Making it in Wardrobe: Film Costumer Lisa Sass

Costumer Lisa Sass
Costumer Lisa Sass shot by Veera Ovaska

 

Originally from Hanover, Germany, costumer Lisa Sass is one of the key figures who works tirelessly behind the scenes on film and television productions to ensure that all the actors on screen visually represent their characters down to the most minute detail.

Over the past five years Sass’s vast skill set as a costumer have landed her leading roles on a huge range of high profile productions including the Oscar Award nominated films Star Trek Beyond and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the Golden Globe nominated film Furious 7 starring Vin Diesel (xXx) and the feature film War Machine starring Oscar Award winner Brad Pitt (World War Z), which was released last month.

While it hasn’t taken her long to establish a reputation that is strong enough to be sought out by some of the biggest film productions in the world, she definitely paid her dues along the way. The path to becoming a costumer for film and TV was something that actually began for Sass during childhood.

She explains, “I’ve always been a big fan of movies and TV series. I started drawing when I was about 4 years old, started copying cartoon and comic characters at some point and went to more realistic drawings from there. I made up stories and started creating my own characters and their clothes. Going into costume design combined my passion for film and creating characters.”

Sass’ role as a costumer is one that starts long before the cameras begin rolling and finishes long after the director says ‘that’s a wrap.’ While the costume designer ultimately decides what costume each character wears on screen, it’s the costumer’s job to breakdown the script scene by scene and create a look-book for every single character documenting the multitude of costumes they wear over the course of a production. Sass then goes to work compiling a massive wardrobe collection to fit the main characters, as well as everything worn by the background talent. But her job definitely doesn’t end there, if it did, things would be far too easy.

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Lisa Sass shot by  Veera Ovaska

In addition to altering the costumes to fit each cast member perfectly, she is the person who makes sure her department has everything they need to keep the cast comfortable, which can be include everything from a wet suit to be worn under the clothing if the character falls into a cold lake during a scene to heat tech clothing to keep the cast member warm when shooting in frigid temperatures. She is also responsible for aging the costumes and adding desired effects depending what happens to the character in a specific scene and how that carries over into their wardrobe, and much more.

Sass first immersed herself in the industry in 2010 when she joined the the wardrobe department of the hit series Tatort, which has won over 100 awards since it first began in the 1970s and is still airing today! After learning the ropes from seasoned costume designer and German Television Academy Award winner Monika Hinz on the series Tatort, Sass was ready to begin working on her own as a lead costumer.

Immediately after completing her bachelor’s degree in costume design she landed a spot as a costumer on the set of the 26-episode comedy series In Your Dreams, an Australian/German co-production. One of Sass’s major roles once a production begins shooting is monitoring the continuity of each character’s costume throughout every scene, a skill she quickly acquired thanks to the grueling attention to detail required by In Your Dreams.

She recalls, “We were shooting all episodes out of order so it was essential, that you were fit in keeping the continuity of the costumes. A TV series usually shoots a lot more scenes in a day than you would on a film because of time pressure so we sometimes shot 10 scenes out of 10 different episodes a day which means you have to change the casts costumes after every scene and have to make sure it is worn exactly like the scene before or after one that you might have shot a month ago or longer.”

Sass’s early work on the series In Your Dreams, although demanding, served as excellent preparation for the many jobs that flowed in subsequently after, such as the German crimes series Monaco 110 starring Bavarian TV Award winner Monika Baumgartner (The Nasty Girl), the Jupiter Award nominated romcom film Vaterfreuden, the crime film Die reichen Leichen. Ein Starnbergkrimi directed by 10-time Adolf Grimme Award winner Dominik Graf (The Invincibles) and the crime series SOKO 5113 starring Gerd Silberbauer.

In Your Dreams director Ralph Strasser says, “We had quite a large cast on the series, and it was imperative that they always looked immaculate on camera, so the demands on Lisa and her colleagues were often quite intense. The film set is a place where tensions frequently run high, but Lisa was always a friendly and good natured presence, doing what was required calmly and efficiently. Making ‘In Your Dreams’ was a very special experience in my career, largely due to the pleasure of sharing it with people like Lisa.”

After making a name for herself in the German film and television industry, Lisa Sass moved to Dubai where she began costuming for even bigger projects. There she was tapped as a lead costumer on the hit films Furious 7, Star Trek Beyond, Star Wars; The Force Awakens and War Machine.

Besides her unrivaled creativity, attention to detail and extensive wardrobe knowledge, one thing that has made Sass such a sought after costumer in the film industry internationally is the fact that costume designers can trust her to be prepared for any situation, and oftentimes that means having items on hand (that aren’t in the script) to keep the cast comfortable.

“It is not only important to dress the cast, it is also important to maintain comfort for the cast. There’s a lot of empathy and psychology at play but also simple things like providing warming jackets, heating insoles, warm blankets in between takes, umbrellas for rain or sun or fans on shoots in the desert. If the actors are happy, every shoot runs more smoothly and that can even mean a change of shoes in between takes or for a close up where you don’t see the difference,” explains Sass.

“This is all part of the job as a costumer behind the scenes for the things that you will not see on screen but is very important for the progress of the shoot.”

Aside from her key contributions to countless film and television productions, Sass has also been tapped to apply her skill as costumer on a plethora of major commercials for companies such as Nike, Nissan, Ultra Tech Cement, Lamborghini and others.

Earlier this year she was the costumer on the “What will they say about you?” commercial for Nike Middle East, which was geared towards women in the Middle East and created quite a buzz. The powerful and controversial commercial featured women athletes running through the streets, playing sports and being the epitome of strength, all the while wearing traditional Hijabs.

As someone who has made it to the top of the industry as an internationally sought after costumer, Sass is one person aspiring costumers should look to for advice if they are seriously considering making this a career.

Sass says, “The job needs a lot of empathy to work at your best in a team, adapt to the costume designer’s visions and be able to work with different people and personalities constantly. You have to be able to work well under pressure and think quickly on your feet and have a keen eye for details.”

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