Oswego graduate takes 'Road' to the Oscars

Debra SchuttAfter two decades in film set decoration, Oswego alumna Debra Schutt is following “Revolutionary Road” to the Academy Awards ceremony this Sunday.

The 1977 graduate was nominated in the “Art Direction” category alongside Kristin Zea. Competing for the film industry’s most iconic statue came as a bit of a surprise to Schutt, whose resume includes such well-known productions as “Fried Green Tomatoes,” and “A Bronx Tale.”

A majority of her work is done on location. “Revolutionary Road” was primarily shot in a suburban Connecticut home. The set is completely redesigned, sometimes via demolition, to get the setting just right, Schutt described.

“Essentially, you’re building a character,” she said. Her job includes decorating each set with furniture, floors, appliances, wall hangings and other touches.

“The thing about movies is it’s such a collaborative effort,” Schutt said, noting there are many crews involved in making a set film-ready. “There’s just so much to do in such a short time.”

The education major’s career in set decoration actually developed on the stage at Oswego, where Schutt got involved in theatre during her last two years on campus.

“The last year, I spent a lot of time in theatre working on the technical side,” said Schutt, who developed influential relationships with staff members Ken Stone, a 1968 alumnus, and Jon Vermilye, class of 1966.

Classmate Alice Maguire, a 1976 graduate, helped get Schutt one of her first jobs in set decoration for stage productions shortly after graduation.

Soon after, she moved to New York City and eventually began working in film. The Academy Award nomination notwithstanding, her career has been an exciting one.

“It’s a great fit for me,” she said. “It suits me very well, because it’s very chaotic and it’s busy.

“It’s never boring,” the Webster native said.

Schutt departed several days before the nationally televised ceremony schedule for Sunday night. She plans to visit some friends and attend some pre-Oscars get-togethers.

The big-screen reunion of “Titanic” stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet has helped draw attention to “Revolutionary Road,” which also earned best supporting actor and costume design nominations.

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PHOTO CAPTION: All Set—Alumna Debra Schutt is ready to walk the red carpet for the first time this Sunday. The set decorator been nominated in the “Art Direction” category for “Revolutionary Road.”

(Posted: Feb 17, 2009)

Tags: alumni