Making a Film Version Work for a Live Event
by Trish Elliot
Redmink Productions, owned by partners David Mink and Trish Elliott, has been in business for 25 years because they know how to create themes for events. They design and produce over 1,000 entertainer events a year, and have tackled nearly every theme imaginable, tied or not tied to popular culture and films.
The latest challenge was doing a “Great Gatsby” inspired by the Leonardo De Caprio/Baz Luhrman film. The film is opulent, over-the-top, and an unlimited budge to spend on costumes. How do you give that feel for a one-night event, when the client has a limited budget?
First, let’s examine what distinguishes Speakeasy from Great Gatsby in the look and attitude. They both take place during Prohibition, when women were newly emancipated from Victorian corsets, gangsters made millions overnight, the stockmarket was skyrocketing, and there was a feeling of abandonment and freedom in America.
Think gangsters and molls, not particularly educated.
What entertainment adjustments did we make for a “Great Gatsby theme? In Redmink’s case, we were lucky enough to be booked at a venue that was supportive: the stunning 1920’s swimming pool at the top of The Intercontinental Hotel in Chicago, which immediately gave the entire party a deco feel, has several decks, and built-in ambience. Décor put huge bouquets of white ostrich feathers around the space.
Well, we first found huge inflatable lounge chairs for the pool and had some of our gorgeous actresses pose in them, upon the water. They were costumed in hair wraps, glamorous halter tops, and boy short bottoms, with lots and lots of pearls and jewelry, great makeup, and cigarette holders. The rest was attitude, a sense of fun, and willingness to play and interact with the guests.
We cast a Daisy and Jay, putting Jay in a white dinner jacket, white silk vest with black trim, small moustache, and white bow tie: high end, and very elegant. Instead of costuming Daisy like a flapper, she wore a beaded headdress and an elegant layered chiffon dress in turquoise, with beading and detail. We added plenty of pearls, great earrings, fishnets and the perfect shoes. Daisy and Jay were the greeters, and the first visual the guests had before entering the pool area: they set the stage immediately.
We then added two surprises. One was a lifeguard: cute, of course, with a nice build, and put him in a tank t-shirt (with Lifeguard on the front) and shorts. He brought another set of skills to the party, because he is also a balance and juggling circus arts performer, so used the pool props to show off those skills, while interacting.
The last entertainer we added for this reception of about 200 people was a Sally Rand Dancer, the famous stripper of the era. We had the costuming for this character and our version included her in all silver and white, giving a clean look, with two huge white fans, a period curly blonde wig, and high heels. She wore a tank cut silver leotard, but the fans help keep the illusion of “nothing behind”. The guests loved her, and she is naturally fun and friendly.
We were able to pull off this “Gatsby” event with only an additional $75 in budget costume, because we combined accessories we have owned for many years in new ways, gave ourselves a “look” and convinced the guests we were straight from the film. It was fun, and we were glad to meet the challenge.
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