Costuming the stars
Amanda Newman ’11 is making her mark in the highly competitive world of costume design for television, movies, and the theatre. She credits her success in show business to networking and time management.
“This industry is a fast-paced world and can be very complicated,” she says. ”Time management is key. Cornell’s block plan really prepared me to focus under pressure, to perform my best under stress, and to constantly plan ahead as much as possible.”
Newman, who was born and raised in the Dominican Republic until age 13, majored in theatre and art at Cornell. She is currently working as costume coordinator on the Fox TV series “Gotham,” based on characters who are part of the Batman milieu.
As she talks about her duties on “Gotham,” it becomes apparent why time management is critical in her job.
“I have to account for costume expenses of each character in each episode,” she says. “I manage the delivery of the costumes, returns to stores after fittings, checks for our vendors, maintaining contact with fabric providers, relaying messages to and from the designers, distributing fitting schedules, creating measurement charts for the actors, checking them in for fittings, and a lot more.”
She has a full-time paperwork assistant and can call on four other assistants to help carry the load. Newman, who has been fascinated by costumes since childhood, attended a visual and performing arts high school in Florida where her teachers nurtured that interest. When she started considering colleges, she knew exactly what she was looking for.
“When I visited a campus I would head straight to the costume shop—a place most colleges hide away in the bowels of the theater department. Cornell won out, because of the block plan, the teachers, and the environment of the Hilltop,” she recalls.”The costume shop was beautiful and it actually had windows.”
After leaving the Hilltop, Newman earned an M.F.A. in costume design at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. Her early professional work was mainly in live theatre. In the past two years she has worked on two movies and two TV series. In addition to “Gotham,” her costuming appears in the 2017 movie musical “The Greatest Showman” and in two Woody Allen productions—the film “Wonder Wheel” and the Amazon Prime miniseries “Crisis in Six Scenes.”
Her work involves long days (often 12-15 hours) and a constantly changing series of assignments and responsibilities, which means that maintaining a professional network is critical.
“Cornell and professionals from Iowa have provided connections in the industry,” she says. “But a job can come at the most random time or place. I’ve gotten one on the subway platform and shopping in the fabric store.”
Her advice for theatre majors? “Get yourself out there. Expose yourself to internships and any working opportunity you can find that has to do with theater or film. Volunteer in summer programs,” she says. “In this industry, nothing is handed to you. You have to work to get where you want to be. And networking is extremely important. Making connections and remembering people’s names and how they are all interconnected is vital.”