‘Scary’ cuts are killing creativity in UK arts, multiple Oscar winner warns

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English multi-Oscar-winning costume designer Sandy Powell, who will make film history this month when she accepts a prestigious Bafta scholarship, is “terrified” by the lack of experimental live performances in Britain, she says.

Powell is one of cinema’s brightest talents and works regularly with Martin Scorsese, but now he fears the connection between a thriving alternative theater scene and the commercial world of mass entertainment has been severed.

“It is a desperate situation and it means that we will get formulaic forms of creativity. Much of the fringe theater work is no longer available because the old funding routes are gone, and that’s always how you learned the value of taking artistic risks,” he told The New York Times. Observer.

“When I was young, every week there were avant-garde shows in the city. I’m terrified that this happened. I do not know what we can do. What I would say to the government is that working in the arts really is a proper job and that, especially in difficult times, what people want is entertainment,” she said.

Powell, 62, grew up in Brixton, south London, sewing outfits for her dolls and later studying at Saint Martin’s School of Art and Design. His early work with Derek Jarman led to collaborations with other innovative directors, including Sally Potter, Neil Jordan, Todd Haynes and Yorgos Lanthimos, on acclaimed films like orlando, the crying game, Caroland the favoriteas well as with Scorsese on a string of critical hits since 2002 New York Gangs. He won the first of three Oscars for his designs for John Madden. shakespeare in love. His second and third statuettes came by The Aviator and the young victory.

With three additional Baftas to her name, Powell is the best-known and most nominated costume designer since Edith Head, the woman whose glamorous vision dominated Hollywood’s golden age. Powell attributes her own stellar career to her early experiences in alternative theater. “It all started with that. So I was doing a lot of avant-garde and experimental design, since there was some funding for these groups. Now I also do conventional work, but I keep up with that side of things for balance. I like risky projects”.

She cites a telling quip from Scorsese, who often says he makes “big-budget, auteur movies”: “There’s a lot of theatrics in his work, and I certainly respond to that. He always knows what he wants and is quick to react to the options I present to him. I usually have a color palette in mind.”

The wardrobe was crucial to the scene in Scorsese’s epic drama. the Irishwhere Stephen Graham’s character “disrespects” mobster Al Pacino by showing up to a meeting in a flashy short-sleeved shirt and shorts, Powell recalls: “The script just said he should wear shorts, so we looked at 50 guys. You know when it’s the right thing to do.”

Working with Haynes on Caroladapted from Patricia Highsmith’s 1952 novel the price of saltPowell said he used “soft, muted colours” to create “a sophisticated period atmosphere”.

She prides herself on variety, unlike Head, a Paramount studio designer who, Powell suspects, “very much did what she was told.” Instead, as a young David Bowie fan, Powell was inspired by Lindsay Kemp, the flamboyant British dancer who had worked with the singer.

“The key is to adapt,” he said. “The misconception about film work is that it’s glamorous, but I don’t hang out with actor friends. I deal with his insecurities on set, and that’s normal. They need to feel good to perform and they get nervous, just like me. There is always anxiety before a new project, but I stood my ground.”

Powell was talking to him Observer ahead of the announcement that she is the first costume designer to be honored with a scholarship, a top Bafta accolade that has gone to Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, David Lean and Mike Leigh.

Bafta chief executive Jane Millichip hails Powell’s storytelling gift as much as her design skills: “Her costumes are mesmerizing in their beauty, but they also interpret the narrative brilliantly and provide the infrastructure for the character. For more than three decades, Sandy has raised awareness of the art of costume design in film and provided attention to designers on the set of film.”

With current limited opportunities in alternative theatre, Powell’s advice to all hopeful young British costume designers is to say “yes” to everything: “Then you can find your way and develop your own taste.”

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