The theater was packed for the November 19 New York City screening of Harry and Snowman. Nancy Stanton Talcott ’78, one of its producers, took a seat next to the film’s director, Ron Davis, and admitted that each time she’s watched it she has cried. The documentary chronicles the rise of Harry deLeyer, a Dutch immigrant who bought a horse at auction for $80 in 1956, named him Snowman, and trained him to become a famous jumping champion. The screening was part of the DOC NYC festival, attracting fans of nonfiction and independent films, riding enthusiasts and a few alums from the Knox School on Long Island, where Harry deLeyer was a riding instructor.
Nancy fondly remembers riding in Central Park when she was a Spence student, though she explained that what drew her to the film was actually a prior working relationship with the director. To answer a few questions, she took time out from an incredibly busy schedule that includes two demanding jobs—one as a film producer and one as a member of Issey Miyake’s Design Studio.
Christine Leahy ’95: What’s your favorite scene from Harry and Snowman? Nancy Stanton Talcott ’78: That is a tough one, as there are many. I love the scene where Snowman takes the Triple Crown in Madison Square Garden as well as the one where he takes his final lap to “Auld Lang Syne.” Very emotional, both times. I also love the footage of the deLeyer children riding Snowman around in the Long Island Sound. This horse did anything for those he loved.
CL: What do you think is the most valuable thing audiences will learn from the film? NST: That millions of animals are slaughtered simply because there are too many, they are old, no longer useful, etc. I hope the takeaway is that we should value these creatures. No animal should be abandoned. Sure, there is that one in a million who will be Snowman, but the main point is that the love and gratitude a human is shown by an animal who is saved is an enormous gift.
CL: What’s helped you find success in the film industry? How can more women achieve this kind of success? NST: I think in any industry, male or female, a willingness to work hard, a willingness to learn and to do anything to help the project, and humility are good qualities. Obviously talent plays a factor, but making a film is a group effort. I also find persistence is really a key trait. Never let someone tell you something cannot be done until you have exhausted every possible option you can think of. Women have to learn to support one another more in industries where there are fewer of us, not compete. Be willing to teach younger women and help open doors. Always try to give back.
CL: What is the most challenging aspect of your work? NST: Time! There is never enough of it. There are always more people you could interview or cast, more places you could have searched, different angles you might have shot or questions you could have asked.
CL: What inspires you? NST: Learning. Always learning about new subjects, collaborating with different talented people and finding stories that can change or enrich lives.
CL: Who is your hero? NST: Two, really. Sheila Nevins at HBO Documentary Films for making documentary film legitimate, recognized and the powerful medium it is today. And my mother. My mom is a minister’s daughter who defied the conventions of the times and worked as a dress designer. She taught me how to see the world around me and to look for and embrace anything new.
CL: Can you talk about your work at the Miyake studio? NST: I have had the honor and privilege to have worked for Mr. Issey Miyake for 26 years. Today I work for the Tokyo office so I can have a “day job” as well, which is how I got into film. I have had the true privilege of getting to know Japan through his eyes, but beyond that, in the time I have been there I have never once been bored. (And I bore very easily). He has challenged me, exposed me and allowed me to work with amazing artists, editors, architects and curators such as Irving Penn, Christo, Frank Gehry, Harold Koda, Nina Hyde, Dana Thomas, Cai Guo-Qiang, Tim Hawkinson and many, many more. I have helped produce shoots, worked on many exhibitions, written for catalogues, helped with the fragrances, done press. I wear as many hats as he needs me to. We have a wonderful family at the Miyake Design Studio, many of whom have been with Issey-san since the 1970s.
CL: What are you working on next? NST: Oh my goodness. On the Miyake side we have a huge exhibition opening in Tokyo in March 2016; we are part of an exhibition, “manus x machina,” at the Metropolitan opening in May 2016; and we are putting out a major book in the spring of 2016 about Issey-san’s work, to be published by TASCHEN. And then I have several films either in the works or in development.
CL: What do you do when you’re not working? NST: Am I ever not working? The way we work today, it seems that you do work more, rather than less. However, I love what I do. But to your question: I love to be with my family or friends. My interests are very broad whether movies, cooking, travel, music, museums, theater. I love to explore and find new wonderful shops, restaurants and buildings.
CL: If you could give a piece of advice to yourself during your Spence years, what would it be? NST: Listen to our School Motto: Not for school but for life we learn. Everything you do along the way—internships, travel, books you read, volunteer work—enriches your life later on.