“Never stop learning and truly love what you do” – Heather Neale

20 for the 20th – Reel Career Profile Series: Heather Neale

Heather Neale is a Costume Designer who graduated from the University of Manitoba with a degree in Clothing and Textiles. Heather instantly fell in love with creating characters through costume after designing her first independent film in the early 2000’s. Heather has been focused on her film career ever since and has designed costumes for Aaron Paul, Rutger Hauer, Sarah Paulson, Jennifer Connelly, Cillian Murphy and others.  In 2013 she was recognized by the Canadian Screen Awards for her work on Todd & the Book of Pure Evil (Season 2), and was also nominated for a Genie Award in 2012 for Keyhole.

When and how did you start in the media production industry?
After graduating from University I was working in the apparel manufacturing industry as a Design Assistant and came to realize that the corporate atmosphere wasn’t the right fit for me and I was looking for a career change… so I volunteered to be a Costume Designer on a low budget indie film called “East of Euclid”. I knew nothing about the filmmaking process or the costume design process, but I had a Clothing and Textiles degree and was determined to make use of it! Once I started sourcing costumes, sewing costumes, creating character looks and filming – I instantly knew I wanted to work in film and learn as much as I could about the costume department.

What area of the film industry do you work in now and why?
I am still in the costume department today 20 years later, currently a Costume Designer about to start work on a new feature film called “The Ice Road” with Liam Neeson. I’m still in the costume department because I love it.

What has been a substantial change in the industry since you started?
Technology – Advancements in costume breakdown software, 3D printing, textile design and innovation, on-line shopping, visual presentation techniques and photography. When I started in the costume department people were using pagers and polaroids! The advantages of keeping up with ever changing technology only allows for more creativity in every aspect of costume design.

How did taking FTM training affect your career?
Film Training Manitoba allowed me the opportunity to have the career I do today. Once I had a few independent film credits under my belt I became an FTM costume trainee and regularly took classes and workshops to further my education in this industry. I always received support and sometimes advice… I cannot stress the importance of this organization enough and I thank them for helping me throughout the years.

What is advice you would give to someone starting off in the media production industry?
Take as many FTM courses as you can, never stop learning and truly love what you do. Also, wear comfortable shoes…. 16 hour days or longer are the norm – don’t settle for cheap shoes!

What are some of the films, TV series or even books that have inspired you? How about anything new you’ve been into?
I’m inspired by things that are truly creative, different, interesting, new, weird and thought provoking. Twin Peaks was a TV series that really started my love for costume design and film – I think David Lynch is amazing.

Is there something about you or an interesting past experience that you’d like to share with your colleagues?
Most people don’t know that I am Aboriginal and a member of British Columbia’s Fort Nelson First Nation.

Where do you see yourself in ten years from now?
Somewhere hot.