After graduating from the University of Washington with a degree in marketing and sociology, Vancouver native Kari Coleman was following in her mother's footsteps working at the welfare office when she realized the job would soon drive her nuts. So she enrolled in an intro to Super 8 class at the Northwest Film Center, and struck out on a career in the film industry. Like most careers in the arts, this involved working for free for years while hoping to someday land a sweet gig making barely minimum wage. But she hit career gold when her friend, sound savant Eric Hill, was hired to work on Gus Van Sant's Last Days as an editorial assistant, and recommended that Kari interview for the position of post-production assistant. Now she's been Van Sant's right-hand woman for three and a half years. While Coleman realizes she's lucky to have a job that many would do for free, ultimately it's Van Sant who's the lucky one to have Kari's cheerful attitude and contagious grin as his company's public face.
What does the job entail?
It's a pretty whimsical job. Anything could come up on any given day that could take hours. One time Gus wanted to buy a boat. That entailed finding the boat, getting it shipped from Cape Cod, dealing with all the shipping companies and trailers. Then we had to design and build a mooring, call the Navigable Waterway Society and talk to them.... It was a huge, huge ordeal. Recently there were some complications getting Mala Noche copyrighted for the Library of Congress. There are always a lot of travel arrangements for Gus, family, friends.
Are you on-call 24-7?
No, Gus and I will hang out on the weekends for fun, or he might call me to ask me a question, but he doesn't expect me to be on-call. It's basically Monday through Friday.
What's the hardest part of the job?
People will try to sweet talk me so that I can manipulate Gus. I don't want to be rude to these people, but I'm not about to try and manipulate Gus.
Best part of the job?
All the people! There are a lot of great people around Gus.
How much of the job involves Milo [Van Sant's Australian Shepherd]?
Right now none, as Milo just moved to San Francisco for four months [where Van Sant is on location]. In the past Milo's been sort of a benchmark in my day: In the morning I'd get him from Gus and we'd talk about what was going on that day. In the afternoon I'd walk Milo, then in the evening drop him off at Gus' and we'd have another moment where we'd sit and catch up and I'd give him whatever I had for him.
It's been said that you have the best legs in Portland. What's your secret?
[Laughs.] I walk Milo in heels. VIVA LAS VEGAS