May 3, 2019

All about Breakdown Plots and Costume Continuity

In my last post I talked a little about about the challenges that come with costuming a contemporary film, the biggest being keeping continuity. There's more to costuming a film of any size than just picking out clothes.  Since films are not shot in chronological story order it's easy to get confused, which is why you need to properly document everything.

The process of breaking down costumes and plotting them takes several steps, but today I'm going to be focusing on after you know what everyone is wearing and documenting it all, scene by scene. This is called a Breakdown Plot or Costume Plot.

Below is a screenshot of the form I created and use. Since this document is specifically for shooting, I won't fill it out until after I get a copy of the strip-board from the Assistant Director, and I will fill it out in the order that we will be shooting, creating a separate page for each shooting day.

Because this might be a little confusing without anything filled out, I've created a mock breakdown to help explain it all.

At the top is the production title, then below it is the characters name and at the other end of the same row is the actors name.

Now, onto the next row. "Scene" is pretty simple and self explanatory. The next is "Day", which is the story day. I'll indicate whether it's day or night next to it with D or N. That isn't as necessary, but it helps me keep everything straight in my mind.

The next column over is the "Scene Information". The top row will be the location heading, and below can also be a short description of what happens in the scene. Below all that, in bold, is the costume information.

This is where you want to put a simple description of what the character is wearing in that scene. If a character wears the same base throughout, you only need to put accessory details here. The base costume information will be noted in the Long Description.

When you are noting the accessories, be sure to write out the details. Below you'll notice when the jacket is worn I made a note whether the hood was up or down. The goal of these notes should be that anyone can come on and understand them and keep everything looking the same. This is especially important on larger projects when you may not be returning to shoot the rest of a scene for several days/weeks/months.

Next over is the "Long Description", which I already started to talk about. This is where you put all the details. List out every piece and describe it. You don't want to leave it at Red Blouse, because there may be two or three or more red blouses, so make sure you note the specifics (and also label you wardrobe pieces before getting to set).

Once my Breakdown Plots are done, they get printed and put into my Wardrobe Bible, which stays by my side on set. When I get to set I'll take a look to see what pieces need to be ready first, and get to work unpacking and prepping.

There are several different ways to document costumes before and during shooting, and breakdown plots are so important for staying organized.

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