INTERVIEW: Costume Designer Ginger Martini Dives Deep IN THE TALL GRASS

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In The Tall Grass is a Netflix original features a brother and sister trapped in a mysterious field that’s luring them in for some dark purposes. Making the costumes look their best even while falling into mud or getting soaked in blood is designer Ginger Martini.

In The Tall Grass comes from the mind of Stephen King and his son Joe Hill, based on their novella of the same name. The film premiered at Fantastic Fest then landed on Netflix on October 4th. As you’d expect, it’s a twisted horror tale from one of the legends of the genre and directed by Vincenzo Natali, who brought us equally mind-bending films like Cube and Splice.

PopAxiom spent thirty minutes talking with Ginger about her name, making clothes, and the cute faces that turned terrifying.

What’s In A Name?

Googling “Ginger Martini” will bring up all manner of delicious adult beverages. But they are hard to interview. Undoubtedly, the name is super cool, but is it Ginger’s real name? “It is now. I changed it when I was 16.”

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Why the change? “I started a clothing line when I was 16. I was looking for a name that stood out.”

As Ginger puts it, “My original name was … common.”

Drastic changes occurred. “I dyed my hair red, and my boyfriend at the time started calling me Ginger, and his last name was Martini.” The rest, as they say, is history.

Energy & Sewing

How did the road of life lead Ginger to make clothes? “I had a lot of energy when I was a kid. My mom was always looking for things to enroll me in to keep me busy. Her friend had a sewing lesson, she signed me up for those.”

However, at first, Ginger “… didn’t want to go.” The reason was simple: “I didn’t think it was very interesting.” Ultimately, though, Ginger says, “I loved it, and I was good at it.”

In her pre- and early teens, Ginger, “… started making my own clothes and wearing them at school. Some of my friends would say ‘I really like that.’”

Ginger adds, “To this day they some of my friends still talk about being so jealous because my scrunchie matched my hoodie because I made my own.”

Growing up in a small town where cool clothes were scarce, Ginger started her brand. “I retired in 2012 because I started working in movies as a costume designer and makeup artist.”

For Ginger, “Movies give me a lot of creative freedom. Instead of being so focused on 100 million things [as business owner], I can focus on the costumes and how they work for the movie and the cast. There’s more time to give creative energy to it without having to worry about the business side of things.”

Comedy & Horror

Ginger adds her talents to the Hulu series called Letterkenny, which is now in its ninth season. What’s it like working on the comedy? “Our creator, Jared, he’s one of the writers with Jacob. The two of them are just brilliant. They write incredible dialogue … it’s so relatable.”

As Ginger points out, “A lot of the show is taken from instances that happened in their life.”

During her work on the seventh season of Letterkenny, Ginger was busy “… shooting In The Tall Grass at the same time …” About that, she puts it as simple and obvious as possible. “That’s pretty hectic.”

She continues, “In The Tall Grass and Letterkenny began shooting on the same day.” One day, Ginger was “… doing this intense horror film and then a full-on comedy …” and also “… shooting in two different parts of the province.”

The contrast continues, “In the Tall Grass is shooting days in a field on a farm. Letterkenny was shooting overnights on a different farm on the other side of Ontario.”

In the Tall Grass shot over several months. For Letterkenny, Ginger says, “Being a comedy, on average we’d shoot about 10-20 pages a day, which is a crazy amount of dialogue. I’ve been a costume designer for 12 years, and this is the only show I’ve seen successfully do that. A lot of that is because of the cast.”

Ginger explains, “They’re all friends in real life, which I think really helps, they have a great rapport and know each other super well.”

To the fans of the show, she says, “As much fun as you think we have shooting it, we have 10 million percent more fun. It’s so hilarious every day.”

Into The Weeds, Uh, Tall Grass

In the Tall Grass mostly takes place on one day but several timelines. The characters played by people like Patrick Wilson (The Conjuring) wear the same clothes for the entire runtime. Along the way, there is blood and dirt and mud. “I’m very big on organization. I made an excel sheet.”

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A glimpse at Ginger’s organization.

Ginger expands on how she kept track of things “They all have one outfit; however, those outfits go through many transitional periods. So they have different stages. Becky had nine stages. Travis had 11.”

To make things a little more fun and challenging, the movie didn’t shoot in sequence, and the narrative doesn’t play out in sequence. “There’s a bunch of timelines, and we’re bouncing around.”

Ginger and her team created multiple versions of each stage. “Something is happening post-stunt or post-fight, but we’re shooting it before the actual stunt or fight happens. So, we needed copies ahead of time. Figuring that out is kind of like predicting the future through predicting the past. We talk to the stunt coordinator and director … where do you see the action happening; are they going to land on their back, their front, on their side?

The simple fact about shooting in a grassy field. “When they hit the ground, they’re going to get muddy. There are no two ways about it.”

“There’s a lot of thinking ahead.”

Of course, most actors don’t do their own stunts and productions hire stunt professionals. “Those people need their own versions of the costumes too. And again, we’re shooting out of sequence as well, so you need multiples. The only way to really keep it cohesive is through the Excel doc.”

Ginger runs through some of the numbers. “Becky had 33 of the summer dress. Travis had something crazy like 43 or 45 of the plaid shirt he wears. He only wears a hat for a bit, but we had 10 copies of it.”

Thought Process

Patrick Wilson plays Ross Humboldt, a real clean-cut real estate agent. “From the beginning, it was classic polo. Really great khakis. His watch was actually tough to find.” Ginger ended up using the face from one watch and the strap of another when the right combo just wasn’t anywhere to be found.

As for Patrick’s shirts, “There were 31 copies of that polo.”

“I don’t want to buy everything off the rack. I want to be able to customize.”

Ginger expands on the customization work for the film. “For Becky’s dress, we went through a lot of options. Maternity clothes are a little tricky, so finding a maternity dress that hit all the points we wanted was a challenge. We found a really cool silhouette. The criss-cross loop on the back made it more visually appealing. You’re going to see her from the back a lot, so we wanted that to look cool and interesting too.”

Making Becky’s dress continued, “I found some white bamboo, we built the dresses, then we dyed the bamboo blue because we couldn’t find a blue we liked.”

Dressing Tobin

One of the characters lost In the Tall Grass is Tobin, played by child actor Will Buie Jr. (Gifted, Bunk’d). “I couldn’t find any kids clothes that I liked. Kid’s clothes now are just covered in graphics and logos.”

Will’s outfit turned out to be “… an extra small adult ladies shirt that we did some alterations to.”

The Process

Ginger’s first exposure to a project is the script. “I’ll read over the script, and depending on what the script is asking for, I’ll start doing a presentation board.” Effectively, taking imagines of things from the internet that gives an idea of what Ginger wants to do for the project.

At this early stage, “You’re envisioning a person in this role, but when the role actually gets cast, the outfit could change dramatically.”

The process continues. “The director and I will have a chat after the presentation board. We’ll talk again after getting the cast members. Then I’ll start working with the production designers to talk about color palettes to make sure the clothes don’t clash with the set.”

Set Surprises

Filmmaking is often presented with obstacles from out-of-the-blue. “One thing that people didn’t realize until we got out to the field is that the grass is really sharp. Running through it, it cuts you.”

That reality affects the process. “So, wherever possible, we tried to protect the cast as much as we could and give them clothes that would cover them up so that they wouldn’t get beat up in real life by the grass.”

“You want to make sure everyone is happy, especially in a case where they are wearing only one outfit for sixty-something days. So, making sure that they are comfortable and that they believe in that outfit as a character choice.”

All these factors are blended to create the final result. “The bamboo is another choice behind the material because I knew it was going to breathe well and show the dirt and the blood well, but I also knew it was going to launder well.”

Grass Face

In the Tall Grass features some creepy grass people who wear creepy grass-face masks. “I tried on every single one.”

It was a new challenge for Ginger, who “… never made a mask before …”

Her first attempt at creating the mask began. “I took a hot glue gun, a shelf liner, and took some grass and wove it. I made sure the actors could see through the grass. I showed it. People loved it.”

The next question from the director was, “Can we have 24 more?”

Ginger thought, “It took about 10 hours to make the first one …” Then answered, “Sure!”

However, to create the masks moving forward, Ginger got some help. “We brought in a professional mask maker to help build the other 24. We started incorporating petrified moss into some of them. Nine of them are woven, eight of them are just moss, and eight are moss and grass.”

For Ginger, the masks weren’t scary at all. “I’m a nerd, I gave them all little personalities, and thought they were really cute.”

Of course, movie magic worked its wonders. “I saw them in the movie with the lighting and movement and thought ‘these things are terrifying.’”

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“Grass Face” masks by Ginger Martini!

Wrapping Up

We’re all products of things that moved us as a child, young adult, and adult. Who inspires Ginger? “My biggest influence and the person who gave me the biggest ‘You can do this’ was Coco Chanel. I loved her story. Everything got thrown at that woman, and she took it all in stride and found a way to make it work.”

Ginger talks about another important influence. “I love Tim Burton and his movies and his partnership with Colleen Atwood. Just amazing. Awesome. Can’t even think of another word for it.”

What’s next? “At the moment, Letterkenny is taking up my life, and I couldn’t be happier. I have another feature premiering this month called James vs. His Future Self. Another film that I shot is premiering at festivals. It’s a true story, set in the 1920s called Brotherhood.”

Thanks to Ginger Martini and Impact24 PR for making this interview possible.

Want to read more interviews like this? CLICK HERE.

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Ruben Diaz
Writer, film-fanatic, geek, gamer, info junkie & consummate Devil's advocate who has been fascinated by Earth since 1976. Classically trained in the ways of the future.

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