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The Filmmaker Four: Kristi Zea

By May 19, 2022May 2nd, 2024No Comments

Kristi Zea has been in the contemporary film scene for over three decades and is acclaimed for her work as a production designer, costume designer, and producer for major feature films of the 80s, 90s and 2000s.

As a production designer, Kristi has contributed to such seminal films as Martin Scorsese’s New York Stories (1989), Goodfellas (Academy Award Winner 1990), and The Departed (Academy Award Winner 2006).

During this period, she worked with Jonathan Demme on production design for Married to the Mob (1988), Beloved (1998), Silence of the Lambs (Academy Award Winner 1991), Philadelphia (Academy Award Winner 1993), and Manchurian Candidate (2004). In 1996, she was the production designer for Barry Levinson’s Sleepers.

Later she was the production designer for Brett Ratner’s Red Dragon (2002) and Roger Michelle’s Changing Lanes (2002), as well as Neil Jordan’s The Brave One (2007), Kasi Lemmon’s Black Nativity (2013), Nancy Meyers’ The Intern (2015), and the indie film The Comedian (2016) starring Robert DeNiro. Her production design for Sam Mendes’ Revolutionary Road (2008) was nominated for an Oscar. Her television production design work during this period included the NBC series American Odyssey in 2015.

Kristi Zea began her career as a costume designer for Alan Parker’s Fame (1980), Shoot the Moon (1982), and Birdy (1984), as well as James L. Brooks’ Terms of Endearment (1983) and Larry Kasdan’s Silverado (1985).

As a producer, she collaborated with James L. Brooks on Broadcast News (1987) and As Good As It Gets (1997) which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture. She also produced and designed the independent film The Joneses (2009) starring Demi Moore and David Duchovny.

As a director, Kristi’s recent credits include television and documentary film.

For NBCs hospital drama New Amsterdam, she production designed 11 episodes in Season 1 as well as the pilot. She also directed “Five Miles West” (Season 1, Episode 18) and “Liftoff” (Season 2, Episode 17).

Kristi directed HBO’s Critics Choice double-nominated Notes from the Field starring Anna Deavere Smith (2018) which is currently available on HBO’s online channels.

Kristi produced and directed the documentary Everybody Knows…Elizabeth Murray which had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2016 and is currently streaming on American Masters. As a follow up to Everybody Knows…Elizabeth Murray, she produced and directed a short documentary Talking Pictures starring Bob Holman, Elizabeth Murray’s husband and extraordinary ekphrastic poet.

Currently (2021), she co-directing and producing a documentary with Emmy and Oscar winner Karen Goodmen entitled ON TAP, starring Michela Marino Lerman.

Her film, “Talking Pictures”, is part of BIFF 2022.

What was your first experience on a film set?

I was hired to work in the art department as a design consultant (non-union) on Woody Allen’s INTERIORS. One day during lunch in Southampton, Long Island, a strong wind blew a door into my lunch tray spilling the contents all over the lunch room floor. I scrambled around on the floor collecting the debris, when Woody saw me. He said, “You know you can get another plate of food, if you want!” I laughed, and continued to pick up the mess.

What was the first film you directed/wrote?

The first film I directed was a short for HBO’s series Women & Men 2. Based on the 1050’s short story by Carson McCullers, “Domestic Dilemma” which was nominated for an Ace Award, and stars Ray Liotta, and Andie MacDowell. Produced by Jonathan Demme.

Who is your favorite filmmaker?

Jonathan Demme

What are you working on that no one knows about?

I am working on an independent documentary about a young improvisational jazz tap dancer Michela Marino Lerman, called “On Tap.” Michela recently performed a week- long commission at the Joyce Theater called “Once Upon A Time Called Now.”