Jennifer Smart is celebrating the release of her debut novel, The Wardrobe Girl, this month with Random House. The mother of three girls, Jennifer has worked for many years in film and television, including five years on the Australian drama Home and Away as a Director’s Assistant and then scriptwriter. Her time on the show inspired this funny and engaging novel which offers a behind-the-scenes look at television production and a close up of the action happening off camera.
“‘It’s just string bikinis, thongs and boardies on Pretty Beach Rescue. You could do it drunk and standing on your head.’
After the humiliating end of her last relationship, this is just what TV costume designer, Tess Appleby, needs to hear. Sure, a wardrobe assistant on a soap is a step down from her gig at the BBC, but all Tess wants is an easy life . . . Unfortunately she’s barely arrived on set before she’s warding off the attentions of the show’s heartthrob, Sean Tyler – and, as a consequence, the hostility of its other star, Bree Brenner.
And if the pressures and politics of working on a TV drama aren’t enough, she’s living with her high-maintenance mother, an ageing celebrity, and her infuriating sister Emma, an aspiring actress.
Still, Tess is certain she can deal with everything they throw at her – until Jake Freeman, her ex-fiancé, the man she last saw eight years ago as he walked away and broke her heart, is named the show’s new director…”
You can read my review of The Wardrobe Girl by clicking HERE, but first I’d like to share with you this guest post from Jennifer Smart…
Behind the Scenes by Jennifer Smart
I’ve had a lifelong love of the movies, TV, theatre and ballet, any kind of performance. I love being taken away from my world and experiencing something other, except for the circus – as a toddler, I was traumatized by a clown. For a long time it was an unrequited love. I was simply a voyeur without any real expectation of being actively embraced.
It was my Grandmother who took me to see my first movie, Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines at the once grand Roxy Cinema in Parramatta. I can still remember sitting next to my Grandmother in the darkness and a vague sensation that I was experiencing something magical. I couldn’t have been much more than a little three year old. I’m pretty sure they even played the God Save The Queen before the features began. It was also my Grandmother who took me to see Gone With The Wind one rainy school holiday afternoon. We chewed Minties, her favourite lolly, whilst sniffling into our hankies. Although, I was only eight or nine, so I probably didn’t do a whole lot of sniffling. But that wet afternoon on NSW’s Central Coast, I did fall in love with Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler and my love affair with film began in earnest.
As love affairs go, it was kind of frustrating. I can’t even remember when I formed the idea of working in TV/Film, but I’m pretty sure it would’ve been quickly dismissed as something other people do, those other talented people. Not me. And I’m sure my school’s career advisor would’ve choked on her tea if I’d ever mentioned it. But once the idea had taken hold, it was impossible to shake. In fact, I had 2 young children when I finally summoned the courage to train as a make-up artist.
I worked for free on short films between paying jobs and did things I hated doing, like calling people I didn’t know asking for work. I did wedding make-ups and fashion shoots, but was always looking for work in TV/film. As I spent more time working on sets, I gained a deeper understanding into the process of filmmaking, the many and varied roles there are and the collaborative nature of filming. And the long and sometimes tedious hours involved on set.
As much as I loved working in the make-up department, I made the decision to retrain in Continuity, also known as Script Supervisor and in TV, Director’s Assistant. It’s a tough gig. There are now hundreds of YouTube video compilations and websites dedicated to ‘continuity’ errors, although some have nothing to do with us poor continuity people! But if someone’s wearing the wrong wardrobe, or is holding a prop the wrong way or not holding a prop at all as they switch between shots, then fair call, that’s probably continuity! And who doesn’t love a blooper reel? I still do, even after years of working in the industry.
My novel, The Wardrobe Girl, is the literary equivalent of a bloopers reel/behind the scenes docco, loosely based on my 5 years of working on the Australian TV soap opera, Home and Away. It takes you into a world of forgotten lines, casting decisions, production meetings and a glimpse of the politics and motivations driving the show. The Wardrobe Girl reveals the reality of life on the set of the fictional TV show, Pretty Beach Rescue.
I’m never particularly shocked when I read about actors having an on set romance (what else is there to do in the supermarket queue but the read magazines provided?). For the length of the shoot, particularly if it’s a film or mini-series, your colleagues can become your close friends, especially if it’s a location shoot that involves staying away. Not only do you work together, you have breakfast, lunch, dinner and post work drinks together! It’s not surprising then that the intensity of the close working relationship can lead to romantic relationships. But what happens on location, stays on location… usually.
I enjoyed my years working in the industry. It might not be as glamorous as I’d thought sitting in the darkened cinema as a child or looking at my Grandmother’s Hollywood annuals from the 1940’s, but it was definitely rewarding, fun and challenging. And in the end, it allowed me to pursue my writing and to realize a long held dream of becoming a published author.
The Wardrobe Girl
is available to purchase from