As I have thought about my thesis for my Themed Entertainment Design degree, one thing I have continually stressed is the importance of bringing my projection show to life rather than simply designing something and letting it live in the studio at SCAD. A very difficult aspect of school for me is the “pretend” nature of things, the fact that individual projects don’t really matter. School, at a long shot, is more about the sum of my growth rather than the individual pieces, and there is always a little voice that reminds me that, at this point, we are all just playing house rather than making a home.
Starting from the standpoint of actually producing my show changes this from an intellectual exercise to work that must be done. This introduces a unique challenge.,,
My thesis project involves creating some form of show or entertainment that will be projected onto a building. Currently I do not own a building. Worse still, I do not foresee purchasing a building in the near future. Unfortunate as this is, it means I need to seek the cooperation of someone who does own a building.
So…gotta get me a client.
Key to getting any person or company excited about jointly producing a show such as this is finding common goals and showing how our interests align. To get a client to agree to use their building, and potentially their money, I have to design from a standpoint of understandng what their needs are and working from there.
The potential clients I have identified for my show are: The Westin hotel on the Savannah River, Broughton Street (shops and the location of my goofy Halloween show), and SCAD itself. All of these have very strong upsides and all present certain challenges, physical, financial and psychological.
Earlier I mentioned I am designing a “small, medium and large” show to broaden my options. To broaden them further, I will be proposing those three variations for each of three possible clients. This will leave me with nine concepts to present to my professors who will be able to guide me along to the next steps.
First we will look at SCAD, the art school that has added so much life and revitalization to the city of Savannah, Ga. It has worked very hard to align itself with the city’s rich architectural heritage and has proven itself a responsible partner that will operate with care and respect. SCAD continues to leave its mark on the city, and while signs of the acronym are almost inescapable during the day, the college could shine much more brightly at night. A light show using the many school facilities that dot the city might be exactly what SCAD needs to further adorn a city that it has made its own.
This may be the most likely of the three to have an interest in this projection show and to see it made reality. Savannah is notorious for being very protective of its historic downtown, however SCAD has been actively involved in Savannah and certainly has a good deal of leeway with the city when it comes to art installations. Being an art school, SCAD already has a mindset for accepting the new and audacious, and since I am a student, the show would serve as an excellent promotional tool for the college itself.
The difficulty lies in the scope of the show. A real eye popper would be to bring all of the college’s facilities to life all at once. SCAD has many many buildings across the city and to make use of even half of them would require a huge pile of hardware and a huge-er pile of cash. Also, since SCAD is a private art school, it is difficult to know what kind of budget the school allots to student projects. I would be shooting in the dark.
The second client is Broughton Street, or, more accurately, real estate developer Ben Carter. Broughton Street is one of Savannah’s main business thoroughfares and the subject of interest for the savvy businessman. Mr. Carter is investing $75 million in the area and, when he is through, Broughton Street will be a world class center of commerce filled with trendy shops and restaurants. It will be modern and fresh while still retaining that old world charm that makes Savannah so special. Perhaps a form of nighttime entertainment, not unlike the Fremont Street Experience in Las Vegas, would be just the thing to ensure continued guest traffic late into the night.
As far as likelihood of getting a foothold with this client, I would call this a toss up. On the one hand, Mr. Carter is already making a significant investment and anything to add entertainment value to the location will add to the ROI. Someone who is as shrewd and savvy as this individual clearly would leap at the chance to turn a shopping district into a full fledged destination in its own right.
On the other hand, it could be so far outside of the business plan that it is one more step that he is not not prepared to take. To read interviews with Mr. Carter you realize very quickly that he is a no nonsense businessman who has a clear vision for what he is trying to accomplish and simply does not have the time for anything that slows him down. He might see Broughton Street in simpler terms (turnkey rather than destination), thus rendering a light show an unnecessary expense or worse, a distraction. For him, a distraction could easily lead to a derailment and that is unacceptable.
The final client I have considered is The Westin, a grand hotel that sits on the opposite side of the waterway from Savannah’s River Street district. Officially named The Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa, this hotel offers private luxury and free shuttle service back and forth across the river, but it is a little too removed from the city to which it has attached its fortunes. An epic spectacle of music and light could propel The Westin into becoming the must-stay resort in the southeast.
This one is a little tricky and, in my estimation, the least likely to go for what I have in mind. The benefits of producing a show in this area are enormous. Built in viewing locations, light and atmosphere control, a wide open skyline and a monolithic structure for a canvas. This is the perfect setting for something truly memorable. However, trying to understand what a massive hotel chain wants and how a single location fits into the overall plan of the company as a whole is a very difficult task. From a practical standpoint, how does one even approach the company to pitch an idea that it has not asked for?
That is the basic breakdown of the clients I am looking at and the potential locations for my project. They all offer unique possibilities and all have their own challenges. Now it’s time to design…