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Remembering Rob Gray

Remembering Rob Gray (1962-2016)

Andrew Currie, director

Rob had this beautiful, rough-around-the-edges surface and a passionate, deeply artistic soul. From the detail of his props to his perfectly designed sets and his beautiful full-colour drawings that made us all see with better eyes, he was the perfect production designer. I love and miss him.

David Hackl, director and production designer

Rob was my best friend and direct contemporary during my production design years. While we never worked together, he was always there to bounce ideas off of and to pick me up after a hard week with his courage, enthusiasm and creativity. His love of life and his craft would fill up all those around him and give us strength to charge back into the battle with renewed passion.

Angus Fraser, writer and producer 

Working with Rob Gray, one never felt more creatively alive. I think of the 11pm conversations on set, or in a bar, followed by the 1am call from him saying, “Don’t worry, I’ve figured it out!”—and without fail he had. Those are the moments when you are reminded of why you got in the game. 

He was a risk taker. Rob showed that if you cut his leash, you would learn more about yourself and your work—whether you were a writer, director, or actor—through the worlds he created. I distinctly remember walking alone through one of his sets and marveling, with a rush, what it would be like to live in this world. It was that intense, perfect homage to vision and detail. Rob worked at a high bar, one that always inspired me. 

Kari Skogland, director

Rob’s ability to see the right and just path as a creative tour de force will continue to be my inspiration.

Christine Haebler, producer

Rob’s sets had a bold signature. He had a deep respect for architecture and his vision always included a wink to the Artist: to paintings, sculptures or photographs that resonated.

Marilyn Flak, Rob’s partner and producer

Rob loved his work—really loved his work—and he loved to excel at it. He was always ready to meet any design challenge head-on, and was joyously eager to share his work with the girls and myself. Whether it was bringing us to set, having us travel with him, or sending daily updates and snapshots of his endeavours, Rob engaged us all in his creative process. And, as a family, I may say that we were all very grateful and proud that he was able to manifest so much of his creative passion whilst earning a healthy livelihood.

Rob would set the highest bar, and then show us all how to get there. His powerful drawings would inspire what your movie could look like. He taught me that even the set painter told the story, through colour, calculated disrepair and high-traffic smudges. He was indispensable.

Jennifer Kawaja, producer

Rob had guts. He was decisive in his work as a designer and he never settled for the in-between. On Combat Hospital he had the courage to make it real; but he knew the laws of TV and what the camera would need. On Cardinal, he had the courage to stay away from “quaint” and to create a different world, both lived-in and stark, in order for the story to feel suspended in mid-air. He was a filmmaker, a creator, who understood all the pieces of the puzzle and how they needed to fit together. We trusted his judgment and vision. What I loved was that when something wasn’t good enough, he would come and say so.  Always in time for us to try to fix it.

John Beattie, construction coordinator

Rob Gray had that rare ability to convey everything that he wanted his set to be, by using illustrations (painted by him), wild hand gestures, full body gyrations, facial expressions, sound effects, old war stories, jokes, laughter and a few expletives. And every set was perfect!

Mike Barker, director

It is impossible to sum Rob up in one sentence. If I were to try, I’d say he made me a better director. Rob taught me to not give up on a vision. He was relentless in the pursuit of the perfect image. His passion was infectious and his skill precise. He was the best collaborator I ever had. I love him and I miss him.

Tim Southam, director

Going to an art gallery with Rob was a commitment and an epiphany. It took us a day to get through the Frick, a day to take in two floors at MOMA. Rob would stand, and stand, and stand, as people flowed around him, even through him, refusing to move on until each painting released its secret to him. This was the gift he brought to all our films. A gift of infinite, intense discovery.

Bruce McDonald, director

On our projects Rob was Philosopher, Father, Champion, Provocateur, Artist, Storyteller and Production Designer.

He drew all his sets.

He even drew sets that were not in the script to further illuminate the characters and the world. Colour spoke to him. Rather than draw examples from other movies, Rob found his prime references in painting, photography and life experience.

Wine and music fuelled the journey.

He reached beyond the often-meagre limitations of the budget. Rob was able to find style in the ordinary and real life in the “Let’s Pretend.” He found excellence in what was meant to be just good enough.

He challenged producers to “Bring it.”

He challenged me to be daring. Brave.

He challenged writers to push it.

He challenged his crews to dig it. Love it.

He challenged himself to kill it. To be the best. And he was.

Rob Gray was The Best.

Grace Gilroy, production manager and producer

Rob was a master of the battle both in life and art. He always knew which battles he could win and which ones he had to give up on.

He would marshal his troops and off they would go. And the results were beyond what we could have imagined.

For those of us who were lucky enough to have crossed paths with him, that call to battle will always be with us urging us on.

His last battle was the hardest of all but once again, he soldiered on and called it a day.

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