Cake With The Director

CAKE WITH THE DIRECTOR

to-use-new-photo-1-2.jpgWe thought it was about time that we spoke to Dawn Smith, the Director of Briz Kidz Casting, and introduced her to you all. She’s a bit of a busy bee but we’ve enticed her away from her desk with cake. She’s now happily chatting with us over a green tea and a slice of lemon drizzle. It doesn’t really take much to get her talking (she gets that from her mother apparently) and she has been working in the entertainments industry for a long time so she has lots of stories to tell.

We wanted to learn about Dawn and the driving force behind Briz Kidz Casting, and the best way to do that was to ask her. 

HOW DID YOUR CAREER START?

I started Front of House at the Bristol Hippodrome and that is pretty much where my career began – taking tickets and selling ice creams. In 1999 I found myself backstage staring at the costumes for Madame Giry, Meg and the Ballet Girls for the UK tour of The Phantom of The Opera, wondering what on earth I had gotten myself into. Luckily everyone was so lovely and by the end of the 5 month run, I was a Theatre Dresser for the Bristol Hippodrome and didn’t really look back after that.

I worked on a variety of shows, everything from ‘Fame’ to ‘Les Misérables’, ‘Winnie the Pooh’ to Ballet’s and Operas. The first principle role I dressed was “Belle’ in Disney’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and I even got to originate the title dressing plot for Mary Poppins before it transferred to the West End.

WHEN DID YOU START TOURING?

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Dawn, getting stuck with unpacking the washers and dyers on a Sound Of Music Get-In

My first UK tour was with ‘Saturday Night Fever’ in 2005. I was the Wardrobe Assistant and dressed the ‘Tony Manero’ plot. We moved venues every week, setting up on a Monday and packing away on a Saturday, with Sunday being a travel day. It was hard work but I learnt a lot on that job. Luckily most of the other tours I was involved with after that sat down for at least 2 weeks in each venue, which meant we got to settle a bit.

I spent 8 years ‘on the road’ with various musicals, panto’s and even a play. I joined the UK tour of ‘The Sound of Music’ and I have very fond memories of that tour and made some great friends. I knew I’d never top that experience and, after 27 months with that show, I knew it was time to retire my suitcase.

HOW DID YOU MAKE THE JUMP FROM THEATRE TO FILM?

It was mostly perseverance, hard work and luck! I took every opportunity that came my way, volunteering on Bristol’s Film festival and working on a few short films that offered expenses only to get an insight into how the filming industry worked. It was the Producer on one of these jobs that told me that I should be in the Production Office. Until that point I was focusing on transferring to the costume department, which was proving quite difficult to get a foot in. Once the Producer told me about production I started to do some research and found that The Production Guild of Great Britain were offering a 2 week intensive course in Assistant Production Co-ordinating. I enrolled in the course and it led to my first paid role – a Rushes Runner on a feature film. From there I worked my way up the production ladder and in 2014 I took over the role of Production Secretary on BBC’s Wolf Hall and I’ve not stopped working since.

WHY DID YOU START A CHILDREN’S CASTING AGENCY?

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Setting up the first Briz Kidz Office

First and foremost, it was for the Kidz really. I have always worked with children, across all aspects of my career. I love the energy that they bring with them, and their enthusiasm is very contagious. I have seen how being involved in the creative arts can boost a child’s self esteem and confidence. Whether it’s through professional performances onstage or screen, or by attending drama, dance or singing classes. Children do blossom through these experiences and it is a joy to see them grow.

It was whilst working in Production that I realised the majority of children’s roles were cast through agencies outside of the city and that Bristol children were missing out on the opportunity to be involved in locally filmed productions. 2016 was a phenomenal year for Bristol’s film industry. It was incredibly busy with over 12 productions filming across the summer (Thirteen, Poldark, Broadchurch and Crazyhead to name a few).

Starting an Agency was more of an epiphany than a slowly developed business plan. The idea just popped into my head and before I knew it, Briz Kidz Casting was born.

HOW DID IT FEEL WHEN YOU GOT THE FIRST BOOKING?

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Trusty Pooh-Bear, Looking after the desk

I had hardly registered the company when the first casting queries came in. Word travels fast in Filmland and the local crew have been so supportive of the agency. It’s been incredibly humbling.

When the first child was confirmed I was over the moon! I remember dancing around the office and Hi-Fiving Pooh Bear (he’s been with me since my first ever tour and now reigns over the Briz Kidz Office!). It was like Christmas and Birthdays all rolled into one and telling the parents was the icing on the cake.

I’ve since had more bookings and that feeling has never really gone away. I’m always so incredibly proud when a child is cast or gets a recall. It’s always a great feeling when I speak to the parents, or when they tell me about the filming day and how much their son or daughter enjoyed it. It really is the most rewarding part of having the agency.

What Happens at a Briz Kidz Registration Day

PosterRegistration Days are the best way for us to meet you, they are informal and we always have biscuits! It’s also a great way for you to meet the team and ask any questions you may have.

Registration Days are not about ‘auditioning’ children, we learn more about their characters through the registration process than any casting workshop could tell us. We want to learn about them and their personalities so we’ll know what roles and productions will suit them best.

So you know what to expect at one of our registration days, we thought we’d go through each stage of the process.

Registration Forms

As with most things these days, the Registration process starts with paperwork. In order to create your profile we need to gather information about you. For this, we have a registration form which asks questions about you, your actual age and playing age – this is the age you look like which can sometimes be different to your actual age. We also need to know a bit about what you like to do and any hobbies or groups you attend.

Then there is the agency agreement which outlines the contract between you and the agency. We’ve purposely kept it nice and simple but it still lets you know everything that we have to do and what we ask of you.

A little note about data protection: Briz Kidz is registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and comply with all regulation in regard to holding personal details.

Measurements

It’s really important that we have your measurements on file so our lovely Wardrobe Ladies will take these for us. We often get casting queries that have specific sizing brief and sometimes a production will need a child who fits a costume instead of making a costume fit a child. This happens mostly with period dramas where the costumes can be very elaborate.

The measurements we take include your height, waist, chest, hips and we also ask for your shoe and clothes size. You don’t have to take any clothes off – except maybe your hoodie or cardigan if you’re wearing one.

Headshots

You are more than welcome to bring in your own headshots and full-length photo’s. Have a look at our earlier blog about How to Get a Good Headshot for do’s and don’ts for taking headshots.

However, we do have a photographer with us on all Registration Days and you are very welcome to book a slot when you arrive. We work on a first come – first served basis. The headshot session will be a few clicks and you’re done. We will send you a copy of the photo once they have been processed.

Meet the team

 

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Pepz is the smallest but she has the biggest personality and keeps us all entertained. She works behind the scenes on a variety of productions for both stage and screen. She has Stage Managed productions that were performed on the Bristol Ferry, worked in the Art Department of a feature film and also designs and makes props and models.

 

 

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Sarah is the Sophisticated Lady of team, always really calm and collect she keeps us all in check. She is a wiz when it comes to costume. She’s the Head of Props and Wardrobe for the Stage Experience at the Bristol Hippodrome, was the Wardrobe Deputy for the 2016/17 pantomime ‘Cinderella’ and the Wardrobe Supervisor for The BierKeller Theatre.

 

532286_10152045473761279_875126574_nSandra is the our Continental member of the team. Originally from Spain where she studied fashion and design, before moving to Bristol. She’s a bit of a guru when it comes to making things out of fabric. She has been involved with fashion, stage and film productions. She also designs and makes costumes and has even worked with puppets.

 

Cruise 11Julian is the Logistics King and his spreadsheets are testament to his genius. As a registered Chaperone, he knows all there is about child licensing and working with children in entertainment. He has been the Child Co-ordinator on many stage productions and has had to organise children, chaperones, parents, rehearsals and call times.

2532130_8826902Alex is our Photographer and resident DJ. He has a penchant for Disney songs and we often find him singing along to ‘The Bear Necessities’ or ‘Everybody Wants to Be A Cat’. He is brilliant with cameras, both the photographic and filming types. He is a wildlife presenter and photographer and has had many adventures making wildlife films – just ask him about leeches and tics or his encounter with a tiger.

17361863_10158363224120333_1100573683216692510_nDawn is the Director of Briz Kidz (we’ll be interviewing her soon so watch out for that). She is supposed to be The Boss but she mostly makes sure everyone is fed and watered. She’ll ensure you have at least one biscuit during your visit. Her career started in the Wardrobe Department of Musical Theatre where she fell in love with costume quick changes – she often boasts that her quickest one was faster than a Formula 1 pit stop. She now works in the Production Office of filming projects and was very excited when she found out she had an IMBD profile. She also likes cake.

How To Get A Good Headshot

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Meet Sally, she’s helping us by showing you what to avoid. 

Your headshot is what ‘sells’ you; it’s your first introduction to casting directors and production companies. It is also what will get you that call or audition as all castings start with the headshot. Therefore, it is very important to get it right and make sure you are happy with the result.

There are two options with having your headshots done – enlisting the services of a professional photographer or pulling out your camera and getting click happy! To help you decide which path to choose, we’ve put together some tips and tricks to getting your ‘Best Side’

 

The Professional Approach.

It is always best to do your research on a specialist headshot photographer. They will guide you through what to do, wear and how to stand and give you lots of advice and tips  to getting the best out of the session. They are also responsible for creating the image that will be the key to your getting seen by casting directors so it is very important that you trust them.

There are quite a few decisions that you will need to make before your session to help the photographer set up: what type of background, location and setting you would like, all of which the photographer can discuss with you.

Which Background and Setting is Best?

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Good lighting and a neutral background is best.

The options are endless! You can have a natural setting where the photo shoot is done outdoors, but you will have to contend with the elements and weather conditions. On the plus side, it is always fun to play in a forest or on a beach!

It is more common to have a studio shoot where the photographer has complete control of the surroundings, lighting and you don’t need to worry about getting cold! It’s usual for the background to be black or white, with most headshots being white as it is the most neutral.

 

What Do I Wear?

Consider which colours look best on you – which ones drain or compliment your complexion. Stay away from busy prints and pinstripes as they can really misbehave on camera. It’s best to go with a plain fabric or one with a neutral pattern. Avoid black or white tops too as they will blend in with your background. It is also best to avoid clothes with logos on them. If you are unsure, take options with you and your photographer can help you choose.

Going on a slight digression here, it’s worth mentioning make-up. It is great to use makeup to enhance your features, however keep it natural. Casting directors need to see the ‘real’ you. They need to be able to ‘see’ you in the role they are casting and by presenting yourself with a heavy, contoured look or smoky eyes you actually limit your castability. They won’t be able to see beyond that look and character you are portraying in your headshot.

Keep your hair natural too, do not use hair accessories or bands and keep your hair loose. Boys, keep the product on you hair light or, preferably, don’t use any at all.

The DIY Approach

If have your own, digital camera and know someone who is good with taking photos, then there is actually nothing stopping you from taking your own headshots. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time (a professional headshot session can take up to 2 hours) and don’t rush the process. Taking a selfie on your phone is not ideal and limits the poses you can take. Nor is it a good idea to use a photo from your school play, dance competition or the one from the rollercoaster ride at Alton Towers.

The Background.

 

Now, taking a photo in your living room that is cluttered with your baby brother’s toys, or has your sister doing handstands in the background is a big NO! Likewise, using the bedroom wall with Princess wallpaper on it is also not a good idea. You don’t want to distract the Casting Director with background noise – you are the focus and you need to make sure they can’t be distracted from that.

 

 

 

Keep your background neutral, clutter distracts attention from you. 

Choose a neutral wall anywhere in the house or garden. You can even use a fence if that’s all the clear space you can find. Just make sure there is a solid, plain and neutral background behind you that fills the space behind you. Move everything else out the way if you have to.

 

A little note about having a coloured background, make sure whatever you are wearing doesn’t clash or blend with it! You don’t want to look like a floating head!

The Lighting

As you won’t have the luxury of photography lighting, make sure you are in a space that has lots of natural light and doesn’t throw shadows across you. Ask the person who is taking the photo’s to check for the shadows and if you have to move slightly to avoid them. If you have an angle poise lamp or two, place them in front of you and use them to light your face. It’s best to take your photo’s in full daylight as photo’s taken in darker conditions do not come out too well. Do not take a photo in front of a window.

Make sure your photo isn’t too dark or bright

The Angle

So, you might think that standing front facing is the best angle to take the headshot, but it would be worth having a play with your stance. Whilst the headshot needs to show your full face, you might find that angling your shoulder a little, or pointing your feet slightly to the left or right is a more flattering pose. You might want to try looking directly at the camera, or focusing on something to one side of the lens.

The best way to find your best side is to play. Take photos of you smiling, laughing or with a more neutral expression. Avoid pulling funny faces, although looking through them after could be chuckle worthy but they don’t make for good headshots. Have a look at the ones you have taken and see which ones you are most happy with.

Make sure that you are in perfect focus, all your face is showing and the lighting is nice and bright. A fuzzy, dark photo will not get you see by the casting directors.

Do your research! Have a look online at other examples of headshots so you have a good idea of what to aim for. Look at the ones of your favourite celebrities, even look at the bad ones so you know what to avoid.

Whilst some headshots are black and white, you must always have a full colour headshot in your portfolio. Casting directors need to know your colourings – eyes, hair and skin. A black and white headshot will not show this.

The most important thing to remember is to relax and enjoy your photo shoot – be that with a professional photographer or with your Mum and Dad. After all, it’s all about you, so shine!

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Crew Interview with Andrew Binns Clapper loader on Vera and Downton Abbey.

TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF:

Andrew Binns Photo I’m Andrew Binns, a 2nd Assistant Camera (AKA Clapper Loader) who works on a variety
of productions, mainly being TV drama, feature films and commercials. I’ve worked in the camera department since 2011 and have built up my experience in the traditional hierarchal system found often in many different areas of film industry crew. I spent roughly two and half years as a Camera Trainee, learning on various different productions under many different Clapper Loaders and Focus Pullers. From around the 18 month mark of my training, I started receiving the opportunity of ‘stepping up’ to be a 2nd AC if a production had a shoot day where they would use a 2nd camera. Then after much patience and hard work and networking with various Focus Pullers, I started getting the opportunity to be the full-time 2nd AC from Spring 2014 – and thus now have a Camera Trainee below me on every production I work on.

WHAT IS YOUR AVERAGE WORKING DAY LIKE?

My average working day is totally based around the core responsibilities of my role. As the 2nd Assistant Camera, I am the member of crew mainly responsible for making sure whatever camera equipment the day’s shooting requires is ready and raring to go – always on time, never late! There is often a lot more volume of equipment needed than people realise so the logistics of getting the equipment where it needs to be –be it up at the top of a hill, on a beach, or in a small house – is all worked out and I am responsible for being prepared for any situation.

Once shooting begins, my main tasks include the following: –

  • making sure the camera is loaded and ready to record
  • operating the clapperboard for every shot
  • noting camera setting details for every shot (roll number, slate number, take number, lens size, filters used, colour temperature, ASA rating, frame rate etc)
  • making sure the camera batteries are good
  • laying actor’s marks where required
  • assisting the focus puller with focus marks specific for each shot
  • changing lenses and filters with the focus puller as per the director of photography’s instruction
  • generally standing by with any other camera accessories or tools that may be required – e.g. handheld kit, matte boxes and accessories depending on the lense’s requirement, spare batteries, spare cables, wet weather covers etc.

WHAT IS THE BEST THING ABOUT YOUR JOB?

The camera department is a very sociable part of the shooting crew, and I love collaborating as part of a team. Being 2nd AC is quite privileged in the sense that my job requires me to be directly on set most of the time so I can watch the Director of Photography working and see how he lights every situation – so I’m always learning and couldn’t be anywhere better for learning how to climb further up the ladder of the department!

AND THE NOT SO GREAT BITS?

The hours are often long, but that is of course the same for any crew role in the film industry.

The single worst part of being a camera assistant is rain or poor weather. Water and electrical equipment and glass do not mix! Weather together with locations that are difficult to access does heighten the workload significantly.

Crew Interview with Russ Greening. Best Boy on That Good Night and Decline and Fall.

TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF:

Russ and the Big LightRuss Greening – Best Boy Electric. I’ve been in the industry over 20 years and 10 years in the lighting business. I started off with lighting in “ The Yard “ of a Major lighting Rental house, learning the kit and procedures. Like everyone else, I eventually went freelance. I got my qualifications and formed my own company. Now I rent equipment on behalf of other companies and, whenever possible, Best Boy on productions with a Gaffer I’ve worked with for over 3 years.

WHAT IS YOUR AVERAGE WORKING DAY LIKE?

It normally starts out very early on a typical day. I arrive with the rest of the crew for a hearty breakfast. As part of the lighting crew you start the day off at a pace, setting the lights and distribution for the days first set up. As Best Boy you are always planning for the advance shots. So when they call action its hands to the pump again.

Being an electrician you are always at the front of things. Even when lights are “set” you still have to hover by them or physically hold the stand for safety reasons. This puts us up close to the action. Sometimes, incredibly close! Recently I was Best Boy on the BBC Drama “ Decline and Fall”. The motor had broken on one of the mirror balls for a party scene, where you see all these beautiful mirror ball effects spinning around the room. I had to place myself under the table out of shot and gently, but evenly spin this broken ball. With my head resting inches away from Eva Longoria’s feet. I was successful and it looked great. But it does show that it’s not all glamour!!!

A typical working day is 11 hrs (10 hrs for what’s called on camera and an hour for lunch) As lighting is something that takes the longest to set we often have to get in early for a pre –rig and /or at the end of the night make safe or De-rig. Together with travel, the working day can be up to 14 hrs. or more.

WHAT IS THE BEST THING ABOUT YOUR JOB?

Being Freelance and running my own company gives me a degree of flexibility. I love working for myself.

As a best boy electrician I enjoy the organising of the shoot. Getting the kit in, booking the sparks and most of all knowing that I’ve made a difference to the shoot.

Working on a large production is very much like working in a circus. All these talented people band together for a set amount of time, make something wonderful, and then move on. The cast and crew become family. You forge strong bonds with them. So when the circus finally moves on, you have all these great memories, new friends and hopefully a final product to be proud of.

AND THE NOT SO GREAT BITS?

As I’ve mentioned, the hours. It’s a long day!!! Even longer if it’s a commercial. This causes so much hassle on the social life. I’m also away from home a lot. So missing family and friends is a big sadness for me. Most people understand but I’ve missed family holidays, weddings, funerals and social gatherings. You can’t ever get these moments back. So you have to pick your jobs very carefully but sometimes you don’t have that luxury.

IF YOU COULD GIVE ADVICE TO A SUPPORTING ARTIST, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

Supporting artists are great!!! I know, I was one for a few years and even made ‘Featured Extra“ on many occasions.

My advice is when on set “don’t touch the lights”!!!! Only kidding… no but seriously, don’t touch the lights!!

Remember. You’re in a very privileged position. You get to see how events unfold in real time. You see all the stuff that doesn’t make the cut. You get to see all the wonderful sets and props. You get to see how lovely Electricians really are and that we do drink and enormous amount of tea!!!

Be courteous to others. Do what the Third of First AD tells you and enjoy your days because I know there are soooo many people who would just love to be in your shoes right now.

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The 1st day on location for ‘That Good Night’. I asked a runner for a cup of tea. He brought it in a china teacup and saucer. Legend! I told you we drank a lot of tea!

 

 

Who’s Who on a Film Set? Part 3

So, we’ve looked at the AD department, the Costume and the Hair and Make-Up team. It’s now time to look at the technical departments of a film crew.

Whilst SA’s won’t have much (if any) contact with these crew members, they will be on-set and they work with the most expensive equipment, vehicles and kit of any film production – Camera, Lighting and Sound

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Camera Department

Beech Camera
There are five key roles within the camera department – The Director of Photography (DOP), Camera Operator, Focus Puller, Clapper Loader and Trainee. Each role is very specific and the crew work as a team to keep the camera rolling.

As their titles suggests, the Focus Puller ensures that the footage taken for each scene is perfectly in focus, this includes the shots where the sharpness of one character become blurred to allow another aspect of the shot to come into view.

The Clapper loader is responsible for changing the memory cards within the camera unit. It is pretty essential that there is enough storage space for each shot. They are also the person who operates the clapperboard and is responsible for maintaining and organising the camera equipment needed for each day. They also put down chalk or plastic markers that the Main Cast and some SA’s need to reach during a take.

The Camera Trainee is there to help the department with all camera tasks including, cleaning lenses, keeping the camera batteries charged and setting up Video Village where crew watch the takes and keep an eye on continuity.

The Director of Photography (DOP) works very closely with the Director throughout the set up and filming of a production. The DOP create’s the visual look or style of the film which means their role spreads across the Camera, Grip and Lighting departments. They set the camera angles, positions, movements (think of those big sweeping shots across a village or battlefield, or scene’s where the camera follows the actor down a street) and lighting effects for each scene.

Lighting Department

The lighting department has a Gaffer, Best Boy and Electricians (also called Sparks). They sometimes have Rigging Electricians for sets that have hanging lights or frames.

Working with the DOP, the Gaffer plots the lighting needs for each scene. This includes what equipment is required, where the lights need to be placed and any special considerations. Some nighttime interior scenes are actually shot during the day which means the Lighting Team need to blackout windows. There are also times when daytime scenes are shot at night so special lighting effects are needed to create the illusion of daylight.

The Best Boy looks after the logistics of the department. They book the crew, all the equipment and organise the deliveries and returns. They organise the calls and the set-up and packing away of the equipment for each set, which are called the Pre and De-rigs.

Grip Department

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A vehicle rig, complete with lighting and camera

The Grip department looks after any of the specialised equipment that the camera department needs to achieve a shot. This could be a crane for the high, aerial shots, tracking vehicles for those driving scenes or a track and dolly for studio shoots.

They are also responsible for any vehicle rigs that film the Main Artists in a moving vehicle. The Grip and Grip assistant have to work with heavy equipment and also need to be very health and safety conscious.

Sound Department

The Sound Recordist is responsible for recording all the dialogue and that’s it. All the sound effects are added during the edit (that’s the role of a foley). They have to make sure that it’s clear, usable and doesn’t have any interference – they hate seagulls and planes flying overhead, not matter how high it is!

There is usually also a Boom Operator within the department. This person holds the big, fluffy microphone above the scene and out of shot. As you can imagine, with some of the longer scenes, their arms can get really achy!

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If you want to know more about the technical crew watch out for the crew interviews coming soon.

Crew Interview with Gabriella Loria Assistant Costume Designer on Nanny McPhee Returns, Batman Begins and Casino Royale.

TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF:

Hi, I’m Gabriella Loria, Assistant Costume designer, Costume supervisor and Costume

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Gabriella, production shopping in Colombia

buyer. I have been in the industry for about 20 years – Wow that is a long time!

 

I fell into costume design by fate – I didn’t realise it at the time, but it was truly meant to be. Whilst studying at the Academy of Costume and Fashion Design in Rome, my best friend recommended me to work for a costume house there. It was here where my love affair with costume began. It didn’t take long before I was enjoying the privilege of working with some amazing designers. My passion grew as I learnt so much from these creative minds. I’ve been lucky to find a profession that incorporates my love of travel, my curious nature, and my fascination for humanity – which allows me to people watch with a purpose!

When I read a script, all these skills, my life experiences and my joy for this work ignite my creativity, and a visual story is born. I love detail. I get lost in it. I get a thrill from molding my creative ideas into being and I love communicating these ideas with the whole team – the director, actors and various departments – to refine the costumes to the point where they become the characters.

 WHAT IS YOUR AVERAGE WORKING DAY LIKE?

Now a-days with the internet we do a lot more research and buying online so less out and about. The day is a lot of organising and making sure various people in the department are prepped and able to keep moving forward with the information I am able to give them and of course making sure they have the materials to accomplish the end results.

We are constantly working with the script, fittings and schedule to make sure we can be ready with costumes to fit the actors and make sure that, once all has been decided, the costumes head to their characters section.

The days are long but to be honest they fly by and it never feels like we have enough time.

 WHAT IS THE BEST THING ABOUT YOUR JOB?

The best thing about my job is that I love it! It makes it all the more easier to get up early and work through such long days. I also love the fact that my job is diverse and it never is the same.

 AND THE NOT SO GREAT BITS?

The not so great bit is never having enough time for a routine

 IF YOU COULD GIVE ADVICE TO A SUPPORTING ARTIST, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

Always come with underwear on please!

Try and be comfortable with undressing in front of others as often we change all the ladies in one area and all the men in another area.

Take care of your costumes and try and not drop food down your front or better still ask for a plastic apron if you feel you may mess your costume.

At the end of the day hang costumes in your area making sure your label is there.

Enjoy your time 🙂