Brandi C Creason Valencia, CA Co-Founder of T.E.A.D. Production Designer, Art Director, Art Department Guru! Years Active: 30
How did you get your start? What was your first job/gig? Well, my start, is actually one of those TRUE Hollywood stories, and better left for another time! But the first gig I landed, was as a Production Assistant in the Art Department of a movie production called True Lies with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis.
I literally made copies, wrangled tea and coffee, opened the office in the mornings, and got to be present for amazing moments throughout the 9 months of a large scale movie project; and that opened my eyes to what this industry was about. I learned so much, beyond belief. I made connections that garnered me more work and mentors throughout my career. But it solidified my love for this industry!
I had a storybook moment that got my start, and I will forever have that story, but the learnings from that I can speak to would be: to not be afraid to put yourself out there! It's about timing- being in the right place at the right time is really how this industry works, and you need to stay present and current.
Building a network was also among the learnings from that experience, and staying naive! Don't ever let yourself get sucked into being jaded by this industry. Stay naive so that you will put your self out there without thinking about it! Did you go to school or have any formal training that helped prepare you for your career? Yes! I got my BFA in Graphic Design, but realized that at the time, the market was about to be flooded with Graphic Designers. And synchronicity played a part, in that I met a mentor during my last year of my BFA that got me involved with theatre design and construction. I took a couple of drafting classes and found my calling. It was easy for me to take the concepts and turn them into drafted designs that they could then build from. I have been fortunate enough throughout my life, beginning from middle school all the way through today, to have had mentors that have guided me and become so inspirational to my career.
My Theatre mentor, got me a connection with CalArts, and I ended up coming out to Cali to get my MFA in Theatre Set Design. Again, while attending school, I was able to work with my professors on their current industry projects and I fell in love with the Entertainment Industry and designing for film and tv.
Having a Theatre degree, I was feeling like I would have a hard time finding steady work as a Theatre designer, so I knew I had to expand my job value and perhaps my skills could transfer into the film and tv areas. Yes!! Of course the skills transfer! Again, if you know the basics of the ideas, then you can translate into any type of project! Fantastic! My career possibilities just opened beyond belief!
I am a huge proponent of school and training. I still to this day, take courses at the local community college just to freshen up on subject matters! But I also know that I had the right personality for school. I love homework. It's just like having a project deadline! Some people were not made for school and all the conformity that goes along with it- that is fine, but my suggestion is just to NEVER STOP LEARNING!
Find mentors that you can continue to learn from, take courses throughout your life to brush up on your skills; especially with how quickly technology changes, you need to keep up with it so that you stay current and stay up to date! Just keep expanding your skills and get as well rounded as you can so that you become the most VALUABLE person on a project!
What are some of the challenges you’ve had in your career? How did you overcome them? Throughout my career, I have had to work with some challenging people. Individuals who hire you to do a job because you have the expertise in a subject, but then argue with you about the/your process.
I've always believed that when I hire someone for a project, I am hiring them because they know their subject matter, and even if I know about it, I believe that they should be able to show me their process, show me how they are going to get to the outcome without me always having to micro-manage the outcome! You should trust who you hire in their skills, let them do their job, and show you what they can do before you start to interject your ideas on how it should be done!
Challenging personalities on a project are always the hardest to deal with. But that is where trusting in your abilities, and trusting in your process, puts you at ease when working with challenging individuals.
Even on my most challenging projects, I have learned something, dealing with these personalties being one of them, so even though these projects presented challenges, I learned something that I was able to add to my tool kit that gets carried on to each and every project from there!
You should be forever learning throughout your career!
What are the top skill sets you think someone with you job/position needs? Well, I am all about be as well rounded as you can possibly be. Simply because you never know what kinds of skill sets each job will be in need of, and some skill set that you have may be used on a project that you didn't even realize you would use!
With that, add to your tool box all the time! Never stop learning!
To be a bit more specific, I would say, time management, knowing how to track and handle budgets, really knowing how to communicate with vendors, and having great communication within your teams is crucial.
Communication skills are a must, and even though I consider myself pretty introverted, when I am in work mode, my communication side comes out, and I become more proactive to achieve the work that needs to get done!
Technically, the computer is a must, so any of the Adobe creative suite, yes, you should know. If you are drafting, then get to know those programs. The problem with picking one specific program is that every project may use a different program, so if you have the knowledge of a drafting program then you have the basics, that should be able to translate to most of the programs, so make sure that you are at least familiar with the basics of a CAD program.
Hand drawing and sketching...DON'T be afraid to pick up a pencil and hand draw! Sometimes you need to get your ideas out on paper and you may not have a computer to draw with, so be comfortable with sketching...It doesn't have to be art, but it just has to be able to convey a message!
I don't think that you necessarily need to be an EXPERT on one subject, but knowing a lot about a lot of things I think helps more in this industry, because then it allows you to be able to jump in wherever and whenever you need too!
Remember, that you don't have to know it all, but you do need to build a team that may have the skillsets that you don't to be able to add to the project! So be excellent at building a strong, versatile team for every project.
What is your advice for those starting out in the Art Department? Don't be afraid to put yourself out there! You need to be bold, and not be frightened of rejection in this industry. It's a hard industry to navigate, but if you know that going into it, then you can set yourself up for success. Someone is always going to say NO to you, or turn you down, but then there will always be someone that will say YES and give you an opportunity!
You have to trust in your abilities, trust in your skillsets, and also be humble! Don't lie, and be forthcoming with your knowledge. I've never been afraid to take on a job that was bigger than my skillset, because I always make sure to surround myself with the people on my team that maybe have the skills that can make the project a success. So what I can offer a project is putting together a kick ass team that will get the job done, and have it look amazing, and everyone will be happy with the outcome!
Don't sell yourself short, so if you find a job that you may be interested in, try it! Again, the only thing that can happen is that they will say NO, and it's ok, you just move on to the next one. The NO means really nothing, just trust that every time you put yourself out there, it may end up landing you the job of a lifetime!
Every job teaches you something! So learn from every one of them. Good or bad, the experiences you have with each will ALWAYS add to your skill sets!
Trust in your abilities, remain humble, be a team player, but always find the jobs that inspire you! If you don't love what you're doing, then you shouldn't be doing it!
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