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Graduate Spotlight: MA Costume Design for Performance Graduate Kathleen Nellis

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featured
Written by
Josh De Souza Crook
Published date
12 December 2016

MA Costume Design for Performance graduate Kathleen Nellis created a film based on Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca for her Final Major Project which was shown at Sadler’s Wells for LCF MA17.

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De Winter by MA Costume Design for Performance graduate Kathleen Nellis. Performer Maria Lebedeff, Camera by Matt North and Producer Matthew Clyde.

Kathleen’s film tells the story of a young bride of Maxim, who has recently been widowed after his wife, Rebecca, supposedly drowned. The short film is full of hope and promises until she decides she wants to take a different leap of faith in another direction.

A fashion design graduate, Kathleen worked as a garment technician for British designer Jenny Packham after completing her BA. She then took a keen interest in costume for film, focusing her passion for historical and fantasy design.

We talk to Kathleen about changing fashion design to costume, inspirations and LCF moving to Stratford.

Tell us about your final costume?

For my final piece I decided to make a short film based on the novel Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. The piece explores reality mixed with fantasy and dreams mixed with nightmares. As our heroine descends the staircase into her seemingly perfect life, she finds the floor at the bottom of the stairs to be covered in a deep chasm of water. She must make the decision to plunge into the water and take on the ghosts that lie beneath. But at the end of the film, having emerged from her battle, we are left with the question – can you ever really forget the past?

This story is told through the use of costume as well as circumstance. From the beautiful 19th century ball gown she descends the stairs in, to the gown being covered with the black ink of Rebecca underwater, to her 1930s dress bleeding with black ink of its own accord at the end, all of the costumes tell the story in their own way.

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De Winter by MA Costume Design for Performance graduate Kathleen Nellis. Performer Maria Lebedeff, Camera by Matt North and Producer Matthew Clyde.

What would be your top three tips for prospective students?

Make sure this is what you want to do and this is what you love. Do work experience for a while, and make sure you’re certain of the industry you want to go in to. It is a tough one and a lot of hard work so it will take a huge amount of dedication and passion. When you embark on the course make the most of it – the time will go by so quickly so you don’t want to regret wasting time on any project. Really throw yourself into it and get the best out of it that you possibly can.

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De Winter by MA Costume Design for Performance graduate Kathleen Nellis. Performer Maria Lebedeff, Camera by Matt North and Producer Matthew Clyde.

Why did you choose LCF and MA Costume Design for Performance?

I was eager to stay in London and this is definitely the best course in the UK for Costume Design. I would have gone to LCF for my undergraduate degree but I decided that I didn’t want to live in London so soon after leaving home. London is where I knew I wanted to end up and so I thought I would go somewhere completely different for my undergrad. It is a world renowned college and situated in the best place in the world!

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De Winter by MA Costume Design for Performance graduate Kathleen Nellis. Performer Maria Lebedeff, Camera by Matt North and Producer Matthew Clyde.

What did you enjoy most about the course, and what did you find most challenging?

The freedom of creativity on this course was immense. We were able to let our creative juices flow as freely as possible and this really pushed my limits and made me realise that anything is achievable. If you can think it, then you can do it! The most challenging part was finding the energy and passion to keep going. It becomes an incredibly tiring and time consuming thing to do, especially towards the ends of your projects, and finding the motivation to keep going is difficult. That is why you must love what you do!

What is your favourite thing about studying in London?

The culture that is right there on your doorstep. There is always so much to see and to be inspired by. ‘When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life!’ Samuel Johnson

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De Winter by MA Costume Design for Performance graduate Kathleen Nellis. Performer Maria Lebedeff, Camera by Matt North and Producer Matthew Clyde.

Have you undertaken any work experience or placements whilst at LCF?

No because I worked in the fashion industry for 2 years prior to completing the MA. I did partake in a project with the V&A creating a learning resource for secondary school students for which I made a costume that is now being shown there.

Describe your work in five words…

Fantasy, beauty, power, storytelling, couture

Who is your biggest inspiration or muse?

Sandy Powell, the famous costume designer of movies such as Cinderella and Carol. She gets it utterly perfect every single time.

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De Winter by MA Costume Design for Performance graduate Kathleen Nellis. Performer Maria Lebedeff, Camera by Matt North and Producer Matthew Clyde.

What are your future plans and how do you think the course has helped you realise this?

I plan to work in costume design for film- probably starting by assisting the designer and then working my way up to a design role. I am also deeply interested in film and fashion film directing since creating my final MA project. I would never have considered this without the course. I would also never feel the passion for this subject that I do now without it!

LCF moving to Stratford: What do you think about the university moving east?

I think it is amazing- I only wish I was here after the move! The only downfall will be losing the resource of Goldhawk Road (I am at the Lime Grove campus) but it will be great to have all other resources.