Elvira Gil Los Angeles, CA Experiential Designer & Art Director Years Active: 10
How did you get your start? What was your first job/gig? In the 3rd grade, my teacher took me to see Beauty and the Beast play, and I was astonished- full on Jack Skellington! “What's this? What's this? There's color everywhere!" I didn't sit down the entire show. I wanted to know how the spoons and fork came out of the floor! I'm a child of immigrant parents, and I had a sheltered upbringing. I had no clue what theatre production was. Then, in 5th grade class, we had the opportunity to be in the school play, everyone else wanted to act, but I wanted to design! I had no clue this would become my career path; my dream was to get paid for my crazy ideas. The first job was about a year out of high school- Cake Decorator! I loved sculpting the fondant into characters and shapes, but I didn't enjoy the baking process. I've been drawing most of my life, so I looked into graphic design, but that still wasn't enough for me. It wasn't until I found out about Set & Exhibit Design that I felt I was on the right path. Then, halfway through school, I got my grownup job as Visual Display Coordinator. Did you go to school or have any formal training that helped prepare you for your career? I went to the Art Institute of California - North Hollywood to receive my Bachelor's Degree in Set & Exhibit Design. Halfway through school, I did a few internships in small theaters and then got a position for the school as the Visual Display Coordinator and Shop Manager. I did my best to network with other students in different departments in the school and with my professors and instructors.
What are some of the challenges you’ve had in your career? How did you overcome them? The seed of self-doubt was implanted in my thought when I was in high school by an AP Art Teacher who said something that stayed with me for a long time, "Your people don't amount to much in the art world, so don't bother.” Being a woman of color, I found that if I didn't have a network in the industry or references, it was so much harder to get just an interview or the gig. These challenges are what I used to fuel my inner passion and push myself to prove her wrong and anyone else. Overcoming these challenges, weren't how I expected them to happen; getting to work on Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood made me feel all warm and fuzzy. When the COO of Essence says that your work is perfectly aligned to what they were envisioning, you can't help but feel empowered and happy.
What has been the highlight of your career/favorite project you've done? The highlight so far has been working at AgenC with a group of powerful women who've helped me become a better designer and individual, also working on such diverse projects. Being a part of designing the Stage for Essence - Black Women in Hollywood Gala 2019, 2020, and co-design with Allyson Brown, Lead Senior Creative Director at Essence.
Oooh! I have a few favorites! But Huluween wins- I love Halloween, and it's my birth month. I've been a part of their private event in NYC for Huluween 2018 and 2019, and in 2020 was a Drive-Thru experience in Los Angeles. This event lets me use all my tools and skills from event design, graphic design, art director, props, makeup artist, and other skills I keep hidden to keep people surprised.
What is your advice for those starting out in the Art Department? Jump! Do it! You want to do it, then do it. Don't let doubt or fear stop you. Make friends, grow your network, and help your network. Building your relationship with your network by helping them whenever you can. The slightest help can come back and begin bigger and better things for you. I highly believe in the energy you put out, you will receive back. Take volunteer work, help your community, and push yourself out of your comfort zone. Also, keep learning and stay creative by learning new tricks and programs. It will make you a better artist and designer.
Photo in Interview Above: AgenC Experiential + Digital Marketing | Huluween Drive-Thru 2020
AgenC Experiential + Digital Marketing | Essence Black Women in Hollywood Gala 2019
AgenC Experiential + Digital Marketing | Huluween 2019
AgenC Experiential + Digital Marketing | Essence Black Women in Hollywood Gala 2020