Burbank Arts for All Foundation hosted its twelfth Creative Circles Forum: The Art of Stagecraft on Wednesday, October 17, at L.A. Castle Studios, a 4K television and feature film studio in Burbank.
Panelists included Tim Pipher (producer and owner of L.A. Castle Studios), Jim Bissell (award-winning art director and production designer), KayDee Lavorin Friel (two-time Emmy nominated set decorator), Lily LaRocco (Vice President of Technical Services for Warner Bros. Studio Facilities) and Karen Broderick (Stage Craft Technology teacher at Burbank High School.)
The panelists talked about traditional stagecraft and the ways emerging technologies are affecting the field.
The approximately 115 audience members, included 30 students from Burbank Unified middle and high schools, watched the panelists’ discussion as it took place on the green screen set. Although the panelists could not see the changes, the green screen provided a changing background for the audience when viewed on monitors.
“It was wonderful to support Burbank Arts for All Foundation, their mission and also host their great group of Burbank donors, artists and students on our stage,” commented Pipher.
The panelists talked about their personal stories and gave advice for those interested in a stagecraft career.
“It is really important to keep growing and be willing to take on new initiatives,” said La Rocco. “In this business, you are only as good as your last job.”
“Demonstrate great work ethics and be present on the set. It may not be easy getting in, but you can put your name on lists or start by working in rental houses to get to know the equipment and build your network.”
Bissell recommended reading books including Anne Holladner’s Moving Pictures and V. S. Ramachandran’s The Tell-Tale Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Quest for What Makes Us Human.
When asked by Stephen James, John Muir Middle School’s Theater Technology teacher, for recommendations regarding how a student might start creating or create with their smart phones, Bissell emphasized that students should learn how to draw first.
“Look at the world around you and draw and keep drawing,” he said. “There’s nothing better because it develops motor skills and a steady hand. Then you are really going to learn how to see.”
“With the world right in front, you have to figure out what about the world do you want to see to tell the story. That right there is the first step in all that we do.”
Broderick said that the BUSD Career Technical Education (CTE) classes at Burbank High are a “Junior Apprentice Shop.” Students learn the basics of the craft and safety measures for using the specialized equipment then gradually advance to design.
“It is very special to witness a student grow in their skills and cross over to becoming an artist,” she added. “When they understand the work enough that they step up and own it, it is such a beautiful thing to witness.”
“The Foundation’s Creative Circles Forums are just one way they connect K-12 public education with the local industries that make up the creative economy of Burbank,” commented Foundation Executive Director Trena Pitchford. “Each panelist discussed their expertise in creating and building sets for major motion pictures, TV shows or commercials and they also provided professional advice for students interested in exploring these career pathways.”
Among the guests who attended the Creative Circles Forum were BUSD Board of Education President Dr. Roberta Reynolds and Board member Charlene Tabet, Burbank City Councilmember Tim Murphy, Arda Tchakian (District Representative for State Senator Anthony Portantino,) and members of the BUrbank Arts For All Foundation’s Board of Directors including Co-Chairs Tom Vice and Jill Vander Borght, Carrie Brown, Patrick Prescott, Caroline Solberg, Karen Volpei, Suzanne Weerts and panelist Karen Broderick.