This post is dedicated to the memory of a great friend and mentor, production designer Therese DePrez. It is meant as a gathering place for memories, anecdotes, photos and lasting impressions of Therese, provided by her former colleagues and many admirers. If you're interested in writing about Therese, please email us here.
Therese will remain a great influence and inspiration for those of us who have both seen her work and had the chance to work with her. Not only was she a talented production designer but a mentor, supporter of those around her, a lover of film and what many of us seek to find everyday in our work - the creative process and the joy of making a good story come to life.
I had the opportunity to work with her a few years ago and the lessons she taught me stay with me every day both on and off the set. When I received the phone call from her to set up our interview the first thing she said to me was "When we meet you will know me as I will be wearing a funny hat." As I walked into an old hotel lobby for our meeting Therese greeted me - tall, wild hair, intimidating but intriguing and indeed wearing a funny hat.
Therese drew you in immediately - she was incredibly kind-hearted but demanding, she saw our strengths and pushed them to the limit, she saw our weaknesses and encouraged us to challenge them. She worked tirelessly and with incredible dedication to each project she was part of. She had stacks of art and photography books on her desk and neatly organized folders full of beautiful imagery and research to share with all of us in the art department and encourage us to be inspired and part of the project. She taught me not to fear high gloss or cover up mirrors, to look for the oddball piece of furniture you might not expect, to push the boundaries and bring unexpected details to the set, but most of all she taught me to love all of the adventure, challenge, and sometimes even the painful parts that come with what we are all so lucky to do in our jobs everyday.
Therese was a true artist and caring friend. She will be greatly missed.
Sadly, I never met Therese, but she was always an inspiration to me. I loved her films and her design sensitivity, and even more the stories our mutual crew told about her kindness. When she was designing "Black Swan" I asked her team about her famed work notes - documents she put together and xeroxed for her crew every week. They snuck me some copies, which I've kept and still cherish, referencing periodically when writing my own work notes... You could see from those documents her attention to detail, her great spirit and her appreciation for teamwork.
When I thought of starting the Production Designers Collective but wasn't sure about its reception, I sent an email to 30 colleagues to ask their opinion on the endeavor. Most I knew personally, but I decided to also email Therese, for the first time. I just took a chance in the hope she'll write back, since her advice would mean so much to me. She answered the next day:
"Dear Inbal...Your e-mail made my day.
I could not agree with you more.
Production Designers are all artists trying to make beautiful films....and we should be supporting each other.
Especially us women.
Your idea of a collective is exceptional.
I am on board. Let me know what I can do to help. You and I have many mutual friends/colleagues.
My best, Therese"
I'll never forget how inspired I was by her response, and how thankful. I hope to continue growing our Collective as a tribute to Therese and everything she stood for.
I first met Therese when I was hired to be her set decorator on "American Splendor" in October of 2001. For the next 7 weeks, Therese and I would meet every morning at 5:00am. I would pick her up at her hotel and she would hop in my tiny pick up truck, her knees scraping the dash, and off we would go. We were tracking down decor to support a story that spanned 3 decades. Neither of us were native to the town we were working in, which was challenging and liberating at the same time. I’ll admit to you that on our first day she believed I was a local. It was an assumption that became apparent when she said “OKAY!! take me to your favorite, undiscovered wallpaper store!” I was mortified as I fumbled through the neighborhoods. I had only been in town a few weeks. Luckily we found an antiquated shop. It was a “time capsule” of a place that thankfully satisfied the request. My relief quickly subsided as we moved on to my “favorite, fabric and upholstery dive”. Our shoot was 45 locations in 22 days. I remember expressing to her in the first few weeks that the schedule seemed ambitious and that I was worried about “dropping the ball”. She stated with hypnotic confidence “I’m not going to let you.” I knew this was the truth. As an extremely young filmmaker I felt challenged and nurtured at the same time. Later in the shoot we were traveling between locations and Therese exclaimed “There it is. We have to pull them over!” In front of us was a flatbed truck. It was a junk hauler, on the way to the dump. We followed them awkwardly and cautiously at 55 mph on the 4 lane highway until they took an exit ramp. Approaching them on more reasonable surface streets, she somehow convinced them to pull over. When they did Therese explained to them that we were working on a film and wanted to take the sofa in the back of their truck off their hands. They were skeptical but agreed to the sum of 30 dollars as long as they didn’t have to lift a finger unpacking it OR help us get it into my truck. It was a “hide a bed”. We had been looking for days. And she recognized it as exactly what we had been searching for. Therese was revered on our project. Respected and approachable, a true mentor. She was the connective tissue on location and she gave her time and attention to everyone with grace and authenticity. I learned so much within those few weeks. I will reflect that experience and call upon the expertise she imparted to me for years to come.
Thank you, Therese. You are a star.
Rest In Peace.