After more than 2 decades of working on Hollywood Film and Television productions, the most common question I'm asked is what famous people I've met.
My answer always revolves around the stories I remember, more so than how famous they were. For instance, I ran into Kirsten Dunst at a cafe while we were filming the television series, Fargo Season 2. She was with Jesse Plemmens and I was with my young daughter. She took the time to carry on a conversation with my little girl. This made her day.
Or the story that Billy Bob Thornton wove around french fries on set one day after finishing his scene, staring at me with that twinkle in his eye that he gets when he's thinking.... Or the day that Jean Smart arrived to start her role on Fargo. Her mission was to meet the person who had adopted their daughter from China just like she did - and then we spent the next 20 minutes gloating about our girls, oblivious to who else was in the room, sharing "old mom" stories together.
Or the personal time I spent with Farrah Fawcett’s assistant who was her close family friend, and the kindness she extended in friendship. And the time we spent talking on the phone after Farrah passed. Farrah's kindness when she found out I was a sculptor, just like she was.
And the magical magnetic field Brad Pitt seemed to emanate as I could literally “feel” his presence anytime he was within 10 feet, whether in our production office halls or on set. Bumping into him in those halls and excusing myself. That calm face and deep blue eyes, he just smiled. Remembering that deep Jesse James stare while looking over my way on set one day. He was still in characater, as he crouched still for the amazing Oscar winning cinematographer, Roger Deakins, to light the set.
Even getting to know Don Johnson’s and Melanie Griffith’s son Jesse, while he worked in our office to pay for his University studies, cast as a “younger” Don in Don’s film, and pouring over their family albums for images that could be used to fill the set.
Realizing too late that the senior I had been staring down, and now sliding past in our cramped craft service hall, was none other than our principal actor from the “Bourne” series, Chris Cooper looking over his eyeglasses at me in quiet inquiry.
Or listening to Don and Kiefer Sutherland’s voices interacting behind me during set lunch in the lunch tent as we all ate together in that small space.
Arranging Heather Locklear for a photoshoot.
Watching Colin Hanks burst into our offices in costume, proclaiming "how do I look?".
Laughing at the string of side bursting jokes and commentaries of Brad Garrett who spent some time with us in the Art Department.
Asking Academy-Award-Nominated Tim Roth if he would autograph a photo for my husband who was a big fan. Tim sent one back with a custom message on it just for him. After giving him a thank you note, his assistant sent a text : “Tim says Thanks for the thank you note”. Amazing.
I remember day I hired 2 young vinyl application workers to install vinyl in the windows of the building now known as "The Nash", as we converted this empty space into boutique shops for our film set. I realized that perhaps the two knew our actor who was only a short distance from us at the other side of the room - our department was doing a photoshoot with him, to generate images for the set. "Do you know Martin Freeman?" I asked. The youngest turned and said, "yes! I have to keep pinching myself to remind me that I'm in the same room as him! He's my favourite actor!"
While working on a Spielberg mini-series, I came across a discovery in my research which contradicted our script. As I went to our director's office to let him know, he said "Have a seat. How do you suggest we re-write the script?" Sergio Mimica-Gezzan was our director. He was Steven Spielberg's first A.D. in many of those early movies such as Shindler's List, Minority Report, A.I., Saving Private Ryan, The Lost World : Jurassic Park and so on. I learned something about humility from him that day. Sergio was a writer-director.
And then there was the time I was on set, and Mark Harmon (NCIS) sat beside me on a set bench, followed by Makeup, to trim his nose hairs before the next shot, looking over with his wide grin. And the time he sat in my seat in the lunch tent after I went up to get more, just to see me blush.
Those are the names I remember first.
Because they revolve around Stories.
Kirsten went on to win an Emmy nomination for her acting in Fargo and so did Jean. Fargo itself by the end of Season 2 had won more than 160 awards including Emmies. Brad Pitt won the prestigious Volpi Cup for Best Actor at the Venice Film Festival for his film. His film, The Assassination of Jesse James, received 2 Oscar nominations as well as a string of other awards. The Spielberg series won a couple of Emmies as well as a long list of other nominations and awards.
And as lovely as these things are, it's the meeting as authentic people that creates meaning in this life of ours. It's the stories that linger.
This is what my work is about.
HERE'S MY STORY
I'm particularly drawn to the intersection where stories meet humanity.
In the Stories of the Series, "We Are All Water", I examine the intersection where figurative work meets Video Documentary to tell the stories of new immigrants to Canada who’ve experienced difficult journeys. One of the Lost Boys of Sudan tells his horrific journey as a child through what has been described as one of the bloodiest civil wars in the 20th century. A man from Cambodia finds his story as a child in the child torture camps during Pol Pots regime too difficult to tell and so we talk about his mother's experiences instead.
In the Photographic Series titled, "Lines are Blurred, Evidence Fades, Old Breath Remains", I investigate the intersection of monumental societal change and the social impact of the rebuilding of the former East Berlin. Residents reside in homes of rubble amidst massive modern reconstruction. And then there is the Photo Series called, "From Houtongs to Hi-rises", which is a commentary on the disappearance of centuries-old communal living in China, with the mass destruction of Houtongs in the cities, as they become replacedwith the isolation of modern apartment living.
More recently I was inspired to tell my own story - sharing the story of grief which is a common story that connects us all - this is the narrative conceptual sculpture series called "Letting Go".
It's the stories that connect us.