The Warwick Cinema was decked out in blue recently, complete with a blue carpet and blue velvet ropes, for a private showing of “Avatar: The Way of Water” to celebrate local artist Stacy Parker’s role in the movie’s production.
Parker’s family — of which I am a member (her cousin) — rented the theater for the homecoming premiere to celebrate the Lynn native and 2019 Mass College of Art graduate’s first movie credit.
Parker’s credit lists her as a junior sequence coordinator; however, she has since been promoted to sequence coordinator and is currently an environments-and-assets coordinator, her fourth position since joining the movie’s director, James Cameron, on his epic sequel.
Parker started on the art side of the film but has the unique experience of being the first artist who converted to the production side.
“I’m kind of a guinea pig for LightStorm (the production company),” Parker said, about the switch. “I have an understanding of the artist’s timeline that most coordinators do not, which makes me a strong asset.”
She said seeing the artist and production sides of filmmaking has become her favorite part of the job.
“The production side gave me more of a scenic route through LightStorm whereas when I was an artist, I was almost cubicled into what was in front of me,” she said. “I wanted to see all of the cogs that go into this clock. It’s my first production, and now I get to see how all the wheels turn.”
Landing the job just a few months before the 2020 pandemic, Parker has worked on the film for close to three years, another unique aspect to her position compared to most films.
“Working with Jim [Cameron] gives me longevity,” she said. “It is not typical in my position to work this long on one movie. The average is about six-to-nine months in my role on any other production.”
While the pandemic lockdown took her from working at Manhattan Beach Studios in California to working from home, she did get some one-on-one time with the famous director.
“About two weeks into working there, I was render quality control, and I was noticing a slight difference in the fog color,” she recalls, adding that she brought this to her supervisor who was “in disbelief” until she checked, then ran it to IT. It seems some of the fog was blue and some was gray.
“Jim was on set, so they ran it by him,” she said. “He was surprised to see the difference. He came to my desk and said, ‘You saved the production, kid.’”
Producer Jon Landeau took care of the crew during lockdown, even calling them personally. When Parker got Landeau’s call, she was totally shocked. He continued to be in touch with the crew, sending packages of masks marked with the days of the week and gift cards to local markets.
The Warwick Cinema blue carpet wasn’t Parker’s first. She attended the LA premiere with fiancé, Jonathan Philbin, but the homecoming private showing was more exciting for her.
“It was really great for my family to give me a private showing and to have my name on the marquee, which has been No. 2 on my bucket list after earning a movie credit,” she said.
While she loved getting all dressed up and hugging all her coworkers at the LA premiere, the viewing at home was much more impactful for Parker.
“At this premiere, everyone in the audience was my family and friends — everyone I cared about,” she said. “I loved looking around and watching them watch the movie: Did they jump and react when they should? At the LA premiere, everyone knew the movie.”
For her jobs on “Avatar: The Way of Water,” Parker read the script and worked with the art department on concept art then tasked out jobs to the appropriate artists. As environments and assets coordinator, she oversaw coordinating the lights, creatures, costumes and other aspects, such as props and weapons.
The scene she is most proud of working on — and her favorite in the movie — is when Kiri (Sigourney Weaver) is laying on the ground with the grass billowing like the echo of a heartbeat.
“It shows the connection she has to Awaya, the Na’Vi deity. It was my job to redo the scene and place all the wood sprites and reanimate them to our supervisor’s liking, rearranging them for better composition,” Parker said, noting that it felt very special when her work was approved with zero changes.
This is not Parker’s first Marblehead artistic celebration. At 15, she was the youngest person to be given a solo art exhibit at Abbot Public Library’s Virginia A. Carten Gallery. At 18, she illustrated the children’s book, “Jenna’s Troublesome Tooth.”
“Avatar: The Way of Water” has grossed more than $1.3 billion globally as of the start of the new year. The LA Times reported it as the fastest movie of 2022 to cross $1 billion, just 12 days after the official opening. Parker says this is great news.
“This guarantees me two years working on ‘Avatar’ sequels,” she pointed out, adding her hope is to work on all of them, but each sequel depends on the box office of the one before. Cameron’s history with “Pandora” and “Avatar,” however, points in a positive direction.
Thinking back to walking the Warwick blue carpet, Parker said she was shocked when she heard three of her family members were renting the theater for a private showing.
“I know my family knows how to do amazing things,” she said. “They know how to do it; celebrate everything.”