Film and TV drama
Also known as: Wardrobe trainee, Costume assistant
Costume trainees are at the ready with a needle, a cup of tea, an iron and a notepad. Their tasks vary depending on the scale of the production. They might carry out research for the costume designer or work with a costume assistant to detail requirements, photograph garments and note changes in the continuity book.
They are likely to help with setting up workrooms, ordering supplies and may help with pattern cutting or the ageing and distressing of costumes. They may be given specific responsibility for crowd fittings or packing costumes for overseas shipment to other locations or units.
During the shoot, they make sure the outfits are ready for the actors and help the standbys by making simple alternations. Or they might be asked to collect garments and supplies, clean and iron them or do returns for the designer.
You will need some basic kit when you start working on a film set:
Costume trainees work with the whole costume team, including costume assistants on set, on costume trucks or at base. They might also be working with actors in crowd scenes.
Start by becoming a skilled garment maker. If you can cut fabric and sew, you will have something to offer the costume team. Once you’ve developed your skills, you need to get experience, make contacts and find your way into the industry. Get onto ScreenSkills’ Trainee Finder scheme. This will help you make the contacts and build up the industry knowledge to get work in the art department of a film or TV drama.
At school or college:
If you want to go to university, A-levels or Highers in art and design, fashion, textiles, theatre, graphic design or graphic communication are useful. Or you might want to take the following Level 3 vocational qualifications:
If you want to go straight into a job or apprenticeship, the following Level 3 vocational qualifications will equip you:
Get an apprenticeship:
Apprenticeships are jobs with training, so they’re a great opportunity to earn as you lean. It can be challenging to find jobs as an apprentice with production companies as many are not able to take on people for a whole year, which is an apprenticeship requirement at the moment. However, it might be worth looking for a job as an apprentice in an industry that uses similar skills, such as being a tailor for a clothing designer or tailoring company. This could help you develop your craft and create a body of work for a portfolio that you can use to find your way into film and TV drama at a later point.
These are apprenticeships throughout the UK that might be relevant to the role:
In Scotland, you might be able to find degree-level apprenticeships through the following frameworks:
Before taking any apprenticeship, check what you’ll be learning with your prospective employer and college, so you can be sure it will be giving you the skills you want. Go to how to become an apprentice to learn how to find apprenticeships in your region or approach companies directly.
Volunteer to do the costumes for student films or amateur theatre productions.
Build a portfolio:
This is essential. Go to Build your costume portfolio for specific advice on ways of impressing admissions tutors and costume designers.
Work at a costume rental firm:
This will help you to learn how to handle costumes and make contacts in the industry.
Get a degree:
It’s by no means essential. But if you want one, have a look at ScreenSkills’ list of recommended courses in film and TV. We recognise courses with our ScreenSkills Select award where they offer training in the relevant software, dedicated time to building a portfolio and have strong links with the film and TV industries.
Go to ScreenSkills’ events like Open Doors to meet people working in costume. Show them your portfolio and give them your number.
Create a LinkedIn profile. See if there’s a Facebook page or other social media group for people making films or videos in your area. Join it. Create a ScreenSkills profile.
Become a trainee:
Get onto ScreenSkills’ Trainee Finder scheme. Get the skills, make contacts and start working in a costume department.
Being a costume assistant in unscripted TV. Working in studio shows and entertainment is different from working on the film set of a large period drama. Look at the job role to see which you think you might prefer.
Involves making sequences on a computer that can't be created on set, like enormous crowds and fire-breathing dragons
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Creates the illusion of movement, includes computer-generated, stop-motion and hand-drawn animation