The members of the Tournament of Roses come from all walks of life, whether it be education, law, construction or even TV and Film. This month, we sat down with Desma Murphy, a member since 1997, as she shared with us her experience in Tournament intersecting with her career background.
Desma Murphy is an accomplished art director with an impressive portfolio of work that spans both film and television. She is best known for her work on the highly successful movies such as The Fabelmans, Aquaman, The Hangover, Iron Man 3 and the Fast & Furious movies which showcase her extraordinary talent for creating immersive and visually stunning worlds.
Growing up in a house with an architect father and a graphic designer mother, it was to no surprise that Desma took an interest in art and design. Originally wanting to be a veterinarian, Murphy was persuaded by her high school art teacher to dig a little deeper into the arts. She attended Mayfield Senior School in Pasadena, and it was there where she was tasked with her first design role in which she did set design work for a play. After that, she was hooked. She started to poke around at various film sets in the area, as she would just walk onto set, find the art director, and pick his or her brain on their background. To her surprise she discovered that most art directors were career architects, which of course was music to the ears of her father.
After learning from her father some of the basics of architecture like drafting and drawing, Desma enrolled in a 3/2 college program at Otis College of Art and Design and math, science, philosophy at Whittier College, where she earned two degrees in five years, including where she studied architecture. Near the end of her college journey, she applied for one of the most competitive internships in the industry with the Television Academy Foundation. Out of hundreds of art director applicants, Desma gave it the ol’ college try even without having any TV background whatsoever. After a rigorous interview process and multiple rounds, she landed the internship. This led her to work on three prominent shows, including CBS’ The Bold and the Beautiful, The Bob Newhart Show and the last season of Cheers, where she worked on the burning of the bar.
In her internship, she met a gentleman while working on The Bold and the Beautiful who mentored her in how to transition her thinking from architecture to TV and film. She said it felt like a personal masterclass on how to best be equipped in the industry. After a couple years of some side work in retail design and in home consultations, she made the leap into grad school. She narrowed her options based on schools that had a great program in theater and film, as well as a school with great alumni connections. This led her to attending NYU, where she had the opportunity to live the Manhattan lifestyle while getting a great education from a diverse and well trained faculty.
She had the good fortune to meet a man who gave her the nudge in the right direction as she then became connected to an art director role at Nickelodeon Studios, where one of her producers would eventually petition to get her in the union, opening up new doors and possibilities of work.
Desma’s ability to create beautiful and effective visuals soon caught the attention of the film industry, and she was recruited to work on several high-profile movie projects. One of Desma’s most notable projects was her work as the art director for The Fabelmans, a highly anticipated film directed by Steven Spielberg. Set in the 1950s, the film tells the story of a young boy growing up in a Jewish family in the suburbs of America. Desma’s job was to create the visual aesthetic of the film, which required her to recreate the look and feel of 1950s America in meticulous detail. Her work on the movie was widely praised for its authenticity and attention to detail, and it played a key role in creating the movie’s immersive and nostalgic atmosphere. Desma’s work on Aquaman was equally impressive. As the art director for the movie, she was responsible for creating the underwater world of Atlantis, which was one of the most visually stunning elements of the film. Her ability to blend realistic textures and colors with fantastical elements helped to create a world that felt both believable and otherworldly. Her work on Aquaman helped to make the movie a global blockbuster, grossing more than $1 billion at the box office.
Desma’s success as an art director is due in large part to her collaborative approach to design. She works closely with directors, producers, and other members of the creative team to ensure that the visual elements of a project are aligned with the overall vision of the film. Her attention to detail and her commitment to creating beautiful and immersive worlds have made her a sought-after talent in the film industry, as she takes these same skills in the relationships she has built throughout her career.
Desma Murphy’s passion for connecting with people and building meaningful relationships has been a driving force throughout her career. This passion has not only been evident in her work as an Art Director, but also in her extensive volunteer work with the Tournament of Roses since 1997.
Having been involved with the Tournament of Roses for many years, Murphy has dedicated her time and expertise to various committees and positions. In the upcoming season, she will serve as the Vice Chair of the Community Relations committee, where she works tirelessly to strengthen the organization’s ties with the local community.
For Murphy, volunteering with the Tournament of Roses is not simply a way to give back to the community, but an opportunity to bring people together and create lasting connections. She believes that building strong relationships is essential to the success of any endeavor, whether it be a film production or a community event. Her hard work and dedication to this philosophy have earned her widespread admiration and respect within the organization.
In her new role as vice chair of the Community Relations committee, Murphy will be instrumental in developing initiatives to enhance the Tournament’s relationship with the community. She has worked closely with local schools, businesses, and non-profit organizations to create meaningful partnerships that benefit both the community and the Tournament.
Through her volunteer work with the Tournament of Roses, Murphy has demonstrated her unwavering commitment to building stronger, more connected communities. Her work with the organization is a testament to her passion for people, and her belief that through hard work and dedication, we can create a better world for all.