If you have seen Paranormal Activity 2 then you are probably still awake from when you left the cinema, so how about using your insomnia constructively to read about the clever ‘ordinariness’ of the film’s costume design by Kristin M. Burke?
Kristin Burke is a costume designer with a packed IMDb resume including such diversity as The Cooler, Running Scared and Beverly Hills Chihuahua 2. With Paranormal Activity 2 (directed by Tod Williams) she faced the difficult task of creating a completely realistic look that would live or die on its credibility. If for one second we did not believe that what we saw on screen was real, the story would collapse.
Exclusively chatting to Clothes on Film from Los Angeles, Kristin Burke explains the reasoning behind her costume choices for the movie. Beware, there be SPOILERS:
Clothes on Film, Chris: Paranormal Activity 2 was so scary it made me cry. Surely you have to accept some responsibility for that?
Kristin Burke: Well. I didn’t write it, direct it, or act in it. If the costumes made you cry, I am truly sorry.
COF: What was your primary intention with the costume look – to be realistic?
KB: Yes. If the costumes looked false in any way, we would lose the audience’s investment in the characters.
COF: I noticed the two sisters had hair bobbles on their wrists. This seemed a very natural touch.
KB: Well, the hair band on the wrist thing was mostly on Ali (Molly Ephraim). Katie (Katie Featherston) may have had some on there at one point, but for the most part it was Ali – we needed to have a way for her hair to go up in a pony tail and to be worn down easily. Better to establish that she changes it throughout the day by showing the hair elastics on her wrist for whenever she needs them.
COF: Were the clothes deliberately not ironed so they remained authentically ‘lived in’?
KB: Yes. We tried to keep the look as naturalistic as possible. The typical Californian family does not iron clothes in the summer; it is shorts, t-shirts, flip-flops. My brother lives in Carlsbad (where the film takes place) and I am really not convinced that there is an iron or ironing board in their house. My sister in law will kill me for saying that, but it’s true! It’s a very casual, relaxed lifestyle.
COF: Did any of the actors wear their own clothes? If not, where did you mainly source from?
KB: Due to the nature of the shoot (out of order, etc) it was easier for us to provide the actors with costume pieces. Only rarely would we use a piece from the actor’s closet; that only happened on a few occasions.
We did most of our shopping at local stores here in Los Angeles. The nature of our work is to purchase things, try them on the actors, and return whatever is not approved. Because this story spanned a few years, we needed quite a lot of garments. We shopped hard, and I am grateful to many of our vendors who were so cooperative with us and our situation – Nordstrom Rack in particular. There were some other vendors who were not as cooperative, and they will probably not get my business in the future!!
COF: Presumably you had to watch the first Paranormal Activity several times with reference to Katie returning for the sequel?
KB: Yes – I mean, we all watched the first film before we started work on Paranormal Activity 2. It helped to orient us. Then, as things progressed, we watched it again, to determine continuity, etc.
COF: You must have had to scrutinise the first scene in Paranormal Activity to ensure Katie’s look matched exactly for the finale of PA2…were there any complications associated with her costume?
KB: Not really! Katie is so great to work with, and she was very helpful. It was fun! I’ll follow on from an interview Katie gave to Entertainment Weekly, Oren Peli (original Paranormal Activity director and producer here) saved her shorts, which was brilliant, because the Gap doesn’t carry that pattern anymore. We had to get some new tank tops, but that was it.
COF: Was the choice of costume colours a conscious factor when shooting in night vision?
KB: Interesting question. The short answer is no. It’s amazing what blows out on night vision – even navy can blow it out. It’s really weird. We wanted it to feel natural – the entire movie – so we didn’t go into calculating what colours would work best.
COF: Apparently Paranormal Activity 2 was not cast until summer of this year. This must have made your job much more difficult?
KB: I don’t know if I can answer that question on the record, actually! I could tell you, but I’d have to kill you. Or send someone to kill you, if you know what I mean.
With thanks to Kristin Burke.
Paranormal Activity 2 is currently on general release.
© 2010 – 2013, Christopher Laverty.