Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Comprehensive SATE '13 recap

by Clara Rice of Jack Rouse Associates --  The halls of Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) literally shook last week, pulsating with the energy of the Themed Entertainment Association’s 9th Annual Storytelling Architecture Technology Experience (SATE) Conference.  TEA President, Christine Kerr, and SATE Co-Chairs, exp’s Aram Ebben and Stefan Lawrence of Stefan Rules!, assembled a powerhouse slate of speakers for the nearly 200 attendees, and the conference offered 2 days brimming with presentations, roundtables and informal informational exchanges. The presenting sponsor of the conference was Christie®. While the conference was segmented into the four component’s of SATE’s acronym, story was the wellspring and foundation of each: from how stories are conceived and constructed, to how they are manifested into a physical space, to who should be scripting them.  Adam Bezark of The Bezark Company launched the Storytelling segment...
Read the full article at InPark Magazine. 

Bonus content: The NextGen component of SATE '13

See other SATE '13 writeups on the "SATE in the News" page.

Clara Rice reports on how the NextGen components of SATE '13 fulfilled the "What's Next" theme

SCAD student volunteers at SATE '13. Photo: Gene Jeffers, TEA

Image courtesy George Head, SCAD
The “Y’s” Have It: Putting a Human Face on What’s Next for Themed Entertainment
By Clara J. Rice, JRA

The greatest manifestations of the SATE '13 conference’s “What’s Next” theme were seated in the audience.

The recent Storytelling Architecture Technology Experience (SATE) conference, presented by Christie® and organized by the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) Oct 3-4, 2013 in Savannah, Georgia USA, and hosted by the Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD), offered intriguing glimpses of themed entertainment’s future projects, products and gadgets. But it was the human factor that literally personified the theme most powerfully. Overflowing with enthusiasm, and not afraid to ask the tough questions, dozens of TEA NextGen members served as human sponges of information, hanging on the words of the presenters and impressing all with their inquisitiveness, technical know-how and passion for the industry. The setting of the conference at SCAD fortified TEA’s mission to bridge the academic and the professional for the enrichment of the Experience Design industry.

Related: Comprehensive SATE '13 recap by Clara Rice; SATE '13 News Page

Adam Bezark. Photo: Gene Jeffers, TEA
To begin the conference, and to help students grasp the myriad methods of crossing that bridge, SATE Storytelling Segment Chair, Adam Bezark of The Bezark Company, challenged all speakers to begin their presentations with their own “industry initiation story.” Many were funny; most were unconventional:

Christine Kerr, BaAM, TEA President: “I initially got a job in the Canada’s Wonderland costume department because I was the only one tall enough to reach the shelves. Finally they asked if I could sew, and my response was ‘Yes, isn’t that why you hired me?’”

Al Cross, PGAV Destinations, Architecture Segment Chair: “I entered the industry through the side door after beginning my career in the ‘architecture mainstream.’ I was content, but the company closed an office, and PGAV was entering the Midwest casino and hotel boom of the early nineties, so I called them, and they wanted me (I not-so-jokingly mention that Fred Guyton…’the G’ … didn’t want to risk his good guys on the casino thing, so he gave it to me). Anyway, the rest is just a continuing lesson in perseverance and passion, and my willingness and ability to show I could succeed in understanding entertainment design.”

Paul Kent, Electrosonic, Technology Segment Guest Speaker: “I worked in live events and was touring 25 out of 30 days under less-than-perfect conditions. When I was offered the chance to be on the design and installation team for a permanent attraction and be in the same place for six months, I jumped at it.”

Mk Haley. Photo: Gene Jeffers, TEA
Mk Haley, Disney Research, Technology Segment Chair: “I was a student participant in the 1994 Walt Disney Imagineering ImagiNations Design Competition, while in graduate school studying for my MFA in Computer Animation. As a designer/animator, I came prepared for internship interviews in a new suit, with a portfolio and slides in tow. I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time, as WDI was working on the Aladdin Virtual Reality Magic Carpet ride at the time. The interviewing team asked right off the bat, ‘let's get this straight, you are an artist who can code? Can you start tomorrow?’ Best interview ever! I do not believe I ever cracked the zipper on my portfolio. I started immediately and relocated with 11 other interns to Florida two weeks later to man the VR Lab at EPCOT Center.”

Dave Cobb, Thinkwell Group, Experience Segment Guest Speaker: “I was a theater and cinema nerd in high school (with an obsession for the Haunted Mansion and Universal Monsters), whose first three jobs were working the Halloween Shop at Sears (and wearing a costume every day), a video rental store, and giving tours at Universal Studios; that last one stuck for about five years through college. I eventually discovered Universal Planning & Development (now Universal Creative), where I begged for an entry-level job as a Project Coordinator on the installation of ‘Back to the Future: The Ride.’ After that, there was no turning back!”

Personal side note: For the record, this writer got into the themed entertainment industry through a chance acquaintance with an old family friend of the man who would three weeks later become my boss. It just goes to show you never know where your next opportunity will come from.

The NextGen bonus session at SATE '13. Photo: George Head, SCAD
NextGen members were not merely passive listeners to SATE’s proceedings – they were active participants. Student video submissions, curated by Haley, offered everything from robotic stage actors to RFID-reactive, multi-colored LED sculptures. SCAD showcased its Collaborative Learning Center program, a triumvirate partnership of students, professors and some of the world’s top companies, and afforded student CLC participants the opportunity to share their experiences working on a Disney project.

Delfin Gomez, a Master’s candidate in SCAD’s Themed Entertainment Design program, served on the Experience panel alongside Cobb, Phil Hettema of the Hettema Group and Local Projects’ Jake Barton. And all of the SCAD student attendees served as volunteers throughout the conference, whether as stage managers, event greeters or overall crowd-wranglers. TEA even offered a Saturday morning bonus session to provide students additional one-on-one time with SATE presenters.
SCAD student Shelly Martin discusses her Collaborative Learning Center project. Photo: TEA.

As featured in a recent article published by InPark Magazine, TEA’s NextGen Committee has been hard at work over the last two years creating avenues for student and recent graduate engagement in the themed entertainment industry. SATE provided the committee an opportunity to announce some exciting initiatives it has in store for the remainder of 2013 and into 2014, including year-round curating of student video submissions via a dedicated TEA NextGen YouTube Channel. Select videos will be shown during TEA Summit Weekend in April and at future SATE conferences. The new TEA website, debuting in mid-2014, will provide ample inroads for NextGen engagement, including a portal matching TEA member companies with co-ops and vice versa, as well as a designated page on which students can post their portfolios. All of these initiatives will create an ever-flowing stream of dialogue between the industry’s leaders of today and those of the future.

Rick Rothschild visits with SCAD student Jacob Berding during SATE. Photo courtesy SCAD.
Overall, the conference was a veritable love fest between the new and not-so-new to themed entertainment.

Bezark called the students the “real stunners” of SATE, lamenting, “you little [ahem…geniuses] are so much more advanced than we ever were!” He also marveled at their energy and professionalism: “their questions were sharp, their attitudes appreciative, and all of them worked hard to help make the conference fun and easy for everyone. That fountain of youth gave all of us speakers an extra jolt of energy ourselves.” Al Cross agreed and was particularly impressed by SCAD’s “obvious mission to find their grads a place in the working world.”
George Head. Photo: Gene Jeffers, TEA.

According to SCAD Professor, George Head, the positive vibe was mutual, and his students were effusive in their praise of the experience. “The TEA leadership’s visit to SCAD has inspired students and changed their career choices and perceptions of the industry. We heard many times how the conversations with small groups of students were truly inspirational and life-changing.”

Kile Ozier, TEA NextGen Chair, received similar feedback: “my ears and inbox have been filled with articulate and gushing (not necessarily mutually exclusive) thank-you’s and acknowledgements from scores of NextGen participants.” As one of those participants, Gomez couldn’t agree more: “it was a wonderful reciprocate event in which all points of view and cultures converged in a very rich experience offering growth opportunities for all.”

But perhaps Paul Navarro – a writer, producer, director and Carnegie Mellon MET ’14 candidate – best summed up the NextGen experience at SATE. Paul shared that, in the final analysis, those four days of dialog were more than a conference, more than a professional speed dating session, more than an industry audition. SATE was an opportunity for people to meet people, not just portfolios. It was a place to put human faces to the names of industry veterans and to create deeper inter- and intra-generational connections: "How will I use this information? The best thing to come out of this conference for me was the relationships I began to seed. These were not only people I’d like to work with, but people I like as friends. SATE wasn’t just about themed entertainment; the event was about community, and I’m excited to now be a part of that community. The job part will work itself out."

To find out more about TEA NextGen, including how to join, visit the TEA website, @TEAXperiencCafe on Twitter or the TEA NextGen Facebook page.

Clara Rice
Director, Digital Engagement and Assistant Project Manager
JRA (Jack Rouse Associates)
In her project management role, Clara is responsible for contract, schedule and budget management, helping to ensure that JRA’s designs are produced accurately, on time and on budget. As Director, Digital Engagement, Clara is the Editor-in-Chief and Founder of the www.jackrouse.com/blog company blog, coordinates all social media efforts and is always eager to find new ways to communicate the JRA story to the industry and beyond. She also enjoys giving back to the industry and currently serves on TEA's NextGen Committee.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

TEA leaders mentor students at SATE '13

Robert Ward talks with students
Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) leaders including TEA president Christine Kerr, past president Rick Rothschild and Lifetime Achievement awardee Robert Ward - and numerous other acclaimed industry figures - met with students as part of the NextGen mentoring mission of SATE '13. Photos courtesy George Head of SCAD Savannah. See the entire photo album on TEA's Facebook page.

SATE (Storytelling, Architecture, Technology,
Mk Haley of Disney Research talks with students
Experience) is the signature conference of the Themed Entertainment Association. SATE '13 presented by Christie® took place Oct 3-4 at the Savannah College of Art & Design.

SATE '13 in the news - Thank you, media partners!

Warm thanks to all the SATE '13 media partners who helped to spread the word about TEA's annual conference on Experience Design and make it a successful business gathering. These media outlets shared details of SATE '13 with their readers, interviewed SATE '13 speakers and provided insightful, original coverage of the event itself.

Please check out "SATE '13 in the News" to access SATE '13 articles by our media partners. The page is updated when we learn about new stories.

SATE '13 media partners were: NewsParcs, Park World, InPark Magazine, MiceChat, Themed Reality, The JRA Blog, The Season Pass Podcast, EntertainmentDesigner and Attractions Management.

SATE (Storytelling, Architecture, Technology, Experience) is the signature conference of the Themed Entertainment Association. SATE '13 presented by Christie® took place Oct 3-4 at the Savannah College of Art & Design.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Memorable quotes from SATE '13 speakers & delegates

"...the coolest conference I've been to in a long time." -- Adam Bezark, The Bezark Company

Liz Gazzano, Pixar: "Cars Land pictures of Guido the forklift are all selfies because he's the only car with hands!"

"Fans can have a sense of ownership over your park that can be even greater than your own." -- Dave Cobb, Thinkwell

Chris Conte, Electrosonic: "The next big game changer is laser illumination. Laser projection will increase brightness 2.5 times and optimize 3D."

"Make the audience use their imagination. Your audience should do some of the work." -- Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune

"Creativity lies somewhere between art and science." -- Chuck Hoberman, Hoberman Assoc.

"Mind ACTUALLY BLOWN." -- Dave Cooperstein, PGAV

Adam Bezark: "Story makes us remember and everyone has a story to tell."

Mk Haley, Disney Research: "Invent your job. Invent your future."

Theme parks provide Pixar the "opportunity to take the characters beyond the boundaries of the film." -- Roger Gould, Pixar

"If this conference doesn't energize you to work in themed entertainment, right to your very core, nothing will." -- Brian Tatosky, SATE delegate

"Tech changes year to year. Human connections and emotional resonance are the things that last." -- Jake Barton, Local Projects

"Once you've done a job 2 or 3 times, you become most expensive - because you know how much it costs." -- David Gray, Oasis Enterprises

"At the end of the day, it's all about Story." -- Mark Gilicinski, MX

"Museums. A place for self-realization, where memories are made." Josh Jeffery, Warhol Museum

Jason Hintz Llopis , introducing the Now and Next of Interactivity. "Fear not-it's like a tasty pie."

"Architecture is built like a movie." -- Jonathan Douglas, VOA

"S.A.T.E. is the curriculum of the 21st century." -- Donald Marinelli

"Chris Huntley, Write Brothers gave the best story structure talk since Joseph Campbell." -- Brian Tatosky, SATE delegate

"There is not an aspect of drama that doesn't also apply to comedy." -- David Misch

"Stories. The way we solve problems." -- Chris Huntley

SATE (Storytelling, Architecture, Technology, Experience) is the signature conference of the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA). SATE '13 presented by Christie® took place Oct 3-4 at the Savannah College of Art & Design.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

TEA's Experience Design Conference in full swing! Photos from SATE '13 Day One

Christine Kerr, BaAM Productions and TEA President. Photo: Gene Jeffers, TEA.

 The SATE '13 Experience Design conference opened Oct. 3. SATE '13 is organized by the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) and hosted at the Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD).

Photos by Gene Jeffers, TEA. More information at www.sate2013.blogspot.com.

SATE'13 Co-chairs Aram Ebben, exp and Stefan Lawrence, Stefan Rules. Photo: Gene Jeffers, TEA.

Gokhan Ozaysin, SCAD Chief Academic Officer. Photo: Gene Jeffers, TEA.

Adam Bezark, The Bezark Company, and Storytelling Segment Chair. Photo: Gene Jeffers, TEA.

Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune. Photo: Gene Jeffers, TEA.

Chris Huntley, Write Brothers Inc. Photo: Gene Jeffers, TEA.

Asa Kalama, Walt Disney R&D. Photo: Gene Jeffers, TEA.

David Misch. Photo: Gene Jeffers, TEA.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Storytelling writers attending SATE invited to join a session with Adam Bezark

Message from SATE '13 Storytelling chair Adam Bezark:

  • I am seeking volunteers for my panel, "The Writer's Table." 
  •  We want to get some working theme park / museum / experience writers up on stage, to talk about the challenges and opportunities that  we all face today as storytellers. 
  • Any professional writers (or "storytellers" in the larger sense) who would be willing to come up and join us should contact me asap. 
  • It'll be the final event of the "Story" quadrant on Thursday morning (Oct 3) at SATE '13.

Contact: Adam Bezark, adam@bezark.com

SATE (Storytelling, Architecture, Technology, Experience) is the signature conference of the Themed Entertainment Association. SATE '13 presented by Christie® takes place Oct 3-4 at the Savannah College of Art & Design.