Sarah Bullion is a filmmaker who has worked as an onset dresser. Sarah directed the short film Streamline Your Care; here is a link to her blog:
Q: What made you interested in filmmaking?
A: I become interested in filmmaking my senior year of college, 1991. It had never occurred to me that I could do something like this, that regular people could make films, until a fellow student suggested I try it instead of continuing to complain about films.
Q: What exactly does an onset dresser do?
A: An Onset Dresser is the Art Department representative that stays with the camera crew when the sets are finished being built and decorated. S/he works with the camera people to move furniture out of the way so cameras and lights can be set up and then replacing the furniture and art so that it can be photographed as originally dressed. The Onset is responsible to the Set Decorator and the Production Designer to retain their artistic visions. A good Onset will work with the camera people to adjust and sometimes create the most aesthetically pleasing sets–nudging tables or art to optimize the look and tell as much story visually as possible.
Q: What kind of educational background do you have?
A: I have a degree in History from Mills College, a women’s college in Oakland, CA. It is not imperative that you have a degree in film. It can be helpful but it not necessary. You can have all the degrees possible and you’ll still start out as a PA or Assistant to someone.
Q: What is Streamline You Care about?
A: “Streamline Your Care™” is a five minute short parody of the future of women’s healthcare. It paints the “Well-Woman” medical visit as Congress would have it: efficient and affordable, if not comfortable. Instead of a 10 minute appointment with a doctor it is a 3 minute appointment with a crew of medical assistants. Medical care as though conducted by a NASCAR pit crew.
Q: Why do you think some women hesitate to call themselves feminist?
A: Women hesitate to call themselves feminist because of the stigma that has been attached to the word. Women are socialized to be polite, pleasant, nurturing, comforting. When a woman steps outside of that paradigm they are deemed, by other women as well as men, arrogant, aggressive, mannish, unpleasant, discomforting. In the worst cases women are ostracized. In the best cases these women are labelled “difficult.” To be a feminist is, ironically, to be unfeminine. To step out of a woman’s place to demand the dissolution of that “place” is a punishable offense. Sometimes with violence, usually with derision.
Q: What is your oddest onset story?
A: I really can’t think of anything. Either nothing odd every happened (not likely) or I’ve blocked it out (likely). Sorry! If I think of anything I’ll pass it along.
Q: What makes a reality TV show a success?
A: I have no idea what makes a reality show a success. I can only image that it is characters that the population either loves to the core or hates to the core. I personally believe that reality shows are popular because it feeds the evil need for people to be reassured about themselves and their life choices. If someone horrible is doing terrible things on TV then the viewer must be doing just fine.
Q: Who are some of your filmmaking influences?
A: I’m a big fan of Steven Soderberg for his natural approach to directing. The Coen brothers for their ability to find humor in the smallest things and their determination to be true to themselves. Jane Campion for producing movies of such depth as a woman. Catherine Bigelow for her constancy. And so many others.
Q: What do you like about Hollywood?
A: What I love most about Hollywood is that anything is possible. You can manifest your oddest ideas, your darkest dreams or funniest events. Living in Hollywood you’re surrounded by some of the most talented and interesting people and the skill set of crews you can throw together on any given weekend are the best in the world.
Q: What would you change about it?
A: The good things are often products of the bad things and vice versa. While in Hollywood anyone can “make it,” there is no one way to get anything accomplished. That said, it’s hard to get things seen by the people you want to see them. If I could create more direct lines of communication to powerful people who can get your movies made I would. So much talent is squandered because it doesn’t reach “the right people.”
Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)