FLIPSTAR: Jeff Churchill

Full given name: Jeffrey Paul Churchill.oie_oie_twinkles4

Hometown: Sarnia, Ontario. I moved away at 18 and never looked back.

Special skills: I’m pretty good at making shoes, I think. That’s pretty unique.

First art exhibition you ever saw: The first art exhibition that was really stamped in my memory was a retrospective of René Magritte at the MoMA in New York City when I was a teenager. I had never heard of him, but was absolutely blown away by the show. I had never seen anything like him before. The same day I got to see Dali’s Persistence of Memory in the flesh. It was a very memorable day.

If I didn’t make custom footwear, I’d be a: Vegetarian chef. I love to cook. It’s very creative. I enjoy looking at what I have in the fridge and making it into something. And I’m pretty good at it too, which helps.

Latest projects you’re working on: On the shop floor today, we have a new Marvel film; a film shooting in the States called Hostiles; Supergirl season 2; the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes; a couple other TV shows – American Gods and Reign; sub-aquatic circus shoes for Le Rêve in Vegas; and a few odds and sods for theatre productions in the UK and U.S. We’ve just recently finished working on a new Brad Pitt film called Allied and a couple Vin Diesel projects (xXx 3, Fast & Furious 8).

Favourite shoes you’ve created: I feel my favourite boots change every few weeks when we start on something new. We made these absolutely beautiful 1920s shoes for Dame Judi Dench a few years ago for a theatre show in London’s West End. They were stunning, if I do say so myself. They ended up being cut from the show, which was a real drag. But it’s part of the gig.

Biggest footwear challenge to date: We have to deal with so many diverse challenges, it’s hard to pick one. We made dress shoes to be worn on the outside of a plane flying at 5,000 feet for the latest Mission Impossible film. You wouldn’t believe the number of considerations for something like that – very cold temperatures, condensation, impact against the exterior of the plane. We also made these crazy platform boots for Guardians of the Galaxy – they had to be comfortable and fashionable, but functional, and they had these wild cutaway platforms on them. And we just made some boots that look like goat hooves for a play in Stratford. Every week it seems we have another big challenge.

Favourite costume designer: Eiko Ishioka was indirectly responsible for me gravitating towards design, which then lead me into shoes. In 1992, I was 18 and saw Bram Stoker’s Dracula. It was the first time I ever really took notice of costumes in a film. It really inspired me and sparked something in me. Twenty years later, I had the great honour of working with Eiko on the Tarsem Singh film Mirror Mirror. It was an amazing experience. Eiko died just before the film opened. It was her last project. I have some great memories.

Designer you want to collaborate with: Jenny Beavan. Her designs for Mad Max: Fury Road and the Sherlock Holmes films are simply stunning. And I’m told I would really get on with her.

Artist you’d like to create shoes for: Helen Mirren. I love her as an actress. She’s number one on my current “I need to make shoes for you” list.

Most played song on your iPod: Iggy Pop‘s “Lust for Life”.

One CD you couldn’t live without: David Bowie’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Brilliant album. “Rock and Roll Suicide” is one of my favourite songs.

Last great book you read: Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer. We have been working on a film adaptation of the book directed by Alex Garland. The lovely Sammy Sheldon Differ is designing it and she tried to explain the plot to me and it made no sense at all, so I picked up the book. A really good (if surreal) read and can’t wait to see how it translates to film.

Last great movie you saw: The Nice Guys. I thought it was really well done – very well written, a total 2016 take on the ‘80s buddy movies and most of all, it was really refreshing to see a good movie that wasn’t a sequel, wasn’t a reboot and was completely original. I’d highly recommend it.

Performer you would drop everything to see: I would love the chance to see Tom Waits. I’m a huge fan of his. I don’t like crowds much, though, so seeing him in a tiny venue would be ideal.

Favourite cereal: Cereal doesn’t give me enough energy to get through the morning. I’m more of a breakfast sandwich person. Or I’ll make a big batch of savory muffins on the weekend to get me through the week of breakfasts.

Who would play you in the movie of your life: My wife and I were watching BBC’s Sherlock a little while back. I told her if a film were ever made about my life I should be played by Benedict Cumberbatch; but in reality I would probably be played by Martin Freeman.

Worst job you ever had: I was a fry cook at KFC when I was 16. It was one of only three jobs I’ve ever had that wasn’t in the arts.

Dream vacation: My dream vacation would start in Florence with my wife – we’ve both been to Italy in the past, but never together. We’d go through southern Italy and then travel to places that are still reasonably untouched – Malta, Budapest, et cetera. And then just sort of see where it goes from there.

Do you identify as a Feminist: I’ve always believed in equality for everyone, no matter their sex, colour or beliefs. We are all equal and need to remember to treat each other that way. The thought that someone is superior to another because they were born male is laughable to me. I’m very comfortable working in an industry dominated by extraordinarily talented women (that being the film / theatre costuming industry). Many of the strongest and most inspiring people I’ve known are women. I’ve never really realized that until just now, but it’s absolutely true.

Jeff is the owner/designer of Jitterbug Boy, a Toronto-based studio creating high-quality, custom made boots and shoes for film, theatre and performance organizations around the world.

Photo Credit: Connie Tsang

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