The architecture of trade and the 9th Savannah Symposium


What does Savannah have in common with Hong Kong, Cartagena, Venice and Mumbai?  As a port city, it has long been connected to global trade networks that have existed as long as the oldest human civilizations. Consider a lowly piece of Savannah pavement – a remarkable cobblestone etched with Chinese characters that began its life as a tombstone in China in 1798, became ballast in a ship in the 19th century, and ended up in Savannah as a cobblestone. The story of Savannah’s Chinese cobblestone aptly illustrates the global forces that have directly shaped cities throughout history and around the world.

The cobblestone is the perfect symbol for the 9th Savannah Symposium (Feb. 5 - 7): “The Architecture of Trade.” Since its inception in 1999, the biennial event, presented by Savannah College of Art and Design’s architectural history department, has attracted almost 400 speakers from over 30 countries worldwide, bringing together historians, anthropologists, economists, and sociologists with architects, planners, designers and preservationists to connect history to issues that are relevant today. 

Issues of trade increasingly dominate the news as the forces of globalization, shifting economics, and even the spread of diseases and political radicalism define our lives. Exploring the complex relationship between trade, architecture and cities, “The Architecture of Trade” is particularly timely given Savannah’s rising profile as the nation’s fastest growing port, now the fourth busiest after Los Angeles, Long Beach and New York City.

The 9th symposium will bring 50 speakers from around the United States and from Brazil, Canada, Croatia, Germany, Israel, Italy, and South Africa to Savannah, which shares the history and experiences of other trade centers, but is also an anomaly. Like other port cities around the world, Savannah is preparing for the arrival of the gigantic “post-Panamax” cargo ships in the coming years that will dwarf the current freighters. Yet Savannah also boasts one of the best preserved historic waterfronts, with most of its 19th-century warehouses intact, along with the unique network of masonry retaining walls, terraced lanes (called Factors Walk), and iron bridges.

The symposium leads off with a walking tour of this most extraordinary urban landscape. Also opening the event is the keynote lecture, “Cities of Incense and Myrrh,” given by Dr. Nasser Rabbat, director of the Aga Khan Program in Islamic Architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Thematic paper sessions will follow on subjects ranging from the impacts of vast trade networks in past centuries to how trade shapes the built environments of today. The symposium closes with the keynote lecture, “How Capitalism Shaped the Built Environment,” given by Dr. Joyce Appleby, professor emerita of history at the University of California, Los Angeles.

The Savannah Symposium showcases the role SCAD plays in supporting scholarship and contributing to the broader understanding of our world. The lectures, receptions and tours provide valuable opportunities for students, faculty and community members to interact with leading academics and practitioners. Beyond the events, representative papers from the 3rd and 6th symposia have been published as books edited by the department’s faculty – Commemoration in America: Essays on Monuments, Memorialization and Memory, edited by David Gobel and Daves Rossell (University of Virginia Press, 2013), and World Heritage and National Registers: Stewardship in Perspective, edited by Thomas Gensheimer and Celeste Lovette Guichard (Transaction Publishers, 2014). Papers from the 8th symposium will be published in late 2015 in Modernities Across Time and Space: Architecture and History in Context, edited by Patrick Haughey (Cambridge Scholars Publishing).

We invite you to participate. Keynote lectures are free and open to the public, while paper sessions and tours require conference registration.

Robin B. Williams has chaired the SCAD architectural history department since its founding in 1996. He specializes in the history of the built environment of the modern period in Europe and North America.  He earned his B.A. at the University of Toronto and his M.A. and Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania. Since joining SCAD in 1993, Williams has made Savannah the focus of his research, directing the award-winning online Virtual Historic Savannah Project from 1996 to 2005 and is the lead author of a new architectural guidebook, Buildings of Savannah (2015). Read more by Robin here.


Hong Kong fashion talent on the rise


The rise of the Asian fashion market means up and coming designers no longer exclusively eye New York or Paris as launching pads for their careers. Nor does the industry expect that the next generation will hail from one of the traditional fashion capitols. Think Hong Kong’s Henry Lau. In addition to its proximity to the juggernaut of the Chinese market, for example, Hong Kong is home to major brands like Gucci, D&G, LV and Prada – all of which need new talent to thrive and evolve. And so, along with Henry, executives from giants like Polo Ralph Lauren, DKNY and Shanghai Tang attended Savannah College of Art and Design’s inaugural Hong Kong fashion showcase to see what students there have in store for the industry.

With perennial fashion mentor and "America's Next Top Model" staple Miss J Alexander working alongside them behind the scenes, students sent 30 original designs down the runway.

[R]ight now everyone is running to come to China, because China is a huge market that keeps developing and growing.  –Miss J Alexander

Hong Kong native Janet Wong and Singapore native Dawn Bey, both SCAD Hong Kong fashion students, showed pieces from their collections and worked as dressers backstage, assisting models with fitting and changing garments, accessories and shoes.

Dawn showed a dress from her “Detour” collection, designed to send the message that women can do any job. In this garment, the road worker’s vest was transformed in to a dress, and touches of neon pink pop against a yellow mesh vest and gray skirt that’s reminiscent of cement.

[W]hen it comes to being a designer, you have to think about how your customer will eventually wear your clothes. The show also taught me about styling and how to communicate with people. – Dawn Bey

This look by Janet resulted from an assignment to create a collection that combines sportswear and an ethnic group. Janet merged the sport of hunting with a Scottish theme to create garments made of jersey.

As a fashion designer, it is important to know how runway backstage works. From styling, rehearsal, to the final presentation, each step is indispensable for a good fashion show.  – Janet Wong

Referencing standards of beauty in China and Western cultures, her second look was inspired by foot bindings, corsets and Greek sculpture.

With history and culture serving as the basis for her collections, young designers like Janet will inevitably perpetuate the mounting East to West transfer of influence and style.

Reality TV frames up the next great furniture designer


Furniture design is the latest addition to the competition TV landscape, with "Framework" on Spike TV and “Ellen's Design Challenge” set to premiere on HGTV (and screen at aTVfest, Feb. 5 – 7 in Atlanta). Far away from the Hollywood sets of these shows, Lacey Campbell (B.F.A., furniture design, 2008) was quietly making a living as a concept designer at Sauder in Ohio when the producers of “Framework” auditioned her to be one of 13 contestants competing to win $100,000 over the course of ten challenge-driven episodes.

A look at Lacey’s approach to designing and building furniture – sustainable, youthful and effortless for the user - makes it easy to understand why a network would want to bring the craft to the screen. She welcomes the opportunity to teach others about her passion and that, yes, one can pursue furniture as an academic endeavor. Hers is one of more than 300 furniture design degrees that SCAD has awarded since launching its program in 1993. 

Image of Lacey courtesy of Spike TV.

Thread: What is causing audiences to look closer at how their furniture is made and who’s making it?

Lacey Campbell: We are in a maker-focused age. Customers want custom, handmade, homemade, thoughtful things. Clothes, tattoos, food, makeup, and home decor have been done. It was only a matter of time. Although, we’re a rare breed. Because wood workers and metal workers want to take their time to build something, it doesn't surprise me that television hasn’t taken on their timeline until now. It's nice to be noticed.

T: What have you learned from your “Framework” competitors and the fast-paced nature of reality TV?

LC: I’ve learned to let it go. When the pressure is on, some details just won't make it. Being time conscious was a killer. Things would happen that were very hard to spring back from. 'Let it go' became the mantra.

T: Describe the design challenges and how you approached them.

LC: The first challenge was about overall ability.

The judges wanted to see what we could do. It was a wild set of rules and materials, and man was it hot. Fighting for materials in the sun with power tools for two hours was stressful. 

Challenge two was filmed at Spin Standard, a ping pong club in downtown Los Angeles. We had to design ping pong tables that showed style. After a concept review with the judges, we were paired up with another builder. I was paired with Nate Hall. We decided to use my design because of the overwhelming feedback from the judges. Of course, the viewers didn't get to see much of the critiques. As a team we were unable to complete the table and so we were up for elimination. We had to defend our individual performances and Nate was eliminated. It was the most stressful moment standing there, undercutting my opponent after we worked so hard to accomplish something together. 

T: Has the show opened up any new opportunities for you?

LC: I was really inspired and motivated when I returned home.

Being around such an amazing group of designers and builders really made me look within myself.

When I returned home I decided to make a risky move, even more risky than quitting my job to be part of the show. I decided to do whatever it took to start my business. I had been thinking about it for years, dabbling in freelance here and there. But when I got home it just made sense to fight for that, too. I have a refinishing business paired with a design and fabrication studio. I work from home and turned my garage into a shop. But I still have a job working at Lowes part time to support my crazy endeavor. Something else I'm working on is showing at ICFF or Wanted. I plan on taking three to five prototypes to a show during the design week in hopes of launching my brand and products.

Concept design for Sauder Furniture by Lacey Campbell. 

T: How did SCAD prepare you to launch your own brand?

LC: SCAD taught me how to be a talented, aggressive designer.

T: You focus on furniture for young adults. What are some trends in this niche?

LC: Millennials are the most diverse group because of their upbringing and technology. Plus, they are the largest generation since the baby boomers. Their needs are interesting and unique, being so connected has changed how they shop. It’s the perfect problem to solve.

Concept design by Lacey Campbell for Sauder Furniture.

T: What designers and materials inspire you?

LC: Charles and Ray Eames will always be near and dear to my heart. More recently, I'd say Nervous System. The work they are doing with kinetic 3D printing is amazing. I'm working with reclaimed materials right now, with the trend focus being on Industrial Chic. There are a lot of materials that inspire me, currently it's mixed materials like walnut and woven knits.

T: Describe the design scene in Toledo.

LC: There are great opportunities here as a maker and DIYer. The arts community downtown is growing and fostering the arts. I hope to own a warehouse downtown someday that can be made into 3D design studios, maker shops, residential living, community space and a local hangout. I have big dreams for Toledo.

Watch "Framework" Tuesdays at 10 p.m. to see Lacey in action.

The making of a viral wedding video


Before the holidays, you may have shared, "Liked" or received Savannah College of Art and Design alum Tony Pombo’s (M.F.A., film and television, 2008) viral wedding video. His Atlanta-based production company Iris Films documented a husband (Steven) surprising his wife (Kelli) with an epic anniversary celebration, then watched the social media stratosphere explode with admiration. It’s proof that good work speaks for itself. With a season full of engagements complete, and eager brides gearing up to plan their nuptials, the timing couldn’t be better for Tony’s business. Here’s the story behind the video and his success as an entrepreneur. It’s not Tony's first viral video.

Thread: What do you think about all the attention your video has received? How did it get picked up by BuzzFeed and Cosmopolitan?

Tony Pombo: This video has been a whirlwind for me. It has gotten all kinds of exposure, which is fantastic. When completed, I sent it over to the husband in the video for review. He loved it and put it on his YouTube channel immediately. Slowly but surely, it got more and more hits and shares. Before we knew it, it was being picked up by all sorts of media outlets. Pretty exciting stuff.

T: How did this collaboration between you and the client unfold?

TP: It came about just as any other wedding video would go. He took a look at my work and really liked the look and feel that I have in my videos, so he reached out. This was months and months prior to the big day. We were in constant contact throughout and discussed all aspects of the shoot.

T: Tell us about directing the video and your production decisions: crew, cameras, audio, etc.

TP: We have filmed all sorts of weddings, from the fun and quirky, to million dollar extravaganzas. One of the key things I learned from my experience is that traveling light is the best way to go. I keep all of my essentials within arms reach, but the smaller the better. For this shoot, there were two videographers (myself and another), two cameras (Canon 5D Mark III and Mark II), and two lavaliere packs that I mic’d the husband and the rabbi with. The husband hired a coordinator to go over the logistics of people moving, arranging the band, keeping secrets, etc. I met with them to stay in the loop and it all went flawlessly.

T: What storytelling devices or techniques did you call upon?

TP: One of the biggest things was getting the story from the horse’s mouth as soon as we got there. That way, I wouldn’t need to waste a lot of time with slates telling us what was going on. We were able to hear it from the husband and hear the excitement and passion in his voice. Another thing was that he had originally planned for me to film his wife getting blindfolded and then follow them in a separate car back to the house. I suggested that we lead her into the backseat instead while I rode in the front so we could get a firsthand look and her initial reaction.

T: When it comes to a viral video, do you think it’s the content or the form that compels people to share it?

TP: It’s really a toss up, as it could be either or a combination of both. You never really know what is going to get picked up or not. Sometimes it’s just a feeling. For example, I had a feeling that this would be big the moment I heard the idea. I had another video go viral about a month before this one. It’s a personal video that I did where we revealed to my mom the gender of our baby. I knew that it would hit big just because of my mom’s reaction. I got calls from Yahoo and The Ellen Show and all sorts of places. It just goes to show that it could be something you just randomly shoot on your phone or a produced piece. It just happens.

T: Why did you get into the wedding business? Wedding videography seems to have evolved significantly.

TP: I was working as a creative director for a company after graduating from SCAD. I decided to shoot weddings on the weekends, as they were not a conflict of interest with my job and I could make some extra cash. I did my first few weddings for free to get an idea of how they are. I really liked it. They are extremely fast-paced and hectic at times, but I meet tons of really amazing people and contacts all the time, which have led to all sorts of other work. People seemed to like my take on weddings and I was getting more and more popular. Enough so that I was able to leave my job and focus on my business full-time. It has been a dream come true. And, yes, the wedding videography scene is not like it was 10-20 years ago. People get a chance to have an actual cinematic experience where they are the stars instead of their uncle with a handy cam capturing their day. It really is an awesome opportunity for the couples.

T: What are the benefits of using your film degree outside of the mainstream industry?

TP: I think it just helps to add a bit more validity to what I do. I am very proud of my MFA degree and I know that it gives me a bit of an advantage when being compared to others in my field.

T: As a professional storyteller, what advice do you give your clients on documenting their most important memories?

TP: My biggest advice is just to be yourself. Every wedding is different because the people are different. And that is a great thing. Even people who are camera shy, that is totally fine. They just get lost in the moment of the day while spending it with their new spouse that they forget we are even there. I like to try and make it feel that I have known, not only the couple, but all of their friends and family for years. Like I am an old friend coming in to shoot their wedding for them. To be honest, this is one of my best secrets that people talk about when recommending me to others. Personality on the day is so crucial.

T: How did SCAD prepare you to form a successful production company?

TP: SCAD helped me the most by giving me a direction to follow in my life. When I graduated from my undergraduate university, I was still a bit lost on which path I wanted to go down. I was passionate but not the most confident in my work. SCAD helped me evolve and grow as a filmmaker and as an adult, which ultimately led to my business.

T: What insights would you share with film students or those looking to attend film school?

TP: Be open to new ideas and new people. This is such a collaborative industry where it is all about networking and being social. You are going to work with people that you might not necessarily have hung out with before attending film school, and more often than not, they will inspire you and help you grow as an artist.

T: What’s next for you and Iris?

TP: I am branching further into branding and creative, corporate work along with more fun and exciting weddings. I also want to get back to my film roots and create another short film or two in the near future. I just had my first little girl a few months back and she has become my full inspiration to tackle the world. 2015 is going to be great.

Where to look for the next big idea in design? The university.


Given, there’s a universal quality to “good design.” But how far does universal go? When it comes to solving for design dilemmas and implementing these solutions in city-specific ways, does good design really mean the same thing in New York, London, Paris? Across all continents? In the case of SCADpad®, World Architecture News answered “yes” when it handed Savannah College of Art and Design its first international award for the SCADpad micro-house community.

Attracting more than 1,300 entries from 72 countries, the WAN Awards are among the largest of their kind, and a barometer for what’s trending in architecture and urban design on a global scale. SCADpad emerged a winner from a long list of submissions from countries as far flung as Singapore and Sydney, Florence and Monterrey.

Why does SCADpad resonate internationally? It goes beyond the three prototypes, inspired by and named for Asia, Europe and North America.

SCAD is a global institution with a presence on three continents and a diverse student body that hails from more than 100 countries worldwide. A natural and regular outgrowth of its composition are projects that transcend international borders and push the limits of what’s being done in design.

That’s a good idea! We have been talking about this for years and here they did it. -WAN Award judge Mark Mimram, Marc Mimram Architects, Paris

Even when SCAD acts locally, as it did when it built SCADpad in its back yard (well, parking deck), its agenda is global. Underpinning that agenda is a belief that design can change the world, and the world view of aspiring designers who are informed by experiences in their home countries, like industrial design student Chung-Hsiang Wang (Taichung City, Taiwan) who created 3-D objects for SCADpad.

I've lived in Bombay and seen the space constraints, especially in the slum area. Micro-housing units could be a solution. - Sharika Menon, interior design student and SCADpad resident

Secondly, when design efficiently addresses a pressing social concern, especially one that is widely held, it sparks conversation. Globally, the urban population is expected to increase to 5 billion people over the next two decades. With half the world’s population already living in urban areas, this increase will squeeze the global housing inventory even more. Simultaneously, the parking garage has reentered the dialogue and presented new opportunities for architectural ingenuity. Think 1111 Lincoln Road in Miami.

SCAD aligned these trends, added a dose of expertise in adaptive reuse, and created a laboratory where 75 graduate and undergraduate students from 12 academic programs - including furniture and interactive design, architecture and design for sustainability - could apply their solutions for the urban housing shortage.

The resulting SCADpads may not have been created outside of the university setting. If urban design by its nature is transdisciplinary, then very seldom do the resources exist outside of a collaborative setting like the academic one to solve for the kind of pressing global issues that rarely see breakthrough solutions.

So, it appears, SCADpad was recognized by an international body as much for the final result as it was for the process behind its creation.

Though it was the only university-sponsored project among WAN’s 2014 urban design contenders, SCADpad is evidence that, just as the world depends on research universities for scientific breakthroughs, we can look to art and design universities to inspire and deliver viable concepts for our most pressing social challenges. We should follow WAN's lead and take a closer look inside these classrooms for the next big ideas.

What is branded entertainment? Ask Stafford Green.


Branded entertainment is pervasive. You’ve probably shared, “Liked” or been the target of such campaigns without even knowing how this content gets made. Stafford Green, honorary chairman of branded entertainment at Savannah College of Art and Design, is hoping to change that. An award-winning marketer for major brands like Coca-Cola, Stafford partnered with SCAD to start the country’s first academic degree program in branded entertainment, a $44 billion dollar industry. He didn’t arrive at being a brand marketing leader through a formulaic path, but he’s hoping that SCAD’s Bachelor of Fine Arts program will provide a map for those who want to enjoy a career similar to his.

Thread: Welcome to SCAD. For starters, what is branded entertainment?

Stafford Green: Branded entertainment means creating entertaining content that can capture and maintain consumer attention. It allows brands to make deeper connections with their audiences by engaging them wherever they happen to be – at a concert, on a mobile phone, watching TV, sitting with a PC, eating popcorn at a cinema, or experiencing an art installation.

Branded entertainment captivates audiences using great storytelling.

It’s no longer sufficient to simply push messages, especially to Millennials. Consumers increasingly demand brand messages that inform and entertain. Companies need to attract consumers with desirable messages and stories; to give their audience reasons to listen, engage and buy. I was a branded entertainment creative and producer at Coca-Cola. I loved working with a big global brand where I was allowed to combine and cross different artistic mediums in order to connect with consumers. It was fun, lucrative, creative and big. It was a great ride and one that I hope to help others achieve, too.

T: Tell us more about your work for Coca-Cola?

SG: Until last summer, I worked at Coca-Cola for many years helping the company transform how we advertised big brands like Coke, Sprite and Vitamin Water. My team held 'how to' workshops all over the world to teach trends in digital marketing and emerging media. We created The Coca-Cola Content Factory to prove that fans, crowds and small producers can create amazing films, games and websites more quickly and more cheaply by using new methods and technologies. We helped the company achieve great success by changing how it communicates to consumers who are powered up with new devices.

While my team was making an impact in this regard, I found myself wanting to make a personal contribution outside of Coke. So I retired early because I wanted to give back to a younger generation. I know you hear people say that, and it sounds like such spin, but I honestly wanted to do something good for the world. What I had learned in over two decades at Coke was a better, more authentic way of advertising – the kind of cool marketing that is evolving into new forms of communication. SCAD was a perfect fit to help me achieve my mission.

T: What makes SCAD the ideal place to launch an undergraduate degree in branded entertainment?

SG: SCAD is a special place and an ideal launching pad for this creative-business endeavor. Because the university has the faculty and degree programs it takes to make the branded entertainment degree possible, from advertising, to game development and foundations classes, we didn’t have to build the major from scratch. Second, where it was missing classes, like a branded entertainment portfolio development class, SCAD invested the time and energy to create these classes and to do it well. Third, SCAD’s approach to liberal arts, inclusive of subjects like color theory and Western art, gives students a critical and often overlooked foundation for telling authentic stories. It isn’t just about the mechanics.   

Home to more than a dozen Fortune 500 companies, Atlanta is laboratory where students can immerse themselves directly into advertising's revolution, and SCAD Atlanta has some of the most amazing equipment. For one, the Digital Media Center, complete with a TV studio, green screen lab, game studies lab and more, allows students to experiment with what they’re learning in order to build an industry-valued portfolio. Simply put, this is a great place to be.

T: How do you go about building a program that is so interdisciplinary in scope?

SG: I worked hard to build a program that will give advertising and art production students a competitive edge for the careers. The idea is that when they graduate with a degree in branded entertainment and are sitting in front of an interviewer, they will be able to answer questions and show a portfolio like no other candidate. They’ll understand how to apply a brand voice to the art of storytelling and possess the brand-inspired production talent to make a film, game or interactive asset. I want grads to rock. The process was driven by the excellent leadership of SCAD’s ‎chief academic officer, Gokhan Ozaysin. He connected me to dozens of smart professors and administrators in many disciplines at SCAD so we could choose the right program requirements. What makes the build particularly terrific is that I leveraged my industry friends, too; people I have met during the course of working in 12 countries over the last 25 years.

Marketing professionals from Microsoft, 20th Century Fox, Apple and Google all had a part in building the curriculum.

Award-winning agencies like Work Club in London gave advice. At conferences I would quiz everyone on program specifics, from L'Oreal, to Buzzfeed and InBev. One thing is certain: the industry, comprised of movie studios, consumer goods companies, agencies and media companies, loves this idea. Their positive response confirmed to me that what we're building at SCAD is unique and valuable. We’re setting the stage to make a difference by giving students the power to create better advertising and to excite and entertain audiences for generations to come.

T: Which academic subjects comprise the degree requirements?

SG: Branded entertainment is a multidisciplinary approach that combines art and science, business and creativity.

The job of this major is to release the grand storyteller in all of us.

Foundational subjects in marketing theory, design, English, writing, drawing and storytelling provide a liberal arts basis. Business and entrepreneurial classes will give students the tools to run their own companies. For those wishing to work for large companies, the program will provide instruction on how to pitch an idea internally and negotiate corporate politics in order to see that idea through to fruition. Concentrations in gaming, film and television, or interactive will give students corresponding production skills and a portfolio for job interviews.

I must emphasize that the overall theme is storytelling. There isn’t a simple formula to what makes good branded entertainment. It’s about creating a uniquely personal and emotional experience every time.

Consumers want quality, branded entertainment anywhere at any time - they will reward companies with their loyalty who get this right. I really look forward to SCAD's branded entertainment graduates creating share-worthy film, game and interactive content that rises above the noise with brilliant branded storytelling. This is exciting! - Joe Tripodi, Chief Marketing & Commercial Officer, The Coca-Cola Company

T: Are graduates with this type of degree and expertise in demand?

SG: Yes and these jobs can be really fun. A quick search for “branded content” or “branded entertainment” on a job site like delivers substantial opportunities. That’s because agencies and companies everywhere are starved for content. New media companies, such as Netflix, Amazon and Buzzfeed, need producers for games and films. Movie studios need help authentically placing brands in stories because generic product placement is awful! Gaming companies need new sources of revenue. Creating ways of connecting with brands through smart storytelling is a brilliant way to achieve all of this.

Outdoors in focus: photos of national parks question our intentions


It’s that time of year when most of us change our focus from outdoors to in. But not Savannah College of Art and Design graduate student Marc Newton (M.F.A., photography). He’s preparing to unveil his thesis project Constructed Paradise (Nov. 14 – 18 at Non-Fiction Gallery), which sent him on a two-year jaunt through the country’s most treasured natural landmarks. His photographs, staged in national parks as far flung as Joshua Tree and Everglades National Park, feature verdant landscapes interrupted by the minimalist form of nude mannequins posing not so subtlety in their midst. The question Marcus seeks to answer with these images is whether we objectify our sacred lands just as we objectify human beauty. Does our affection for our national parks spring from a fount of goodwill or is it rooted in something that’s inherently uncharitable?

"This image was taken in Mt. Baker National Forest. It is the most recent image I've made for this project. I enjoy this image mostly because the figure's haggard condition mimics the hill's terrain. Earlier, the mannequin fell into a river fed by glacier melt. Since it was moving so swiftly and went straight towards the center of the river, I counted it as a loss. Almost a mile down stream, a camper yelled, 'Did you loose your girl?' It was caught in his fishing net."

Marc does for nature what Dove does for a woman’s self image. His photographs make us pause to consider whether in commercializing our parks and encircling them with fences, we resurrect a standard of beauty that causes us to neglect spaces that are just as worthy of our attention, albeit more common.

I’m comparing two things in this series. I’m comparing aesthetic beauty found in the landscape and aesthetic beauty found in the human form and how both things are so common to sensationalize and romanticize that we kind of have this hierarchy of things with beauty. They get more attention, more protection. Is this the right path to take when we’re talking about the environment?

"We woke up very early to make this image in Pisgah National Forest, outside of Brevard, North Carolina. While walking the mannequin towards the river, there were two guys in the neighboring campsite who were very curious as to why we were carrying plastic body parts. It turns out they both graduated from SCAD in 2009. Small world."

Thread: What inspired this approach to your thesis topic? Are you a nature lover?

Marcus Newton: I went to college in western North Carolina at Brevard College. Brevard is based off of the tourist industry and people travel there to go to nature. It always made me take a step back and see what the land did besides be a landscape. It provided an industry and an infrastructure for towns like Brevard. So I’ve always been interested in that relationship between nature and industry.

"This image was made in Joshua Tree National Park. I rented this mannequin from a shop in Hollywood the day before, then went straight to camp to explore Joshua Tree. It may not look it in this image, but the wind was relentless. The wind collapsed my tent and I had to sleep between two boulders."

T: Where did you shoot the images?

MN: Most are in the southeast. I shot all the photographs on government-protected land. The subjects had to be government protected to keep it consistent. The places I photographed were picturesque enough to protect. Places like Yosemite, Great Smokey Mountains National Park, Everglades National Park, Joshua Tree, Mount Baker National Park. National parks, state parks, wildlife protection areas, anything protected.

Are we letting humans own this landscape or are we letting it naturally progress? It comes down to are we trying to preserve or are we trying to protect? Or is there a difference between preserving something and protecting it?

"Curry Hammock State Park in the Florida Keys is one of the only places in South Florida where white sandy beaches are naturally ocurring. Since most of the Southern coast is wrapped by Mangrove, most of the beaches are man-made. After finding my frame, I had a group of Italian tourists help hit the shutter so I could hide behind the beach grass and hold the mannequin up by the ankles."

T: Did you carry the mannequins with you over the course of two years?

MN: Basically yes. I’ve trucked them all around the country. I just have them in my truck. Right now there are four of them in my garage. I’ve picked a couple of them up in random stores in Hollywood and I’ve rented them. I’ve bought a couple of them. All of the above. The one at Mt. Baker, I bought it a month before I went there and right before I left I sold it on Craigslist. There were all kinds of weird run-ins with people along the way. I’m carrying mannequins around the woods and people see me all the time doing it, so there’s are a lot of random stories about that.

Next, you might see Marc's mannequins in a city near you. He plans to install them on life-size replicas of his photos to create the same contrast in an urban setting.

Big Hero 6 animators on making Baymax and careers in animation


Disney Animation’s Big Hero 6 raked in one of the biggest opening weekend box offices ever for a Disney film, $56.2 million. When audiences screened the blockbuster at Savannah Film Festival several weeks before the official release, they also heard from a couple of the heroes behind the film. Savannah College of Art and Design alumni Zach Parrish (B.F.A., animation, 2007), head of animation at Disney, and animation supervisor Nathan Engelhardt (B.F.A., animation, 2007) let festival-goers in on how they made the magic happen. Afterward, they sat down with SCAD founder and president Paula Wallace to discuss their role in the movie and getting their start in the industry. Here’s an excerpt of her conversation with them, followed by a portion of the extended interview.

President Wallace: How did you know that animation would be your career?

Zach Parrish: I went and saw Monsters, Inc. with some friends. I think I was in high school and I realized that I felt something emotional for Mike Wazowski, who’s the little green one-eyed character. When I realized that I had an emotional response to something that I absolutely knew definitively was not real and that someone made me feel that way, that was kind of a magic where I was like, “I want to be the guy who makes that happen.” So that’s when I started looking at schools and eventually chose SCAD.

Nathan Engelhardt: I actually stumbled upon this game called “The Neverhood,” and it was a stop motion animated game. It was like a point and click action adventure and I remember wanting to play the game until I got to the cut scenes. So they would put in little cut scenes, like animated shorts almost, and every time I was like, “Oh yes, here comes the cut scene.” I started realizing that – I like this and maybe I can start making some of my own. I think I fell in love with animation on a very primitive basic level when I saw this character waving back at me. I think I felt the same thing you felt where it’s like I created this thing that’s waving to me and I was just in a trance and I never looked back.

PW: You met when you were here as students at SCAD.  Was there any certain professor or a class that made a particular impact on you?

ZP: We actually helped create a class, an independent studies class, just for Nathan’s project. I saw this poster for people who wanted to help out on a project called Cereal Killers and I was immediately in. I gave Nathan a call. We met up. 

NE: It was an incredible experience because Zach was so enthusiastic. I was just like, “Man, this guy. He knows what he’s doing.” He took some of the characters, very rough early character rigs that we had been building, and he just started creating the first tests. I was like, “Wow, they’re moving. This could actually work.”

We didn’t really know it at the time, but we were really learning how to collaborate as a team. We were kind of experimenting with the pipeline that we would become so familiar with down the road. We did everything from design and writing, pen and paper, all the way to the final renders, even the sounds. I mean we had a full spectrum.

ZP: We had no idea what we were doing when we started.

NE: But it really did help groom us, I feel, in a way to understand the pipeline and collaboration with other artists and being able to give direction and even…

ZP: Receive direction.

NE: And be able to just do that and learn and then regurgitate that later when we became supervisors. You know, that was a really cool experience.

PW: How do you feel that your education at SCAD helped prepare you to work at such an iconic and innovative studio as Disney?

ZP: Oh man. I think what’s amazing about the education at SCAD is the breadth. Just like that class where we got to touch the entire production pipeline and see where we wanted to fit in and to understand how to utilize it, that has been huge for us. I brought Nathan in for Wreck-it Ralph when I was an animation supervisor, and we could just kind of jump in and do a lot of pieces of the pipeline that some people who are trained just in animation can’t do.

Because of the breadth of our education, as far as history, design and the whole spectrum that goes into it, not just animation, I think we’re allowed to be a bigger part of the pipeline that helps the supervisors as well since a lot of our job is working interdepartmentally and giving notes on models and rigs and whatever the case may be. We have enough of the general understanding to be able to participate in that, as well as our specialized focus in animation.

NE: I feel SCAD really creates artists. There are a lot of trade schools out there that will create specialized tasks and abilities, whereas, to Zach’s point, you get this well-rounded artistic education. It all really helped create the kind of artist that we are today and it’s all thanks to that program.

PW: Do you know what makes me so happy is to see you guys supporting each other, all SCAD graduates out there helping each other and giving opportunities to each other and also, as you said, critiquing each other and just making each other better, but being a great support in the whole profession.

ZP: That was also one of the things we talked about when we came and talked to SCAD freshmen. A huge component to becoming a professional artist are those interpersonal skills, because you can be the most talented person in the world, but if you can’t support other people, if you can’t take feedback, if you can’t communicate, no one’s going to work with you, and so that’s definitely something that I’m still learning and that we all go through every day.

PW: That makes me very proud. What’s been the most challenging character or scene that you’ve created so far?

NE: Animating Baymax was quite a challenge, not just to be able to give feedback, but also for the animators because animators are so used – I mean you get some of the top level talent in that studio that’s so used to all the principles of animation and overlap and squash and stretch and then we’re like, “Take it all out.” 

ZP: Yeah, don’t do anything.

NE: Don’t do any of it, you know, and we coined the term “unimating” for Baymax or that’s really just stripping out all the things that animators are used to putting in, and that was really great because that allowed the audience to project their own emotions onto this blank canvas of sorts. We found that even just a little blink and head tilt was ten times cuter than any extraneous body movement, like unnecessary stuff that really just didn’t plus the scene in any way and really was an exercise in restraint the whole time.

ZP: We’re so used to going all out on the animation and to say like, “I haven’t actually moved him yet.”  We’re like, “You did it. You did it. You nailed it.” For me personally, I had a couple of scenes in Tangled that were a super challenge. I mean Glen Keane was on that show. He’s one of my idols in animation, and John Kahrs was my animation supervisor, and those guys are rock stars. So the bar was set so high on that film and I was new to the studio and I was terrified and I was fortunate enough to get a run of shots where Flynn has a frying pan and he’s knocking out the guards and he’s fighting a horse and…

PW: The horse, the horse was great.

ZP: The challenge was I’d never really animated a quadruped. Let alone a quadruped with a sword in his mouth fighting a guy with a frying pan who’s falling down…

PW: What? You haven’t done that?

ZP: Surprisingly enough, that was my first time, and so that was one where I was really scratching my head going, “I don’t know if I can pull this off.” I was so intimidated, but again that support structure. You know, Disney was super-helpful and I think the scenes turned out okay.

PW: So give us an insider’s perspective on working at the legendary Disney Studios.  What’s it like?

ZP: It’s great.

NE: I mean of course, coming up to the gates on your first day and it’s got the Mickey wrought iron gates and you see the big hat and it’s a very emotional kind of experience, but I feel like it didn’t really hit home until I went to Disneyland of all places…

ZP: Yes.

NE: I was walking around and you see these characters and you see that these films lived on much longer past when they initially came out, and you see this like echo of artistry and talent that was done on this film like years back. Here’s the Beast walking around in the park and it’s like, “This is going to be forever.” I mean you have this in the back of your head where it’s just like, “Wow.” What we’re doing at the Walt Disney Animation Studios is very special and I think…

ZP: I had the exact same experience last winter. We didn’t unfortunately get to work on Frozen because we started on Big Hero 6 so early. But the whole animation department…

PW: A lot of SCAD graduates did.

ZP: There were a lot of SCAD graduates on Frozen for sure.

But the whole animation department, we went to Disneyland and there’s a little girl on a guy’s shoulders and when she was watching “Let It Go,” that’s the Elsa song, she was imitating every move that Elsa did, even her little walk and everything. She’s on her dad’s shoulders and it’s crazy because that was like a firsthand experience of what we do. You know, it’s fun for us, but when you start seeing kids have that emotional response, it’s like, “Oh crap, that was me. I did that.” You know, I had that emotional response and now we’re creating that emotional response and so…

NE: Even crazier when it was your shot. 

ZP: Yeah, yeah, yeah. 

NE: Being the animator she’s imitating, too.

ZP: Yeah, exactly.

NE: It makes me feel like I’m back at that desk experimenting with stop motion animation for the first time. Do you know what I mean? I feel like we are always trying to get back to where it’s that initial excitement for what we do. And I feel like the great thing about Disney is that it’s constantly there and you’re constantly re-feeling that because of how – it’s all the inspirational artwork on the walls, you know, they’re constantly doing things to try to keep the energy, the creative energy high.

ZP: And that’s the other thing about just the actual workplace itself is the collaboration; inspiring one another, people are constantly giving talks on things that they’re just interested in. We do sort of like TED Talks. It could be a photography thing, a sculpture thing, anything that is just inspiring as far as an art form is concerned, and we talk about ourselves. Once a month, the animators get together and we talk about how we came to be at Disney and what inspired us as children. It’s a really fun, super-collaborative environment. So it’s the best I’ve ever had for sure.

PW: Yes, and like SCAD, you’re part of something bigger.

ZP: Exactly.

PW: I visited Hong Kong Disney and I saw all these children, just into characters and imitating…

NE: Yes, it goes around the world.

ZP: It’s just amazing.  It’s amazing. Yes, Big Hero 6 opened in Russia already and…

PW: Wow!

ZP: Yes, and it had one of its biggest weekends ever in Russia because it came out two weeks before it came out in the United States, and so it’s just crazy. I start hearing reviews from people who love it all over the world already. It’s a weird experience because it feels like a small community when we’re working on it. It feels like a small team, and then when the world starts seeing - there’s marketing that’s on buses and stuff, it feels like they took the movie and now it’s just running away, but it’s really cool.

NE: Zach and I, on multiple occasions were like, “Does this feel like when we’re working back on Cereal Killers?” Where it felt like we’re in SCAD and for a long time, we’re actually like really in the same office and, you know, we’re passing flash drives back and forth to each other, making sizzle pieces, you know, the proof of concept kind of stuff, very gorilla style animation, and it’s so many times we could look back fondly on those late nights in Montgomery Hall trying to learn animation.

Shanghai Fashion Week through student eyes


Sixty-five students from Savannah College of Art and Design in Hong Kong recently traveled to Shanghai Fashion Week and Intertextile Shanghai Apparel Fabrics, the second largest fabric fair in the world. The field trip afforded students from SCAD’s fashion, fashion marketing and management, and luxury and fashion management programs in-depth exposure to Asia’s fashion capital and some of Shanghai’s best galleries and creative spaces, including "M50", a contemporary art district on par with New York’s SoHo and Beijing’s 798 Art Zone.

For Singapore-born Dawn Bey (B.F.A., fashion), the Shanghai trip provided first-hand knowledge of how Shanghai’s fashion industry operates, from design and manufacturing, to marketing and retail sales.

If you want to work in Shanghai one day, you have to see it and feel it yourself. Shanghai is where the market is, where the jobs are. - Dawn Bey

Dawn visited the fashion shows of Mainland designers Ye Weicheng and Elysee Yang Guanhua. Her courses at SCAD prepared her to notice both the overall concept and small details of the looks - like how a zipper was done - when models came down the runway. She was particularly interested in noticing new construction and new techniques for finishing garments. Most impressive to Dawn was Intertextile Shanghai Apparel Fabrics, where 3,500 fabric and accessory companies from 35 countries around the globe exhibited.

It’s not easy for young designers to gain access to the latest in garment making technology. Attending the shows in person enabled them to grasp the trends better. Selecting fabric samples to take home is another reason why designers-to-be look forward to attending shows.

Student Madeleine Ivey (B.F.A., photography; minor, fashion marketing and management) noticed that the stores she visited in Shanghai were full of inspiration pulled from the runway. Here’s an excerpt from her journal:

The M50 galleries were another amazing part of the trip and one of my favorites. Since I’m a photography major with a fashion marketing and management minor, the YSL exhibit was extremely relevant to me. The photographer featured, Pierre Boulat, made a huge impact in fashion photography, as he was the only photographer allowed to shoot YSL’s first show. This set the tone for his work for the next years of his life. He was also featured in Time and other fashion magazines. It was very cool to see his prints in real life! Although a bit difficult to understand, the Woolmark presentation got me thinking about wool in a whole other light. It was also fascinating to see the 'future of fashion' through just one company, and how they are utilizing their brand for the future. I loved the idea of putting wool into jeans and sportswear. I was blown away by how huge the fabric fair was…literally the size of an international airport! We were able to go to a lot of the stations and see different fabrics and accessories. It was overwhelming for sure! My favorite station was the innovative fabrics. I also thought it was incredible how many companies attended and how many options for clothing and zippers, etc. there were.

Savannah Film Festival: 5 benefits to future filmmakers


I’m fortunate enough to be working at the 2014 Savannah Film Festival (Oct. 25-Nov. 1). I started with the festival in 2012 as an intern and moderator during my first year in graduate school at Savannah College of Art and Design. In 2013, I interned again under the festival’s director of operations. My festival experiences were so valuable that my thesis topic was, Beyond the Film: A Local History and Analysis of the Savannah Film Festival. Previously, I worked in film and television in New York and LA.
‘Film fest,’ as it’s affectionately known around SCAD, is one of the most relevant festivals for up and coming filmmakers and, really, anyone who’s exploring a career in entertainment.

Here’s why:

1. Access to industry players

Helping Stan Lee backstage, meeting Tribeca shorts programmer Sharon Badal, talking BBQ with Zach Gilford, debating the value of essay films with academic Timothy Corrigan, and swapping Jennifer Lopez stories with THR’s Stephen Galloway. I’ve had some surreal encounters at 'film fest' because the special guests and panelists are so accessible. All of these experiences helped me to immerse myself in the industry in a condensed amount of time, while building relationships in the business.
Norman Reedus returns to the red carpet at Trustees Theater.

2. On-trend panels, master classes and coffee talks

Both academic and practical knowledge of the film industry are important. The festival offers both by pairing professionals with professors. One of the best ways to gather insights about the movie business is to attend the panels, master classes and coffee talks, many of which are geared toward breaking in. Where else could you listen to Bruce Dern discuss how Hitchcock and Nicholson influence his work (Bruce does a mean impression of both, by the way), while picking up tips for financing your short? The stories and advice from industry professionals and professors are invaluable.

3. The movies

The festival gives audiences exclusive access to new movies and the opportunity to hear from the talent behind them. This year is no different. Whiplash, 5 to 7, Horns, and Glen Campbell's I'll Be Me are among 90 films that are ready to roll. In addition to adding more documentaries, the festival also has one of the coolest shorts programs around. A supernatural shorts category and a focus on short films from Ireland are new for 2014. For future filmmakers, exposure to this range of films is a great way to study the craft, get ideas and learn from some of the best writers and directors.

4. The atmosphere

The Savannah Film Festival has a unique vibe and a truly supportive atmosphere. It has an incomprable mix of art school edge, Hollywood style and old southern charm that sets it apart from any other fesival that I’ve been to. And the setting is unbeatable. Screenings, panels and receptions all take place in the country’s largest Historic Landmark District and SCAD’s beautifully restored buildings (Savannah Film Studios being the latest addition). I’d take the red carpet on Broughton Street over any other, any day.

5. A catalyst

The festival can change your career trajectory. I came to SCAD to pursue a graduate degree (with hopes to continue to a Ph.D.), however, working for the Savannah Film Festival as an intern ignited my passion for turning film festivals into a career path. By making the festival an annual event on my calender, I acquired the contacts, knowledge and skills I needed to land my dream job. There are countless stories of students and aspiring filmmakers who have also landed internships, jobs and discovered a whole new world because of the Savannah Film Festival.

What will your story be?

Rachelle Murphy (M.A., cinema studies, 2013) is the executive director of the Green Mountain Film Festival in Montpelier, Vermont. Her television credits include A&E Biography, WWE’s Monday Night Raw, and Discovery Channel’s Auction Kings.