The Reluctant Stylista

X-Deal, starring Jamilla Obispo, Paloma Esmeria and Jon Hall, is currently showing in theaters. It was my utterly unforgettable, first foray into styling for film.

X-Deal starring Jon Hall, Paloma and Jamilla Obispo

Well, maybe “styling” is a bit of a stretch, as it was really more like wardrobe management, but, whatever. It was baptism of fire for me, back in early 2010, when I had just recently quit a nice-paying job to try and shift careers to fashion styling. I hardly knew anyone in the business, and lord knows my brief stint in SoFA the year before didn’t pay off as I never got the coveted styling internship I hoped for–despite doing everything that was required of me and more. I was desperate to get even a little toe on the door.

So when I was asked by someone whether I was interested to try my hand in styling for an indie film, I didn’t hesitate.

And oh, by the way (I was told, and with eyes that were gauging my reaction) it’s an adult film. Like yes, erotica, bordering soft porn.

I didn’t even bat an eyelash when I said okay, all this while wondering why on earth an adult film with plenty of nudity required any sort of fashion “styling”.

Was I such a noob or what?

It was an indie film, so naturally, we didn’t have a big budget. About 90% of the clothes we used were the actors’ own. We raided their closets to choose items that the script called for, and it had to be color-schemed even if most of them were pambahay clothes. The hues were especially important to the script because they were to convey subtle messages.

Of course there were still times when we had to shop. There were a handful of steamy sex scenes and that meant showing appropriate underwear. At one point, I had to scour the department store for a cup D blue brassiere. Yes, a cup D in the Philippines, that ought to be a walk in the park.  And in frickin’ BLUE!  I took a shopping basket and just started piling any big bra I could spy that resembled blue and asked a saleslady for assistance. Amidst the search, she even dutifully reminded me that I could fit the bras, if I wanted to. With a straight face. “Miss,” I started patiently, “mukha bang kakasya to sa kahit anong parte ng katawan ko maliban sa ulo ko?” If there was anything model-like on my 5’1″ 1/2 frame, it would definitely be the boobs. Though I was pretty sure I could fit a cup D on my head, what with all this hair.

(Though for the record, I made do with a C cup that was a little larger than regular Asian size. And some argued that it looked more like aqua than blue.)

X-Deal behind the scenes

There was also a shirt-ripping scene, which meant I had to buy 3 shirts of the same style and hope the actors would get it in 3 takes. I was told that the same thing goes for scenes where characters would get wet or bloodied (thankfully, we had none).

Unlike studios where you have dressing rooms and areas for ironing clothes, shooting on location meant having little room to spare. Thus, I would spread out a cloth on the floor to keep the garments from dirt and do the ironing there. Mostly my assistant did, as I knew nothing (and still don’t) about ironing.

Oh, and how did I come up with an assistant when I was supposed to be that person? As luck would have it, the main stylist who got me onboard and would have taught me all the ropes, got sick and ended up going to just one day of shooting. So yes, on my first movie gig, I had to feel my way through alone. Fortunately for me, the other assistant worked a lot in theater and was no stranger to ironing on the floor and sleeping in your own sweat on dusty floorboards with newspapers and dirty clothes as our mattresses. Or at least, he didn’t seem to have a problem with it. Neither did I. Maybe I would have, if I weren’t so exhausted with 25 hours of shooting. I would snatch some shut eye whenever I could on any surface I could rest my ass on. I’d go to the location at 5am and go home the next day at 6am, have a preprod in the afternoon then shoot again at 5am the next day. I survived only by sheer determination and very filling home cooking. The line producer had heaps of food on set for everyone, and ever since I resigned to live like a pauper and follow my ambitions, those were the best meals I ever had those days.

X-Deal behind the scenes

Green as I was and without a more experienced set stylist to hold my hand, I eventually had to screw up some time. One of the tops an actress wore for a scene that was already filmed went missing. Who would have thought that such an unassuming, generic-looking, skimpy, spaghetti strap top would be no minor mishap? I was scared shitless and I wanted to cry–I had seen how the director reacted on set to boo-boos from the crew and it wasn’t pretty. The missing top would cost us to reshoot the scene before proceeding to the next one. I (or my negligence) ruined continuity and was the lone cause for a reshoot. You’d think at this point everyone would be hating on me, and I don’t know which was worse–that or having everyone from the crew (cameramen, gaffers, heck even the extras) look utterly, pathetically sorry for me and profoundly grateful they weren’t in my shoes. To this day, I swear I can close my eyes and still remember exactly how they all looked like. Everyone knew what it was like to have a taste of direk‘s wrath.

I prepared myself for the tongue-lashing…that didn’t come. I finally lucked out when I unwittingly chose to mess up after direk had already screamed himself hoarse the day before. He was tired and raspy-voiced and I got the gentlest scolding from him–or maybe he took one look at my pathetic, bloodless face and took pity on the noob.

I did more than feel my way through the experience. Apparently, it was also my task to cover sensitive body parts with plaster. I was the only one who didn’t know how to do it among the wardrobe stylists, and yet I was the only one who could. The assistant was a guy, and the main stylist claimed a possibly contagious wart or something on her hand.

Ever wondered how people in the movies pull off grinding against each other convincingly without getting distracted? Well, that’s where your handy dandy Leukoplast steps in. The plaster is skin-colored, and it can cover an actor’s or actress’ privates when needs be, but it’s a bitch to take out if they haven’t gotten a Brazilian.


Paloma FHM April 2009 

Paloma in FHM April 2009.  You don’t think that’s all gold dust down there, do you?

So what you do, for women, is you cut a strip of cloth, shaping it to the vagina. Then you put it in place, cut off the excess, then tape it all over with plaster. It needs to be clean and seamless. Cloth is best because it doesn’t bunch up. We had to use a panty liner for the other actress because I thought her underwear was too pretty to cut up and she agreed, but it just wasn’t the same. Thankfully, Mr. Lead Actor decided to do his on his own, but I assume the same theory applies for guys (though extra caution may be helpful as their package is irregularly-shaped and even more sensitive). And before you say, like my friend did, “Wushuuu kunwari ka pa eh si Jon Hall naman yun“–ask yourself: Do I really want to be responsible for plastering the wrong parts of his bits?  Yeah, I thought so.  Like I said, it’s a bitch to take off, but I’m told Vaseline helps in taking off the extremely adhesive plaster.

I’d like to think I came out of that whole experience a little tougher. Working for films, especially adult ones, is a daunting task not for the faint of heart (or anyone who love their sleep). As for myself, I’ve yet to see the whole movie. The premiere was early this month (though I wasn’t able to attend) and I think it’s still showing. I’m a little apprehensive about seeing it alone, though, so I will probably have to ask a friend along to brave it with me.

X-Deal starring Paloma Esmeria, Jon Hall and Jamilla Obispo


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