When Stephanie walks in a room you may notice a few things at first glance; her boldly curated style, perfectly winged eyeliner and creative energy that radiates effortlessly. Whether it be jumping into a spontaneous photoshoot or art directing a short film, Stephanie MacDonald’s energy is forceful. A Chicago based Production Designer and Cinematographer, who transforms the vision from what’s in front of the camera seamlessly to what’s behind it.
"I love helping execute people's visions that they're passionate about, as well as creating my own."
On what inspired Stephanie, she mentions, “I've been creating for most of my life in a lot of different forms. I went from playing piano and drawing comics/cartoons as a child to photography as a teenager, then exploring videography and realizing my passion for filmmaking.” She started out with a DSLR camera taking videos at music festivals/concerts for artists that lead her to her love for the process of traditional filmmaking. She is inspired by what is around her, whether it's people in her life, the music being listened to, or different types of media. “It feels good to try to create as much as I consume, and grow as an artist,” she mentions. “I also find myself in a lot of weird internet holes that help keep me inspired. Getting deep into Instagram communities of visual artists to finding new music on Spotify, and constantly watching new TV/movies. As a bit of a homebody, those have been really helpful ways for me to stay inspired.”
Stephanie was the Production Designer for a short film that one of her closest friends had been working on for a while. She mentions being there for the early stages of the script and knew she had to be involved in some capacity. This was before she realized her passion for production design. “After the script kept improving and pre-production started, I hopped on the film to handle production design and the first day of set felt incredibly surreal. A lot of the crew had also been there for the earliest stages of the script, so being able to create the world that the story lives in after a week of crazy obstacles was really my biggest accomplishment in my career. I've had my fair share of personal obstacles, and production designing that film was what really made me realize what I'm capable of (with an amazing team of course). It helped remove a lot of self-doubts that had been taking over my brain. Talking to other crew members and seeing their excitement about the sets will be something I'll remember forever.”
We all have artist tools we turn to when seeking inspiration or needing a break. These tools take many different forms. Stephanie mentions, ”Honestly, I think the internet has been the most important artist tool for me. I dropped out of film school after my first year, realizing that the school setting didn't work for my personal learning style.” Having learned a lot through trial & error, in addition to research, she is able to explain what has helped shape her experience. “So much of what I know for editing, motion graphics, and cameras through internet tutorials. It opened me up to realize that it's okay that I chose a different path and learn in a different way than what I thought was the only way.”
I couldn't live without my camera. It's not something I professionally shoot on, but it's the best tool to get myself creating when I'm not working.
On representation, Stephanie believes, “Artists play a bigger role than we think, especially when we create something that so many people in the world will be consuming. It's important that artists create and represent for marginalized people that aren't in the media. It's important to recognize other walks of life, so impressionable viewers don't feel like there's one way of life that's "normal". Certain groups of people’s lives and traditions are so under-represented in movies/TV.”
Stephanie has always been the most fascinated by fantasy films with strong female leads. She explores that passion in her own work as well. “My passion for film ignited by having films that I could watch that truly helped me escape from life for the span of the movie and beyond. My love for production design really shows that passion for fantasy-like situations and finding beauty in abnormal places. I find myself a lot more passionate about making really “weird” things with the use of colors and textures. I find color themes so important and trying to use as much of it as possible.”
Stephanie is inspired by the greats such as Guillermo del Toro, her favorite Director who played a role in sparking her filmmaking flame. “When I watched Pan's Labyrinth for the first time in high school, it made me think well past the movie ended and I felt like I was in that world for so long." Hayao Miyazaki is also a huge inspiration for Stephanie due to his ability to story-tell and break the norms of the anime she had watched as a child. “He always had strong female leads and themes of humanity's relationship to nature. These two filmmakers are similar in telling stories of looking for escapes from the conventional life, but tell those stories in very different ways.”
"Everyone's path is different, some people pick up their passions right away, others may not. Loving and trusting the process of practicing your craft is just as important as your end goal."
“My entire life as an artist there have been many wrenches thrown my way, my mind being my one of the worst”, she says. “Instead of getting frustrated and giving up, I've learned that sometimes you have to force yourself to keep trying until you succeed. I want to teach people that you are entirely capable of anything you try to do.”
Check out more of Stephanie's work or contact her:
www.stphmcdnld.com & @stphmcdnld
All photos shot by: Atara wolf ( www.atarawolf.com )