Tag Archives: Chateau Laurier

Murdoch Mysteries: Costume designer Joanna Syrokomla discusses the show’s stunning clothes

Spoiler alert! Do not continue reading until you have watched the “My Big Fat Mimico Wedding” episode of Murdoch Mysteries.

Joanna Syrokomla has one of the best jobs in television and film. Yes, being a costume designer is a lot of work, but the opportunity to spend someone else’s money to research, create, make and/or rent the clothes worn by characters sounds incredible.

Syrokomla—who has been the costume designer on such series as The L.A. Complex, Bitten, Backstage and Chateau Laurier (for which she recently won an International Academy of Web Television Award)—joined the Murdoch Mysteries crew for Season 12 and has, in my mind, made an immediate impact. That was never more evident in the stunning clothes worn by Ruth Newsome, Henry Higgins and their guests during Monday’s nuptials. How did Syrokomla design Ruth’s dress? What’s different about Julia’s look? And what items in his wardrobe does Yannick Bisson refuse to change? Read on to find out!

What does the title of costume designer mean, specifically when we’re talking about Murdoch Mysteries?
Joanna Syrokomla: I’m ultimately responsible for every article of clothing that goes on-camera. Obviously, we do the research required for Murdoch. I watched previous seasons of Murdoch—I was already a fan—and the wonderful thing about that is you can see what really works on the characters. I could watch what was really great on Hélène Joy, what made her glow and was successful on her. I’ve tried to update Julia’s look. She’s starting to lean towards 1910 even though it’s 1906 to give it a freshness to the look of Murdoch and to her and to, frankly, accent some of the stock because there are only so many costumes in Canada to rent to all of those day players.

I have a crew that ranges between eight and 15 people, depending on the day. I have a workshop where we build and sew costumes. We make things from scratch for our leads. And if there are any specialty stunts … we’ve been making Ruth Newsome a bunch of stuff because she is amazing. Siobhan Murphy can pull off anything. She can pull off big sleeves, she can pull off a train, she can pull off crazy colours and I’ve really made quite an effort to realize her character more visually. I feel like I’ve been trying to do that with a few of the characters. We know Murdoch is not realistic. So, for me, it’s about making things that the audience is really going to love.

It’s interesting to hear to say that you do keep the fans in mind when you’re designing something.
JS: We also use more modern things. I’ve been buying things are Zara and Forever 21. Violet and Ogden are wearing things that we’ve bought from Forever 21 and just recut and adapted them. At the end of the day, there is a fan base that wants to see pretty clothes. And as long as they don’t distract from the action, we want to bring some colour, texture and warmth. Again, it’s not high realism. High realism at that time was all very brown, cream and tan and hot wool. That’s what I love about Murdoch Mysteries over some other period series. There is a fun element to Murdoch Mysteries. We say, ‘Is it period, or is it Murdoch period?’

What was the inspiration behind Ruth’s gorgeous wedding dress?
JS: Ruth, obviously, is over the top. The style of her dress is a little modern for the period. It’s leaning more towards a 1908-1910 silhouette. The character takes up a lot of space visually and I love that about her. And Siobhan is a stunning creature. The dress started off as a dress we found in a Montreal costume house. We redid the sleeves and changed the train. We ended up changing it so much I’m not even sure you would recognize the original dress. It’s now in two pieces and the costume house loved it so much they said, ‘Don’t change it,’ because sometimes we have to change things back. There was so much action going on we had to make sure she didn’t have a really long train. At first, I wanted her to have this really ridiculous, long train and veil but there so much action that you can’t have that stuff be in the way.

You mentioned Montreal. So, you’re going all over the country for rentals and inspiration?
JS: Absolutely. Toronto does have some really exceptional costume rental houses but we were sent to Montreal for about a week because Montreal has an excellent period stock. I think they might just do more period movies in Montreal. We spent a couple of days in costume houses there and bought a bunch of fabric there. But things to get rented from Vancouver and we do [use items from] Los Angeles a little bit. We’ve also been going to the Shaw Festival and the Stratford Festival, hitting places that Murdoch hadn’t really hit before just for some new stock.

Let’s talk about what the men were wearing during the wedding. What can you tell me about their tuxes?
JS: It’s officially called morning wear. They wouldn’t be tuxedoes. They would be morning coats for an afternoon wedding. It was a lot of fun to put everyone in morning wear. It’s always wonderful when the guys come in in their sneakers and shorts and just the way they stand when they start putting on all this formal gear is beautiful. We even had some pieces sent in from Winnipeg, which has the oldest costume house in Canada. It was the original Malabar costumes and then branched to Toronto and Montreal. We had some pieces from there because we have gunshot wounds in the episode. There is a whole jacket switch that has to happen between Henry and George. In reality, the two of them are not the same size, so we had to find jackets that we were allowed to put gunshot wounds in.

One thing I’m not sure if you noticed and I’m curious if you did. The pyjamas. In the story, everyone goes to the wedding, and everyone has to stay overnight. No one had intended to stay overnight so everyone is wearing pyjamas. And we’re not sure if they were Roger’s pyjamas or Rupert’s pyjamas. It was a way we could put Hélène in those beautiful, silky, pyjamas and Crabtree in the yellow paisley pyjamas and, of course, Murdoch wore some serious ones. That was something that came up. We were in a meeting and I asked what everyone was wearing. I don’t know who it was, it might even have been me, who said, ‘What if it was Rupert’s pyjamas?’

How far in advance are you brought in to discuss clothing?
JS: It’s during the first draft period. I had a little more time for the wedding episode. It was actually one of the first episodes we shot so we had a little bit more time. But it’s basically two weeks.

You’ve already spoken about Julia’s look changing. What about William’s? I don’t imagine his clothing has been altered too much style-wise.
JS: Everybody is very, very happy with his look over the years. And Yannick himself doesn’t want to change it. He wears the same shoes and the same cufflinks from the very first movie and refuses to change them. He wears the same shoes, we just get the refurbished every year. I got him some new cufflinks and he said, ‘No, no, I’ve been wearing the same cufflinks.’ We just made more of the same. He does have some looks this year which are new, but nothing drastic. I even tried to get him a new hat. They don’t make that one anymore. I got it from a vintage seller on eBay in his size and everything. He picked it up and said, ‘Yeah, it’s good as a backup hat.’

Murdoch Mysteries airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on CBC.

Images courtesy of CBC.

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Gorgeous time period web series Chateau Laurier racks up record views

If social media presence is a bona fide measure of success, Chateau Laurier is simply killing it. The web series has just crossed the three million views line on Facebook—in just two months—and shows no sign of slowing down. Couple that with 65,000 followers on Facebook … clearly, creator-producer-director James Stewart and co-writer-producers Emily Weedon and Kent Staines know what they’re doing.

What the trio has created in just three episodes of content—Season 1 of Chateau Laurier can be seen on the show’s Facebook page—is a sumptuous, gorgeous tale of a couple on the cusp of their arranged marriage taking place against the backdrop of Ottawa’s historic Chateau Laurier. Hattie Bracebridge (Kate Ross) is accompanied by her aunt (Fiona Reid) to the storied establishment where they meet Mr. Mutchmor (the late Bruce Gray, in his final role) and prepare for Hattie’s impending nuptials. But with one errant glance and a few steps away from the lobby, Hattie goes on an adventure that leads to a major twist.

We spoke to creator-producer-director James Stewart about Chateau Laurier, why it’s become a smash hit online, the challenges of filming in a hotel and what’s next for the project.

Why do you think Chateau Laurier has resonated so much not only in Canada and the U.S. but around the world?
James Stewart: I wish I knew the secret sauce. I think there are a number of story reasons and a number of technical reasons. I think the story reasons are people love period dramas. That whole fanbase, with Downton Abbey ending, there is a real hunger for it. I think, specifically in Canada, there is a real hunger for it. As John Doyle pointed out, because of NHL hockey there is no Murdoch Mysteries and no Frankie Drake Mysteries and we landed right in the middle of that. For a technical reason, we decided to launch it as a web series in three-minute episodes and I think that makes it highly shareable and highly viewable. And, once viewers watch it, they’re hooked and take another until they’re done in nine minutes. They say that brevity is the soul of wit. I think brevity is the soul of the Internet.

Facebook is highly shareable and that demographic, women, older women and girls, they are all on Facebook. My mom is on Facebook, my aunt is on Facebook.

Kent Staines (l) and Fiona Reid

How much of a learning curve has it been, for you as a creator, making something in short-form for Facebook?
It absolutely is a learning curve and it changes every year. I did a short film called Foxed and it did the film festival circuit in what I would call a traditional way of distributing something. Then I said, ‘What else is there?’ I put it on iTunes. Then, I was out of outlets for it to create revenue of any kind and I put it on Facebook. It got five million views. It was nuts. Why is that? Because people share, share, share on Facebook. It’s very easy to hit that button.

When we came to Chateau Laurier, I think I was able to really harness all of my social media followers. The Foxed Facebook page has 30,000 followers and I have about 80,000 Twitter followers. We were originally going to launch Chateau Laurier in the fall. We were going to throw a party and have a launch event. I wanted to do it at TIFF Bell Lightbox and they were busy and then Bruce Gray passed away. There was a celebration of his life and then about a month later I said, ‘OK, let’s launch it.’ At that point, we already had 30,000 followers on Facebook.

Give me the background on Chateau Laurier. You grew up in Ottawa in awe of this building. How long has this series been in the works?
I’ve always wanted to do a series on Chateau Laurier and kind of peel back the layers on Ottawa the good. It has a very dangerous history. In the 1800s it was a very dangerous logging town and then it became the capital and all this power and prestige was dumped into this kind of frontier town. Then they opened the Chateau Laurier right in the middle of it and the Titanic went down in the same month. The owner of the hotel went down on the Titanic. The furniture for the opening of the hotel was on the Titanic and they had to delay the opening. It was supposed to open in April and they opened in June in a very subdued way. They didn’t throw a big party. I’ve always known that, liked that, and if I’m in town and don’t stay with family I’ll stay there.

Bruce Gray

And then, a few years ago after Foxed, I thought, ‘I want to do this show. We have a bit of momentum.’ So we got some BravoFACT money to do a short, a sort of proof of concept for a primetime drama series. We did that and then decided to launch it as a web series because that has it’s own cache and is a genre now. We had very little money. It looks very expensive because we shot it at [the Fairmont] Royal York.

It looks stunning. Not only is it impressive to look at but you really pack a lot of story into just under 10 minutes.
Thanks. Arthur Cooper shot it and we really just phoned around and asked who was available and wanted to do it. Everybody was a pro, including the cast. Fiona Reid and Bruce Gray and Kate Ross and Luke Humphrey … we had a connection with them all and they loved it. We shot overnight in the lobby of the Royal York. I wanted to film it in Ottawa, but logistically we just didn’t have the money.

Did you have a traditional writer’s room with yourself, Emily and Kent?
No, we didn’t. Essentially, Kent and Emily wrote the screenplay that became the web series. It was more of a writer’s booth. The love story was based on an idea that Emily came up with.

I saw a picture of you, on social media, at the CBC. Are you actively pitching Chateau Laurier as a series?
We are. We are talking to everyone. Plan A is we are going to broadcasters to say we have a hit on our hands. We have an unabashedly Canadian story, we have a great cast, we have established our characters and they have three million fans. And we’re going to do Season 2 of the web series where we introduce two more of our lead characters in the Mutchmor family and have some great drama. And if we get a primetime series the web series will serve as a prequel.

Season 1 of Chateau Laurier can be seen on the show’s Facebook page.

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Link: Now on Facebook: Chateau Laurier is a 10-minute, perfect Canadian drama with familiar themes

From John Doyle of The Globe and Mail:

Link: Now on Facebook: Chateau Laurier is a 10-minute, perfect Canadian drama with familiar themes
Set in the famous Ottawa hotel, but filmed in Toronto – it looks like the Fairmont Royal York – events are set in or about 1912. A young woman, Hattie Bracebridge (Kate Ross) is brought to the hotel on the eve of her arranged marriage to one Vivian Mutchmor (Luke Humphrey). Her chaperone, Mrs. Bracebridge (Fiona Reid), tells Hattie to quit her complaining and face up to the marriage. Hattie wanders off and has a little romantic adventure. Then, there’s a twist. Continue reading.

 

 

 

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