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"Goodwilling" for Costumes

by Juliann Lee

How does an ultra-low budget film afford to buy enough furniture, props and costumes to fill a feature film? Find an amazing community partner! Goodwill. Goodwill’s main mission is job training, so when our Production Designer, Carolyn Eidson, told them “Saltwater” was training 50 CCSF interns for work in the film industry they agreed to help us by opening their warehouse doors and lending us props and costumes.


My first day at the warehouse, our mission was to find props to fill the house of the character, Vera. Vera, an ageing “old Hollywood” former actress, has a hoarding problem, so her house had to be filled with things spanning through several decades. The Art Department instructed us to pull things that were retro and had the color scheme of avocado, orange, tacky pastels, basically the decor of what our grandparents had in their living rooms and kitchen. Great, I thought, this is 2013, how much of that kind of stuff would still be around?


As the receptionist at the Goodwill warehouse was instructing us on where we should go after she buzzed us in, I started to get optimistic. This would be like shopping, except for an older Jewish lady with dated glamorous taste and a penchant for keeping unnecessary things. I pushed through the heavy doors leading into the warehouse and stood surprised. Everything wasn’t strewn out on a large conveyor belt with lines of people sorting through piles and piles of clothes and knick knacks (I don’t know why I imagined it’d be like the I Love Lucy chocolate factory episode). Bins and huge boxes of clothes, toys, accessories, pottery, dishware and everything in between were neatly labeled and grouped into sections throughout the warehouse. It was kind of like my organization heaven.


I started rummaging through the dishware and found loads of retro inspired plates, tea sets, baskets, lazy susans and mugs. I wanted to take some of them home! I refrained of course, but I immediately told the other Saltwater team members that I needed to shop at Goodwill more often. It was like treasure hunting. For every five random things, like only one green sock, or a hopefully unused handkerchief, I’d find a diamond in the rough. Like a handcrafted embroidered leather holster that looked like something from a John Wayne movie, or bone white tea cups with cerulean colored drawings that looked like they should’ve been on the Downton Abbey set.


At the end of the day, the best part of the whole experience was looking at the 10 tubs we filled with what we thought Vera’s house would have in it. Everything meshed and everyone understood the look and pulled items accordingly. This movie was really happening and our Goodwill excursion would add to it’s believability. You never know what you’re going to find and being a part of Saltwater continues to remind me of that.

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