Families in the Entertainment Industry
By Valli Herman
When you’re running a busy costume department, there are days when being able to clone yourself would be especially handy. Sometimes, Conan Castro appears to be doing just that. His twin brother, Leo, has on occasion day checked with Conan, who is the costume supervisor on the FX series “Justified.”
Though the brothers aren’t impossible to tell apart, the presence of lookalikes can have unintended consequences on set.
“He was here yesterday and the actors were going up to him giving him some sort of request, and he has no clue,” said Conan of his identical twin. The brothers say that the inconvenience of occasional confusion is far outweighed by the advantage of having a trusted coworker and advisor right in the family.
In a business where having connections can become the difference between breaking into the business or not, the support and guidance of a family member can be crucial. Several notable Costume Designers have made inroads or paved the way so that other family members can join what becomes the family business, sometimes for generations.
The Ferry Family
Steve Ferry, president of the Motion Picture Costumes, IATSE Local 705, is also the third-generation descendant of a 40-year MGM propman, his paternal grandfather. Ferry is more often known as the son of award-winning Costume Designer April Ferry, who counts another son and daughter in the clothing side of entertainment. David works at Western Costume in men’s stock, and daughter, Katy, is an accomplished ager-dyer.
Steve, who worked for years at International Silks and Woolens, is gathering hours to become a costume supervisor. He also has worked with his mother on a few projects, such as a set costumer on CBS’s “Extant” with Halle Berry.
Though Steve said that he and his family “talk shop as little as possible,” he has benefitted from his mother’s great costume connections in other ways. For his 1973 high school prom, “when tuxedoes were the ugliest things on the planet,” April Ferry took Steve to Controneo Costume of Hollywood for his requested white tie and tails ensemble.
“I must have tried on a dozen jackets before he found the absolute perfect jacket–and it fit me like a glove,” Steve recalled. “I looked inside the label and it said ‘F. Astaire.’ I was wearing Fred Astaire’s jacket to my high school prom.
The Norris Family
Among the many awards that Costume Designer Patricia Norris has accumulated in her long career are six Academy Award nominations for best costume design, an Emmy for “Twin Peaks” and last year’s Costume Designers Guild Award for Excellence in Period Film for “12 Years a Slave.”
She can also look at the less tangible, but perhaps more important, honor of knowing that she raised five children alone and led two of them to careers in costumes. Her son, Patrick, is now a successful director after working his way up in the entertainment industry.
“I actually started in the laundry room at Warner Bros. in 1973. That was my introduction to costumes–racks and racks of laundry,” he said. His late sister, Kelly Lindquist, also became a costumer on sets. Their grandfather was a producer for Paramount in the 1930s.
Patrick occasionally worked with his mother.
When she hired me it was usually for some demeaning, low-level costume job,” Patrick said. “She made me work it from the bottom.”
Patrick said his mother was not only a great role model, but also a great teacher.
“She led me in the door and taught me how to survive it in many different ways–none of which I listened to. She was absolutely right, but I had to learn the hard way,” Patrick said. He did, however, carefully observe her methods, which ultimately allowed him to make the rare switch from the costume department to the director’s chair.
In 1994 and 1995, Patrick was a Costume Designer on “My So-Called Life,” the television series from producers Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick. In 1995, Norris convinced them to let him direct an episode because he had shown he knew his stuff.
“I really paid attention when I was a set costumer. After working on big movies with my mom, and Blake Edwards, Arthur Penn and a lot of really cool directors . . . you watch them and learn from them. When my time came, I had heard all the stories about what actors and craftsmen like from a director.
“Knowing what everybody does was the biggest asset in the world,” he said. “I have to thank Patricia for that.”
The Trost Family
Costume Designer Sarah Trost counts a father, brother, husband and great uncle, actor Victor French, in the entertainment industry, and even grandparents who worked in production. Her brother, Brandon, is a successful cinematographer who shot “The Interview,” “Neighbors” and “This Is The End.” Her father, Ron Trost, had a movie effects business in Northern California where Sarah and her family grew up. Younger brother Jason is an actor and writer and directed “How to Save Us,” “Wet and Reckless” and “All Superheroes Must Die,” for which Sarah designed the costumes.
“We’ve all worked together, but everybody does something different,” she said. In her early career, Sarah often worked with Brandon, providing costumes for the short films and school projects that he and his film school friends created.
Despite being surrounded by the entertainment industry, as a teenager, Sarah had no intention of following in her family’s footsteps.
“I was more of a science kid. I was going to go to medical school and not be in the entertainment industry at all,” she said. Yet she soon realized she wanted “to do something creative and be happy.”
Sarah, a fashion design graduate of FIDM and a Season 8 contestant on “Project Runway,” also has an Etsy shop where she sells her TROST line of custom menswear, a line “inspired by iconic action heroes and classic movie stars.”
Sharing work and interests with the “family business” has been an advantage, she said. She and Jason work together on smaller films “because you have more creative control. That’s the reason I think I’ve stayed in the film business. I don’t think I would continue to work in film if it weren’t able to work with my brother. It fits my idea of begin a costume designer.”
The Castro Brothers
The twin brothers’ exposure to clothing and fashion came from their seamstress mother who taught them to sew by hand and on a machine. Yet Conan had gone into banking, helping them with the paperwork to pass federal audit reviews. Leo had joined the U.S. Navy and worked as a nurse and later, managed a medical office.
“I did the whole medical side of it because of my parents; it’s something my dad wanted one of us to do. I finally decided to get into what I wanted to do,” Leo said.
“When I got into the industry, I wanted to supervise for him, so I can learn how he supervises,” said Leo. “It’s not a rivalry, but I look up to him and I want to be like him when it comes to work.”
When Conan was the Costume Designer for the TV series “Cold Case,” he offered work to his brother.
“He worked with me for about three months,” Conan said. “Then I told him he needed to find his own way, and he did.” Leo has since earned credits on “Shameless,” “Ray Donovan” and “The Mindy Project.”
Though Conan was happy to have a coworker that he could trust completely, Leo was concerned about perceptions.
“I know nepotism is a big part of our industry,” said Leo. “I don’t want people to think that I’m working for him just because of that. I want to earn my spot.”
Conan isn’t so worried about appearances, just results. ‘If I could, I would love to have him pretty much my entire career because it’s one part of my job I don’t have to worry about.”