J'can designer's handiwork in box office hit 'Creed' - Talks about her experience, getting ahead in the industry
Many Jamaicans at home and in the diaspora may have watched the box office smash hit Creed, starring Sylvester Stallone and Michael B. Jordan, but few may have realised that the designs that enhance the film are the handiwork of USA-based, Jamaica-born Antoinette Messam.
She got a foothold in the industry after MTV wanted, for the second season, someone who was involved in fashion. She landed the job after being recommended by a costume designer she had worked for. She made her debut on the television series Catwalk in 1992 for MTV/TYV) in Toronto, Canada.
“I was a fashion stylist at the time and when not working on my own projects, I would be a buyer in the film business,” she told The Gleaner.
IT TOOK A WHILE
Today, doors are opening up for the talented designer, but that was not always the case. According to Messam, it took a while for production companies to take her seriously.
“I was very fortunate that the producers of Catwalk 2 hired me on their TV series, and I built relationships with others involved over the course of the two years. With time and a résumé, I then got a local agent to help submit/sell me for projects in Toronto,” she explained.
Messam has two more huge upcoming projects where her work will be featured. She was chosen to be a designer for One Night, and Ann Hathaway’s upcoming movie Colossal, which are both now in post-production.
“For Colossal, I showed a presentation that the director, Natcho Vigalando, really liked and he hired me to design the film,” she gushed.
Messam made such an impression that, Vigalando sang her praises to Gleaner Entertainment.
“I’m so glad to talk about her to you. Colossal wasn’t an easy film to do, but she was one of the heads of department that made things much easier to me. She is really intuitive and showed a deep understanding of the film, not only in aesthetic terms. She knew how to reflect each character’s arc through costumes while taking care of the colour palette of each one of our scenes. And yes, she knows how to deal with obstacles: Anne Hathaway was pregnant during the whole shooting, while her character isn’t, and Messam solved it every day,” he said.
Messam, sharing on “tapping into her creative process” for projects, said it all starts with the script and breaking down the story. “And how I would dress the actors as real people from the pages. Discussions with the director, writer, creatives, help to shape the look,” she said.
Messam, who hails from Montego Bay, St James, attended school in Westmoreland before migrating to Toronto, Canada, at age six to be with her parents. She said she has always been fascinated by fashion and that passion saw her modelling as a teenager until her mid-20s. Soon after she took up fashion styling for the Plutino Group.
“I started buying for film productions and then became a costume designer when I was in my late 20's,” she said.
Sharing her talent on the world stage, Messam said it gives her great pride to fly Jamaica’s colours in the fashion arena.
WORKING IN THE FILM INDUSTRY
Commenting on being Jamaican and working in the film industry, she said the public has always had their own misconceptions of what they think Jamaicans are. Most times, the only positive seems to be Usain Bolt.
“I shout from the rooftops that I am Jamaican so they see that we are much more than track and field and reggae music.”
She also said being a woman in the film industry doesn’t come without its challenges, but she has made it a point of duty not to let it define her.
Looking ahead, Messam says she has just designed a pilot for A&E called The Infamous – about the early rap industry in South Central Los Angeles before the riots.
“It stars Bokeem Woodbine and Kimberly Elise. The director was Anthony Hemingway of Underground.”
She is currently in Vancouver, Canada, designing the AMC series, Dirk Gently Holistic Detective Agency, starring Elijah Wood.