Alumnae Achievement Award Winner 15
Prudence Emery ‘54
Prudence Emery ‘54 is not one of those people that always felt she had a calling. In fact, in her words, it was “a sheer lack of direction” that led her first into the public relations (PR) field and then later into a 40-year career as a unit publicist for dozens of major films. When she reflects on why it took her some time to find a path, she thinks it was partly herself and partly the time when she was growing up. “We were not trained for a job,” she notes. “We were trained to be married and be young ladies.”
It’s a good thing that she found the path she did. After a stint doing public relations for The Savoy Hotels in London, she came back to Canada to publicize the launch of two landmark Canadian institutions: Global Television and the Metro Zoo in Toronto.
From there she made her way into film as a unit publicist in the film industry. A search for her name on IMDB suggests just how significant her impact on North American film culture has been. Among her 100+ credits are well-recognized titles such as The Dead Zone, The Fly, Adventures in Babysitting, M. Butterfly, eXistenZ, Crash, and Good Will Hunting.
The list may be impressive, but Prudence notes that “its not all glitz and glamour” working in the film industry. As a unit publicist, her job entailed arranging photo shoots, writing up press releases, reaching out to the press, and the sometimes trying task of putting together EPKs – electronic press kits, which involve gathering celebrity photos and film resources. With a laugh she recalls one incident where the director finally told Robert Redford and Jennifer Lopez that he’d be choosing the photos for their kit if they didn’t complete the task on time. As she puts it, “They were much more helpful following that.”
She attributes her success as a publicist to a very straightforward, practical approach, one she learned in part through her time at Crofton House. “You just pick up the phone,” she says. “People get to know you, and it gets easier from there.” She does note that things changed a lot over her 30-year career. Most notably, she says that “It’s not as fun as it used to be. The budgets have gotten so big, and people are far less willing to take risks.”
If there’s one common thread that runs throughout all of Prudence’s career, it may very well be the joy she gets from taking those risks. While she’s now retired from her job as a unit publicist, she’s far from settling down. She recently embarked on a whole new kind of career in film, co-writing and producing a short film called Hattie’s Heist. This whimsical, modern-day Robin Hood story follows a feisty senior citizen who, with the aid of her scooter-riding Yorkshire terrier, pulls off a bank heist.
After years of building friendships in the film industry, she had no trouble pulling together a crew to help make the film. In fact, many of the crew, including director Kent Harrison, have such a fondness for Prudence that they offered to work on the film for free.
She’s very happy with the final product but does note that there were a few hiccups in terms of the talent, including the loss of their original canine star, a particularly talented old pup who could “wag its tail 360 degrees in both directions.” Ever the publicist, Prudence decided to hold public auditions for a replacement and put together a celebrity panel including the mayor of Oak Bay and the entertainment columnist for Victoria’s Times Colonist newspaper. They were fortunate enough to find a Yorkshire Terrier whose credentials included having ridden over 6000 kilometres on a Harley Davidson.
It’s just that kind of quirkiness and creativity that shines through when Prudence talks about her life. With such an intriguing and varied list of accomplishments, she can truly serve as an inspiration to younger generations of women who are making their way through a world that is equally unpredictable, albeit in different ways, from the one Prudence walked into when she graduated.
We celebrate Prudence’s outstanding career and panache, and congratulate her on receiving the 2015 Alumnae Achievement Award!