Trading iBanking for a Pirate’s Treasure

Walt DISNEY Pictures

Lindsey E. Gary ‘06 has helped the designers of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise create sets like this one, which shows Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) on a throne decked with human remains.

To guarantee hauling in some serious booty, many Harvard students turn to investment banking or consulting. But for one recent graduate, there are other ways to pillage and plunder—at least, if Johnny Depp and Keira Knightley are in the picture.

While at Harvard, Lindsey E. Gary ’06 concentrated in the History of Art and Architecture and helped design both Harvard-Radcliffe Dramatic Club sets and the Queen’s Head pub, which is currently under construction in Loker Commons.

But since 2004 she has played a role in a project that will be seen far beyond Harvard’s gates: the popular “Pirates of the Caribbean” films.

Gary worked as an art department assistant on “Dead Man’s Chest,” the recently released second movie in the series, and has begun working on the anticipated third installment.

Gary began working in film departments in high school and has held jobs and internships involving movies such as “Jurassic Park III” and “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.”

And so, when a call came asking Gary if she wanted to help set up the art department for the sequels to “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl,” she gave an emphatic yes.

“A researcher and I were the first people to be hired for the movie, before there was even an official ‘Pirates’ bank account,” Gary says.

“It was really cool to be working that early when there really was nobody else. We had the first outlines, came up with the first conceptual ideas, and so I was able to see it from the very, very beginning,” she says.

Gary is also the daughter of Tom Wopat, who played the character of Luke Duke on the popular ’80s television show “The Dukes of Hazzard.”

As she is not unionized, Gary does not do any official set design. Instead, she helps develop an overall aesthetic for “Pirates” through library and online research, which illustrators and designers then incorporate into their work.

One of her major projects has been finding art ideas for the massive organ of pirate Davy Jones’ (played by actor Bill Nighy).

That task eventually allowed her to be one of the first people to hear the music written for the instrument in composer Hans Zimmer’s studio.

Though Gary has followed a different path from many recent College graduates, her background at Harvard did play an important role in helping her secure her current job.

When “Pirates” producer Jerry Bruckheimer learned Gary had attended Harvard, he introduced her to another one of the film’s producers, Michael T. Stenson ’82, who has degrees from both Harvard College and the Harvard Business School.

“You never know when the Harvard contact is going to help you,” she said. “Definitely don’t be afraid of using networking as a means of getting jobs, because that’s the way it works, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.”

While Gary said she loves her current job, she recognized that working in the film industry will likely leave her marooned on successive studio lots.

“Really, you’re...a temp worker on all these little projects,” she says, “and you never know where your next job will be.”

But she added, “You’re doing the most amazing thing ever, and you love to get up in the morning. There’s iBanking, and then there’s doing what you love. I decided to do what I love.”

And though Gary can’t disclose many details about her work on the third installment of “Pirates,” she did let out one not-so-secret tidbit.

“Yes,” she said, “Johnny [Depp] is very, very hot in real life.”