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Iowa native describes journey to designing costumes for 2021 'West Side Story' film

Brian Hemesath grew up on a dairy farm in Calmar, Iowa.


The classic Broadway musical "West Side Story" has been reimagined and premieres on the silver screen Friday

Here is the fun part: There is an Iowa connection

Meet Brian Hemesath, a native of Calmar, Iowa. He is the First Assistant Costume Designer on the movie, working closely with Head Costume Designer Paul Tazewell.

Tazewell's most notable work? "Hamilton."

It was a longtime friendship that led to this exciting project, which started filming during a very hot summer back in May of 2019.

"When you see the movie, you'll see these actors did an amazing job in 100-degree heat, in period costumes, dancing their butts off in, you know, the middle of the street. It was amazing," Hemesath told Local 5.

"I had a lot to do more with the principal costumes. So there were, including the four main characters— Tony, Maria, Anita, Bernardo—there were 60 dancers, 30, Jets, 30 Sharks," Hemesath added. "I got to be in all the principal fittings, it was amazing to meet Rita Moreno."

Almost all of the main costumes had to be created from scratch and made in multiples because of the intense dancing and weeks of shooting similar scenes, while also staying true to the authenticity of the character 

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"I think that's really our job is to give people a lot of the backstory that doesn't necessarily come out in the exposition. But it was pretty remarkable," Hemesath said. "I've never worked on an enormous period film like this. I mean, Steven Spielberg does not mess around. Our budget was $3 million, just the costumes."

Being authentic to himself and his talents, Hemesath continues to see his career hit new heights. 

"I have done a lot of great stuff. I'm really happy and excited about where my career is," he said. "I thought I was gonna be a veterinarian when I was growing up. I mean, anything can happen.” 

You can learn more about Hemesath's career on his website.

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