The New York film world lost one of its most beloved creative forces last December when production designer Thérèse DePrez died of cancer at age 52. In recent years, DePrez designed such high-profile films as Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan and Park Chan-wook’s Stoker (starring Nicole Kidman). But it was in the 1990s that she made her mark as the production designer of choice for such ambitious and resourceful filmmakers as Tom Kalin, Todd Haynes, Gregg Araki, Tom DiCillo, Todd Solondz, Mary Harron, and John Cameron Mitchell, all boundary-breaking directors with bold imaginations and limited budgets. Frequently working on films produced by Christine Vachon, and photographed by Ellen Kuras, DePrez was responsible for creating the worlds of some of the key New York independent features of the time.
DePrez was energetic and outgoing, a consummate collaborative partner for the directors and cinematographers that she worked with. Frequent colleague John Bruce said “she worked with seasoned professionals and super-green newcomers with the same respect, grace, and care, creating an atmosphere that allowed for the emergence of a certain kind of cinema that was genuinely collective.” And while DePrez’s work was distinctive, adding greatly to the texture of the films, it never drew attention to itself. As she said in an interview for Filmmaker magazine, “When the design is really part of the whole of a film, the film is well designed. When one aspect of a film overshadows the rest, it’s a failure. A good designer will work with the other teams on a film to keep everything at the same level.”