Illustration Alum Forges Career in Film Fashion
Christy Juhnke works a heck of a lot and sleeps very little. But despite the 14-hour days and high-stress atmosphere, the KCAD alum (06', Illustration) and self-proclaimed "feature gypsy" wouldn’t trade her job working on major film productions for anything. As a costume designer, Juhnke works with directors and producers in the early stages of pre-production to develop the overall visual theme of the story and visual portrayal of the characters.
“I feel that right now, this is kind of it for me. [Costume design] isn’t something you can really walk away from," said Juhnke. "We joke that it’s a drug, because you go through these really intense situations in these far-off places with all these people who become family, and then it’s over. You don’t know what to do until you get your next opportunity, and then you’re off again.”
After moving around a lot during her childhood and adolescent years, including a stint in Australia, Juhnke graduated from Rockford High School (MI). She knew that she wanted to draw, but wasn't sure how to pursue her goals. Shortly thereafter, she discovered KCAD and decided to major in Illustration. The skills she learned in her first two years proved to be fundamental to her current work.
“You don’t think it at the time, but looking back, just learning about color and light helps you," remarked Juhnke. "I have to know what something’s going to look like on camera, and I have to know about textures and palettes, and making up mood boards and concepts. All of that is based in art. I still make up sketches for directors who need to visualize with fabric swatches.” Junke hard at work sewing in her creatively-cluttered workspace (credit: Christy Junke) (click to enlarge)
Once the cameras are rolling, Juhnke interacts closely with the actors to maintain the continuity of their costumes throughout production, often on the fly. Since scenes are shot piecemeal and out of order, it’s essential that every little detail of the actors’ costumes remain consistent throughout. Oversights like a different patterned overcoat or buttons that do not match the previous scenes can be distracting to the film’s audience.
Juhnke has already built up an impressive resume, having worked on 15 productions including the black and white crime drama “Jack Falls” (2011), the BBC television series “Silent Witness” (2011), and the 2013 thriller “Cold Comes The Night,” starring Brian Cranston, but her latest project may be the highlight of her young career.
“It was a life moment,” Juhnke said of her work on the set of “The End of the Tour,” a forthcoming film starring Jason Segel and Jesse Eisenberg and shot right here in Grand Rapids. The film marked the first time in four years that a major motion picture was shot in the city, which made it a homecoming for Juhnke.
“We were shooting in Eastown and all around the city, so it was where I grew up,” she said. “It was kind of trippy but really great.”
In addition to preparing for her own career at KCAD, Juhnke also helped set the stage for the Fashion Studies program, which began in 2012. Recognizing her interest in fashion, her professors allowed her to explore her passion for costume design through independent study courses she took during her senior year. She went on to study at the University of the Arts London College of Fashion, earning a BA in Costume for the Performing Arts in 2009.
“It wasn’t like [KCAD] was just trying to push you in a direction to just be an illustrator, they wanted you to find your way," said Juhnke. "I always felt that was good, because going into it, I had no idea what my way was. It was very individual.”
Today, the Fashion Studies program serves other students who are as passionate about fashion design and eager to discover their own career paths.
“I’m so proud that [KCAD] is taking the initiative," said Juhnke. "[The fashion industry] is huge and there are so many aspects to it. Grand Rapids is a place that’s small, but it’s so close to so much that the possibilities are endless.”