The general consensus is last year sucked (putting it mildly). We all have been waiting for it to end only for the sneaky bastard to just blend into 2021. Yet despite the heartaches, the struggles and the losses we’ve all felt, I have to celebrate the good stuff because honestly, that’s what got me through the year.
First, family. I’ve spent a tremendous amount of time with these people, in close quarters, and I would still lay down my life for them. Second, health. Grateful for this. Always. Third, personal and professional milestones and highlights that pulled me through The Year of the Pandemic 2020. Here’s a recap of some of them:
I got back to work. I spent the first few weeks of the coronavirus lockdown holed up in my L.A. studio, shooting new tabletop work. This wasn’t necessarily driven by a need to be productive during this time. It was because I finally felt creative again after 18 months—through my husband’s illness, his death, and this new reality of life as a widow and single parent to two little girls. I finally had the desire to create new work—maybe even some happiness—while also grieving my family’s loss. This time was healing; it gave me perspective and filled me with immeasurable gratitude.
Los Angeles > Toronto
In the summer of 2020, I made the move from L.A. to TO—where I’m originally from—to give my kids some space and change after my husband’s death (we arrived in Canada on the one year anniversary of his passing), and to also be closer to my family which had become increasingly difficult with COVID travel restrictions and border closures.
I’m still working local in L.A. and will be straddling the border for the foreseeable future (being a dual citizen has its perks). My amazing agent/soul sister for the past six years, Jigisha Bouverat, has been completely supportive of my decision, which has made this transition that much easier.
We The North
Toronto has long been called “Hollywood North” so I knew before coming back to my hometown that crew/studios/etc. would be plentiful. However, I’ve never done a commercial gig up here so naturally, there was some uncertainty. Thankfully, any worry about how this working-from-Canada-during-COVID situation would play out was put to rest in September: my first shoot in Toronto was with VMLY&R for Pepperidge Farm. The entire production was live-streamed with 14 participants on the call. Due to COVID protocol, our crew was limited to 10 in-person. Even my kickass producer, Brandessa Hale of Source Productions, joined the shoot virtually from California. I’ll be totally honest: I was pretty anxious about this shoot. It was a first on many fronts: first shoot in Canada, first time working with this crew, first time working with this agency/client, first time shooting virtually. But man, this stellar team killed it. Brandessa made the entire production feel effortless (and I know how much effort went into this!) and did so 100% remotely.
After the job was awarded, pre-pro was all systems go! First, we had to thwart any logistical issues with getting all the Pepperidge Farm bread across the border in time for the shoot. The client didn’t want to ship via air as they’d had some not-so-favourable results in the past. This meant bringing the entire carb haul up north via truck. Since we’re dealing with food, we had to confirm with a shipping broker on how exactly food could cross without getting hung-up in customs. Turns out, it’s no issue for photoshoots! We had the entire shipment arrive on-time, in pristine condition, without a single hiccup. Boom!
You know those people who have a ritual before a big game day? Yeah, I’m one of those. The night before a shoot is all about the prep and gear: printing the shot list, charging batts, checking cameras/lenses, etc.; that sort of thing. But on shoot day, the vibe is different: I get up early, meditate, bring that calm, grateful energy into getting ready and eating a healthy breakfast. Then, I leave early. I don’t think about the shoot. I don’t worry about the details. That’ll all be sorted on set. The worst feeling is rushing or having my mind scattered (been there, done that, never again).
Brandessa appointed Erin Reynolds to be our on-set producer/COVID-19 health & safety officer and let me tell you, she’s an absolute gem (thanks for the reminders to eat and for the coffee refills, Erin!). For the virtual shoot, we had a two-camera set-up: one for captures and one for a live feed. This helped tremendously in showing the client the next shot’s set, how the props looked in real-time, and if they had any last minute changes. The entire crew also had ear pieces connected to Zoom for audio/feedback. Though everyone was scattered around the continent, it felt like we were all on set together.
My first Canadian shoot was a success and I’m so grateful for my entire crew for being the utmost professionals. Here’s a shout out to my fantastic team: Digital Tech: Jeff Jamieson; 1st Assistant: Eric Brazier; Food/Prop Stylist: Nicole Billark; Props Assistant: Diane Topley. And thanks to Album Studios for their awesome space!