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Meet the Art Department- Cassie Lopez

Cassie Lopez

Portland, OR

Art Director/Set Decorator

Years Active: 11

How did you get your start? What was your first job/gig? So I grew up LOVING movies; even at a young age I was always fascinated with a film’s setting, sets, props, dressing, and the overall look and feel of a film. I often found myself completely ignoring a character’s dialogue, and instead, I would get lost in the world the characters were in. My eyes would immediately lock in on the shelving in the back, or on the parquet floor, or the vaulted ceilings; always to the decor and architecture rarely to the characters.

So it was no surprise to my parents when my response to the age-old question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” was always “I want to make movies.” Fast forward to college applications and there was only one college I wanted to go to: California State University, Long Beach – This is where I received my bachelors degree in Film and Electronic Arts.

During those years in college, I needed a job that could pay the bills, so I applied to work at Knott’s Scary Farm in their props department (my very first gig). It allowed me to explore various artistic disciplines and it was here that I fell in love with fabricating, painting, decorating, and just overall being able to create with my hands. So that part-time job really solidified what I wanted to do and that was to focus my time and efforts in the industry within the Art Department. Thus began my slow climb up a very tall ladder. So while attending college and working part time at a theme park, I was freelancing on commercials, short films, and feature films as an Art PA. It was those jobs that led to more jobs that led to me falling in love with Set Dressing, then Set Decorating, and now Art Directing.

That journey leads me to today; I am an Assistant Art Director for Laika Studios. Every job I went for, every person I met, every chance I took was for this opportunity. I now work for an award-winning studio, doing exactly what I love – Making movies.

Did you go to school or have any formal training that helped prepare you for your career?

I got my Bachelors Degree from California State University, Long Beach where I majored in Film and Electronic Arts- it definitely helped me feel comfortable with the culture and language, so when I finally got my first gig, I felt pretty prepared to not drown. I will say that although I am thankful for my degree, I learned the most valuable skills while working on set and actually being in the thick of things.

What are some of the challenges you’ve had in your career? How did you overcome them?

There have definitely been numerous challenges to get where I am today- looking back there are moments where I don’t know how I managed to surpass those obstacles. Something that stands out and continues to be a struggle in my role as an Art Director is being a woman in a very male dominated industry. It has definitely progressed, and the opportunities for women are presenting themselves more and more, but there are days I still have to fight and push to be heard. Something that stuck with me is a piece of advice one of my Production Designers gave me, she said, “You have to be twice as good as the man next to you to be considered even half as good as him.” I’ve held onto her words very tightly and that has pushed me to improve my craft and expand my knowledge.

What is your advice for those starting out in the Art Department?

My advice is to not be afraid to reach out and network with artists that are already established in the industry. Networking is something that will get you far in this industry, and believe it or not there are many of us that are eager to shine a light and lead the way for those up-and-coming filmmakers and artists. Social media platforms are also a great way to network and land potential gigs. There are numerous Facebook groups that are catered to filmmaking and job listings - so definitely check those out!

Another piece of advice I think is vital is versatility within the art department. While starting out, don’t hesitate to learn and don’t hesitate to try skills you haven’t don’t before. Versatility is an asset in this industry so learn learn learn and learn some more!

It really is an amazing path to go down - and the most fun you’ll have on any job.

Photos in Interview (from Top to Bottom): Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge (Disneyland Resort) Halloween Horror Nights (Universal Studios Hollywood)

Halloween Horror Nights (Universal Studios Hollywood)- Killer Klowns from Outer Space

Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge (Disneyland Resort)

Halloween Horror Nights (Universal Studios Hollywood)- Ghostbusters

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