Film and fashion

We don't make these pictures to make money. We make money so that we can make more pictures. (Walt Disney)


Was a miner, 49er

“It’s the modern gold rush,” says my friend Peter. “Just like 1849. Springtime cold, waist-deep in the icy streams up in the Sierra, panning bucket after bucket of gritty slush. Hoping the raging snowmelt will expose that one gold nugget that sets you up for the rest of your life. That’s Hollywood.”

Directors, screenwriters, actors and actresses. From all around the world, flying into LAX on Lufthansa and British Airways and JAL and American Airlines. A lot more comfortable than ‘tweendecks on the clippers, that sometimes took a month, a month! battered by pounding seas just to round Cape Horn.

Hollywood has a special allure for artists. The pot of gold, the lucky strike – that kind of magical thinking has a hypnotic allure for us also, just like it did for Norma Jeane Baker, when she took the bus from Van Nuys into LA and transformed herself into Marilyn Monroe. Not that simple, of course. Life rarely is. But every day, as the large jets arrive on runway 24R, the arriving prospectors are dreaming about Marilyn, and Clark Gable, and Stephen Spielberg. Name your icon. You’ll find that nugget, same as they did!


Artists, as they exit the jetway from the British Airways jumbo, are thinking about Ivor Beddoes and Ralph McQuarrie. Two guys who hit it big on Star Wars, way back when. Beddoes with storyboards, McQuarrie as design consultant and production illustrator... largely responsible for creating the appearance and atmosphere that gave the imagery the extraordinary aura of authenticity - from costumes and weaponry to spaceships and starscapes. Star Wars storyboards!

Storyboards! Great work, if you can get it. Like Iain McCaig, an artist who worked at JAK Films, a division of Lucasfilm as a storyboard and concept artist for all three prequel movies. “Yes.” you say, as you head over to the rent-a-car lot in a faint mist of kerosene fumes from an outward-bound 747, “I’ll be the next Iain McCaig.”

Animated storyboards

There’s a popular cops ‘n robbers series on Netflix, called Blacklist. Ongoing since 2013. But in 2020, almost shut down because of COVID. Can’t work on the set? Hey, let’s try – animated storyboards! Like cartoons, except that, same as regular storyboards, each scene replicates camera lens type and position. Desperate to get their episode finished, the show hired Proof, a visualization company that uses 3D animation software and real-time computer graphics to make preliminary visual representations of scenes for film and TV production as well as visual effects. The company has worked on "Fast & Furious 6," "Riddick," "The Fate of the Furious," "Star Trek Beyond" and "Rampage." Result? Excellent! In this screen capture off my TV, you can see that the only character moving is the man at right...

More work for artists, as this way of telling a story will be irresistable for any graphic novelist with a big budget. Or corporations who want to sell product with more than the usual impact!

There are lots of production art companies around Los Angeles. Outfits like Storyboards, Inc. who represent artists:

both for storyboards... and other media-related production art:

Google ‘storyboards 310’ or ‘storyboards LA’ (or Los Angeles) to see who’s who, and use Google Maps to see where they are in the sprawl. Gas is money!

What will you make? Depends on how much of the year you work. Storyboarding is essentially freelance, even if you’re on a movie payroll. One day, it’s over, and you’ll pound the pavement looking for that next gig. In a good year – maybe $75,000. Not bad, but not a lot of money either. But big ego payoffs – next time you’re back home in Medicine Bow, well, wouldja’ look at little Bobby! Back from Hollywood! Drivin’ one o’ them ‘lectric Cadillac Lyriqs!


Reader beware – I know absolutely nothing about the fashion industry. Well, not quite true. Got dragged to a fashion show once. Surprise! It’s an exciting world. Spring shows in Manhattan, hot lights, rock music, an audience of big-store buyers on the edge of their seats as the first models come tripping down the runway – and the fates of the world’s best fashion houses change in the blink of an eye! Talk about tension – it’s worse than Yankee Stadium when Aaron Judge comes up to bat with the bases loaded.

Also, when I worked at Doyle Dane Bernbach, we studied (envied) Jane Trahey’s ads for Blackglama furs. Trahey ran a campaign for the Great Lakes Mink Assn., which wanted a catchy slogan to sell its extra-dark furs. She took the acronym for the group, GLMA, and turned it into Blackglama. Then she convinced stars such as Bette Davis, Carol Channing, Barbra Streisand and Lauren Bacall to appear. In return, a star would receive a Richard Avedon portrait and a fur coat of her choice. "If she wasn't famous enough to be recognized instantly without a label, I didn't want her in the campaign," Trahey said. Her ads broke new ground – all photo, no type, just a little ‘What becomes a legend most?’ cut line at the bottom. Talk about impact! Here’s one with Brigitte Bardot (before she became an animal-rights activist):

But the ad world isn’t the fashion world. What’s out there if you love fashion design – if you’ve been drawing dresses since you were a little kid? I’d start at FIT – the Fashion Institute of Technology... part of SUNY – the State University of New York. It’s to fashion what the Art Center in Pasadena is to automotive design... far and away, the right place to be.

FIT has a great Fashion careers page – and, while there, also check out the link to Visual Arts careers. A super source of information, and they’re right in the center of it all... in New York City, on 27th street, between 7th and 8th avenues. Bullseye!

More: here’s a webpage about fashion illustration. And another about all the different fashion schools. Caution – don’t get sucked into some scam operation... you want training from a recognized, accredited institution. Me? I’d pack my bag, move to Manhattan, and start taking adult education classes right away at FIT – while waiting for my SUNY application to be approved – and, once in a FIT night class, I’d go looking for work, anything, minimum wage, whatever – at a leading fashion house, just to get my foot in the door, to get into the system.

Income? Fashion Designer, pay range $31,085 - $98,050 (see Payscale -fashion). or Apparel Technical Designer at $32,660 - $85,887. Who hires fashion designers? Big corporations like Target Corporation, Polo Ralph Lauren Corp., Steve Madden, Ltd., and G-Iii Apparel Group, that’s who.

Not so bad. Live your dream. And mazel tov! Good luck!

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