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Costume designer Galer lambasts ‘arrogant’ TV producers

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Bafta-winning costume designer Andrea Galer has lambasted programme makers for tightening budgets, warning that cutting them to save money is threatening the future of period productions.

Galer, who was acclaimed for her work on BBC1’s Bleak House and created Richard E Grant’s coat in cult classic Withnail and I, said that the industry was in real trouble, due to a lack of investment in traditional skills and because many producers were “arrogant or naive” about how much costume-making costs.

She said: “The industry is rotting really. It is not easy to do what one would like because there is an arrogance or a naivety among producers about how much things can be done for. There is a lack of forethought – the industry is just eroding away. The outlook isn’t great because the mindset now is just about what makes money. Everyone is too concerned about the mass market which means that everything looks slightly generic. We are in a situation where problems are just going to get worse.

“People seem to underestimate the contribution of costume to the success of a picture and feel that corners can be cut. Often what is written in the script simply does not tally with what is available in the budget. It means that in future, period productions are really going to struggle.

Leading designer Marit Allen, who has been working on TV and film productions since the seventies, underlined Galer’s concerns, claiming that there was a crisis looming in the industry.

“There are only three major costume houses and they are in a perilous state. Without them there will be nowhere for productions to go. They control all the best stock but increasingly are unable to renew it. [For period films] there would no be no way ahead without the resources and stocks of major costume houses, which have been build up over decades and are irreplaceable.”

The pair said that the demise of the trade would leave the sector in a terrible position and called for greater collaboration between directors and production heads to understand the costing of costumes and the need for investment in future talent.

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