Full schedule for Behind the Screen below

When you watch a movie or TV show, it’s not just the script, acting and direction that tell the story.

It’s the costumes, too.

Montclair costume designer Daniel Lawson, who’s created costumes for “The Good Wife,” “The Good Fight,” “BrainDead” and “Instinct,” among others will talk about that at “Behind the Screen” on Sunday, Jan. 28.

Montclair Film and The Film Institute of Montclair State present a free day of panels and discussions from film people above and below the line. Sue Hollenberg, MF education director, and Susan Skoog, director of programming for the Film Institute at Montclair State, organized the event.

Sue Hollenberg

For Hollenberg, it’s important to show that there are “careers beyond the obvious.” And it’s also important to look at aspects of the film business that aren’t necessarily the ones that first come to mind.

So while there will be a master class on acting, led by Patrick Wilson and his actress/author wife, Dagmara Dominczyk, there will also be a presentation from casting director Avy Kauffman (“The Night Of,” “Lincoln,” “The Sixth Sense”), talking about the casting process. A panel on pitching includes Greg Rhem, from HBO Docs; Brian Bockwrath, from Bays Thomas Productions; and Amanda Verdon, from AMC/Sundance TV. “You do have to have the elevator pitch down,” Hollenberg said with a laugh.

“Both buyers and sellers have to know how to do a smooth pitch,” she said. “I’m not sure if they cover that as much in film school.”

And, she said, “You can tell a story with costumes. All these other elements of the industry are part of the filmmaking experience.”

Lawson, a Montclair resident, designed costumes for theater before he turned to film. “First and foremost, as a costume designer, I’m a storyteller,” he said. “What I do as a costume designer has to support the script, what actors are doing with a part, what the director is doing, what the writer is trying to do.

“I want an audience member to be able to look at that character and do one of two things: know who he is right away based on his look, or not know, because the costume is a red herring deceiving them as to who the person really is.”

The cast of "The Good Wife." COURTESY DANIEL LAWSON

On CBS’ legal drama “The Good Wife,” the main character is Alicia Florick, a politician’s wife who studied but never practiced law who returns to the job market when her husband is disgraced.

In the first season, Lawson said, he didn’t use much color, dressing her in a very trim, tailored way. In contrast, he dressed Christine Baranski, who played her boss, Diane Lockhart, as a “Park Avenue meets Madison Avenue, very businessy and on the edge with her wardrobe. Diane would wear brocades and metallic threads.” She wore big statement necklaces, and became known for it, to the point where Lawson began his own jewelry line (it can be found at

Over the seven years the series was on the air, Alicia’s look evolved. ”The first year she was more mix and match,” as if she were pulling things out of her politician’s wife wardrobe. Later on, she had more expensive clothing, better shoes. “There was a slight nod to the ’40s, with strong shoulders, still feminine in the waist.

“It’s exciting to work on a show for that long, and look at the subtleties of clothing as they changed.”

Actors contribute as well: he put Eli, played by Alan Cumming, in three-button suits. “I went to the set, was looking on the monitor: He had every button buttoned and done up! I was thinking, ‘That’s all wrong, that’s not fashionable.’ He said, ‘I think Eli would button every button.’”

And Lawson realized that he would. “If you gave him 100 buttons he would button every button,” Lawson said. “I gave him all that, and he was able to sing with it.”


Sunday, Jan. 28

Montclair Film and The Film Institute at Montclair State

The Presentation Hall at the School of Communication and Media at Montclair State University.

Free, but online registration required at

Acting Masterclass with Patrick Wilson and Dagmara Domińczyk  10 a.m.

Matching Character and Actor with Casting Director Avy Kauffman 11:15 a.m.

Directing the True Crime Documentary with Erin Lee Carr 12:30 p.m.

Costume Design: The Power & Impact of Wardrobe with Daniel Lawson 1:45 p.m.

Pitching: The Art and Craft of Selling a Show 3 p.m.

#MeToo: A Conversation about Harassment and Empowerment 4:15 p.m.