Moving Pictures

By Andrew Restuccia | Boston Magazine |

The best way to see Anne Silber’s paintings? Click on your favorite show—and pay close attention to the set backgrounds.


When The Brave One hits movie theaters on 9/14, you may want to look closely—not at its star, Jodie Foster, but at the walls in the film’s background. They’re the latest venue for Anne Silber, a Brighton artist who’s built a career by placing hundreds of her paintings in movies and television shows such as The Departed, Grey’s Anatomy, and Lost. To thrive in this niche, though, Silber had to learn a few tricks of the Tinseltown trade:

Step 1: Think Creatively
In the 1980s Silber toughed it out as a full-time gallery artist, but that work barely paid the bills. Her focus changed during a 1990 trip to Los Angeles, when she met the set decorator for Thirtysomething and impressed him with her art. She sold a print to the series—and decided that was a much better way to make a living.         

Step 2: Don’t Steal the Show
Movie and TV productions have a very specific need: They want art that’s distinctive, but not distracting. Fortunately for Silber, she already loved creating colorful landscapes and still-lifes, which blend nicely into the backdrop of a scene. “I’m not that egotistical,” she says. “I understand that the movie is about the actors and the script.”

Step 3: Pitch Early and Often
Silber now scours Hollywood trade publications and takes biannual trips to L.A., always searching for new big-budget productions (small projects rarely buy original art). She then calls their studios, offering to sell her prints for up to $700. Competition is fierce, though, and she’s pleased if she makes one sale for every 20 calls.

Step 4: Keep Your Eyes Peeled
While she doesn’t go to every film that her art appears in—“I’m not going to sit through some scary, bloody movie just because I want to see my piece,” she says— Silber does channel-surf for misuses of her paintings. Her work gets licensed for use in specific TV shows, but studios sometimes reuse it in others. If she catches them, she can demand (and get) more cash.