Cal Polytech alumna Hilary M. Smith is primarily a behind-the-scenes person. She’s a sound engineer, but does have one notable acting credit on her resume and that’s in Patrick O’Bell’s 2011 slasher Client 14. Her friend and co-producer of that one, Mo Whelan, asked her to be in it because they “needed a tall chick to kill” and, at 6′ 2″, Hilary sure fit the bill.
Of course, a lady of considerable height is also bound to have some modeling credits on her resume, as well. She’s been on the runway for several LA area shows and events and has also been on stage as one of the most impressively statuesque female versions of the Rocky Horror Show’s Frank N. Furter, I’ve ever seen.What’s even more impressive however, is how Hilary bounced back from a late-2011 car vs. pedestrian (in which she was the latter) accident that would have taken most people a good year or more to recover from, and even then, not fully. Hilary was up and looking as good as new in just four months. She tells about that in my very recent interview with her that follows. Above photo of Hilary at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden courtesy of Hilary, herself.
HILARY M. SMITH: A friend, who knew of my theater background, randomly called me in 2011 and asked if I knew anything about doing sound for film, and if not, could I learn it on the fly. He was the EMT on set, they had lost their sound utility, and needed someone stat! My stagehand experience started in 1993 at the Cal Poly theatre in San Luis Obispo. A non-union house, I had to learn “all the things!” Lights, sound, wardrobe, props, stage managing, runner, fly-rail. I figured sound for film couldn’t be THAT much of a stretch. As it turns out, it wasn’t. I was pretty much a natural. Ends up, years of 30-second quick changes without dislodging microphones on actors was a HUGE asset! Sound Rangers ended up calling me back for two more movies and a web series.
CHRIS: Your bio at your IMDb reads that you’re 6’2″. Even if that’s a slight exaggeration, you are tall! Did you ever play basketball or volleyball when you were in school?
CHRIS: Ever seem to intimidate potential dates because of your height?
HILARY: So, THAT is the weird one. Most of my past dates/boyfriends were shorter than me …and they wanted me to continue wearing the heels that I loved wearing. I would wear 2-5” heels and got called a tree a lot. I think the shortest I’ve dated is 5’9 and the tallest was 6’4. I seem to intimidate EVERYONE when I walk into a room due to my height. Had to get used to that as a kid, so I am kinda oblivious to it now …which unfortunately can cause mixed signals.
CHRIS: I see you’ve also done some modeling. What have been some of your more notable modeling gigs?
HILARY: Probably the most notable modeling gig was when I danced/modeled in an AIDS benefit “Industrial Fashion Show” for the Emerald Moon group, in San Luis Obispo. Late ‘90s. I was one of four “Glamazons,” ie; TALL BITCHES. A lot of different groups came together to make that benefit happen. Local businesses sponsored each dance number with clothes from their shops, Bladerunner did our mighty hair, and our very talented dance/theater company put together the show. Each night my hair was fashioned into a beehive, with intricate designs, the last night being the red AIDS ribbon.
CHRIS: I caught a circa 1997 photo of you as Frank N. Furter from The Rocky Horror Show. You have to tell me about that.
HILARY: For the three months I was bolted into the halo, which fixed my broken neck and back. Almost daily, someone would tell me that I should have died and would shake their head in wonder. Some of the nurses were not impressed that I would reply in my best Monty Python voice “but I’m not dead, yet!” I was told from the get-go that it was going to take a long time to heal, that I probably wouldn’t walk right, that I wouldn’t run ever again, that I would have limited range of motion with my left arm, to throw away my heels and that I wasn’t exactly responding like someone that had this type of accident, so they couldn’t give me straight answers regarding the brain damage. I pretty much just laughed at them. I am an extremely stubborn biotch [sic]. I was and am determined to fix me. My body actually healed itself faster than the doctors thought possible. One of the night nurses helped me to understand that part of it had to do with the fact I was so physically fit before the accident that I was actually in “prime condition” to have the accident happen. I was very motivated to get out of that bed. The brain injury is taking the longest to heal, which is frustrating, but pretty impressive that it is actually healing at all, seeing as I smashed my head open like a watermelon. The only thing I have found they were right about, was the running. Can’t do it, I’ve tried, and nope! I do have to be careful of the left leg as it has a pole in it to make it weight-bearing, but otherwise I can pretty much do everything I could before the accident. In 2013 I was asked to stage-manage two different theatre productions. Physically & mentally, I handled it well ….so I’m back!!
HILARY: Hmmm, well I always seem to be surprising people because I pick up things awfully quickly. I write, draw, paint, break random things to see what makes them tick and then fix them, decorate scenic design ….for 5 years I worked for an event décor company. You want an Elvis-themed party, I’m your girl! ….repurpose materials to make new things, read really macabre works of literature, and I really like trying new things. I’m a girl Friday with her own toolbox and power tools.
HILARY: Thanks Chris! This is actually the first time I’ve been interviewed, so, shout out to you for going there! And to Maureen Whelan (see her April 2014 interview here), who got me started on this crazy adventure in film!
About the author
Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, Chris flirted with the music business there and in Nashville before joining the U.S. Army and serving in South Korea. He remained in Asia for several years afterwards, teaching English, traveling, and covering the regional entertainment scenes. Currently in a mindset between Seoul and San Francisco, besides Idol Features, you can also catch his writings in the print edition of the monthly magazine, Effective.
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