Hilary M. Smith


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.


From a 2006 modeling gig. Photo by Joe Kozlowski
CHRIS CHARLES: Most of your film credits are for your work in the sound department. How did you get your start?
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 do have one acting credit, in Patrick O'Bell's slasher, Client 14. Do you plan to do any more acting at some point the future, or was that just a one-time thing to sort of feel what it was like to be on the other side of the camera?
HILARY: Another random phone call adventure! A friend of mine called telling me that Maureen Whelan was producing an indie slasher flick and “needed a tall chick to kill!” Would I be interested?! Hells ya! It was a lot of fun and I would totally be game to do more! All my years in the theatre, there was only two shows I actually was on stage instead of backstage, so having my first time in film be “on stage” was RAD!
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?
Opening night at the 2008 Emerald Moon Rising
AIDS Benefit Show, sporting "Nightmare Before
Christmas" hair ....and it's her real hair.
HILARY: (Laughs) I hit 6’ at the age of 13, and reached 6’2” by the age of 16. Thankfully, I stopped growing! People don’t think about it much, but growing that much that fast, HURTS! My middle name should be Klutz! I have always had coordination issues, so basketball did not work very well. I tried out for basketball my frosh year in high school, as was demanded by the coach when he saw my height. After the first day, he requested I not come back and just use the time to tutor his geometry class. I’m pretty good at playing beach volleyball, but that’s about the only sport I use to play.
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.
Circa 1997, as a female Frank N. Furter, who
probably stood at least 6' 6" in those heels
HILARY: I actually first got roped into being a stagehand because of RHPS. I was walking across campus one day in ‘93, and someone said they needed a bride and come help! I didn’t have a clue what they were talking about and the next thing I knew, I was the bride during the opening wedding scene! We produced the show each quarter and moved from the auditorium to the actual 500 seat house theatre on campus. The theatre made us ‘hire’ one of their stagehands each show, who just sat there doing nothing. So, I got a job at the theatre and stage-managed the show. My boss was awesome and let me “dress” for the show while working: Fishnets and shorts with a headset and Maglight. Ya, it was pretty fun! In ’97 it was finally my rotation on the actor cue, and I got Frank!! Over the years, I was the bride, the hobby horse, the scorekeeper, and finally Frank! So much fun.
CHRIS: You have a blog entitled "Tumultation Sequenced," but I see there hasn't been an entry there in nearly three years and I didn't see any reader comments on any of the posts. Did you have much of a readership or was it just something you did for yourself?
HILARY: I love words and manipulating them. Probably why I ended up with a degree in English. I use to write all the time. I have stacks of journals filled with random prose. People go to a bar and drink, I would go to a bar with my journal, drink and write. Someone suggested I start the blog, and while I did actually have a small following, no one commented much. I mostly write for myself, needing to get the thoughts out of my head! However, in the early 2000s, I was asked by two different wedding parties to write prose/poetry to read during their ceremonies. That was an interesting task. I personalized the poem to the people getting married … interviewed them and the like. The second one was for my little sister, and from what I hear, there was not a dry eye in the house when I read it. I’ve not been writing much in the last three years mostly because I find it hard to concentrate long enough to keep my train of thought due to the severe brain trauma I experienced as a result of my accident. I have found it easier to work on my drawing & painting than words since then. So I threw up an artist page on Facebook. It’s kinda fun. (Facebook.com/Tumultuation)
Looking seductively sinister, October 2013
CHRIS: I try to keep my questions on the lighter side, but now that you've mentioned it ....and even if she hadn't, I was going to ask you about this, anyway ....you were involved in a pretty nasty car vs. pedestrian accident 3 1/2 years ago. You've since made a remarkable recovery and, by looking at you now, one wouldn't think how serious your injuries were. Were you ever told that you might not make such a speedy and/or full recovery?
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!!
The Smith girls in the early 90s and 2013. Hilary with
her sisters Emelye (center, top & bottom) and Miranda
(right, top & bottom). Attitudes change with the times.
CHRIS:Yes, I see you made a remarkable recovery. So, do you have any hobbies or interests most people don't know about?
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 d├ęcor 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.
CHRIS: So with that, I'll thank you again for taking the time to answer my questions, Hilary. In closing, any shout-outs to anyone?
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!




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