Fashion in Film

From Puppets to Apocalyptic Series About Viruses, Jaymes Neon Knows How to Outfit a Character

The local costume designer talked to us about everything from crafting teeny puppet outfits to making Nicolas Cage look like he's been living in the woods for months.

By Eden Dawn Published in the Summer 2021 issue of Portland Monthly

Costumer Jaymes Neon on set of Dave Franco's directorial debut, The Rental.

Jaymes Neon née Hansen has been around the Portland wardrobe block. Between selling her reworked vintage pieces and handmade designs at indie boutique Seaplane and glamming out GLOW-style wrestling costumes for a Menomena music video (full disclosure: I was one of the wrestlers) in the early aughts to blinging out animation puppets for Bent Image Lab, she’s become an essential component of the city’s fashion world. In 2014, she translated that skill set to film and television, nabbing assistant design work on Portlandia and soon after as key costumer on the punk rock horror flick Green Room. Most recently the Eastern Oregon native has had a packed series of impressive costume projects back to back, including Key Costumer on Dave Franco’s Bandon-filmed directorial debut, The Rental (with designer Kammy Lennox), plus Costume Supervisor on Kelly Reichardt’s 19th-century First Cow (with designer April Napier), and the forthcoming Nicolas Cage revenge thriller Pig. In a bit of life imitating art imitating life, Neon was on set as an assistant costume designer for the massive remake of The Stand—the miniseries based on Stephen King’s 1978 postapocalyptic novel about a deathly contagious virus that wipes out most of the US population—when the pandemic hit, sending everyone home as the industry ground to a halt.

[STARTING OUT] I WORKED A LOT OF FREE JOBS. So many jobs just to keep moving and keep working.  I knew this is what I wanted to do; I just didn't know exactly that it was going to be TV and film, because I was already doing animation stuff, too. And then I got hired on Portlandia for season five. That was my first [TV show], in 2014. Since then it's just been hustling in that TV and film world. 

[MY PROCESS BEGINS] WITH READING THE SCRIPT. I always read it like three or four times, really visualize and kind of soak it up,  just feel things kind of float in while you're reading it and making notes on the side. There's a lot of input with the writer and the director, too, of course. They have a vision of how they wanted things to be. And then I take those things and I always do some sort of collage board—fabrics and pictures and found things from books or from the internet—and put it all together. That starts a conversation with the director and the writers. Then you get your notes, you get your feedback, and you get started.

I LOVE BEING SCRAPPY. I love shopping at [Goodwill Outlet] the bins. The character Rob in Pig [played by Nicolas Cage] had been living out in the woods in the same clothes for months and months. So, he had to reflect that in comparison with the rest of the world. It was a challenge to pull it together. But I loved every second of it. I love getting into it—making stuff or putting my little touch on it like dyeing or breaking it down or doing stitching. Anything I can do, like change out the buttons.

I WENT UP TO CANADA [to work on The Stand]. It was so fast, and I was only supposed to be there a few months. It just kept getting bigger and bigger and crazier. At one point we had over 50 people on the costume team alone. [The plot] follows a giant timeline, but it's also the multiples of all the clothing we had to shop for and then break it down. I've never shopped for so many multiples in my life. Randall Flagg for instance, for his costume he basically wears the same thing the whole time, a Canadian tuxedo. But we had made maybe 40 of them, head to toe. So that way he had like 20, and then [the rest were] for his photo double and his stunt double. 

TALK ABOUT SURREAL. Being in my airport Marriott in Vegas—living and breathing this book about a virus that kills most of the population—and then seeing [news of the pandemic] on CNN. It was scary. You're like, we're making a show about a virus that kills everybody and now here we are in a pandemic having to go home early. It was crazy.

ANIMATION IS A REALLY GOOD PLACE TO BE [working in right now] because puppets can't give you COVID! Netflix animation opened up a whole new branch where they have these studios in a few different places. Right now, we are one of the studios [in Portland working with designer Nadine Patterson]. What a smart thing to do to keep content coming along. Puppets are great. They don't disagree with their costume or change out the [clothing] tags so that it says extra-extra-small when they’re really a medium. 

THE [ANIMATION PUPPETS] range from five inches tall to maybe 10 inches. It's amazing during patterning. It took me a minute before I was like, ‘Oh, you can just take your drape or whatever over to the photocopier, make that copy, and that's your pattern.’ Everything's different, it's so funny because it's so tiny.

Neon says the costume team had to create 40 of these denim on denim looks so the Randall Flagg character would have enough for the duration of filming.



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