When you were 17, what did you want to be?
I definitely wanted to work in film and TV. I didn't know for sure what I wanted to do in film and TV, but I've always been a writer. When I was little, I wanted to be an author for the longest time. Then, when I got into film stuff, I thought, well I guess I'll be a screenwriter. That's the logical combination of the two.
I just always loved movies, and watching the credits I would think, that's a lot of people working on one thing. They must have room for one more. But I didn't know how you get to work on a movie. If you want to be a doctor, you go to med school, there's a track. Whereas for film, some people say you don't even have to go film school. But I had no connections. I also wanted to discover which part of filmmaking I wanted to do. I felt like the easiest way for me to get there was to go to film school and then meet a bunch of people. And I knew that I had to be in New York.
I was born in New York, and then we moved to Minnesota when I was four. I lied all the time and told people that I lived in New York City, and that I knew where everything was. I remember my mom saying, "If you don't go to college in New York, you could always move there after college." And I thought, no, not an option. I knew I had to go back to New York.
How did you decide to attend New York University?
Freshman year, they had us write down our goals for high school in a shoe box, and then we got to open them senior year when we graduated. I had written down that my goal was to get into NYU film school, and then I did it.
NYU was always a big reach for me. My high school counselor told me, “You can try and see what happens.” I also applied to Emerson; I felt like Emerson was close enough to New York that it would be okay.
You have to make a short film to apply, so I made a documentary. We had these family friends and the husband was first generation from Madagascar. He invited me to come to his family Thanksgiving with his whole extended family from Madagascar celebrating Thanksgiving in Minnesota. So I did a documentary on them showing their culture mixing with this very American tradition in Minnesota, the whitest place in the world.
I spent a long time editing it - I think I was editing it on Christmas Day. And then I got in. It's funny, looking back, they thought they were admitting this documentary girl, and then I did not take one documentary class. But I just made a documentary because it was interesting.
How did you choose your major?
NYU definitely encourages you to take as wide a range of classes as possible. I took camera classes. I took an acting class, which… I was just not good. I did a little bit of directing, but I didn't love it. With directing, they don't tell you that you just have to have answers for every dumb question that comes up, and I just did not have enough random answers for that.
Then I took almost every single screenwriting class that they offered. Then, my junior year, I studied abroad in London, and I did this screenwriting course there. I actually wrote a feature film while I was in London.
I also started interning between my freshman and sophomore year. I wanted to be working in the industry right away. My dad came to visit me, and really randomly, he sat next to this woman on his flight back and they started talking. It turned out, she worked at this post-production house. And she was the nicest person in the whole entire world. She said I could email her, and I could come in for an interview. And it's probably up there as one of the coolest jobs I've ever had. I started working there in my sophomore year and I worked there until two years ago.
It was this post-production house that was half post-house, half club. They edit the sound and the picture, and then they re-record audio and record voiceovers. I started interning on the tech side, which was fine, but I'm not really into post-production that much. It's just very techy. And then I started working on the client services side, which was the most fun thing ever.
I was basically just hanging out with Darren Aronofsky or hanging up Meryl Streep's coat or bringing Robert DeNiro sushi, and it was just absurd. So that was a good, stable job that I had throughout college. And I was able to help a bunch of my friends get jobs there too. Then, in between my junior and senior year, I did this NYU program in LA working at Warner Brothers in script development.
It was really, really fun. I got to read scripts all day, and then basically write a book report, so the guy that runs the company can read it before he runs off to a meeting. I told them early on that I was really into books, so I became the young adult reader, reading stacks of YA books that could get turned into movies.
I decided that my junior year was going to be the year that I figured out what exactly I wanted to do after college. That's why I went to London and LA, to try out different things. But everywhere I went, I just thought, why am I not in New York right now? I knew I still wanted to be in New York.
I had taken a bunch of credits over the summer and over January term, so I only had one semester left when I got back from LA. I met this producer through somebody through somebody, and he said they were going to do a feature in New York and they needed an assistant. So I signed up to do it for a semester of credit.
When my semester started, he called me and said, “Hey, bad news. The whole movie's moving to LA.” But I couldn’t go to LA, and I needed those credits to be done with school. So I went to the internship coordinator at NYU, and told them, “I don't care what it is. I need an internship with this many credits. Anything. I will sort mail at an equipment rental house. I don't care.”
The coordinator asked me, “Have you ever thought about costumes? The TV show Younger needs a costume intern. Do you want to do that?” So I decided to just go and see what the deal was. And then, it was so much fun; it was the best job ever, sorting clothes and Hillary Duff was coming in and out all the time. The costume coordinator, who’s in charge of the assistants, was so nice, and she’s still one of my good friends today. And that's how I fell into costumes, just because I was scrambling to get an internship.
How did you get from college to where you are now?
I've always loved fashion, but I'd never made the connection to do costumes, because I can't really sew. But when I fell into this, I learned that there are two tracks in costumes. One is wardrobe, where you’re on set, making sure the continuity is right. They're doing quick hems and stitches, stain remover, and washing stuff. They're on set 12+ hours every day with the actors. I'm on the design side of things, so I just go out and shop for everything and then I do fittings with all the actors. Then I'm on set to establish a look and say, “Oh, this character wears a sock like this.”
I did season two of Younger, and it lined up that when my semester was ending that season was ending. From there, I was going to go with that crew to do The Jim Gaffigan Show, but they didn't have a spot for me anymore so I started day-playing, which is basically when you're not hired full-time - you're just hired for a day or two, here and there. So I got a job on Madam Secretary and I was there two days a week. And then I was just doing all these random shows, getting hired by word of mouth.
This industry is weird because it's all based on small email groups in New York. So you just need to get on the email group or know somebody who’s on it, and then you find work from that. I've gotten so many good jobs like that because everybody needs a good PA. It’s a lot about being in the right place at the right time, but then it’s about impressing them and putting in the work.
So I was hopping around and then I got my first, actual, full-time PA job. I interviewed, and got hired on to do the pilot for this show called Bull. And then that crew was also the crew that does Girls. After that pilot, they asked me to come with them to Girls.
I did their last season, and then that crew also does Orange Is The New Black, which had some overlap with Girls. So I was jumping between those two shows. Orange was the most boring costume job in the whole entire world – just all prison jumpsuits.
After Orange, I had been PAing for a year, and I felt like I was ready to move upwards. The next step is coordinator where you're running the office, doing the budget, scheduling the fittings, and you're in charge of all the PAs. It's a pretty big job. The coordinator on Orange was very supportive, and she taught me how to be a coordinator.
I reached out to the designer of Younger, and said, “Hey, if you're looking for a coordinator, I'm free.” And she said, “Cool, we start in March.” That was in February, so I had a month to fill. My friend told me about a one-month job on a show called Neon Joe, Werewolf Hunter. He’s a werewolf hunter that only wears neon so I was turning combat boots neon green and trying to stuff guys in werewolf costumes into wetsuits in the middle of a forest. It was just a really weird job.
Then, I went back to Younger and that was my first coordinating job. Younger was a hard show to be my first coordinating job because it's very high-fashion, so everything is a kajillion dollars. Then, every other job I’ve done after that has been very chill because I had survived Younger. But I liked it a lot, and it was nice to have a desk that I came to every day rather than being a PA, where you're just out in New York City in a minivan doing God knows what.
After that, I wanted to meet other designers and expand my network, so I started telling people that I was looking for something different to do after this coordinator job. I got an interview at the very last minute. They called and said, “Can you come to the studio in 20 minutes?” I just remember thinking, “Why am I wearing shorteralls and a camo T-shirt right now? But okay.”
I didn’t know what the interview was for. It was on the set of The Post, that serious movie with Meryl Streep. The setup was super fancy and they had fake grass and lawn chairs all over. I didn’t know what was happening. At the interview, I couldn’t tell if the designer liked me or not. And then, she texted me and told me I was hired. It was for You, the Netflix show.
That was my second coordinator job, and it was so much fun. The designer was really open to hearing what I wanted to do in the industry. The way it goes in film and TV is the designer is in charge of both wardrobe and costumes - it's their department. On the costume side, there is the designer, then the assistant costume designer, then shopper, coordinator, and PA. I told her that I really wanted to be a shopper and an assistant, and she was really open to talking to me about it. She let me do a lot that was outside of my job description like be in all the fittings. So I was just taking pictures of Penn Badgley and Shay Mitchell and it was super fun.
As a shopper, I'll start in the office every day and meet with the designer. She'll talk to me about who I'm shopping for that day and what they’re doing, like they're going to the grocery store or they're at prom. And they’ll try to explain the character, like she’s artsy, but she still has a professional job. I'm usually out in the stores shopping most of the day, and then I'll come back for fittings. Then I go out and pull and buy a bunch of stuff, so that we have a bunch of looks to go through. It's really fun. Something that they've been having me do lately is be in charge of all the background characters. So right before this shutdown happened, I was fitting 200 people for a funeral scene on a new pilot.
Then, I took my last coordinator job on The Other Two, which is this very underrated Comedy Central show. The studio was so close to my apartment, so I just walked to work every day. Then from there, I got my first full-time shopper job with the crew from You on the show Manifest. I did season one and season two of that, and that was up until December of this past year, so I've been shopping for two years now. And then I got a job on this new ABC show called Harlem's Kitchen; we were supposed to shoot on a Monday, and then we all got shut down on a Saturday, so...
Almost exactly this time last year, I had just finished up a pilot and we had three months until Manifest season two was going to start, and I was kind of looking for costume jobs, but it just felt like a weird amount of time. I felt like I had enough money saved up, but what was I going to do for three months?
I called my mom and I was feeling stressed like, “What am I doing with my life? Am I going to do this forever?” I'm not very good at chilling, obviously. And she told me to figure out other things that I was interested in and invest myself in them, take classes, go do things. I thought that was really amazing advice.
Weirdly, when I was working on You, I would chat with Penn Badgley in fittings, and he would talk about his wife, Domino Kirke, who I want to say is the most famous doula. And I asked, “What is that?” He told me about what she does, and that whole summer my best friend and I had been watching childbirth videos and got really into them. And I’ve always loved watching the animals give birth in the Miracle of Life barn at the Minnesota State Fair. So I was already kind of interested in childbirth, and then learning more about how America deals with maternal healthcare, it became a social justice interest for me too. Hearing that there was a way that I could enter that space without going to med school or nursing school was interesting.
Then when I had time off, there just happened to be a doula training in that timeframe. I did my training, and then when I had time off in January of this year, I got trained at Carriage House, where Domino is a founding member, and she became my mentor. I've always thought I would do the doula stuff in between working on TV stuff, but now with the shutdown, I've been thinking about whether I want to go back to film and TV or try to do the doula stuff full-time.
Then, this time last year, I also took a novel writing class. I’ve always loved books and reading so, so much, and writing a novel felt like the craziest, coolest thing I could think of. So I decided to just take a class and see what happened.
It was a really great class and it just reignited that flame in me of wanting to be a writer. And then of course I went back to Manifest and was working 12-hour days and I just totally forgot about the novel and the doula stuff. But I felt really good about starting that novel. So during this shut down, I signed up for National Novel Writing Month. Normally, it's in November, but they did a version this year in April, and I thought, “I can't work right now. What else am I going to do?” So I set a goal to write 50,000 words in a month. And I did it. I'm at 160 pages of my book right now.
I don't know if it’s any good, but I know that I can do it, that I can physically write a book. So then I started dreaming about being a doula and an author. And I think it's just been really great to keep cultivating hobbies and figure out what that could mean for my life.
Looking back, what seems clear to you now?
I think it's just really important to follow your passions, or things that you're not even passionate about but just curious about. I think that there's so much pressure to have everything figured out. My little sister is six years younger than me, and when she was applying to college she thought, I have to have my career. But when I went to film school, I was still figuring it out. So don't be too realistic. Maybe that’s a bad piece of advice, but I feel like I've almost never been realistic, and it's been amazing. It's definitely unstable, and sometimes I don't have a job lined up. But I know that things change so fast, and it's just so random.
I think it’s also important to be open to things that might not seem like they're going your way. Like when I lost my internship at the end of college, I felt like it was the worst thing in the world. But now I work in costumes, and I love my job. I think you can plan for your life, but it might not always line up. And maybe it will be even better.