When Chapman alumni collaborate, the end result is galactic—truly out of this world. At least that’s the case for Alex Brewer-Disarufino, BFA communications ’94, a leader in marketing and public relations, and Roger Craig Smith, BFA film and television ’03, a prominent voice actor (Chris Redfield, Resident Evil; Sonic the Hedgehog in Sonic the Hedgehog), who happened to be teamed up in the making and marketing of Master of Orion, a video game where the player leads races to dominate the galaxy through diplomacy, while making conquests, colonizing star systems and pioneering ultimate exploration. Here, they share with us what the process was like and how their Chapman degrees helped them in their stellar (no pun intended) careers.
Chapman University: Tell me about your career. What do you do on a day to day basis?
Alex Brewer-Disarufino: I have been doing marketing and public relations in the video game industry for a number of years. This is a career my degree from Chapman prepared me for immensely. I do strategy, planning and execution of public relations, and marketing-related programs for Wargaming.net and WG Labs. In short, any outward-facing communication through news and social media streamers I have helped to craft. These efforts also extend out to building a brand presence for my projects at any major pop culture or gaming-focused convention or industry event. I started out doing public relations at DC Comics in New York City and gradually worked my way to video games. Recently, I was working on a voice over (V.O.) session on the Warner Bros. lot for an upcoming video game I am promoting called Master of Orion. At the session I had the pleasure of meeting fellow Chapman communications and theater alum, Roger Craig Smith, BFA film and television ’03, who had won a role in the Master of Orion V.O. cast.
Roger Craig Smith: An average day for me involves a combination of retail/commercial voice over sessions from my home studio in the morning, then heading off to animation sessions for the remainder of the day. I’ll often return home in the evening to handle some auditions, as well as unsupervised promo/narration projects for clients. I also consume too much coffee.
CU: Tell me about your current projects, including Master of Orion.
ABD: Master of Orion is the rebirth of a classic P.C. (personal computer) game from the ‘90s reimagined for today’s gamer. Back in the day, it set the standard for the strategy video games today. We are happy to bring it back to gamers with updated gameplay, AAA graphics, and an amazing voice cast, featuring talents like Mark Mark Hamill (Star Wars), in addition to Alan Tudyk (Firefly), Michael Dorn (Star Trek: The Next Generation), Nolan North (Uncharted series), and Roger. We recently released a video about our cast that also features me alongside these science fiction greats. The amazing Ron Thronson (former Chapman theatre faculty) would be very proud I am sure. It was awesome meeting fellow alum Roger in such a high-level and professional setting, and we really hit it off. In our time we talked about how the Chapman experience shaped our future in many ways from the obvious to the subtle.
Another project I am extremely proud to have initiated is the upcoming comic book, World of Tanks: Roll Out. Inspired by Wargaming’s multiplayer online game, World of Tanks, the hard-hitting story written by Garth Ennis (Preacher, War Stories, The Punisher), is a historically based war tale, skillfully illustrated by the renowned Carlos Ezquerra (Judge Dredd, Strontium Dog). I used to read Garth Ennis’s comic book in between classes at Chapman and now I get to work with one of my heroes.
RCS: Master of Orion has been an awesome project! The love that folks had for the original game was palpable as we were recording this new reimagining. I loved getting to play such a bizarre, lizard-like alien as the Sakkra Advisor. Excellent writing made my job easy in terms of the collaborative aspect of conjuring up the character. Other voice projects I’m currently working on are Batman in Batman Unlimited: Mechs vs. Monsters, Clarence on Cartoon Network, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie for Amazon, Powerpuff Girls on Cartoon Network, Avengers Assemble on Disney XD and Sonic Boom on Cartoon Network. I’m currently the retail/regional branding voice for Dodge Ram trucks and the imaging/promo voice for 106.7 KROQ FM in Los Angeles.
CU: What insight do you have to offer current students and alumni who are searching for employment?
ABD: Network, network, network!
RCS: Pound the pavement. Get out there and be active in your pursuit—the phone is simply not going to ring on its own without you putting yourself out there. I know it’s an awkward thing to do, but nobody is looking for you. You have to get out there and show folks why you’re an asset to them. It’s easy to sit in front of a computer and send virtual handshakes, but pressing the flesh and having the guts to make yourself vulnerable by actually showing up in person might get you on someone’s radar.
CU: What advice do you have for current students who want to make the most out of their time at Chapman?
ABD: First, enjoy it. Enjoy every day—it is one of the few times in your life to be fully dedicated to the field you study 24/7, especially if you are in the arts. I spent four years living and breathing theater at Chapman, and it was one of the most amazing times of my life.
RCS: Don’t sweat recent mistakes or what’s to come. Enjoy every moment of your time at Chapman and squeeze as much out of the experience as possible—it’s likely one of the last safe moments you’ll have in your pursuits. Don’t worry about the mistakes you’ll make while at Chapman, as learning from those mistakes is the whole point. Find your thresholds for comfort in your creative pursuits there and you might have a better idea of where to focus your energy and make fewer mistakes (which can carry more severe repercussions) when you’re in the “real world.”
CU: Which Chapman faculty member made the greatest impact on you and how?
ABD: Professor Ron Thronson without a doubt. He was the first faculty member I met at Chapman, and he had a profound impact on my time there and beyond. He introduced me to more types of theater than I knew existed. I was better for it. After introducing me to the campy work of Charles Busch, I infamously directed one of his plays at Chapman. He may be the reason I moved to New York—a few years later, myself and a few other Chapman theater alumni Courtney Dickerson ’97, Anne Marie Nest ’96 and Randy Anderson ’96, mounted another production of Theodora: She Bitch of Byzantium in the East Village down the street from the theaters where it first debuted. Also, Richard Jackson in the scene shop at Waltmar Theater made a strong impression. I use something he taught me every day in one way, shape or form. You would be amazed at how many every day and business situations that “Use the right tool for the right job” translates to.
RCS: Pete Weitzner, Patty Meyer and Julie MacLusky. Pete was phenomenal at encouraging me to pursue my ideas while we were working on Nightcap. He always let me explore my creative outlet and push boundaries while learning about live television. Both Patty and Julie were hugely influential in being brutally honest about screenwriting, and holding us to a high standard as students. To this very day, I cringe when I see someone in a professional setting misuse “they’re, there and their.” Julie would fail a screenplay with only one misuse of those words. I dug that. It’s important to get it right when it’s for a professional project and I can’t tell you how often that’s not recognized anymore—but it is recognized at the higher level of this industry and I’ve been better prepared for that by my time with these professors.
CU: How has your Chapman degree helped you?
ABD: In many, many ways I have utilized something from my studies in all facets of my professional life. I graduated as an actor, pretty serious and auditioning for serious work. I moved to New York City and started doing sketch and improv comedy, an endeavor where my theater degree informed the work, but also allowed me to have more fun with it. At one point I decided that I no longer wanted to go the audition, but instead I wanted to run the audition. I started working at an ad agency in New York and that set the stage for a move into marketing—first at DC Comics, followed by a career in promoting videogames, which has lead me to my work today at Wargaming. The performance aspect laid the groundwork for the role I am in today. I have to speak to many audiences and groups of people. The backstage work still applies, as we prepare for events and/or set up our booths (like the set). Most important is the concept of building an ensemble. I have built many a team and cast based on the principles of listening and working together—the very core of any ensemble.
RCS: Chapman’s a recognized name in this industry. Knowing that you’ve done your time at an institution that garners respect in your chosen field is absolutely a plus. It gives me the confidence of going into projects knowing I’ve got a nice batch of assets in my intellectual tool belt. Helps me feel like I’ve earned the right to be in the room with these folks and that I bring something of value to the table.
CU: How were you involved on campus during your time as a Chapman student?
ABD: I was involved in PASC (Performance Art Society of Chapman) and served as its vice president for my last year at Chapman.
RCS: I was heavily involved with the broadcast journalism production of Nightcap. Had an absolute blast and made some good friends in that group.
CU: What is your favorite Chapman memory?
ABD: Looking back at my major production of The Bacchae, directed by Michael Nehring, comes immediately to mind. That was an intensely artistically challenging endeavor that energized everyone in it.
RCS: Performing a cold open sketch with Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen on Nightcap. They had showed up as guests of the show for a live season finale broadcast. They were early, ran through their lines on a sketch I had helped write, and they could not have been more professional. To this day I remember some advice that Mary had given to me at the after party when I said I wanted to be a comedic character actor: “Oh, sweetheart, you really don’t get to choose. If the industry sees you as a bully character and you get work in that area, that’s what you’ll do and be happy for it. Pursue all the other aspects for your own gratification.” She was absolutely correct. I was involved in standup and writing, trying to make headway in those areas when the voice over work kept paying the bills. Eventually I realized that voice acting was what the industry saw in me and I pursued it more diligently. It’s become an absolute love of mine, but it wasn’t exactly what I was working toward in the beginning. That was a really pivotal moment for me while at Chapman.
CU: What was your favorite spot on campus as a student?
ABD: The steps of the Waltmar Theatre.
RCS: I always enjoyed the grass in front of Memorial Hall. I’d take my pug down there and run him on the lawn for training, as I lived in a nearby apartment above the Orange Circle for seven years. It’s a beautiful campus.
CU: Have you been involved with Chapman since graduating?
ABD: Mainly in the form of connecting with other classmates and participating in their endeavors. A year after I moved to New York City, a clan of Chapman theater alumni moved to NYC to start The Beggars Group theater company that I was very active in as a director and performer.
RCS: I’ve come back to do some guest spots on Nightcap when it existed, to help the current batch of students with mock interviews. I’ve also participated in a few fun projects with some of my former professors here and there.
CU: Is there anything else you’d like to share with the Chapman Family?
ABD: Enjoy your time at Chapman while making a road to your next step after graduation. Chapman has a very robust community and that will be your key to success after you graduate.
RCS: Just my gratitude to faculty for providing me with the tools that helped me find success in my industry. It’s been a surreal existence since graduating and there’s not a day that goes by where I don’t find myself thinking about some lesson learned at Chapman that I’ve utilized in my career. Hope the current group of students is able to be present enough in their pursuits to recognize what a huge opportunity they have in being a Panther. It’s worked out quite well for me and I’m very grateful.
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