Before the Applause Podcast

Pushing Boundaries in Costume Design and Igniting Creativity with Tahra Zafar

September 07, 2023 David Watson Season 1 Episode 4
Before the Applause Podcast
Pushing Boundaries in Costume Design and Igniting Creativity with Tahra Zafar
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Get ready to journey into a world where creativity meets ergonomics as we chat with Tahra Zafar, a remarkable costume and creature puppet creator. Tahra's work has graced films like Star Wars VII and The Fifth Element, and her skillset has been tapped for high-profile events such as the 2012 London Olympics & Paralympics. Hear how she pushes the boundaries of costume design, and how she uses body ergonomics to create spellbinding costumes that can change the course of a performance.

The conversation takes a thoughtful turn as Tahra shares her experiences leading diverse teams for colossal projects and how this has contributed to her personal growth. She also discusses how she mentors new graduates entering the industry, giving them a real-world perspective and the skills they need to successfully navigate the industry. We also probe into the challenges that have come up in the wake of the pandemic and how the entertainment industry has had to adapt.

In the final segment, Tahra opens up about her fight for recognition in a field that often overlooks the behind-the-scenes roles. She shares her aspirations for long-term projects and talks about her current project 'Free your mind' with Danny Boyle. Finally, we discuss the importance of the entertainment industry in these trying times and the strong link between creativity and mental health. This conversation with Tahra Zafar is a revealing glimpse into the intense dedication and passion that fuels the entertainment industry. Don't miss out!

www.tahrazafar.com

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David:

Welcome to this new episode of Before the Applause with me, your host, david Watson. In this episode, I'm joined by Tara Safar, a visionary costume and creature puppet creator, whose work you've, without doubt, seen on the smallest of screens in your hands, in your living room, on the TV, at the cinema or even up close and personal in our much loved characters, and perhaps in stadiums and arenas as part of iconic moments in the world's cultural calendar. She's more than just a costume maker, but an inspiring creative leader, practitioner and educator. I've became Faheemah's protect, investing and celebrate our unique creative industries. She challenges the possibilities of costume and poetry making through innovative practice, finding new ways to make the impossible possible. Looking to the worlds of science and engineering to give us hair-raising, spine shivering, heart wrenching and the wondrous, magical moments creating memories and connections that last a lifetime. Grab a cup of something nice and join us as we discover more. Before the applause Tara, welcome to the show. Thank you very much. Part of the purpose of this podcast is to talk to multi-talented people from across the industry lots of different experience and I first met you in 2012 or 2011 when we worked on the opening closing ceremonies, and I was in awe of what you did and your career up until then and then afterwards, and I just think you have an extraordinary perspective of the true meaning of this podcast and what happened before the applause. So I've been really excited that you agreed to do this. So thank you very much for coming on.

Tahra:

Oh well that, what a lovely thing to say. I'm honoured and it's lovely to be part of this community that you're bringing together, so thank you.

David:

So obviously I know you a bit, but let's, for our listeners, talk a bit more about you. So could you just tell us a little bit how your career started in this area and some of the highlights of the things you've worked on and where you are today?

Tahra:

Sure, so well, I've been in the industry quite a number of years now and I started off as studying theatre design at Central St Martin's it was actually Central School of Art and Design then, and in fact I came from a theatre family. Dum, dum, dum. My mother was originally a dancer she was a ballet and my dad was a choreographer from America a dancer. I came over with West Side Story actually, which is pretty cool in the late 50s. So I was always keen on making things and doing things and studying a broad spectrum of things. I really enjoyed English history, music, all of that thing, and it was like what can I find that can incorporate all of that? And theatre design was that thing. It combined all of these different creative genres and brought it together in one piece of live action performance which I really loved. So I did that and I was very lucky at the time when I graduated to be there when musicals in the West End were getting huge amount of musicals going on. I worked on the original Phantom of the Opera as a costume buyer and I was doing all of those sort of early jobbing, assisting people I did. My first assistant costume design was for Wars of the Roses, which was the English Shakespeare story. They did seven Shakespeare's history plays in one weekend and I was assistant to costume designer and then buyer. So I did roles like that while I was gaining my experience as a designer myself, which I did. So I worked in theatre a lot theatre design, set-sign, costume but as my design jobs got bigger, I got known more for doing costume and then for doing more complicated costume because apart from my theatre head, I've got a big kind of geeky let's be honest, a bit of a sci-fi head with me and I loved things like Star Trek and Star Wars and all of that sort of thing and I was fascinated by that side of costume performance making people into different things. So I started doing more. I did a lot of opera work designing but I got asked to do a film and supervise a film. It was in Norway and I was really excited about doing it so I did that. I then went on to work for the Jim Henson Creature Shop in Camden where I was involved with fabrication and creating things for some films there. So then obviously the Muppet people and worked on like Never Ending 3, creating some characters for that. So I started doing more technical costumes, making people into creatures, aliens. I did lots of spacesuits. So I started doing work on sci-fi films like Lost in Space, developing spacesuits. So it was still very much costume. It was where I came from. But I was able to really explore the kind of performance side of getting people to look like different things, whether they might be creatures or whether they might be puppets, and for me it's all about kind of like the ergonomics of changing a body. I got very excited by that and I also loved the technical side. So my geeky part of my brain was being satisfied by all of the mechanics and animatronics and electronics, the use of different materials, exploring different materials, which you didn't get to do, maybe in theatre. So that was just really exciting. So I started doing more film work and from theatre I kind of moved across from doing blockbuster films and I worked on some great things like Fifth Element and more recently like Star Wars 7, which was the one when obviously everyone came back Harrison Ford, kerry Fisher, they were all there helping and that was not in a Supervisory role, that was in a making role, which was quite different from me at that point in my career. So I've got a lot of anxiety, but basically I did a lot of things like that spacesuits and things like supervising teams, bringing the spoke teams together to create something extraordinary. So at that point I was freelance, going from job to job, like either working for the Jim Richard shop or working for Disney or Go-Mont or different companies working on different films, and then somewhere the theatre part of me got introduced to doing ceremonies. I got introduced to do the Commonwealth Games in Manchester in 2002 and that was the first ceremony I did, because some people could see that I'd done a lot of live theatre and I'd done a lot of film and TV because, also by that point, I'd done quite a lot of commercials, pop promos and commercials. They were kind of big at that time and you'd be working with Blur or working with Lady Gaga later down the line and people like that. So it was kind of a big time for commercials and TV work and somebody, I think, kind of put all the things together and went well. Actually she could be really good to head up costume for a ceremony, because a ceremony is a live event, isn't it? It's a live event but in front of 80,000 people and it's a televised event in front of billions of people, and so you've got to do the attention to detail that you would do for a TV programme or a film, a very personal film that you're telling kind of very close up, but you're also telling a very bold story that can be understood by people in the space, you know, in the arena, in the kind of watching it live because it is. You're having to tell two stories simultaneously one which is the big and one which is the very private, delicate moment. So, anyway, so I got asked to do that in Manchester in 2002 and that was my first ceremony, but, interestingly, I decided not to continue on that ceremony path because I'm very, very lucky. I get asked to do lots of very, very work and lots of people can't get the noggin round the fact that why would one moment I want to work on the opening ceremony of the London Olympics in 2012 and the next moment I'd be developing a kids TV programme for BBC Worldwide? Why would I want to jump? How does my career make any sense? But for me, my career makes complete sense because I'm working on with people who are like the best of their game and I'm lucky enough to be asked to get involved with all these cool projects. So for me it's actually one experience feeds the other, and one use of technology something I've learnt in maybe making a kind of what appears to be quite a kind of hand-in-glove puppet in fact might harness some technology that was developed from NASA. So I get to do all of these things and I'm really lucky. I'm so lucky and I love those.

David:

It's incredible. It's so incredible and what it's really interesting as well, because you've kind of described really well the progress and the change in the industry and one of my questions was around how do you get that intimacy of storytelling for camera versus a stadium and I'm really interested to find out, because I know that you've built the teams around you how do you transition makers and designers into that when they may not have really had that exposure, because they are very different, aren't they? They are quite the extreme, especially now with 4K cameras and all the whizzy technology. I just wondered, from your career, how do you guide people into that when you bring these teams together?

Tahra:

So I always you know you want to employ the best that you can. The best that you can doesn't necessarily mean they are the people who have been doing it all of their lives. The best that you can might be people who you know have got the potential to do something different but have never been given the opportunity. And I do see my house style very much being what you can see in people and bringing it out of them. And I think if you've got a vision of what you want to create and that you get the right people together, of all different levels you know, in their career paths they don't all need to be senior people. You do need a spattering of people. You can't just have one or just have the other. But if you get all these kind of people in their different roles, different pitches in their lives and experiences, you kind of get the best out of people. I think the mixture of a working team is what makes it work. I think I've seen some teams that can be very cliquey and they've been doing it forever. Sometimes that can get, that can get a bit. We do it like this or oh no, well, you know, we don't, we haven't really done that we're not. We don't do it that way, and I think the the kind of mixing it up is is part of what I really get very excited about. I get very excited about showing people what they can do in terms of being brave with their work and and also teaching and education. And educating people to get in making either making things or creating things is kind of really what I, I'm, I'm, I do on a daily basis. So I get very involved with getting graduates to work with me, because now I run I do work freelance as well, but I run my own business and I get graduates to work with me and I train them up and I've been doing that for years. You know, you give them, they give you a few years, and you give them a few years and then you sort of set them on the water and sort of push them off and then they're off doing their own thing in the industry, and I find that really really rewarding. Actually, there's there's a time, I think, in your life when you go from being competitive, maybe with peers or maybe with people that you're slightly jealous of. So when you get a bit older, you kind of go I don't need to do that anymore.

David:

Yeah. Was there a specific thing for you that when that happened? Is there a specific job or a moment where you felt that was the time where you didn't need to be kind of driven in that in that way?

Tahra:

Actually, I think the, the confidence that I got with the Olympics, doing the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympic ceremonies so, for ceremonies, I think the confidence that I got from that and what I learned from that and and and, then the need to operate in a particular way because there was no other way to do it, did teach me an awful lot. So I don't think I was the only one that got a legacy out of out of that ceremony. You know, I did it. Sure, I headed up the same role 10 years before in Manchester, but I wasn't. That was the first one I've done and I didn't quite. I was a different person in 2012. Let's just put it that way. I think I'm far more because I'm far more company. You know, I always, I always say that when you're the difference between being zero years old and 25 year old and you look at the difference, you know what a difference between a zero and the 25 year old, 25 year old and 50 year old. There is the same difference. There is the same difference. It's not. It's just not so visible. Yeah, all it. People perceive it as gray hairs and lines.

David:

But actually no, it's not.

Tahra:

It's if you've, if you've really kind of given your head some opportunity to grow in one way, whatever that might be, you you've, you've changed radically and you know, from 5050 to 75, you know that's why you've got those Jedi masters, you know. Come to the panda, you know, got the little red panda who's very wise, haven't you, and he's, he's got that. He's got another 25 on top of what we've got. So so you know, age does help with that, but I do think the the enormity of the project really enabled you. You had to, you had to get your neural networks going and really rely on your brain and your gut To work, and I think that that's what I learned and it was a big takeaway from that, that gig.

David:

Has there ever been a moment where you never thought you would have the career that you've got now?

Tahra:

Um, no, I did. If I had, if I had my time again, I may have gone in a different direction. So have my parents not been in the theater with the interest that I had when I was younger and I would have done something really bonkers, like drawing, like NASA or or some kind of space space thing, and there I'd be making spacesuits like I have done all my life, but for real. I'd love to have done that and I think that's not a very left to feel side step. It's not a big side step for me to have done that, because the people that I work with on a daily basis, you know the people who are extraordinary mechanics and extraordinary electronic geniuses but they just like, like working in the field of entertainment and not and not rocket science or, you know, dealing with kind of scary. I did this, I did this amazing. I was going to get involved with something with Virgin Galactic Some time ago and I had a meeting and the NDA for the meeting was one of the most fun NDAs I've ever had to sign which was about my company, and it included things like do I have a nuclear storage facility in my onsite? You know things like that that you had to kind of explain whether you did or you didn't, and it was like I'm just going to be doing some model making for you.

David:

Wonderful, the whole different world.

Tahra:

Yeah, but it was yeah, so that would have been the only, the only thing I would have.

David:

I would have possibly done different and in terms I think, like a lot of my guests have been talking about the change we're going through and the sector that has been through Like, how have you stayed relevant with changing times and expectations and expectations quite a difficult thing to manage, isn't it? Navigating the industry, and, particularly when you start working with some of the huge names that you've worked with, how do you manage that expectation and manage the change and the demand that gets put on an individual designer or maker or a team?

Tahra:

I think. I think there's the difference. I've noticed more, in actual fact, has been in the last year.

David:

Okay.

Tahra:

Strangely not not three years, like many people say with COVID that was a different deal. We were in so much as we were all kind of put in the same boat and but it gave a lot of companies strangely an amazing moment to take stock and think about what they want to do, how they want to operate. So there's been a. There was the COVID shift. But the COVID shift was was mainly to do with do we want to function? Do we want the structure of our company to function like this? Do we want the premises of our company to function like this? Do we want to shift how we're creating content? People at home and they're watching television and in that the cinematic television side, content side that has changed hugely because we've got all of the companies wanting to get content that we can all watch from our sofas. So there was a shift with that and that was great. We all benefited dramatically from that because suddenly it was like jobs, were every film was starting, everything was starting at the same time, like August, I suppose. What was that? Or not last August, august 22. I think it's always 22. Usually like film start and kind of in stepping stones, you've got one starting one month and one starting another month. Everything started at the same time. So we had this extraordinary thing that everything started. So crew created these things like costume makers or editors or camera team, pops people, art department. They were all starting everyone at the same time. And that was when we had this big migration from people in theatre who still were struggling as theatres were, still it was disaster in theatre or moved across to film and TV. So we had this big shift in talent away from live theatre, which was awful. So everyone packed up and went off to all the kind of Netflix and Amazon productions and all those kind of things and it was great. But then all those companies, they created all the content that they needed and they just have gone recently. Oh, actually we don't need any more content for a bit, we're just going to take our foot off the break and all of a sudden, all of the people who had been had moved across. They're all going. Oh, and now there's writer's strike and all that sort of thing. They're all kind of migrating back to theatre again. So there's that, but there's also people haven't got the money that they had. So this has been a big shift, I think, in the last six months. So we had the kind of COVID thing. We've now got this hard times in the industry, in theatre, in film, you know, every project is like the budget gets smaller and smaller. The crews they're wanting a smaller crews, they haven't got as much budget it's. It's quite tough at the moment actually creating content under so many restrictions and and I think everyone, everyone's having quite a hard time and not quite realising that everyone else is in having that hard time. So so I think that's quite difficult.

David:

Yeah, and I think everybody's feeling the change, which is beyond the pandemic and I think it is around. People still want the same level of quality and output and the volume of said content, but unless budgets and you know, I suppose shrunken teams, they. Actually the demand you know people are talking about is they also want it quicker, yeah, and they've ever wanted it before. I suppose one of the things that I've been talking to some guests around is some of the more positive things that have come out in the challenges and that is actually this trans idea of transferable skills, taking a chance and going for it, Because ultimately we have no choice and some of our colleagues and you know friends and in the industry don't have a choice, but everybody's describing it as really tough and I suppose my follow up question to that is what concerns do you have if this keeps going the way that it is on your particular you know area and where you work? Can you see anything happening with this to the sector? I suppose something to worry about, or is there any positives?

Tahra:

I think it's. I do think it's really it's really tough, and particularly actually because I run my own business. I'm those tighter timelines, smaller budgets is raising, raising prices of everything else. So you know you've got rates, business rates going up, you've got rents, you've got materials, things that you're having a struggle trying to get a hold of materials. At the moment it's difficult and I'm it is quite frustrating. You know when the betting shop thing is when the funds stop, stop.

David:

Yep, absolutely.

Tahra:

And so, and it's like come on, guys, we the reason we're doing this. Why are we doing this? We're doing this to give people entertainment. We're giving, we're giving, wanting to give people an extraordinary experience. We're wanting to share something that hadn't necessarily been thought about before. We're wanting to do all of these sort of things, and we've got to remember that that's what it's about and try and make it, make the fun bit, come back into it.

David:

Yeah, the fun is important.

Tahra:

I think the. I think we also sometimes make it harder than we need to, and that work, because when everyone's got their back against the wall because if a producer's got their back against the wall because they haven't got the money or they haven't got the time and they're bringing creatives in, the creatives want to create something really good they don't they can. I think people need to be less nervous about being honest and I think that's sometimes where things can fail because they're so nervous about giving a bad news or something like that. You just go well, can't just tell us. Or, if you want me to do this job, tell me, tell me what you've got. Don't go oh, what's your rate or what's this. It doesn't just tell me, be honest, it just cuts out the. You know that whole emotional anxiety doesn't need to factor into anybody's life at all. We don't need to carry it around with us, we need to sort it out. So I do see quite a lot of my role as being trying to be the one to not carry it around and just try and sort it out, and I find myself being more involved. I think I'm also known for being involved. So I'm not just a, I'm not just a costume person. What I bring to a job, you know you can there's amazing costume supervisor. You know I'm not I don't call myself a costume supervisor but I think I bring a head of costume. I think I bring an experience of all the other levels of production as part of my package. That is kind of broader than being just a costume person. But also I think I bring I've got like a business head on me because I've run my own business and I've also done things with very big budgets, you know, but creating a budget for four ceremonies, a staffing thing for four ceremonies and all of that sort of thing, that's, that's. That's quite a lot of Excel spreadsheets, yeah. So it's kind of like you have to use your head in a different way is my geeky head comes and and is part of what kind of I do. So what I try and do in all of these awful scenarios, when you haven't got any money, you haven't got any time, and you haven't got this and you haven't got that, you go try not to make it not fun, but trying to keep that fun. And I think we do need to just remember what, why we're all doing this and what the end product is, which is to give someone a wonderful experience.

David:

So, yeah, yeah, it's fascinating and you kind of took it from it before, and you and you've generously discussed why we're doing this and it's for other people. So my question is around why are you doing it? What are you getting out of it? What is driving you? And you know you've done so many extraordinary projects and I will make sure there's a link to your website and you can find the link to that. There's a link to your website and your socials in all this, because just it's extraordinary. What keeps you going? And one in more and why do you do it?

Tahra:

I have been born with a busy gene and I can't. What's that busy gene from being busy? So there's that. So, and I love working with people. I love it. It really gets me excited. I wake up in the morning I'm an early riser, I wake up in the morning and even if it's a chat, I do look forward to the day ahead of meeting the people that I'm meeting and working with the people that I'm working with. I love it. I love people and I'm that's the. That's yeah. So that is something I really the training people up, getting training someone and showing them things that they haven't thought about doing, or having an experience that you know in their lives of what their career path could be. That gets me very excited. And and also just creating something content, some content of something, be it a be a kid show, be it a TV show, a commercial, a film or a theater live experience is just fantastic, isn't it? You know we're so lucky, so really lucky, and we get to meet all these fantastic people. You know what's not to love.

David:

It's extraordinary. Extraordinary and in terms of your career. Is there anything that you still haven't had the opportunity to try and do yet, that you're really gunning for, that you're willing to share with us?

Tahra:

Oh, so I had, I had, I had a slight brush with a kind of maybe joining a big company to do some leadership on that. I do like leading big teams. I really do like leading big teams. It's very exciting and also I really enjoy kind of creating kind of a safe place for people to work with a, with a kind of vision of what they're doing and all that sort of thing. But one thing I haven't done is being able, on a larger scale, to look at something that would be five-year plan or a 10-year plan and maybe seeing that into fruition A long project, you know, even with the Olympics. So we produced 23,000 costumes for the London Olympic and Paralympic ceremonies. So that's one costume, that's one complete outfit.

David:

Triggered.

Tahra:

So it's one complete outfit for 65 years. You could wear a new outfit for 65 years. You'd have to start aged, because the youngest cast member was about age seven or eight. So when you're seven or eight, you would be wearing one of our clothes every day until you're in your late, you know, late late 70s, early 80s, bonkers. So you know, yeah, that's big, but having something that would be so yeah, I was on that for, sorry, what I was going to say. I was on that for a year and three quarters and that was wonderful because you could really plan things and all of that and I would. I would still. I would still really like to be involved with something kind of quite large and that had that lead time of planning would be really exciting. It needn't be kind of all the time, but starting something and then watching it grow and then also watching it develop and planning something for the development of it. I'd love that I don't know what it is.

David:

You had it here first folks job offers available.

Tahra:

Yeah, maybe I build a house.

David:

Oh yes.

Tahra:

I should just, maybe I should just do that instead, so that, yeah, I'd love to do that, I'd love to do something like that. But just a treat. You know, I'm working. I'm working again with Danny Boyle at the moment on for a live dance piece called free your mind in Manchester with factory international, and that's like that's lovely, it's really lovely.

David:

You know, there's such nice people and working with him again is is a complete treat actually fascinating and what something that I think that I've been exploring as well with some of my guests is around, I suppose, the evolution of respect for what we do as all those people behind the scenes. You know, I've worked with lots of organizations that have costume departments and designers.

Tahra:

Have you seen a shift in the way that you're in the room and I think you've kind of already started explaining that about by you being strategic and a different level or kind of value placed on your trade and your expertise, as opposed to this is what we want Deliver it costume departments, sadly, are still considered cost cottage industries and and vocational things and, interestingly, even when, when so the department we were all checking in and getting our our passes and on the passes for some said wardrobe, and the person handing the pass out said oh, you know, do you do that? So is that? You know? What do you do, what do you normally do, what's your usual job, but you're doing, you're doing on this is like no, no, this is my profession and I think the. I think the issue is for costume, the, the. It's still seen as a kind of a small industry and it's not. You know, it's like preschool things. You know people go oh, you know, you're doing a preschool show. It's, it's a billion million noise, not billion, but it's million, pound, million pound budget. Yeah you know you, it's, it's big industry, it's the show, it's the books, it's the DVDs, it's the streaming, it's the website, it's the show. You know it's huge. You know the book deal alone or the any any of those in, and it's worldwide and and so that sort of thing. I do get really fed up with about that and also I do get, I think, the pay rates of people within my department is low and that gets me annoyed. I always insist on parity. You know what? What are the other departments, what's the parity between that? And sadly it's a it, you know, often female lead, female department, and then you're all getting paid the worst. So, come on, guys, we've been doing this, having these conversations, since forever. So I'm really, I really try and want to present departments that I head up as as really like on a par with any other departments. They can hold their head up high and they do, and everyone just goes oh, your team are really good at the year, they completely rock. Yeah, they do because they're professionals. They're not, we're not like yeah, everyone can sew, has got probably got needle and thread at home, but doesn't mean that you can do it professionally. So I I think there that is a shame that that's still. That's still the case in this at this time. You know, you just thought we'd have got a bit better by now, but we haven't really.

David:

And, in addition to parity of pay, what are some of the real tangible things that we all can do that work collaboratively across the industry to elevate design of costume and those people that work in it? What? What are the practical things we could advocate for to help move it forward? Because you're right, and I've had very similar conversations to with other individuals about their sector kind of specialism and they're sick to the back teeth of it and a lot of what I'm trying to achieve with this podcast is let's stop talking about it and let's create or let's take action. So what would you say we would need to focus on and we could do to help this?

Tahra:

Well, I think we're, we, naturally, I think we're, we're as a group of, as a group of artists, we're, we're all seen at. I, my individual, I'm an individual, but actually you know, really, if you, if you have a single musician playing, there might get one deal, if you've got an orchestra playing with all of those people, they've got a good union. You know, so I, that it's joining together. You know, I have to admit that, back back to the costume division in back to is fantastic and they're really working hard to create some really good guidelines for employees, like like you would with equity. You know, you know where you are with an equity contract. People know it's a safe, it's a safe place to do. I know I mentioned safe quite often but it People need, you know, need these kind of parameters, working parameters, to, to, to create jobs out of, and so they're doing that. And I think I think whenever we get together Societies or you know that a theater, designers and all of those sort of thing People are always like blown away on on how fantastic it is. But we tend, do tend to do a lot independently and I think I think that's a that's a shame, you know you look at some of those really brilliant articles that, like Sonia Freeman, put out during COVID through lockdown, about the, the back end of of what the theater industry does for cities and for communities the hotels, the restaurants, the. You know you go into Covent Garden and into Soho and places like that and you see everywhere busy when they're going to theater, coming out of theater, you know people, people don't appreciate the, the benefits of what those industries bring to cultures and societies and communities. Yeah, it's, it's it's it's quite difficult times and I think I hope it's going to, we're going to come up with a wonderful solution. Maybe, david, you could, you could relate everyone's views and then and then we'll produce an article on it and we could, we could form a community from it. So maybe this is it.

David:

Well, there you go, you've laid the gauntlet down and I'm up for the challenge right, I think we've got. We've got to take action ourselves sometimes, and the value of the creative industries is one of the most exportable and important industries of this country, is what we're really known for. I think before the pandemic it was worth 110 billion to the UK economy, when and you know, that is trying to be, I think, using your kind of phrase around that kind of neurological connections of how all these skills and this talent you know connects with everything we do, with books and films and podcasts and graphics and photo shoots and editorial. It's all there. Remove it and we don't support those individuals going to colleges to train in these specialist areas, we will have nothing left to. We do have to fight for it and I hope in some way. This is why this podcast will resonate with people. They get to learn about how important these industries are and how much skill and talent it takes to do what people do, and it doesn't just happen by itself, does it so.

Tahra:

No it. And also I think I think people have have when, when the when covid was going and everyone was at home watching, watching television, and how important television was to many people who are all by themselves. They might have been in a, in a flat, by themselves, without an outside space, and all they had was the television. And you know how we all we're always going oh well, it's not a matter of life and death, or you know, it's not, it's not this, it's not that what we do. You know, oh, it's not brain surgery or it's not this, but but my gosh, we were, we were keeping people sane with, with the content that we, we produce, the programs we produce, experiences, the contact, the humanity of being, of seeing people hugging and all that sort of thing. You know, all of that was what the entertainment industry was doing. So you do realize it is important. You know, life without culture, my gosh.

David:

Oh, be dull, and that's. We've spoken about a lot of the opportunity, a lot of the challenges within the sector. Still, and you know, and again I think this is across all the different areas of the creative industries. But my question is, tara, why should people want to work in the creative industries, particularly maybe in your area? Why should they want to do this?

Tahra:

because they will have an extraordinary journey, extraordinary life. They will meet people, they would do things, they will see things, they will have. They will have an amazing time. You know we spend a lot of time together working on a job. You know if you're working 10 hours a day, five days a week. You're working 10 hours a day. So you wake up. Maybe you're at home. For some people do it in 20 minutes. Get out the door.

David:

You know, some people take an hour.

Tahra:

I'm more of an hour person, maybe two I do actually. You're back two hours, sometimes at home. Anyway my point is that you go to work, you spend 10 hours with your work colleagues. You come home and you're a bit tired and you've kind of flop around for a few hours and you go to bed and your working family are your working family. They are. You spend more time with your working family than you do your other families really. So they are precious times and they are fantastic times. And, yes, we work hard in the industry, but we have such good friends, don't we? You know, my God, working friends are, just are very wonderful. So I think in particularly in the UK, coming into the creative industry, you are gonna have an amazing time because we have so many smaller bespoke companies who specialize in such phenomenal things. You know, when I was on, you know you go to the Harry Potter exhibition. Have you been to that?

David:

I haven't, but everyone. These are the things that are not dropping into the conversation, but Tara's work done, yeah, yeah yeah, we can see some of the things I've made there.

Tahra:

So, yeah, so I created for the first Harry Potter film. We created a stunt scabbers and we created a stunt head wig and things like the snake and the trolls and things like that. So I was working for the Jim Henson Creature Shop on that. Anyway, you go to the exhibition at Warner Brothers Studios and you see all the beautiful, beautiful things that have been made the props, the costumes, like from the set, you know, like the flagstones, the scale model of Hogwarts. It's absolutely phenomenal. And all these people are doing their trade in the UK. You know Fantastic people, fantastic, fantastic things to work on. You know, when you're on set with on a really, you know, good film like you know, when I knew I was on Star Wars and stuff you're on set doing your thing and you look around and the set is really quiet because the first AD who usually is shouting orders going do this, get this done, get this done, get this done is just going. You know, say quietly, someone knew you know we're doing this now and then everyone just started doing what they do and it was like, oh, everyone was on top of their game and it was the quietest set, because everyone just got on with what they needed to get and did it in the time and it was like it was wonderful, absolutely wonderful, and it's just. You're kind of looking at the person next door as they're sorting out a droid, or you look down there and someone's set dressing with some sort of goo or something like that, but they're just, they know what they're doing, Good fun.

David:

I think you may have already possibly answered this question, but I do ask everybody are there any misconceptions that you would like to deal with right now about your trade and your area that you just wanna put people straight on? This is also a safe space.

Tahra:

I think people kind of see a lot of people view the industry by looking at celebrity and I think if you think about the celebrity of our industry, it's a fraction of it and about the way people behave and things like that. I think that is a big misconception. I think that there is a misconception that you can't get into, that I think education, the education system, doesn't understand the industry and I think the education system in the whole of Britain doesn't understand things that aren't part of the education system that are teaching. So I think there's a big mistake happening in education with leading people towards the creative arts. And I'm a school governor at the moment and I'm shocked by how arts are being downgraded within the education system. The budgets of schools have been cut so dramatically that schools are having to just deal with the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic. They've gone back to those times. Anything creative is being cut. So that's not quite a misconception, but it is a misconception by the government not appreciating us and what we do, and I think it's also making a lot of people feel very unhappy that their failures and all of that sort of thing. So I think there's a deliberate hiding of other communities because it's allowing the government to kind of control education. Sort of a roundabout way of doing that, that answering that question if that makes sense but I think there is there is that we all just flounce around not doing very much and just flounce on stage. But I think it's more fundamental. The second one for me is quite a big controlling and kind of trying to demean the creative industries really quite dramatically, and I think it's been going on for quite a long time. But at the moment it's like pretty appalling how the education system is. The kids are coming out of it with very little knowledge of the arts.

David:

I agree, I agree. So we're at the last question which I ask every guest, which your interpretation of this is up to you, but what we do on this show is I ask you to make a cultural confession, and that confession can be anything you want, without getting yourself into trouble, necessarily, but again that you would like to share with the listeners, and it could be something funny, it could be something that really annoys you, but something you'd be willing to share with our listeners.

Tahra:

Oh right, OK, well, hang on a minute. I have to think about it. Oh no, I was going to say something, but I don't think I dare say this one.

David:

People are actually listening to this, though.

Tahra:

Well, we did. You know, we did make some extraordinary underwear, for this was going back to 2012 for the stunt double of the Queen, and that was. That was quite an interesting series of meetings that we had to make sure. So we had, obviously, the arrival of the Queen, for the ceremony was with James Bond and all that sort of thing, and we had. We had a body double and we had a stunt double. The body double was was female, the stunt double was male and jumping out of the helicopter. So we did have to make sure that as the gentleman jumped out, he didn't go south and the skirt of the Queen would go north and it did involve quite a lot of undercrackers and lots of going down of a skirt, but that was quite highly entertaining and a series of meetings had been had about that and how we were going to make sure that that was all. That was all safe. Yeah, we were all really really nervous about that. There was that I can't the one there. I do have something funny, but it's such a, it's such a clanger. I better not because I am under. I am under still. I'm still under. Some confidentiality on that front. Lots of basically lots of things to do with pants. I've had lots of very interesting interesting underwear discussions over over my career. We've had to make very wide. Who'd have thought that some ballet companies like a three and a half inch wide gusset when they're dancing? So there's no. And we had lots of conversations about how wide that three and a half, three and a half inch gusset in a pair of knickers it's quite wide, which, yeah, but is needed. So there is not awful lot of conversations that happen around underwear. It's kind of very personal, personal. Things are many and very serious conversations I had around a table about how we're going to deal with these things and that is part of what I do at all. You know, like on the Olympics, for example, on my budget I had I had budget lines for sheep, horses and things like that. So you know you have long conversations about bizarre things all the time, and the Eurovision Song Contest was just another one that was my whole to do. To do today list was like like that all the time.

David:

But good fun though. Tara, thank you so much for being a guest. It's been a true pleasure, and I could keep speaking to you for hours. Maybe we'll do this again at some point, but for now, thank you so much for being on the show, and hopefully lots of people will listen to it.

Tahra:

Well, well, I hope so, but maybe or maybe I don't. But it's been so lovely talking with you. I think you, you know, your love for people does come across when, when we talk. So, yeah, really nice. So it's lovely seeing you again.

David:

Thank you so much and I'll see you soon. Thanks for listening to this episode of Before the Applaus. Please do tell everyone about this podcast and stay connected with us across all the usual social media platforms by searching at before applause. If you've got any burning questions, want to share your own insights, want to recommend a guest or be one yourself, then we'd love to hear from you. You can direct messages on any of our social accounts or email studio at before the applause podcom. Thank you.

Innovative Costume and Creature Puppet Creation
Managing Diverse Teams and Personal Growth
Entertainment Industry Challenges and Changes
Costume Design's Evolution and Fight for Recognition
Importance and Benefits of Creative Industries
Education System and Creative Arts Misconceptions
Cultural Confession