve them and then, overall, does not serve the movie… I also have a discussion, especially with the leads, like we have this discussion in advance, like how do I view the character, how do they view the character, if there’s something they’re uncomfortable with, if there’s a color that they don’t like wearing, if there’s a cut that they feel is the most flattering on them, because most of the actors I work with are not first-time actors, so they know to tell you… It really doesn’t serve you to have a vision without bringing people in.”
7. Organize Costume Ideas For Each Character And Go Shopping.
Fiorda: “Once everything is set, and I know how many script days there are, I know what look they’re going for, I know how many costume changes I need, I just go out and start shopping and start putting racks of clothes together for each character. I do Pinterest boards. I like to do Pinterest boards for each character, that I invite my team onto, and find photos online that reflect that character that I’m designing for, so we’re all on the same page. And I love Pinterest for that, it’s perfect.”
Fiorda’s costume work with Hallmark could most recently be seen in “Morning Show Mystery: Mortal Mishaps” and “All of My Heart: Inn Love,” while Rabinovich’s most recent Hallmark project was “Pumpkin Pie Wars.”