Costume Breakdown Software joins the 21st Century

With the ink barely dry on their Boston College degrees and despite secure jobs in finance, Alex LoVerde and Jeff Impey, were already restless. Sure it was a nice gig, but their creativity and desire to be true entrepreneurs ached to be given expression. “All through high school and college we were very active in theater and film,” Alex says, “we didn’t want to lose that.” They feared falling into an abysmal rut.

 They had “done the proper thing” and received degrees in Psychology and Finance respectively from prestigious Boston College. They had proper jobs with suits and all, but …

There had to be more – more creativity, more independence…and there was that entrepreneurial spirit to be sated!

A school friend of Jeff’s sister, Erika Lilienthal, had gone on to become an Assistant Costume Designer after graduating from Bates College. When Erika was in town their conversation would occasionally turn to her job. She would sometimes speak of how tedious and laborious aspects of her job were, with costume breakdowns at the top of the list.

Alex LoVerde, the face of Sync OnSet and Wymsee, Inc.

As Erika spoke their questions started to fly, a spark had been ignited. She shared tales of flawed or limited software and often being compelled to do the breakdown with pen in hand. She related the repetitive protocol involved – scene number, time of day, set location, character changes and so on. They saw a “strong need,” Erika said, “they were horrified by the way we do things.”

Okay, now Alex and Jeff were intrigued; could this be their gateway to independence and innovation while opening the opportunity to become involved in the creative world of film. The questions began to fly. “I would tell them about a particular task saying ‘there doesn’t seem to be anything you can do about it,’” she told me, only for one of our masters of the arcane world of the computer to reply, “we can fix that.”

To Erika that was an invitation, so she went for it, “These are the things I need to make my life exponentially better.” Off they went with her dream list, now confident this was, indeed, it.

Jeff reached out to his friend, Dan Stefanis, who was quick to see the potential. There did exist a few problems. The first of which was that they did not know the vernacular of the film departments. They were enthusiastic students for their muse, Erika.

Another more complex challenge existed. “We didn’t really know how to create the necessary software,” Alex admits. Enter Brett Beaulieu-Jones, a fellow Boston College alum, who became their “software guy”, in Alex’s words, though he is officially the Technical Lead. The core of Wymsee, Inc. was in place.

The guys “went to the mattresses”. Three of them lived together in a Cambridge, Mass apartment “with a white board” as the centerpiece. More often than not Brett would be crashing on the couch.

By April 2012 they had a basic product. Having reviewed their work in progress, Erika sent them off to Manhattan Wardrobe Supply to speak with Tommy and Cheryl. They saw some flaws, but above all they saw the promise and enthusiasm of the developers. After providing their initial input they suggested a list of some of the city’s top wardrobe and design people, and the guys went back to “school”.

Alex’s first stop was the set of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire and the team of Ginnie Patton and Joseph LaCorte, both of whom now use Sync OnSet. “They didn’t know anything about film,” Joseph says smiling, but he’s quick to say they are doing everything they can to learn. “They are constantly reaching out for input,” he says.

“Whenever I asked ‘can it do (x, y or z) Alex would come back and say I’ll get back to you in a couple of days’”, Joseph goes on, “ he’d come back with a solution every time.”

Joseph veritably swoons over the product, “it’s super easy to use,” he says, and “they are always eager to help.

Sync OnSet Team at Office

Joseph certainly won’t be contradicted by Tim McKelvey. Tim met Alex and Snyc OnSet when he was the Wardrobe Supervisor on Thirty Rock. When Alex came to visit the set, he “was all over the place,” talking with, not just the wardrobe folks, but everyone in Makeup and Hair, Production and the Art Department…listening and learning. He was like a “kid in a candy store”

“I love the product,” Tim says, “It incorporates all the elements and everyone can input.”

Tim speaks of how Wysmee has customized the software for the particular requirements of either episodic or feature films. As anyone who has gone between the two mediums know they are very “distinct animals”.

Tim emphasizes the responsiveness of the partners, (Jeff on the West Coast, Alex on the East). Alex tells the story of Jeff answering a  “trouble shooting” call at 4:00AM and that he was able to resolve the problem.

To balance his education, Alex tapped David Davenport, the costume supervisor on films like Michael Clayton and The Departed, while he was shooting The Wolf of Wall Street. David managed to help get Alex a job as a Featured Extra. David felt that working as an extra would allow Alex a legitimate reason to be on set and, God knows, enough down time to explore and observe.

David tells Tommy and Cheryl that he was most impressed with his eagerness to learn and absorb the needs of the crew and the unique culture of the set. This gave the Wymsee team the insight into the world of feature films rather than episodic. Remember in the world of features three pages of script a day is a heavy load while on episodic it is, sadly, not uncommon to see nine to eleven pages per day.

Now let’s speak to what distinguished the efforts of this team.

Sync OnSet is a web-based application that runs in your web browser on any computer, PC or Mac. The mobile app downloads to your iPad or iPhone. When changes or improvements are made by the developers you don’t have to download a new version – the changes automatically appear. You are sure to have the latest version when they release it.

Two other advantages of the software are that it is immediately available to your set crew. During a recent telephone conversation with Joseph LaCorte, he interrupted me, “Ginnie just posted script revisions,” he said, “and I’ve gotten them already.” Joseph in the wardrobe warehouse and Ginnie on the Principals’ truck, who knows where, are now always “on the same page.”  The program can also be shared with other departments such as Hair and Make-Up, Production and Script. Imagine being able to share photos with the Script Supervisor immediately.

When you upload your pdf script directly into the program it will automatically break it down by scene number, location, time of day, characters with speaking rolls and a brief scene description. “This does not mean you don’t have to read the script,” Cheryl says, “there is another “computer” that needs to be uploaded and that is your brain.” The software buys you time, some of that needs to be spent absorbing the words on the page.

Sync OnSet allows the department to upload an unlimited number of photos unlike other programs on the market. Additionally, many Supervisors, Cheryl included, want a hard copy of the costume breakdown in addition to the online version. This is not a problem with Sync OnSet.

Tim McKelvey is pleased with the fact that, “at wrap all the information, everything, inventory included, is right there.”

The feature that is most emphasized by everyone interviewed for this piece, even above the technological advances which get raves, is the customer support. The developers are always responsive, can do people, who truly want to contribute to a smooth running production.

This is not meant to diminish the importance of the existing software. They were created, however, by working technicians for whom this was a side venture. Sync OnSet comes with a full time professional team concerned with nothing other than satisfying their consumers, with not just geeky passion, but love of the craft.

“This software stands above the rest,” Tim McKelvey declares, I believe it is going to become the industry standard.” That’s quite an accolade coming from such an accomplished Supervisor.



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 Roger Kimpton

  1. trying to reach David Davenport, who worked w/me at Frontier Town, Ocean City, MD, FIFTY years ago. pls ask him to respond. thx. linda

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