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I am a North Carolina conceptual portrait photographer. Look here for updates on my photography adventures. Visit www.HeatherEvansSmith.com for details on commissioned portrait shoots and fine art sales.

November 10, 2013: The Project Imaginat10n Experience (or how Michael Stipe led me in an elevator with Jamie Foxx)

The Project Imaginat10n experience has been a year in the making. Last fall I found out that my image Let My Machine Talk To Me was a finalist in the Relationship category of the contest. To refresh your memory, here is the image:

Let My Machine Talk To Me

I learned shortly after that I won. My picture was now available to five celebrity directors as an option for their short film. I was ecstatic, as demonstrated in the following video:

Then, a few months later, even more exciting news! Jamie Foxx, the last of the celebrity judges to choose their photos, picked my image! I first heard the news here:

My husband and I jumped up and down in a circle like a bunch of teenage girls at a Justin Beiber concert. What a great night!

Then the waiting game began. So let me back up and talk a little bit about the image that he chose. Music is one of my biggest inspirations. One of my favorite bands since middle school is R.E.M. I wanted to create an image that interpreted the song World Leader Pretend. My favorite lyric from the song is "Reach out to me, hold me tight. Hold that memory. Let my machine talk to me. Let my machine talk to me." Michael Stipe sings that lyric with such passion and emotion.

I had recently become friends with a mosaic artist who offered her basement of props for me to use at any time. "Do you have a robot?", I asked. "Yes, I do", she answered. I stripped the paint, aged the robot then called on a good friend to model. It turned out to be a beautiful image that meant a lot to us both. I never in a million years thought it would lead me to an elevator with Jamie Foxx (I'll get to that later).

Fast forward to just a few weeks ago at Lincoln Center in New York City. The premiere was finally here. I had guzzied up to the best of my abilities, bought the nice makeup that you have to ask a lady at the counter for (by the way, thanks Jade!) and put my heels on. Here is the result:

Me on the Project Imaginat10n red carpet. 

Remember this picture folks, there are unflattering ones to follow.

The night was magical. We were seated in the front for the screening. And then the after party. It was surreal being surrounded by celebrities. Here are some unintential photo bombs. If only I had known I would have put my glamour face on. You know, the one you just saw.

Photobombing celebrities at the Project Imaginat10n premiere.
But aside from just those two moments miraculously caught on camera, I looked like this the whole night. Remember?

I was looking forward to talking to Jamie Foxx. For awhile I couldn't find him (turns out he spent a good deal of time talking to people inside the theatre after the screening).  We ran into him just as he was about to leave and ended up following him into the elevator. I introduced myself. "Hi, I'm Heather. I shot the robot picture." "Oh hi, nice to meet you." Ok, now what? Why are elevators so awkward, celebrity or not? We exited the elevator only to find out it was an out only exit. So, back around the building and into the party again. Hey, this is our first red carpet party. Cut us some slack.

Now the real fun began. I finally met some of the photographers I had only followed online. Brooke Shaden was a sweetheart as well as Rob Woodcox, David Saylor and Damon Colquhoun who's film, Transporter, was in the top 20 of the consumer submitted films.  

But the highlight by far that evening was seeing the short film, Chucked, by Jared Nelson on the big screen. Along with the five celebrity directed films, Canon opened up the contest to emerging film makers. The top five films were shown at the premiere. One morning while browsing through the film entries on my phone, I saw an entry called Chucked. I clicked on the film and the first image that showed up was of my robot. They had completely recreated the robot and used it as the basis for his film. When the robot's heart started to beat, I burst into tears. I couldn't wait to meet Jared at the premiere. I was extremely surprised when Jared gave me the actual heart to Chuck as a thank you gift!
Me and Jared Nelson (director of Chucked)

The film poster for Chucked.

Was the Project Imaginat10n experience all I thought it would be? Not at all! It turned out to be a more personal and rewarding one. I am learning time and time again to let life take you for a ride. Little did I know listening to my favorite R.E.M. song would lead me here. Until next time NYC!


Vanessa said...

'I am so proud of you.' seems like I'm a teacher from your not so long ago past...but I'm not. I'm a devoted lover of your work and I'm so inspired by your vision. I am THRILLED for you is more like it, Heather, and I hope this step toward something unexpected leads to many, many more...because I have to meet you still someday, at which point I am hoping for an awkward elevator conversation. Congratulations my dear. SO well deserved.

Erin McGillicuddy said...

Heather!! Words cannot explain how happy I am for you! I am so proud of my friend and think you are so amazing!! Congrats and live it up every chance you get!! Life is too short! Sooo proud!!

sammie saxon said...

Love your photo and glad to see you at the event! Amazing work. Hope to see you again next year!

Jules Bianchi said...

I LOVED your photo. We also recreated the robot for our movie, "Apocalypso" and had my niece wearing it in one screen and our grip in another! Incorporating your photo was really fun!