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.

Furniture's career path runs through High Point


If design is the intermediary between humans and experience, then furniture design holds the answers for how we interact with and experience our surroundings. You may never have thought about your furniture in this way, but it is the prevailing subject that rules the minds of furniture design students, in addition to materials, style, sustainability, comfort and function. There’s also the business reality to consider. Home furnishings is a $100 billion dollar industry where a simple passion for making things, combined with entrepreneurial savvy, can blossom into a mega retail brand.

A side table by Katy Skelton at High Point MarketKaty Skelton's booth at High Point Market.
That convergence seems inevitable for Katy Skelton (M.F.A., furniture design, 2011), a 2014 Martha Stewart American Made Awards Furniture & Home Accessories nominee, who is one of 2,000 brands showing their designs at the High Point Furniture Market, the world’s largest furnishings trade show. Katy is a member of the American Society of Furniture Designers, which just recognized two of her peers from Savannah College of Art and Design as finalists in the first-ever student category of the Pinnacle Awards.

A wooden bench with bird shaped interactive components
From top to bottom: Christian's Organia Cocktail Table and Kai-ning's Bird Bench.

SCAD graduate students Kai-ning Huang (M.F.A., furniture design) and Christian Dunbar (M.F.A., furniture design) are just behind Katy on the trajectory to making an impact in the furniture business. All three of them represent how the industry is turning a new leaf to uncover fresh talent, young designers who will take the industry from one dominated by traditional furniture in to a modern era. Hence the need for the ASFD’s new award, which shone a light on Kai-ning’s Bird Bench and Christian’s Organia Cocktail Table during its confab in High Point.

Student Pinnacle Award finalists Kai-ning Huang and Christian Dunbar at the ASFD dinner in High PointFrom left to right at the ASFD awards dinner: SCAD furniture design professor George Perez, Kai-ning Huang, SCAD furniture design professor Sheila Edwards and Christian Dunbar.

Just before stepping out to be recognized as future leaders in the industry, Kai-ning, Christian and thirty other emerging furniture designers from SCAD stepped back in time during a field trip to Thayer Coggin’s High Point-based furniture factory.

For furniture design students, understanding furniture in a historical context is key to knowing how to create its future. This is why an invitation to visit Thayer Coggin, a legend celebrating 60 years of success in the furniture industry, represents a jackpot of an opportunity. Thayer Coggin’s mid-century modern, American-made pieces are enduring classics from which the students can learn invaluable lessons about true quality and the sweet spot between intelligent design and function. Thayer Coggin got it so right that they are still manufacturing those original designs, and producing new ones rarely, if at all.
It’s quite a contrast to see the shiny new faces of the industry inside the family-centric plant, their CAD-trained hands sweeping across award-winning designer Milo Baughman’s original drafting table. The factory’s workers still crank out gorgeous furniture using what look to be the same machines that were in the shop when Thayer and Milo first woke up the sleepy furniture business with bold, contemporary pieces.

Carol Lowe, one of Thayer Coggin's long-time employees, leads the SCAD group on a tour of the factory, through all the steps of production, a life span of about eight weeks for most of the pieces that the plant turns out. The students make their way past wooden pattern frames, to upholstery, cutting, sewing and finishing areas.
Carol points out prototypes of original designs that the company intends to bring back. She explains how online sales are increasingly driving interest from overseas and shares anecdotes about recent shipments to Saudi Arabia and Lebanon. (The fabric choices were far different than what domestic customers are ordering.) Whether the students aspire to design and make their furniture by hand, just design, or design and mass manufacture their pieces, the tour is instructive. “We’re just designing things,” notes Sebastian Engel (M.F.A., furniture design) as he discusses the latest in cushion fill with one of Thayer Coggin's staff members. “We want to make sure that our designs work in the real world.”
For 23-year-old Tanner Price (M.F.A, furniture design), who chose SCAD for its emphasis on designing and producing full lines of furniture for the industry, versus focusing just on craft and one-off pieces, witnessing the scale of Thayer Coggin’s operation is enlightening. “You go from a school setting where it’s you, you’re designing and you’re making, to a place where it’s extrapolated to almost one hundred employees, where it’s constant production. It’s a very different but interconnected setting,” he observes. “It’s cool to see the other end of the spectrum.”
Eventually, the group emerges from Thayer Coggin’s modest factory into its slick show room, where Carol points out the pieces that made Thayer Coggin the leader that it is.

The Crusin’ chair, featured in Architectural Digest’s profile of Will Ferrell’s Manhattan loft, stops Christian in his tracks. “It’s as minimal as minimal can be, but still polished,” he notes. “There’s nothing superfluous about it. It’s pure form.”
The chair retails for $9,000.

Someone who’s not attuned to the elements of furniture design might just have noted the chair’s comfort. But the feeling of a piece is also very important, especially to senior Shawn Horsey (B.F.A., furniture design) who finds respite in another chair that deftly cushions the Lacrosse player’s 6-foot-6-inch frame. Part of the genius of the piece is that it can accommodate a body as large as Shawn’s or as small as Kai-ning’s.

Kain-ing sits for a long while in the Good Egg chair and marvels at other features and techniques, like how the footrest folds up under the walnut frame of a recliner.

From Thayer Coggin, the students move on to the High Point Market, host to 75,000 attendees each spring and fall. Inside the IHFC building, one of 180 buildings that comprise the event, they canvas millions of square feet of show space to complete a trend spotting assignment. A few of the design trends that will make their photo journals include cold, metal finishes, grey tones and rectilinear forms.
Shawn, who’s designing an industrial line based on blurring the lines between kitchen and living space for his senior thesis project, hunts down pieces constructed of metal and wood, his favorite materials to work with. Market is for buyers, but it also serves as a feast of inspiration for designers, and it's a place where students can begin to integrate themselves into an industry that's built on relationships.
As a graduate student, Kai-ning has already made inroads for her career in furniture design. During a summer internship at Gabby Home in Montevallo, Alabama, she designed several tables that the manufacturer is showing at Market. She is ecstatic to see her pieces in Gabby’s showroom. Aside from the furniture she has produced at SCAD, this is the first time she has seen her designs come to life, and it marks her official debut at the show.

Kai-ning embodies the qualities that it takes to make it in the business. According to SCAD faculty members George Perez and Sheila Edwards, who arranged the students’ appointments in High Point, there are five characteristics that define a future furniture design star.

5 qualities of a furniture design star
1.) Excellent work ethic
2.) Grasp of furniture’s historical landscape
3.) Good design instincts
4.) Passion for furniture as objects we live with
5.) Curiosity that drives stand-out pieces

George and Sheila are making the rounds to visit showrooms where SCAD alumni, who have already established their careers, are at work. In addition to Katy Skelton, they visit Justin Abee (B.F.A., furniture design, 2004), now in product development for Palecek, which specializes in woven furniture for homes and the hospitality industry. He walks George and Sheila through Palecek’s new equestrian collection.

Like Thayer Coggin, Palecek is an American family-run business that’s a pioneer in the industry. Its furniture is high in quality and price point, but takes its inspiration from different materials and influences. Palecek and Thayer Coggin represent the vast diversity within the industry and the humble origins of many furniture makers. Pieces from manufactures like these can last up to 40 to 50 years. With the right start, immersing themselves as they have in the furniture industry’s epicenter even before they graduate, so too should the careers of these future furniture designers endure.

And the next Milo Baughman is among them.

Yuxi Bi's Supima collection hit the Fashion Week runway


“I’ve always loved fashion,” said Yuxi Bi, a recent fashion graduate. She knew she wanted to leave China to study fashion after discovering SCAD on television. She moved to Savannah four years ago to get the bachelor’s degree she received in June.

Just before she left SCAD, she had one final task—the Supima Cotton Design Competition. The yearly competition asks students at six of America’s top design schools to create a capsule collection of women’s eveningwear gowns from Supima denims, knits, corduroys, twills and shirting. In her romance-themed collection, Bi focused a lot on the twisting and draping of the fabrics. "I really like working on the fabrics to let them drape on the body to form by themselves," said Bi. Every piece in the collection is started by draping it first. 

Bi's focus is on couture. She'd like to open her own couture house one day and in keeping with couture tradition, every garment in her collection is handmade. Even the organic patterns she drew on one of the garments was done by hand using pen and ink. 

A panel of industry insiders that this year included Coco Rocha, Bryanboy, Isabel Dupre, Phil Oh, Natalia Joos and others judged the collection during New York Fashion Week at Lincoln Center. Bi packed her collection for the journey to New York City last week, but wasn't alone there.

Her father came to the United States for the first time, accompanied by her mother, to see her at Lincoln Center.

“They always support me in learning what I want,” said Bi.

That continues this month as she leaves Savannah to continue her training in a Parisian couture house.

Animation draws big summer crowds


“Transformers: Age of Extinction” is the highest grossing film of the summer. So far. “Guardians of the Galaxy” is quickly catching up, and may overtake Transformers’s $243 million domestic haul. The defining characteristics of both films are the blend of live action with entirely animated characters and the many people it takes to make that happen.

Barbara McCullough, chair of visual effects, and Matthew Maloney, associate chair of animation, shared what they believe makes movies like these so successful. The answer, unsurprisingly, is storytelling. Today's technology allows for intimate, detailed worlds previously relegated to the imagination. As McCullough puts it, artists "make the unreal real, suspend disbelief and engage audiences in a visually exciting way."

Visually creating these worlds requires the combined skills of hundreds of animators and visual effects artists at studios spread around the globe. Some 16 alumni worked on the various teams that brought “Guardians of the Galaxy” to life.

It's easy to imagine big-budget films as a difficult task, especially working with so many people. Not so for our students says McCullough.

“They learn modeling, lighting, texturing, shading, creation of atmospheric effects, compositing, programming for 3-D tool creation," she said, "and frequently work in collaboration with their peers while selecting a specific area of specialization.”

Artists working on these large projects need to know all the steps in the pipeline to create complex scenes and, just as important, what the scene must accomplish.

“We train storytellers,” said Maloney. “When animation is at its best, it is supporting storytelling.”


Best of Animation 2014


Our students produce a tremendous amount of work each year. In animation, students learn 2-D and 3-D techniques to prepare them for whatever role they may choose in the industry once they graduate. We've assembled a few of the best works from the 2013-14 school year to share with you.

"Balloon Cat" by Michael Ceminara (M.F.A., animation, 2013).

"Bear and the Bird" by Matt Barrera (B.F.A., animation, 2013).

"Halcyon-17" by Colin Wheeler (M.F.A., animation), Jeff MacDonald (M.A., animation, 2013) and Jenna Zona (M.F.A., animation).

"How I Wonder" by Nora Graven (B.F.A., animation, 2014).

"I M Possible" by Prasad Narse (M.F.A., animation, 2014).

"The Leaping Place" by Michelle Ionescu (B.F.A., animation, 2014).

"Starlight" by Tamarind King (M.F.A., animation), Marisa Tontaveetong (M.F.A., animation), Shir Wen Sun (B.F.A., illustration) and Yu Ueda (M.F.A., animation).

Dark Horse doodler Patric Reynolds on making comics a career


If you flip through a Dark Horse comic illustrated by Patric Reynolds (M.F.A., sequential art, 2009) pay attention. You might notice a recurring face in the panels. A smiling, bearded man — sometimes a mechanic, sometimes a police officer — always seemingly in the background.

It’s a face Patric knows well. Every time he sketches that face he thinks of a man who encouraged him to quit his teaching job in Las Vegas to pursue a career in comic books. He thinks of a man named Steve, his dad.

“I was miserable teaching,” Patric, who grew up in Utah, said. “My parents could see that. The job really hardened me. I didn’t like the person I was turning into. I wanted to do comic books, but I thought, ‘No one makes a living as an artist.’”

Now Patric happily eats those words, working for Dark Horse Comics with industry legends like Mike Mignola, Patton Oswalt and Joss Whedon.

“I don’t need another job. I draw comics all day and I can pay my bills.”

That’s partly because the comic books industry is booming, bringing in over $700 million in annual revenue (up from $450 million in 2004). And with that growth, career options for people with Patric's skills have blossomed. Patric didn’t know that either until a push from his parents landed him at a college career fair.

It was there that Patric showed his portfolio to Savannah College of Art and Design professor Ray Goto (M.F.A., sequential art, 2002) and learned his talent could get him scholarships. Though his parents were sold, Patric knew that going back to school would mean giving up a steady income that covered his mortgage and car payments.

“I wasn’t on board,” he said. “My parents said, ‘You need to do this.’ My dad, in particular, said, 'I think you can make a living at this. We will be there in the morning.’ They drove to Las Vegas from Utah with a trailer to load my stuff. I trusted them. And so I moved to the South to learn to draw comics.”

Before Patric left, his father told him to never give up on anything and to keep his dream alive. Those words — coupled with honing his craft — helped Patric get a degree from SCAD and his first commission at Dark Horse working on an Abe Sapien comic within the “Hellboy” franchise.

That’s when tragedy struck.

Patric recalled, “I was inking pages when my mom called to tell me, ‘Your dad was out flying with your uncle and they were both killed.’” The small airplane crashed somewhere in the remote backcountry between Utah and Idaho.

The first person Patric called was Dark Horse editor-in-chief Scott Allie. “I was in shock. I told Scott, ‘I’m probably not going to meet this deadline. My dad just died.’ He said, ‘Jesus. Don’t worry about it. Get yourself settled.’ I could hear that Scott was talking to his kid in the background while he was on the phone with me. I knew he understood the gravity of the situation.”

Patric left the project for two weeks to help his family with the difficult double funeral back home, but he knew he had to return to finish the Abe Sapien comic.

“I told Scott, ‘Please don’t take me off this comic,’” he remembered. “There was a sense of duty to it. So when I got back into the project it became something to get me through my dad not being there anymore. It helped me push down the grief. Those last three pages got really hard, though. I started shaking by the end of it.”

But Patric finished the project, fueled by the image of his father working in his machine shop in Utah.

“He had his own business and he had to work so hard at it,” Patric said. “My mom would stay up with him at his shop. She fell asleep against the wall a few times waiting for him to finish working. That image — my dad committed to his work and mom committing to what my dad had committed to — told me that if I committed that much to something I could accomplish things.”

Finishing the job is something he says he learned from SCAD professors, too. “Ray Goto and Paul Hudson and others taught me how to keep at something, to work and how to finish things,” he said. “That’s really the one big thing I learned at SCAD — how to commit and work. If you don’t buckle down and get work done, then it never gets done. You work until you finish.”

Patric now lives in Portland, Oregon, where Dark Horse is headquartered. He is currently illustrating an “Aliens” comic as part of a series reboot spawning off the 2012 movie “Prometheus.”

“Scott Allie told me that Dark Horse plans to keep me busy. Most people couldn’t claim that in, say, the 1970s. You had to send your stuff to New York and then they would get back to you — maybe. It’s so much easier to get into the industry.”

Now sequential artists can influence everything from videogames to storyboards to the latest summer superhero movie. The industry has never been better. Disney just bought Marvel for $4 billion. Movies based on comic books continue to place in the top 100 grossing films of all time: "The Avengers" alone brought in an estimated $1.5 billion worldwide. Investment advisors are even telling clients to sell their vintage comic books to help fund retirement.

People like Patric are the ones behind those impressive statistics. And it was the people behind Patric that got him to pursue his dream.

“I think I always really followed what my parents told me,” he said. “My dad always kept telling me to keep the dream alive. I even wrote that above my desk when I was teaching in Las Vegas. My students would ask, ‘What does that mean?’ I would just tell them they’d see for themselves one day. You have to work at it everyday. You keep it alive and you remember what you love.”

And, in a way, keeping his dream alive also helps Patric to keep his dad's memory alive. Patric says the likeness of his dad will continue popping up in the background of the comics he works on, if only to keep an eye on him from afar.

Architecture: a return to art is the way forward


What would it look like if architects were allowed to be artists again; as comfortable in the manual and intuitive realms of drawing, painting and sculpture as with parametric modeling and digital imaging? What if we were to reject the limitations of product-driven, systematic design and production and re-engage the full range of tools innately available and refined over the course of millennia?

Watercolor by Christian Sottile.

The evolution from humanities to technology
Once considered to be among the principal arts, Architecture has passed through a technological revolution over the course of a century, moving from the art based approach of the famed French academy, the École des Beaux-Arts, to the functional dictums and objectivism of the German Bauhaus that would forever alter the course of design and education.

This revolution in education culminated during the digital era. Both the product and process of design entered the last phases of a radical transformation, unmoored from centuries of humanistic origins. Its success proved the potential of something distinctly other, with little emphasis on anthropomorphic, geographic or cultural connection; thereby embracing the full, expansive possibilities of the virtual and the synthetic. This last stage of the revolution has now passed its third decade, and we have grown increasingly detached from humanistic concerns.

An opportunity within reach
Firmly planted as we are in the digital era, the opportunity exists to reconsider the practices that preceded the revolution, to rescue tools that may have been set aside too quickly; tools that will prove essential in charting a way forward for architecture and design. What was jettisoned in the exuberance and upheaval of unprecedented technological innovation is the elusive quality that allows our buildings to speak to us: their humanity - evident and embedded in the pursuit of beauty and the art of making.

Today, this places the architecture profession at an extraordinary moment in history, an era in which we may now synthesize the best of the past with the victories of the digital revolution to embrace a truly hybridized future. It’s not the tired old debate between the École des Beaux Arts, a school of art, or the Bauhaus, a school of building, but rather a ‘BeauxHaus,’ a School of Building Arts.

Activating a fresh approach
At Savannah College of Art and Design, this approach to architecture is reflected in the SCAD Museum of Art. Built in 2010, SCAD MOA embodies what has long been taught in the SCAD School of Building Arts: the dissolution of boundaries between design disciplines. The museum is a place where the highest ideals of urban design, architecture, interior design, architectural history, historic preservation and furniture design all find distinct yet integrated expression.

SCAD Museum of Art: a case study
So how would a renewed emphasis on the tactile art of making - on the real - change the design process and the built environment?

Returning to SCAD MOA as a case study, at its core, the museum is a testimonial to synthesis, created using a design process that included the full spectrum of available tools and methods, from digital modeling and BIM, to physical model making, in situ mock-ups, sketching, painting, and digital collage. It’s a building brought about through a construction process that included full scale enlargements of hand-drawn details to create field templates; that included prefabricated modular building envelope components, integrated with local craftsman, practicing the most ancient of building trades, hand-crafting the building using the human hand and eye as their primary tools.

The confluence of disciplines embodied by SCAD MOA makes it one emblem for a new order of design that will allow architects to create the next generation of cities, to reject the soulless, placeless design strategies that characterized city centers created or recreated in the latter half of the 20th century; that will empower architects instead to create new places that come alive with a synthesis of art, humanism and delight, as well as technology and innovation.

This is the way forward.

Christian Sottile (M.Arch., 1997) is the dean of the School of Building Arts at Savannah College of Art and Design where he oversees programs in architecture, urban design, interior design, historic preservation, furniture design and architectural history. He is also design principal of Sottile & Sottile and the design architect for the SCAD Museum of Art.

The future of preservation: Will a new generation take up the cause?


Growing up, I regularly thumbed through family photo albums. This ritual of navigating the worn, yellowing pages of images, as if I were traversing history, was eye opening. The photos contextualized my place in that history. So I panic when I think that my daughter may not experience that same sense of belonging because these physical signposts do not exist for her to explore, at least not in a form that she can touch or feel, except to swipe at them on the screens of the devices behind which they’re trapped.

Photos of my great grandfather and grandmother from our family tree.

This angst I have over not being a better steward of our young family’s growing photo collection makes me a preservationist. That’s what a group of students from Savannah College of Art and Design helped me to understand. The last people you might associate with being champions for the old and non-digital, all younger than me, recently gathered to present their plan for engaging new generations in the pursuit of preservation. Their solution, a historic preservation patch for Girl Scouts, is a collaboration between SCAD’s historic preservation department, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Girl Scouts of Historic Georgia.

A prototype of the patch designed and created by SCAD students.

One of the first things the scouts needed to learn, they realized, is what exactly historic preservation is. It’s a good question, actually, for adults and kids, one that promotes an awareness of our surroundings and the laying down of our devices in order to delve into community. As the SCAD students, ages 21 and up, teach in their guide for leaders and scouts, historic preservation goes beyond saving buildings to include protecting artifacts, culture and, yes, even family history and photos. Though Savannah, where the students are pursuing their degrees, is an epicenter of historic districts and preservation, their guide is intentionally broad enough to relate to any city in the U.S.

SCAD historic preservation students partnered with graphic design, dramatic writing, fibers and sequential art students to create the guide. To earn a patch, scouts must fulfill seven activities that fall under different categories of preservation, like personal history.

Any tool that promotes historic preservation to the next generation must be conducive to mass appeal, lest the fervor for ‘saving places’ dies with the present generation. One indicator that doesn’t bode well for the future of preservation, for example, is the average age of those who read Preservation Magazine: 61.

The apparent apathy toward historic preservation among young people is something that keeps preservationists like SCAD professor Connie Pinkerton, who led the students in the creation of the Girl Scout patch, talking.

Connie, a former Girl Scout whose daughter is also a Girl Scout, notes that her millennial generation students must carry the torch or, more appropriately, an LED light in support of historic preservation. A quick survey of her students about what could possibly have sparked their interest in historic preservation as an area of study is a case study for hope.

Savannah’s storied, historic buildings, many of them rehabilitated by SCAD, drew Bethany Emenhiser (M.F.A., historic preservation) to historic preservation. “People made things with their hands and those things and places are still standing. But today, even in our high-tech world, homes are being blown over by tornados,” she said of her admiration for preservation.

“Going green and sustainability are so in, but preservation was the first sustainability.”

That observation is astute for a student whose peers, by contrast, spend hours upon hours in a building near hers using the latest in 3D printing technologies.

Likewise, Jake Eichorn (B.F.A., historic preservation) became interested in preservation when studying at SCAD opened his eyes to the treasures of historic Savannah.  The 21-year-old, who will spend his summer helping a professor rehab a Victorian, gets starry-eyed talking about property record chains and a future career fixing up and flipping historic homes. For Jake, breaking down the fundamentals of historic preservation into a form that ten and 11-year-olds can understand was a rewarding challenge, just as the pursuit of the historic preservation patch will no doubt be also.

I’m glad my daughter, armed with our family photo album, will have the option to pursue this patch if she so chooses.

The historic preservation patch will be unveiled at the 2014 National Preservation Conference (Nov. 11-14) at SCAD Savannah.

How to get into the video game industry


Updated June 12: Savannah College of Art and Design’s team “Prisma” won the 2014 E3 College Game Competition. This is the second year in a row that SCAD has taken the top prize, awarded to them on the floor of the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) by president and CEO of the Electronic Entertainment Association (ESA), Michael Gallagher. A panel of industry professionals evaluated the five finalists and chose SCAD’s 2.5-D, side-scrolling platformer as the winner.

Posted June 11: They may not have landed their dream jobs yet, but check again after they show their game "Prisma" at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) as finalists in the 2014 E3 College Game Competition.

SCAD's E3 team with the ESA's Michael Gallagher, ITGM faculty, program chair Luis Cataldi and Professor Tony Tseng.

Members of team "Prisma" from Savannah College of Art and Design are in the thick of it. The booth where they're showing the game is surrounded by leading publishers and developers, and they’re in the midst of searching for jobs where they can unleash the fundamentals they’ve acquired in SCAD's interactive design and game development program.

Who better to ask about this topic of getting a job in the video game industry than those who have done the research and have a completed game on their resumes to boot? Before we get to the advice from the student developers and recent grads, here's the interactive design and game development program coordinator from SCAD Atlanta, Professor Tony Tseng.

"Prisma" is the product of Professor Tseng's senior studio class, a three-quarter, nine-month process in which students work in teams to design and develop original games from scratch. On the topic of breaking into the industry and the demand for talent, Professor Tseng is quick to note that the surge in mobile devices and the direct digital distribution of content has pushed the game development industry into a ‘new golden age.’

Game developers no longer need incredible amounts of money and a giant publisher to put their games in the market for general consumers. They can publish and sell their games with a very affordable budget. As a result, students have the option to ‘go indie' and develop and sell their own games if they want to instead of working for an established game studio.

That’s good news for those who want to make a career out of video games. But let’s start at the beginning.

Playtesting of "Prisma" at SCAD Atlanta.

SCAD: How does having a degree in game development improve one’s job prospects?

Prof. Tseng: In the broadest sense, game design refers to the idea behind a game. But it's come to mean a whole lot more than that. In large immersive games, game design refers to the central theme or point and the core gameplay mechanics, as well as the story and plot and the characters' back-stories. Having good ideas for a game is not enough, a game designer needs to present the ideas clearly and communicate with the production team effectively. In our program, the students learn how to construct clear game design documentations and level diagrams, build non-digital and digital prototypes and create and execute production plans. In our senior studio we simulate a real game studio environment and students work in a team to create fully playable games. This education and training gives our game design students the capability to take on any game project on day one of their job in the industry.

SCAD: What can one do to become more appealing to hiring managers in the industry?

PT: First, preparing a strong and professional looking portfolio is the most important thing. At SCAD, we offer a very hands-on education, as we want our students to be able to build what they have in mind (not just talk about). Students produce portfolio-quality projects by working in pretty much every studio class in our program starting their sophomore year. In their senior year, we have a dedicated portfolio class in which we teach our students how to construct specific portfolios to target their dream jobs. Next, getting internships with well known game studios is important. At SCAD, for example, we have established internship programs with many game studios in metro Atlanta for our students. Winning major game design and development competitions such as E3 is also a way for new talent to get noticed, as is networking at other major gaming conferences like GDC, SIEGE, IndieCade.

A team from SCAD was a co-winner of the 2013 E3 College Game Competition.

SCAD: What are different career paths in the industry?

PT: The industry recruits for game artists, animators, designers and programmers. Here's the path for each of these roles:

Game Art: Start as a 2d/3d character or environment artist building secondary/background/non-playable character and props -> senior 2d/3d character or environment artist building main characters and feature props = art director overseeing the entire art production and managing the art team.

Game Designer: Start as an associate game designer designing scenario/combat/event/dialogue -> game designer designing the core system of the game = creative director overseeing the game design team and developing original ideas for new titles.

Game Programmer: Start as junior programmer coding modular sections of a game like scenario/combat/event/dialogue/UI -> senior programmer designing and coding the main framework = technical director overseeing the entire technical production and managing the programming team

Now, back to some of the members of the E3 team who fulfilled these roles while making "Prisma" and what they’ve gleaned from their job searches.

Don't wait until college to learn how to program, or how to draw, or how to deconstruct a game's systems. Practice every day while you can.  Don't be afraid to show your work to people, and don't be discouraged when your work gets ripped apart. Pick up the pieces and keep trying.  We have a saying in the ITGM department, which is to 'Fail better.'

-Kyle Bolton, Prisma’s project manager, designer and programmer
Current job: Independent contractor at Thrust Interactive

Try to get involved. Start a personal blog where people can see and critique your work. Go to or YouTube to learn programs. Go to Polycount Forum’s Wiki for technique. Join a mod team (or the like) to have a shipped product on your resume.

-Hank Silman, Prisma’s art director and environment artist
Dream job: Game artist at Naughty Dog

Employers want to be wowed.  They want to be so captured by your work that they want to see more and get you in for that interview. 

-Angelica Rodriguez-Vazquez, Prisma’s environment artist
Dream job: 3D environment artist at Nintendo or Blizzard

Like every other industry, game development employers look for what you can do to contribute to the studio, from the hard skills needed to complete the tasks at hand, to the soft skills needed to promote a better and more productive work environment.  Since the game development pipeline incorporates many disciplines, what employers look for specifically will vary and every applicant should tailor what they demonstrate to the situation.

-Khoa Nguyen, Prisma’s technical artist and programmer
Dream job: Technical artist at Blue Mammoth, Xaviant or Thrust

Whether or not "Prisma" lands in the hands of the 181 million Americans who play video games, it’s fair to bet that with a start this strong, something these future industry leaders will work on will make it to the 21 billion dollar market. They'll meet you there.

Landmark moment for SCAD graduates in Hong Kong


It was a milestone for Savannah College of Art and Design's 35-year history when its first graduating class from Hong Kong walked across the commencement stage.

More than 60 graduates gathered at the W Hong Kong Hotel, which overlooks the West Kowloon waterfront, to celebrate the beginning of a long journey of achievements ahead. Nearly 300 families, professors and supporters of SCAD attended the ceremony in Hong Kong's new art and cultural quarter.

Valedictorian Katrina Teh (B.F.A., illustration, 2014) left her hometown of Manila to study at SCAD in 2011. This is the second diploma that she's earned. Before SCAD, Katrina graduated with honors from the most prestigious university in Manila. Still, she felt there was more she could do to make her passion dovetail with her career. She came to SCAD with a very clear goal of realising her dream of drawing for a living.

“I consciously chose SCAD because I wanted to be technically better as an artist. I came here finding that I was growing up – learning how to be a better person. SCAD opened my life to a world of creative people and great opportunity for growth. ”

In her speech, Katrina also said that at SCAD she found “comrades in art,” like minded students with the same passion for creating things who would go through critiques together, sleepless from tirelessly perfecting key frames, value contrasts, kerning or line quality.

While at SCAD, Katrina exhibited her work widely, received coverage in the Philippine Star and The Hong Kong Economic Journal, and led a team from SCAD to win the 2012 Disney ImagiNations Hong Kong competition. Following her ImagiNations win, she was awarded a trip to Disney headquarters in Glendale, California and an internship at Hong Kong Disneyland. Recently, she accepted a position as a concept designer at Hong Kong Disneyland and will continue to work as an illustrator and painter, as well. Her advice for fellow graduates:

“There is no peak upon graduation, my friends, only an infinite sky of possibilities. Keep moving forward, and never give up.”

Presiding over the commencement ceremony, SCAD president and co-founder Paula Wallace conferred degrees to the graduates. The new SCAD alumni were also addressed in a speech by interior designer Ken Hu (M.A., interior design, 1995), a partner at Chen Chung Design. Ken shared his experiences as a creative professional and told the group what they can look forward to after studying at SCAD.

The first batch of graduates was also joined by Adrian Cheng Chi-kong, a cultural entrepreneur and advocate for art and education in Hong Kong and Asia, as well as co-founder and chairman of Arts in Heritage Research. SCAD awarded Adrian an honorary doctorate degree.

SCAD Board of Trustees chair Albie Whitaker III, board member Chan Lai Wa, Deputy Consul General of the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong, Tom Cooney, and Raymond Chan, a representative from Hong Kong's office of the Commissioner for Heritage, were among some of the distinguished guests at the ceremony.




插畫系學士課程學生Katrina Teh今年以優異成績畢業,並獲得代表畢業生在典禮上致告別辭的機會。Katrina熱愛創作和畫畫,於2011年由馬尼拉來港入讀SCAD。她先前在馬尼拉一所大學以優異成績畢業並取得第一個學士學位,但她仍感不足,希望進一步裝備自己,她入讀SCAD時懷著明確目標:將繪晝創作的興趣變成一生的事業。Katrina致辭時說:「我選擇入讀SCAD,因為我希望磨鍊技巧,成為一個更優秀的藝術家。在這裡我發現自己成長了,變成一個更優秀的人。SCAD創造了一個有利學習進步的空間,讓我可以與其他有創意的人連結交流。」

Katrina認識了不少志同道合、同樣熱衷創作的「戰友」同學,數年來一起捱夜、一起趕功課,奮力完善每個技術細節如動畫創作的關鍵幀 (key frame)、明度(value contracts) 、字距(kerning),甚至是線的質量。

在學期間,Katrina的作品有機會於Philippine Star及信報刊登,她並與三位同學組隊勇奪2012年迪士尼幻想工程香港挑戰賽冠軍。他們的奬品是免費參觀美國加州的迪士尼樂園,以及到香港迪士尼接受為期八周的實習生訓練。今年六月畢業後,Katrina將獲聘為香港迪士尼的概念設計師。


畢業典禮由SCAD校長Paula Wallace主持,她並向一眾畢業生頒贈學位和證書。


藝術及古蹟資料研究的創辦人及主席鄭志剛獲頒發榮譽博士學位,以表揚他對推動香港藝術和文化的貢獻。其他出席的嘉賓包括SCAD董事會主席Alan B. Whitaker III及董事會成員陳麗華、美國領事館及發展局的代表。