Fabric and frame: Williamsburg filmmaker, Ashfield costume designer team up on music video, fairy tale photo project

  • Filmmaker Ben Tobin at his home in Williamsburg. A fter catching COVID-19 last year, Tobin is back to making new art with friend Christina Beam, an Ashfield costume designer. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Cameron Mysliwicz, one of the actors in the music video for the song “Zwischenlicht,” is seen in costume. CONTRIBUTED

  • Elisabeth Castellon Gonçalves is seen as Sleeping Beauty, part of a photo series inspired by fairy tales.  CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

  • Jeffrey Thompson, one of the actors in the music video for the song “Zwischenlicht,” is seEn in costume. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

  • Faolain Bobersky is seen as the Wicked Witch, part of a costume photo series inspired by fairy tales. CONTRIBUTED

  • Ethan Gourlay is seen as Snow White, part of a photo series inspired by fairy tales. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

  • Christina Beam, an Ashfield costume designer. Contributed

Staff Writer
Published: 3/5/2021 3:38:04 PM

WILLIAMSBURG — Last year, local filmmaker Ben Tobin caught COVID-19. And after recovering from the disease, the Williamsburg native came away with the desire to make new art.

So he partnered with friend Christina Beam, an Ashfield costume designer, to film a music video and work on a photography project inspired by fairy tales.

“I think both of us have been looking to do something creative,” Tobin says.

Collaboration, Beam says, is one of her favorite things about costume design for theater or film, and since she lost a lot of work during the pandemic, it made sense to team up with Tobin.

“Ben and I were both looking for ways to remain creatively engaged during the pandemic,” she says.

The music video will chronicle a person through different life periods: As a boy, as a man in his 20s and as an old man, with the man crumbling to dust at the end.

The video also involves filming in a different season for each character, with the man in his 20s being filmed in November, the old man being filmed in the winter, and the young boy set to be filmed when the apple blossoms are out.

“I wanted to have the character going through three different stages of life,” Tobin says.

Beam said that it has been nice to be able to bring Tobin’s vision to life, and that he collaborates and takes her input well.

Tobin and Beam have been making this video while working through COVID-19 restrictions, and have been the only crew members on the production.

“Film sets are just very tricky to do,” he said.

The music video is for a song composed by German composer Mathias Rehfeldt, who scored Tobin’s graduate thesis film. The song is called “Zwischenlicht,” and was one of the songs Rehfeldt wrote and recorded during COVID-19 lockdown in Germany.

“He was very into the idea,” Tobin said of the music video, noting that Rehfeldt gave him carte blanche in terms of concept.

Fairy tales

Beam and Tobin’s fairy tale photography project involves Beam making costumes out of paper that are inspired by fairy tales, with local models wearing them and Tobin shooting the results.

“She was able to design the costumes to fit them,” Tobin says. “They are difficult to wear.”

Beam originally came up with the idea for the costumes in graduate school, where she designed costumes for a hypothetical production of the musical “Into the Woods.” As part of her concept, the characters would start clothed in the pages of their storybooks, with their costumes shifting into period clothing as the story progressed.

“They would end up in real costumes by the time they were real people,” Beam says.

But she also said that her evolving tastes, as well as the act of making the costumes have produced pieces that differ from her original designs.

So far Snow White, the Wicked Witch, Jack of Jack and the Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty and most recently Prince Charming have been photographed. Up next are the Ugly Stepsisters.

“The Stepsisters are really the first characters that we’ve done that require character makeup,” she says.

After that the next characters for the project will be Cinderella, both with rags and a ball gown, along with Hansel and Gretel and Rapunzel.

Beam said that it’s very exciting to be making costumes again.

“I’m someone who always needs to be working on something,” she says.

And Tobin shared how he’s enjoyed working with Beam on their projects.

“It’s been really nice,” said Tobin. “I think we have a good flow of ideas.”

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.

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