Inside Costume Designers’ Fight for Pay Equity
According to data about artisan pay scales provided by the Costume Designers Guild’s pay equity committee, costume designers earn almost $1,000 less per week than production designers, their closest creative peers. And while it can be risky to speak out about earnings, costume designers are increasingly doing so to close the gap between their compensation and that commanded by other artisans.
A recent Variety article by Artisans Editor Jazz Tangcay outlined the persistent wage disparity between production designers and costume designers. From the article:
Suttirat Larlarb, nominated by the guild for her contributions on “No Time to Die,” has seen the discrepancy firsthand. On 2010’s “127 Hours,” she doubled as both costume designer and production designer, but her pay scale as a production designer was “18% more than my costume design rate.”Read More
While the standard compensation is slow to change, negotiations are ongoing, and often relationships with above-the-line creatives can make an impact on compensation and credit for designers. Showrunner and creator (and ReFrame Ambassador) Ryan Murphy made his long-time collaborator, costume designer Lou Eyrich, a credited Producer on his series American Crime Story, and it’s a position she’s held on every Murphy project since.
Via IndieWire: Murphy explains that Eyrich is already involved in nearly every facet of production, working 18 hour days to not only settle on the show’s aesthetic but also helping to cast. “I wanted her to feel that we were making something she also had an ownership stake in because she deserves that,” Murphy said. He understands it’s a rarity and that some might be taken aback by his promotion of below-the-line collaborators, but it brings both a sense of pride and efficiency. “I don’t direct all of [the episodes], so I wanted her to be able to feel that when she walked [on]to that set when I wasn’t there that she had more power than almost anybody there, so that she felt protected enough to be creative and vulnerable.”