Sarah Dano ’08 holds her breath during a shootout scene on CBS’s Blue Bloods. It’s not because she’s worried that Tom Selleck’s character will be shot: She’s just hoping his jacket is zipped throughout the entire scene. If she bites her lip when a tragedy unfolds on Lifetime’s Army Wives, it’s just because Catherine Bell hasn’t put on her coat for an outdoor scene. And if she ever covers her eyes or even groans during a zombie attack on AMC’s The Walking Dead, it has more to do with the rips and blood on Andrew Lincoln’s shirt than the ones on his flesh.
As a set costumer/costumes coordinator for these and other shows, Dano has a reason to watch television: She’s looking for continuity. All that matters to her is that each character has the right costume – in the right state – at the right time.
“Even shows I haven’t worked on, I notice things all the time that I wouldn’t otherwise see – little inconsistencies in wardrobe or hair and makeup,” says Dano, who began working in television when she was a senior arts management major and took an internship in the art department of Army Wives, where she stayed on for another four seasons.
“Army Wives exposed me to it all: costuming, set design, contacts,” she says, noting that her mentor there helped make a lot of her subsequent jobs possible – taking her on location to Michigan for her first feature film, Cedar Rapids, and providing an in for the costumes coordinator of the CBS drama Unforgettable when Dano moved to her native New York City in 2011. When Unforgettable wrapped 10 months later, it was once again an Army Wives contact who got Dano her next gig: transitioning the costume shop for The Walking Dead.
“That was really cool, because the costumes are just so different on that show,” she says, adding: “A lot of people don’t realize there’s a whole department for aging and dying costumes. So people down in Aging and Dying are painting clothes, ripping them up, shredding them, burning them, distressing them.”
As fun as it is to prep actors’ clothes while on location and to ensure continuity while on set, it’s the “office aspect” of Dano’s job that she likes the most: “I like supervising and being in meetings and figuring out the logistics of it all,” says Dano, who went on to work for Blue Bloods and, after that, HBO’s Criminal Justice, which wrapped in December and will premier next spring. “For each show, we’re basically given an amount that has to last for the entire season, so you have to look at the writing and see what it requires in terms of costume changes for each character. I like that side of it: planning, working with vendors, budgeting.”
She hopes to continue working in costume supervising and getting more on-location projects down the road.
“I never wanted to be a designer, because I definitely have a business mind – I love the logistics side of it, the math side. But it’s perfect because I can apply it in a creative atmosphere,” she says, noting that her arts management degree couldn’t have better prepared her. “Arts management gave me the perfect combination of the arts and business. I can’t imagine how things would have turned out without my accounting course!”
Things just wouldn’t be the same without John Bruns’ film studies course, either.
“He used to say that the story doesn’t end when the credits start,” Dano recalls of the associate professor of English. “So – even when everyone else gets up and leaves – I always make it a habit to stay and watch them all.”
Of course, Dano has a reason to watch: She’s looking for her name in the credits.
– Alicia Lutz ’98