Independent Dresser

Isabella Rossellini's Green Porno and the penny saving creations of an arts & crafts costumer.

It's an independent cocktail.  What you get when you combine an icon, a small budget and the promise of sex. The result, a 6-foot papier-mâché snail shell. 

It may not be the lace and satin that won Sofia Coppola an Oscar for Marie Antoinette, but the creative costuming behind Isabella Rossellini's Green Porno, and other like hers, make these independent film an art all their own.

Premiering at the Sundance Film Festival, known for its no holds barred cinema, these films take advantage of their stretched budget, limited crew and unique plotlines, to show their avant-garde edge in costuming.

Of this year's bizarre line-up, was Isabella Rossellini's pet project Green Porno. The first of three in a series of eight shots created by the Sundance channel, Rossellini makes her directorial mark, but also plays the role of actress, author and creative visionary behind the costumes. 

"The idea was to produce a new canvas. So we had to consider everything that would go into that," says Rossellini of the films design created for the web and play on portable devices. "we had to ask ourselves, "would it look any different?" We wanted it to look animated. So the colours are vivid." 

The nature of the film is to be quick, an attention grabbing while relaying its message. The three premiering subjects were dragonfly, spider, and bee.

"The mission of the Sundance is to be more and more and green. Always had a personal interest, so they did ask me." about how she initationly got involved in the project. "When we were deciding what the films would be about, they used the word flashy, so to me that meant sex." Rosselllini says about the final element signature to all of the films.

Rossellini, who is known to work on larger projects, acting in David Lynch's Blue Velvet, and posing as the face of Lancome for years, played a much more diverse role in the creation of this project. Designing the costumes she would wear during her performaces on screen was one role she got to dabble in.

"I draw my scripts. One page is "if were a fly..." I imagine myself as a puppet. I start by doing a little drawing of myself and then I go along with them." Say said of her perceived wardrobe concept. "I gave it to Rick Gilbert who is the set designer and Andy Buyers who would make the costumes. But I have to give them more credit than just my drawings."

Creating the costume, Rossellini and her team would to take into account the authenticity of a insect they were creating.

"Sometimes we discuss, many things they do. Are they segmented? Do they have one anus? How do they breathe and how we could realize it? One result was, we made two holes, and we had someone smoking cigarettes to simulate air," she explains.  

But in the tradition of independent film, finance is always an issue. 

"I always want to budget, so I said lets keep it paper. I also wanted the feeling of I could do that in my kitchen with my kids tomorrow," explains Rossellini.  

As for being the director. "In a sense no, for the world the director means you are the author. The next five I did, July Sharpe helped direct. Once I 'm in costume I can't see the monitor. I like to share, I can't do it all. So I am the author of green porno." 

 The series of eight shorts are touring film festivals and foreign countries, and more may be in the works if they are well received. "I'd like to do seas creatures, like Seahorse. Little animal that everyone knows and everyone is familiar with. But they may get another artist to help them too, nothings planned yet."

Not all independent films forego an actual costumer and and wardrobe team, but you can almost guarerentee that there team is smaller. In the case of Frozen River winner of the  Dramatic Grand Jury Prize at this years festival, the film was shot on a rippling budget on the boarder of New York and Vermont by first time feature director-writer Courtney Hunt. Hunt coraled professional costumer, and Vermont native Abby O'Sullivan to work in the film.  

"I grew up in the area so i knew what the costume would look like." says O'sullivan.

"A small film means, more responsibility.  The costume design is the creative. You have the vision.  Wardrobe, they it put all together," O'Sullivan explains from her explerience working on bigger budget films. "Normally as a consumer, on 20 million independent film, you'll have a supervisor, or ACD, an on set and people looking after continuity and a slew of interns. On Frozen River we had me and Martina(who is this) doing everything, so there was a lot of supervision that I had to take on."  

 Based in Brooklyn, New York, O'Sullivan  says she took the projects because it hit close to home. For  her the pay cut and extra work are worth it in the end when they have a piece of art she can stand by. She explains it isn't that less money means better films, but that they motivate its tightly knit cast and crew to flex that creative muscle to push the boundaries of film. 

"Once you've been through it, its something you really want to put your name too." Say's O'sulivan. 

With the same intent of a tight budget, another Sundance independent preiemere, russian directed Mermaid found another way to keep costs low.  the film used real clothing provided by the actors themselves.

"Our costuming was very personal. We were a close knit crew, all friends so some brought their own costumes," says Mermaid director Anna Melikyan noting that lead __ even provided her own dress worn throughout the film. 

In the end the imagery of Mermaid creates a whimsical magestiry  with a russin touch. The cosuming blends beautifully with the set and the comfort of the charicaters is perceived in this. It was the eprsonal touches that really made the film.