“Lights Out”

July 22, 2016

Anna Wyckoff

When asked about her recent experience on the film Lights Out, Costume Designer Kristin Burke clarifies the semantics of a scary movie versus a horror film: “I think scary movies have evolved so much. We are moving away from blood, guts and gore and the victimization of women; to call them ‘horror’ seems a misnomer.” To Burke, Lights Out is more of a thriller with escalating, strategic tension, and not much more blood than the typical action movie.

Burke was attracted to the project because Swedish director David Sandberg had created a handful of short films, which she found chilling. As her family is also Swedish, Burke has an affinity for the culture and felt drawn to work with him.

Lights Out is a small film with a petite budget and a fascinating script. To bridge the gap between her vision and the lack of financing, Burke used strategic product placement. Focusing on smaller vendors and even using pieces from artist Caia Koopman, she was able create a very specific look using Koopman’s graphic elements. The two main characters, Rebecca (Teresa Palmer) and Bret (Alexander DiPersia) straddle the line between rocker and gothic. Having previously worked with New Line Cinema, Burke understood that the studio is interested in characters that are relatable. But Burke also knew from experience that often the audience’s automatic reaction to alternative types is to dislike them on the basis that they represent the “other.” Burke found inspiration on the website lookbook.eu in ordinary people, particularly one Finnish woman whose daily dress possessed the critical mix of beauty and darkness. “We needed to find a place where it was attractive but still told the story of their otherness,” she explains.

Bret, Rebecca’s boyfriend, was cast late in the project. Burke found herself stranded on a weekend needing to create an important t-shirt for Bret, which had his face alongside his band mates. There was no time to spare, as this costume worked on the first day of shooting, Monday morning. DiPersia was at a wedding when Burke asked him to take a selfie against a blank wall and send it to her. He complied, and she created the graphic. Using a negative print of the image and the product SolarFast (by Jacquard), all Burke needed was a little sun to transfer the photo to the shirt. But Sunday was cloudy. Burke wouldn’t be derailed. She took her garments to a tanning salon and paid for an hour of “sun.” She says the end results were “beautiful,” and she was able to fit his costumes on Sunday night.

Burke adds that she enjoyed two bonuses during the small production. The first was a month-long stint shooting in Highland Park, where Burke relished connecting with the neighborhood and community. She also appreciates her diligent crew. According to Burke, costume supervisor Steffany Bernstein-Pratt and costumers Chris Harris and Yvette Ammon made the collaboration a pleasure.

Lights Out by New Line Cinema is in theatres July 22, 2016.

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