Production Designer and Art Director
Years Active: 11
How did you get your start? What was your first job/gig? While attending college, I was eager to take on any job I could find working in the Art Department for film, television or theater. One week I’d find myself building a show at a local theater, to being a set dresser on a music video the next. Most jobs I was working for free or little to no money, simply trying to learn. All these projects truly help ed me build on the foundational skills I had and helped figure out what I truly loved to do. During college, I was fortunate enough to land an internship with Universal Studios Hollywood working in the Prop Department creating props and set dressing elements for their seasonal Halloween Horror Nights event. This is where I feel my professional career started to take shape. During this time I realized the power of live entertainment. As a kid I would love our family trips to Universal Studios and The Disneyland Resort; not really knowing at the time the reasons why I loved them so much. Sure it was great family time, but it was also a time for me to step into another world for the day. Being completely immersed in an environment that brought the worlds I loved to watch in films to life was a game changer. During this internship, I quickly realized the Themed Entertainment industry was a new path I wanted to explore. It was the best of both worlds for me. The ability to entertain people and immerse them in a story, similar to movies, but in a tactical way that they can explore freely, and it quickly became a new passion of mine.
Did you go to school or have any formal training that helped prepare you for your career?
I attended The Art Institute of California - Hollywood, obtaining my Bachelors Degree in Set and Exhibit Design. It’s there, I found myself learning from some amazing instructors like Brandi Creason who helped mold the foundation and develop the skill set needed for my career.
What are some of the challenges you’ve had in your career? How did you overcome them?
In the beginning, it was extremely tough. The long days and nights in college as a struggling artist is one of the hardest parts. It's so easy to quit and move onto the next thing once you run into a roadblock. If you are truly passionate about what you're doing, those roadblocks will only teach you a lesson and make you a stronger artist or designer along your journey. Each project I've worked on always had its ups and downs. Sometimes you can be working on a project or an element of a project for weeks or months, spending countless hours exhausting all your creative energy trying to problem solve and design something, only to have it be cut or reduced to a shell of what it could have been. Those struggles are often the hardest. At the end of the day, you always have to think positively about each situation. The hard work you put into everything you do, whether or not guests ever get to see it, only makes you stronger. It only builds upon that creativity and ultimately helps you push the envelope the next time around. In this industry, if you have the ability to problem solve, think creatively, accept and appreciate constructive criticism, then you can get past any challenges that may come your way.
What is your advice for those starting out in the Art Department?
My advice to anyone starting out in the Art Department is to try and learn something from every project you get the opportunity to work on. With each project’s ups and downs, a lesson is always there to be learned. Taking what you've learned from a project, or life in general, ultimately makes you a better person and a better artist. It's also great to understand that in this industry, YOU WILL NEVER PLEASE EVERYONE. It’s easy to look at a guest satisfaction report on a specific project, or the number of likes on a social media post, but the truth is, none of that matters. The ability to be happy with something you work so hard on is often hard for artists. It’s hard not to compare yourself to others, you always feel one step behind. If you can channel that into passion to get better at what you do, you will be successful.
Photos Shown Above (top to bottom)
Matt on site at Galaxy's Edge at Disneyland (Prop Lead)
Matt onsite at Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood (Asst. Art Director)
Halloween Horror Nights Hollywood (2019) Ghostbusters maze (Art Director)
Lunar New Year (2017) at Universal Studios Hollywood (Production Designer)
Matt with one of his original mini paintings