Today, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced the 2014 recipient of the 9th Annual Mayor’s Award for Outstanding Achievement in Film is Costume Designer Ron Leamon. Since 2006, this honor has been given to an individual or entity, which has raised the profile of the City of Seattle and its film industry through an outstanding film-related achievement, or major contribution to the growth, advancement and reputation of Seattle as a filmmaking city. Ron will be acknowledged at the Opening Night Gala of the 2014 Seattle International Film Festival, which takes place tomorrow night.
Ron’s impressive film costume design career, his championship of Seattle as a thriving place to make movies, and his devotion to fostering and attracting new business and talent which has raised the profile of Seattle and the region’s film community make him an obvious honoree this year,” said Mayor Murray.
While not a native of Washington, Leamon has made the Pacific Northwest his home since the 70s. Born south of Chicago, he grew up mostly in West Virginia and made his way to the Puget Sound after some time in Orlando, Florida. Leamon paid a visit to a relative on Bainbridge Island and stayed for graduate school. The natural beauty of the area, friends and the film industry inspire him to continue to make Seattle his home.
Leamon has a strong connection to Washington Filmworks, having worked as a Costume Designer on several Washington incentive films, among them Deep Burial, The Architect, 4 Minute Mile, Laggies, and Grassroots. His current projects include commercials and corporate projects and you’ll see Leamon’s impressive bio circulating on the Internet thanks to this award. We seized the opportunity to sit down with Ron and learn a little more about his roots in film, his inspirations, and how he defines success.
Congratulations on this honor, Ron. And thank you for all that you do for the community. Tell us a little more about your career path. How important were your studies? It has helped me see the light as to my real direction of career. I, however, never completed my graduate degree as I felt the urge to return to the work force. My undergraduate degree was in acting/directing from the University of Central Florida. It was there I realized that acting and directing was a passion, but my true passion was costume design.
If you include my tenure working in the costume department at Disney World during my time at University of Central Florida, there is where some of the influences pushed me in the direction of costuming. While at the University, I started their costume shop. My training was from age 12 sewing to becoming a full tailor through Disney. After attending the University of Washington for a brief stint I returned to Disney to become Assistant Designer for all the entertainment in the park and on the road. As for design and fashion history, it was pretty much self-taught, and also crossing paths with some influential people along the way.
How have your mentors and mentorship factored into your career path? It has factored greatly. I was mentored by some of the greats in my eyes – Patricia Norris, James Acheson, and Theoni Aldredge, as well as working in New York with Barbara Matera. I hope, in learning from them, I have played the part as mentor to students coming into the world of costume design.
Where does your inspiration come from? I want to say life, to watch and observe everyday life, both present day and in research. I admire Milena Canonero, Colleen Atwood, and of course the ones I have worked with. Edith Head changed the way designers designed. Some of my favorite designs are Milena’s A Clockwork Orange costumes. In terms of a time period, I love the teens!
What was the favorite costume you’ve designed? I enjoyed Ellen’s velvet and fur suit in The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer.
Who do you collaborate with the most on a project? Definitely without a doubt the Production Designer, the Director, the Actor, the Makeup and Hair Designers, and, of course, the Producers – all have a part in the development of the project, whether it be creative or financial.
How do you define success? Some years ago I was asked to write down names of everybody in the industry I wanted to work with and I admired. I revisited that list every year for several years and found that I could mark off names of those people that I actually worked with. Also, if you are happy in what you are doing.
We’ve gotta know, what are you wearing to accept your award? Hugo Boss
Thanks, Ron! Congratulations from all of us at Washington Filmworks on your award.
About Ron Leamon: Seattle costume designer Ron Leamon has designed films, television series, and commercial productions for over 30 years, featuring the talents of Alan Arkin, James Earl Jones, Dolly Parton, Parker Posey, David Lynch, and many others. His work has been showcased at MOHAI and the Festival International Cinéma Costumes et Mode in Paris which celebrates costume design in film.
Leamon’s works have showcased Seattle and the Northwest in feature films including the Sundance Award winning Smoke Signals, Battle in Seattle, Lynn Shelton’s Laggies, David Lynch’s Blue Velvet, and Stephen Gyllenhaal’s Grassroots. His television series work includes Twin Peaks and Stephen King’s Rose Red. His commercial production work includes hundreds of local, national, and international clients.
In addition to his film production work, Leamon is a well-respected, tireless advocate of the northwest film industry. In 1998, Leamon organized the first ever film lobbying event on behalf of the industry. He is the President and Chair of political action committee Washington FilmPAC, is an active member of IATSE 488 and the Costume Designers Guild 892, and serves on the board of the University of Washington School of Drama.
Leamon’s devotion to fostering and attracting new business and talent has raised the profile of Seattle and the region’s film industry through his advocacy and cultivation of new film business, and his mentorship and support of young and up-and-coming talent. Through his work, Ron Leamon continues to be a vital source of energy and inspiration for the industry.