Our Visit to the ‘Ender’s Game’ Movie Set (Part 3): Creating Costumes and Props for the Future

Visiting the costumes department and the props department were two of our favorite parts of our visit to the ‘Ender’s Game’ film set last May. In the props department, we were allowed to touch and hold most of the props. Many of the props we saw were on display at the ‘Ender’s Game’ Fan Experience at Comic-Con 2013 or available in other film images.

The Monitor:

Ender's Monitor

Zero-Gravity Barf Bag:


Graff’s Hook:


Flash Gun: In the film, it takes a couple of seconds for these guns to charge, then they light up when shot. The flash gun breaks down between into ten pieces. In a filler scene, Bonzo has his army race to disassemble and assemble their flash guns. The young actors actually got really good at this!


Petra’s Practice Balls: When Petra throws these balls they expand digitally. Then they light up when shot.


IF Ring: This ring is worn by Colonel Graff and Mazer Rackham.


Wrist Computer:


Not pictured:

-A flexible formic mask worn in an early scene between between Peter and Ender.

-A personal grooming kit that includes socks, a toothbrush etc.

-A Kel-Tech KSG Shotgun, Gen-Tech Helmet and F-35 pilot suit worn by pilots from Mazer’s time period. The entire display is supposed to be inside the helmet, and wearers can track things with eye movement.

-Action figures and hanging mobile in Ender’s bedroom. The hanging mobile depicts Mazer’s battle against the formics. This was our favorite prop! Both of these items we’re grown in 3-D printers.

-Ender’s raft: We saw an image of Ender and Valentine in Ender’s raft. I looked sloppily put together. The wood was not evenly cut, and the sail looked dirty and full of holes. I did not seem like something Ender would build.


‘Ender’s Game’ costume designer, Christine Bieselin Clark, had a whole different set of items for us drool over. In her office we saw the flash suits and army logos for the first time. In our interview with her, she discussed how she dealt with outfitting the growing children and promised that she’s aware of the “sock controversy.” [‘Ender’s Game’ specifically says that battle school students do not wear socks. Many fans were upset that she included socks in the movie.] Read our interview with her below:

Christine Bieselin Clark: [About the flash suit helmets] It’s a three part process. The mandible comes off, that’s attached magnetically. Then there’s a clipping system for the visor to come off. We designed them so you could actually wear them with the advisor on, because sometimes there’s issues with reflections, CGI shots, and things like that. We made it so that you can wear it on two parts, just the mandible and the helmet base, or all three parts together. We didn’t have to do that too much though, because Don McAlpine is a genius, our cinematographer. Just a few times they were like, ‘Oh, that’s not going to work!’ So we had to take them all out.

Q: What were the military uniforms inspired by? Was there a certain kind of look you guys liked from other films or other military around the world?

Clark: Yeah, that’s really the infiniteness of it- to do a lot of research on style lines and militaries throughout history from all different countries because you want it to feel almost timeless in a way, but definitely not American. We did choose the stand collar, which you see in a lot of Middle Eastern militaries. You don’t see that often in American military. Gavin’s idea in the beginning is that the costumes really shouldn’t jump out at you. They have to be the backdrop for the faces. There’s a lot of subtlety in things that we did, a lot of style lines that were really simplistic and almost used different time periods together to make something that was future-forward. Because if you think about fashion, fashion is repetitive. There are style lines that you see now that you can point to the sixties, or the eighties, and say ‘Oh, that’s from that time period, but it’s present tense.’ To create something for the future, even for the military, we borrowed significant style lines from all different time periods to create something that your mind would say, ‘Oh that’s the future, but it’s identifiable in way.’

Q: How many different army flash suits did you have to design?

Clark: The flash suits? On film we tangibly created four different armies. […] But they all are exactly the same look, we just created different armor and helmets to represent the teams. Again, you didn’t want that feeling in the battle room, of something being so cute and when you get a lot of colors going like that and they’re all kind of poppy, it seems so adorable, which isn’t really the tone we were going for in this film. We wanted rich, saturated colors. We use this concept of dusty jewels. It’s kind of like these vibrant jewel tones have greyed-out. You get a lot of burnt oranges and olive green, but just touches of them so you can identify the platoons without it being too much color.

Q: What are these masks for on this suit right here?

Clark: That’s just a pilot mask for a sequence where we’re showing the pilot in the cockpit. That’s more present day, more identifiable, from Mazer’s time.

Q: Can you walk us through this insignia on the wall?

Clark: Yeah, that was really a collaborative process with me and our production designers and the art department. Again, when you’re creating a military like this you have to come up with some kind of an emblematic representation, but again we didn’t want anything so overt that it would feel like Star Trek. It was something that was very powerful in insignia. We wanted something that still gave you the sense of it without it being that strong of a symbol. We designed a hierarchy that’s very simplified, streamlined. It’s an amalgamation of what the naval forces would be and the air force altogether. It’s simplified for a way that’s very easy to read for the eye. When you see it, we didn’t want to do anything in metal. For all of us, it seemed very sharp and angular and kind of intense and present day. All our insignia are done in urethanes, which are rubbers, so you get a sense of metalized, interesting shapes with a curve to the body more. We used actual recesses and you’ll see a lot of plays on negative space in the design of the movie. Instead of there being patches and things that are embroidered, which are so identifiable to the current military, we did things that were molded and cast and have more dimention and interest.

Q: I noticed that the nametags have braille on them.

Clark: Yes! We created a dot matrix code and we used that as a point of reference. We wanted to have something that doesn’t apply to something now, but is still grounded in some kind of reality. We wanted to use a dot pattern instead of a bar code, something that was scan-able, but not the way that we would scan things now. That is the premise for it, but it’s not completely consistent. […] It’s debossed, instead of embossed. A little twist, I’m glad you caught it. But the kids, all our background kids, are like ‘What is this?’ Then you tell them that and they’re like ‘Cool! That’s awesome!’

Q: I have to say that the insignias for each one of the armies are amazing.

A: Why thanks, the very talented Zach Fannin, who’s our graphic artist […] You’re looking at stuff that’s on set pieces, and costume pieces. It’s everywhere. That was a very tedious process of finding the things that were sleek and simple, but still interesting enough. […] He did an amazing job. You’ll see on the helmets, we did them – you’re always trying to find a way to replicate things quickly, in an assembly line kind of way, but still make it look really cool. They’re decals actually! So we painted the whole helmets and then we did this clear decal. But again, since you don’t want it to seem flat or boring, we did twelve impasses on the emblem so that it stood up just slightly. So when you see it in close ups from behind, it has a dimensional quality to it, but it’s really essentially a sticker, which makes it economical for us and we can replicate it quickly and it looks clean and perfect every time, but we can add that as a post detail and you still get that dimension.

Q: I have to say, the kids say you did a great job on the pajamas!

Clark: Those kids! Let’s just say that when you put a bunch of kids in flash suits for weeks on end, and then you’re like ‘Now you’re going to go into the dorms, everyone get into bed. Put your pajamas on.’ Of course they thought they were the best things ever! They’re like, ‘We don’t have to wear our flash suits anymore! Yes!’

Q: You have to do a ton of adjustments considering that these kids are growing in the process.

Clark: We did!

Q: Do all of them have three different sizes of their flash suits?

Clark: We knew that we’d never be able to do that. I mean, just from a financial perspective, that would be completely insane for what we were able to do. Time-wise, were just never going to be able to do it. So from the beginning we designed the suit knowing that we’d have to make those concessions. The suit is designed in two pieces and the design of the pants actually extends up underneath the jacket, so that if you start growing a couple inches and your jacket creeps up, there’s still something going on there. And the way the boots overlay the pant-leg, and the gloves… it was all designed so that is we has those fluctuations we could make concessions for them quickly, instead of ‘Oh my God! I have to make Asa a new suit for tomorrow!’ That would have been awful!

Q: Did you treat the girls’ and the women’s wear differently? Is there a sense of trying to desexualize?

Clark: Absolutely, especially with Valentine because you want the relationship to be a very pure, emotional relationship. If Valentine starts to be sexy in some way you just mess the whole thing up. You want people to watch the characters and see the innocence of these kids for who they were in that moment, so that their humanity is present, so that you identify with them as people, instead of sexualizing people. You want her to be adorable, and loving, and charming, instead of ‘Ooh, doesn’t that kind of look hot?’ They’re attractive, and I’m sure that there will be plenty of fans who will be like, ‘You look hot!’ but not because we did that to her.

Q: Do any of the aliens involve costuming or were they purely effects?

Clark: I am not costuming aliens. That’s my final answer! I have not put a costume on an alien in this movie!

Q: How did you decide on a style for some of the more casual clothes- just normal citizens?

Clark: I think it was the same thought process for the whole movie, whether it was Earth or uniforms or flash suits, which is really intentional details and very subtle things. Gavin really doesn’t like when things get in the way of the character, or get in the way of the shot. He calls it, ‘It has to shut up and lay down!’ It really is true, you want to use color very strategically and psychologically. You want things so be really thought out to demonstrate who the people are, but you need to back up out of the scene because it is dramatic and intense, these relationships. You don’t want it to be about Valentine’s collar or something like that.

Q: Is there something costume-wise, that pull’s Asa character apart, because his character is so special? Is there a particular look or particular thing about him that sets him apart costume-wise?

Clark: I think we intentionally didn’t do that. It is a military world. There is a uniformity. We created something very cookie-cutter, and didn’t want to give him that because how he looked shouldn’t be what defines him from other people. […] It’s all about the face; it’s all about the performance, but he should be just like the other kids. It’s an even playing field, and what he does….

Q: I really like these patches [army logos]!

Clark: Again, we did a lot of play on positive and negative spaces. That’s all burned in, it’s etched in. It’s just a really rich look to thing when you have that cut away. Again, on the backs of the helmets and these insignia that they get. You only have a few tools in the toolbox and you want them to count. That definition of who you are and what platoon you’re on, we want those to be distinct features. That was a long road to get to those insignia, but I think they worked out really well.

Clark: [About the socks controversy] You just tell [the fans] they have to come and watch the whole movie to really know what’s happening, but that they can trust us. We actually do know a thing or two about the socks. [The socks issue] gives you an understanding of how beloved this material is and how intense people get. They take ownership of it and they want to make sure that you’re doing a good job. You can go back and tell them, we got it! […] We’re really switched on to stuff like that, about those kinds of details from the book. We really are paying attention to that kind of stuff. We’re aware and we’re listening to that too. They’re choices that happen all the time when we’re filming where we’re tuned into what’s going on. Everyone who’s blogging and talking about what’s going on, ‘Oh the movie! What are they doing?’ We’re all listening, even my costume PA! We read all of it, we really do! We don’t read it because we’re like, ‘Ooh what are they saying?’ We read it because we want to know what’s on everyone’s keen on. We want to know, what is it that’s really valuable? What is it that’s really important? We don’t want to mess it up! We don’t want to anyone to be disappointed. We want everyone to enjoy this as much as they enjoyed reading the book.


Come back on Monday and we’ll share our interview with the ‘Ender’s Game’ cast!

The ‘Ender’s Game’ film will be released in U.S. theaters on November 1, 2013.