Amanda Ramirez, 26, watched a group of actors push and shove each other on the Fruitvale BART Station platform. In the mid of the roughhousing, the cinema graduate noticed a button pop off of character Officer Caruso’s uniform and fall along with his walkie-talkie.
When Director Ryan Coogler called cut to talk to an actor, Ramirez grabbed a needle and thread out of her set bag. She asked the 6-foot-2-inch officer, played by the actor from one of her favorite television shows, “Lost,” Kevin Durand, to sit down so she can sew the button back on. She said he was ready to go, and with a quick thanks, Durand returned to his intense scene. Inside, Ramirez felt pure excitement, she said.
“I was sitting there thinking well there you go I did something on set for the first time. Cool,” Ramirez said. “It’s super minuscule, but it was probably one of the coolest moments.”
Before Ramirez started prepping costumes in a team under big costume designers for films like the acclaimed “Fruitvale Station” and Tim Burton’s upcoming “Big Eyes,” she attended SF State and graduated in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in cinema. But it wasn’t until her senior year when she changed her cinematic interests from video editing to costume design.
“I got to a point where the technology ran away from my brain,” Ramirez said. “Fashion was always a hobby. A friend asked me to do wardrobe for a short, then apparently word got out I do wardrobe. I did a slew of about five or six undergrad thesis projects.”
Her first post-grad costume designer gig came from fellow SF State cinema alum and Woolside High School friend, David Larsen. The 24-year-old chose Ramirez to be the costume designer for the short he co-wrote and directed, “The Break-Up Message.”
“From a director’s point of view, Amanda was great to work with. She is very proactive and hard-working, and she’s already making a name for herself in the industry,” Larsen said. “I would definitely ask her to be my costumer designer again. My creative partner, Anthony Berk, and I are currently writing another short, and once the script is done she’ll be one of the first people we call.”
Already a hit costume designer among her peers, Ramirez got her big break in the film industry while interning as a production assistant for Kaboom Productions. She used her time as an intern to network with the local Bay Area film community.
“I was on a commercial set and I was still a PA. I bumped into the location manager for ‘Fruitvale’ and we started talking,” Ramirez said. “He told me to give him my information and that he was going to forward it to Aggie Rogers, and when he said Aggie Rogers I was like holy shit.”
Agnes “Aggie” Guerard Rodgers is a local Bay Area costume designer best known for her Oscar-nominated in “The Color Purple” and blockbuster including “Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi,” “Beetlejuice” and “Fruitvale Station.” Ramirez credits Rogers for taking her under her wing in the local wardrobe industry, and Rogers is impressed by the budding costumer.
“We did hire Amanda as an intern for ‘Fruitvale Station.’ She came to work with us again for our prep on ‘Quitters’ for the week of prep and helped out doing returns and getting our costume truck ready,” Rodgers said. “Amanda is a lot of fun to be around and has the perfect personality for the job. I know she wants to be a costume designer and is working her way there as we speak.”
As a seasoned costume designer, Rodgers describes the realities that Ramirez will face in the industry and offers advice.
“It will not be easy for her sure. It never is.” Rodger said. “The costume designer is in charge of so much but one must be able to be on a set and not cause too much attention to your department and get jobs done easily and without much fuss. Be prepared. Figure things out ahead of time. Have an open mind; you will deal with so many kinds of people. Be smart. Be kind.”
Ramirez understands the struggles ahead. The costume design community for feature films in San Francisco is small and hard to break into with few opportunities for work than Los Angeles. But with all of her recent success, she instead feels more thankful for the opportunities she’s been given.
“No one should ever enter the film business unless they have an armor of steel,” Ramirez said. “Right now it’s great, it’s awesome, it’s fantastic. It happened pretty quickly considering I only graduated three years ago from college and I’m moving up the chain so quickly. It’s awesome and I’m grateful.”