22 February 2024 The Irish Film & Television Network
IFTN talks to ‘Glassland’ costume designer Leonie Prendergast
04 Feb 2015 : Seán Brosnan
'Glassland' will hit cinemas on April 17th
With ‘Glassland’ one of the buzz titles at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, IFTN caught up with the film’s costume designer Leonie Prendergast to talk about her work in the film.

If you haven’t heard of Leonie Prendergast, chances are you have definitely seen her work before as the three-time IFTA nominee has worked on period drama series ‘Ripper Street’, Jimi Hendrix biopic ‘All is By my Side’ and sweeping romantic drama ‘Love, Rosie’ (and that was just in 2014).

Speaking about her work on the acclaimed ‘Glassland’, Prendergast speaks to IFTN about how she knew she was making something special with the film and how her work on Oscar-nominee Toni Colette’s costume went right to the wire!

IFTN: Tell us about your work on ‘Glassland’

Leonie Prendergast:‘Glassland’ was a very special film to be part of. I have worked with the producers Ed Quiney and Juliette Bonass on various projects, all of which have been very enjoyable. I met with Gerard Barrett the director, who is a terrific story teller. We discussed each character and how he wished to portray them visually. When I knew Jack Reynor and Toni Colette were on board, well it was a no-brainer. I worked with Jack on ‘What Richard Did’ and we became great friends. He is an incredible actor and has a wonderful positive energy. He makes everyone on the crew feel comfortable and gives 150% of himself to a project. Toni Colette was a dream. She is completely character driven and enjoys the process and importance of clothes in developing a character. The subject matter was tough so there were a lot of tears by the monitor on numerous occasions (mainly mine... I cry at game shows!) The crew was small and worked extremely hard.. we all knew we were making something special.’

What training/education did you receive to become a costume designer?

‘I graduated from NCAD with a degree in both Textile Design and History of Art. After college I worked in London for two years with an embroiderer named Karen Spurgin for many top fashion designers and costume designers. On returning to Ireland my first film job was as a wardrobe trainee with the incredible John Bright. Following that I worked with the wonderful Joan Bergin as a trainee and then her assistant for many years. I also trained with many other amazing Irish Designers. I knew very early that I wanted to design so I work on numerous shorts and low budget films, and took it from there.’

What was your first job in the industry?

‘The first film I worked on was Mike Leigh's ‘Topsy Turvy’. I assisted Karen Spurgin for the costume designer Lindy Hemming. We embroidered the kimonos in the mikado scene. Lindy Hemming went on to win an Oscar for the film.’

What do you enjoy most about being a costume designer?

‘I love reading scripts and the process of working closely with creative producers, directors, actors, hair and makeup designers and production designers in bringing a character and story to life. The incredible friendships that you make is also a huge magnet.’

Describe your typical working day and the equipment you use.

‘Every single day is different but in general, at the beginning of prep I begin by breaking down the script. Research is crucial, so whether its’ a contemporary piece or period piece I scour through books, the internet, photographs etc to come up with a look for each character. Then I present these to the director to make sure we are on the same visual page. I also put together a budget based on each character and work closely with the line producer and accounts to make sure its’ feasible. I travel to London a lot for the costumes especially if its’ a period piece. At this stage the wardrobe team and costume assistant are on board so everyone has a crucial role to play in bringing it all together. Then fittings begin usually a week before filming and sometimes the day before, (as in Toni Colette's case) due to actors busy schedules... but thankfully on ‘Glassland’ it worked out perfectly!’

What filmmaker/costume designer has influenced you?

‘Lenny Abrahamson and costume designers, Colleen Altwood, Julie Weiss, Jacquline Durran and Joan Bergin.’

What Irish film or TV show would you have loved to have worked on?

‘The Snapper’ and ‘Father Ted’.

What films and TV shows did you enjoy growing up that may have encouraged you to work in the industry?

‘Eh.. ‘Dallas’, ‘Starsky and Hutch’, ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’, ‘Star Wars’, every Hitchcock film, ‘Superman’ and... ‘Mr.Benn.’

What’s the difference between working on an Irish production and working on an international production for you?

‘The main difference I suppose is that crews and budgets are larger on International productions. When international film makers come to work in Ireland they can be slightly apprehensive, which of course is a natural feeling, as the same applies when you work abroad, because you tend not to be familiar with crews and you don't have you're core crew with you... the great unknown! But what I love is that it becomes apparent very quickly with international film makers how incredible Irish crews are. They always say its’ the best crew they've worked with and how skilled and talented Irish crew members are in every field. Also the wonderful comradery between Irish crew members is always credited. That is always lovely to hear and all true!’

What advice would you give to anyone wishing to get into costume design?

‘Its’ a labour of love, work hard, get as much experience as you can with a variety of designers, be patient as it doesn't happen overnight, but the journey is definitely worth it! Its’ an extremely rewarding job. I love it.. especially as at 41 I'm still considered young!!!’

Gerard Barrett’s ‘Glassland’ will be released in Irish cinemas on April 17th, 2015.

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