Between Two Ferns: The Movie

December 4, 2019

By Anna Wyckoff

Projects come from many different sources. When taking the Funny or Die sketch Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis to the big screen, director Scott Aukerman turned to Costume Designer Erica Rice, whose experience with the director spans over eighty episodes on Comedy Bang! Bang! “When they called me I was really excited, because I knew the web series, and I love Scott and Zach.”

Working on Between Two Ferns: The Movie presented Rice with a unique set of challenges. The first issue was the improvisational nature of the show. Where most Costume Designers can turn to the script to begin a project, that wasn’t an option for Rice. “There wasn’t really a script when I started. There was an outline of a script, but no real dialogue.” Rice looked at existing materials and consulted with the director and cast, working closely with the performers to develop their characters. She used color, texture, and aging to underscore the ordinariness and believability of the supporting cast. Grounding them firmly as real people allows the audience to be more deeply invested in the comedy.

Another issue was dressing the established characters in a way that maintained continuity. “It was really important to Zach that the costumes were familiar. There were some blazers he wore in the web series based on his dad’s, we made them in new fabrics. We also found the key elements of it and honed in on them.” Among those details were the established vocabulary of chinos and Wallabees, which at this point have become iconic.

Many of the celebrities who appeared in the show would play themselves, and the juxtaposition of their clothes with Galifianakis’ was one aspect of the comedy. “The celebrity guests were really great and easy to work with. Mainly, we wanted them dressed they were going to a daytime talk show. Between them being a little overdressed and Zach always underdressed is a good combination.”

Working in comedy compliments Rice’s sense of character and her approach to Costume Design. “I try to approach it like a drama. I want them to be real people. I think it’s always funnier if someone is dressed like a real person. Then you drop your guard and then some things become really surprising. I think if you let the costumes fall back a little then the character becomes more interesting.”

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