Share your career path with us – How did you get where you are now?
In my final year of the MFA Production Design program, John Chichester encouraged our graduating class to apply to the Art Directors Guild (Local 800) Apprenticeship Program. After the rigorous application process of portfolio work, essays and multiple interviews (simultaneously graduating and working on many music videos and shorts) I was extremely lucky to be the first student from Chapman ever to be selected! It was a huge opportunity for on-the-job training for future Art Directors. During the apprenticeship, I shadowed the Production Designers on ABC’s ‘Scandal,’ followed by Disney’s ‘Mary Poppins Returns’ (on both the LA and UK legs of the film.) I was then officially enrolled into the Art Directors Guild as an Assistant Art Director in 2017 and had been working on various shows from Disney’s live-action remake of ‘Lady & the Tramp’ to HBO television show ‘Watchmen’ and am currently working on a feature film ‘Ghost Draft’ for Skydance.
What was the biggest adjustment you faced after graduation and how did you overcome it?
Having made a big move from the UK to California to do my MFA in Orange and then to LA for the ‘Hollywood dream,’ I think the biggest adjustment was the realization that I may have to move again! Feature films are being made all over the world, and in such a competitive market if you want your dream to come true, you have to chase it. That means moving to where the work is!
For ‘Mary Poppins Returns’ I moved home to London for a year. I came back to the US and worked on some TV shows in LA but quickly realized that not many films were being shot there anymore. I had an opportunity with ‘Lady and the Tramp’ for Disney to relocated me to Savannah, Georgia. I am now living full time in Atlanta because that’s where a majority of the US films are being made.
What has been the best experience of your career so far?
Seeing your designs on screen is always hugely gratifying. I think drafting the clock hands of Big Ben is a project that will always be special to me as it was such an integral part of the film and possibly the most British thing I could have done on “Mary Poppins Returns” Working on that film was like writing a love letter to London.
What is challenging about your role and what are some highlights?
I would say the most challenging aspect is juggling the managerial aspect with the more complex architectural drafting. Both the left and the right brain come into play, you have to be constantly communicating between your set designers, construction team to fulfill the wishes of your Director and DP. You become extremely close to your co-workers as you spend such long hours, for months at a time with them, continually learning and growing from their experiences and mentorship.
Can you share any memorable moments with your clients?
Some of my most memorable moments have emerged from the initial concept stages of the feature films I have worked on. For example being able to sit in on a meeting in Walt Disney’s original animation bungalow, with our Director, surrounded by some of the best artists in the industry like Glen Keane, who were sketching out ideas to the composers playing live piano music. It was magical and a real ‘pinch me’ moment.
What is your favorite memory from your time at Dodge College?
I would have to say the countless hours spent with my five other Production Design students. The camaraderie we had from pulling all-nighters trying to finish our drafting homework, be it helping each other learn a new 3D rendering program, to building flats or loading a huge set dec truck. I am extremely proud of the hard work we put in at our time at Dodge, we emerged with a serious trade under our belt, and I am happy to report we are all doing extremely well in the industry! I can’t wait to work with them all in the future.
What advice would you give current students?
Make the most of your Professors while you are still in school, soak up their expertise, ask as many questions as you can, and use them to network! Once graduated be flexible, be passionate, and be charming. Flexibility is key if you want to work in this industry, chase it and go where the work is- the best opportunities are the ones you seek out. Never forget the reason you entered this industry, even if you begin to burn out with the long hours and sometimes stressful situations that arise from film making- nurturing your passion for your art is vitally important. Finally, talent and hard work will get you a long way, but being likable and charming is the key to success!