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Little Accidents: Costume Designer Meghan Kasperlik

BY: Marjorie Galas, Editor

“Little Accidents” was not the first film costume designer Meghan Kasperlik worked on that screened at Sundance, but it’s premiere this January did mark her first visit to Park City.  It was also the first time she participated in a Q&A panel, and the first time she saw an audience react to the film’s debut.  “Little Accidents,” however, was the third film premier within three months that bore Kasperlik’s handi-work.  She was also a shopper on “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” and an assistant costume designer who contributed to the completion of the Oscar-nominated costumes featured in “American Hustle.”

“A good friend called me when I was in between films for help with ‘Walter Mitty.’   I had the time and was able to get everything done,” said Kasperlik.  “I read the script for ’Little Accidents’ while I was working on ‘American Hustle.’  It was a great script and I felt I had to do it.”

Set in a coal mining town, ‘Little Accidents” follows an injured coal miner (Boyd Holbrook), a mine executive’s wife (Elizabeth Banks) and a young boy (Beau Wight) as they search for a missing 14 year old.   Kasperlik was particularly inspired by the scripts’ exploration of life in a coal mining town and the issues miner’s are exposed to daily that are only touched upon in network news.  She immediately began researching the project prior to being hired and confirming the job was hers.

“I went to an active coal mine and saw them working hands on.  I got to see what they wore in the mines and what they wore outside the workplace when they are out or relaxing at home,” said Kasperlik.  “I like to do a lot of research, and be extra prepared.  Doing research before I was hired put me ahead of schedule.”

During her time spent with the miners, Kasperlik discovered the dirty job did not carry into their personal lives.  The miner’s wore gloves to protect their hands, and they took great pride in their appearance once they step away from their jobs.  She learned the fluorescent striping on the uniforms indicated specific duties and mining activates, and that the workers wore their tools the way many men wear a wallet.  She was fortunate to obtain several authentic uniforms, including a pair of boots that were Beau’s size, and she altered the gear with a fabricated company logo.  While there were a number of outfits to sources for men, women and children, the most labor intensive element she had to incorporate into the costumes was the layers of coal dust that settle on everything surrounding the mines.  Working with an assistant, she experimented with different applications of dye to create the appearance of the ashy dust as well as it’s layers of build-up.

“We definitely did some doctoring,” said Kasperlik.  “We had a small office so we did most of our dying in the hotel.  We experimented with different greys until we found the right ash look.”

Working closely with production designer Chris Trujillo, a color chart was created to help define character’s moods and transitions.  Boyd’s house was designed to look as if it hadn’t been altered in years.  Kasperlik ensured his costumes consisted of washed out tones to avoid anything that would push through the setting.  The Elizabeth Banks character begins the story on an optimistic note.  Brighter tones were used for the earlier scenes and the color is slowly drained from her wardrobe as optimism fades.  Kasperlik was also very careful to acquire clothing that was true to the available resources and economic standings of the area.  Elizabeth Banks character would have greater finances but wouldn’t have easy access to many high end stores.  Most of the shopping for her character was done at a T.J. Maxx.  Thrift stores and vintage shops were utilized for many other female characters, and children’s clothing came from Walmart.  In addition to authenticity of the look of the clothing, Kasperlik did some additional research to ensure the clothing had the proper hang on Boyd’s character, who is overcoming a stroke when the story begins.  Through the course of the movie his confidence builds, and so does his physicality.  Working with the actor and a physical therapist, Kasperlik used the costume as a tool to reinforce the body’s transformation.

“He is long and lean and lanky.  I took large shirt sleeve arms and sewed them to a medium shirt, to give the appearance of limp upper arms,” said Kasperlik.  “He also starts with baggy jeans that I took down a size or two to look like he was bulking up.  I was happy with the way it read on camera, I feel it worked well.”

While Kasperlik is poised to continue dedicating her talents as a costume designer on both indies and eventually larger budget films, she will continue to collaborate with other costume directors as she has with Lucas Mosca and Michael Wilkinson.  She’s enjoyed the learning experience she’s had on Wilkinson’s last two projects; “American Hustle” was her first period piece, and the upcoming “Noah” has required the costume department to make 1,000 costumes by sourcing fabrics from three different countries.  The costume design team has even crafted a unique fabric for actor Russell Crowe by merging six different fabrics together.

“Michael and Lucas are two of the most generous, kind, lovely human beings,” said Kasperlik.  “They address you, as you how you are, how your evening was.  They place being a human being first, and a crew member second.  I’ve learned so much and have had great experience with them.”