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Foot in the Door: Career Beginnings

Foot in the Door: Career Beginnings

Experience Imagination | Episode 10

About the Show:

Experience Imagination is a themed entertainment podcast presented by Falcon’s Creative Group. Every episode covers a new topic discussion with a panel of creative professionals.

Show Hosts: Cecil Magpuri - President/Chief Creative Officer and Abhinav Narain – Creative Content Specialist

Studio Guests: David Schaefer - Vice President, Jen Prichard - CAD Designer, Chuck Yex - Project Manager/Art Director, Charlie Jicha - Project Coordinator, Corinne Tau - Graphic Design Manager, Patrick Reilly - Senior Concept Designer, Stephen Ricker – Associate Creative Director, Claudio Gonzalez - CG Supervisor, Mike Wallace - Creative Director, Yvette Whittaker - Executive Vice President of Operations

Listen to Foot in the Door: Career Beginnings on iTunes, Spotify, GooglePlay, or your favorite podcast app.

Each member of the Falcon’s team has a unique story of how they started their career in themed entertainment. This episode takes a closer look at some of those journeys through a collection of brief interviews that give insight on professional influences, turning points in careers, advice for breaking into the industry, and more.

Foot in the Door: Career Beginnings Transcript:

Cecil Magpuri: You're listening to Experience Imagination, a themed entertainment design podcast presented by Falcon's Creative Group. Every episode we discuss a new topic with a panel of creative professionals. Hi, I'm Cecil Magpuri, President and Chief Creative Officer of Falcon's.

Abhinav Narain: Hey everybody, this is Abhinav Narain, our moderator for the episode. Hey, Cecil how's it going?

Cecil Magpuri: Good. How are you doing Abhinav?

Abhinav Narain: I am doing good. We've got a great episode today that we are calling Foot in the Door. This is an episode with some brief really interesting interviews with people around our studio about how everyone kind of found their way to themed entertainment.

Cecil Magpuri: Sounds like a great subject matter.

Abhinav Narain: It will be, and once we're done we'll circle back with you for your final thoughts. Sound good?

Cecil Magpuri: That sounds like a plan.

Abhinav Narain: Great. Let's start with our first interview.

David Schaefer: Hello. My Name's David Schaefer. I'm Vice President here at Falcon's Creative Group.

Abhinav Narain: David, what's your background?

David Schaefer: So, because I wanted to be in this industry, I was challenged when I went to college of selecting a major that I felt was most relevant. Then I selected mechanical engineering, I went to the University of Wisconsin and felt that that was kind of a broad engineering degree that I knew even if I wasn't specifically practicing that type of engineering, I could apply that type of thought to this type of job.

Abhinav Narain: Was this industry a surprise or was working in this industry always part of the plan?

David Schaefer: For me, it probably kind of a less traditional approach. I knew when I was really young that I wanted to get into the theme park design industry. My mom actually tells the story of, we had a class assignment, I think it was like third or fourth grade where we had to design a poster of what we wanted to be when we grow up. And I came up with, I want it to be an Imagineer. And you know, of course at the time I think my teacher didn't even know what that word meant or what it was. But I had been going to Disney World ever since I was a baby and wanted to get in that field and design that. So I joke now and say, yeah, I knew exactly what I wanted to do when I was in third grade and I kept going after it.

Abhinav Narain: Wow. So it was part of the plan?

David Schaefer: It was part of my plan. Yeah.

Abhinav Narain: Who or what has influenced you as a creative professional? As a designer?

David Schaefer: Yeah. So of course, you know, growing up going to Disney World is the obvious influence there. I mean, I definitely just saw that kind of magic and creating those environments and that always inspired me. So I definitely wanted to be in a job that I could both develop the rides and the experiences, but also beyond the creative side of it. So it wasn't just about the engineering or technology that it really was about the storytelling and the taking guests on a wild-

Abhinav Narain: Experience.

David Schaefer: Yeah. Experience. Exactly.

Abhinav Narain: How did you get your foot in the door?

David Schaefer: So for me, just because I knew I so desperately wanted to get in this industry, I was just tenacious. Throughout college, I did research as often as I could just by scouring the internet for companies that were in this field. And I just started pestering them and I ran, you know, came across stuff Falcon's and randomly gave Yvette a call one day and just kind of kept poking her. And I think it was really my passion and drive for this industry that ultimately got me the opportunity.

David Schaefer: I started off just doing an internship here at Falcon's more than 15 years ago now. And it was a great way to get my foot in the door. I learned so much at the time. I think I still had the dream of going to work for Disney, but very quickly, I realized the potential of working for smaller medium sized company can give you so much more exposure and so much more opportunity to be involved at many different levels. And that was something I fell in love with early on and I can't imagine anything else now.

Abhinav Narain: David, do you have any advice for people that want to get into the industry that maybe you want to work for a company like Falcon's?

David Schaefer: Well, for me, like I said, I think the passion is such a key component to getting into this industry. I know when we're looking for new members of our team, the passion is something that you can't teach. I think the skills can come and you look for those to as kind of a starting point. But at the end of the day the people on our team in our company are the ones that love what they do, love this industry and just continue to grow in that regard. And so that's something we're always kind of looking for. And it's hard to pick up on that in an interview sometimes, but I know whether it's just reviewing a resume or a cover letter you look for those little nuggets that show that, gosh this person really has a desire and has a passion, this is the place they want to be. And if you find that person and make that connection, they very often tend to succeed in their role. So I think that's something really important that we look for.

Abhinav Narain: Thanks, David.

David Schaefer: Awesome. Thanks for having me.

Jen Prichard: My name is Jen Prichard and I am a CAD Designer here at Falcon's.

Abhinav Narain: What's your background?

Jen Prichard: I studied mechanical engineering at school and then I also did a bit of an art minor in the College of Arts and Humanities.

Abhinav Narain: So Jen, was the themed entertainment industry a surprise or was it always part of the plan?

Jen Prichard: No, it was definitely always part of the plan. I grew up going to theme parks. I fell in love with theme parks and loved being in them and knew that I wanted to end up in that realm. Didn't entirely know how I was going to get there at first, but I knew that's where I wanted to end up.

Abhinav Narain: Who or what has influenced you as a creative professional, either both on the design side or in your art background?

Jen Prichard: I grew up going to the Disney parks and we had annual passes my entire life. And so I loved walking through the theme parks and as I got older I loved less of wanting to ride all the rides and more of just experiencing the space. So seeing those as I grew older, seeing the parks and the general ambiance and the guest experience, that's what drew me to head in this direction and head into this industry, and kind of just make people think that they were in a completely different world-

Abhinav Narain: To get that illusion.

Jen Prichard: Yeah.

Abhinav Narain: How did you get your foot in the door?

Jen Prichard: When I was at UCF, I was part of the TEA at UCF, the Next Gen chapter there right as they were beginning and right as the chapter was born basically. And the very first speaker at the very first meeting was Joe Schaefer from Falcon's Treehouse. And I was sitting in the back of the audience and watching his presentation and I heard about Falcon's and I just went, "Oh my gosh, that is what I want to do. That's exactly where I want to be." So I kind of bugged him for a while on email and got in here and started an internship and seeing Joe and hearing him talk about Falcon's, that is when I realized, "Oh, this is what I want to do. This is where I want to be."

Abhinav Narain: Perfect. Thanks Jen.

Jen Prichard: Yeah. Thank you.

Chuck Yex: Hello, my name is Chuck Yex I am Art Director and Project Manager at Falcon's Creative.

Abhinav Narain: Chuck, what's your background?

Chuck Yex: Well, I've always been an artist and I've always been fascinated with visual arts.

Abhinav Narain: Was working in this industry a surprise for you or was it always part of the plan?

Chuck Yex: It was a progression and I can take back in time that I started drawing pictures, copying posters, went to art school, came to Florida, went to work for Disney, fell in love with the theme park business and it just kept going from there.

Abhinav Narain: Who or what has influenced you as an artist?

Chuck Yex: Well, my father first, because he told me I could do whatever I wanted to do. But, a fella named Lloyd Wilson that was a sign painter at Cedar Point, I used to watch his stuff in magazines or look at his stuff in magazines and that's how I got started in the industry as a sign painter.

Abhinav Narain: How did you get your foot in the door?

Chuck Yex: Oh, I was always a go-getter. And when I saw an opportunity when I was a young man, I would take it and paint something or letter something. And then in the theme park industry, I think my foot in the door started in the sign and pictorial department at Walt Disney World.

Abhinav Narain: What advice do you have for someone who's hoping to get into this industry or hoping to work for a company like Falcon's?

Chuck Yex: Work hard, follow your dream. I mean, just if you enjoy what you're doing, just keep going for it and doors will open.

Abhinav Narain: Fantastic. Thank you so much Chuck.

Chuck Yex: Welcome.

Charlie Jicha: I am Charlie Jicha and I am an Associate Project Manager.

Abhinav Narain: And what's your background, Charlie?

Charlie Jicha: So I come from a theatrical background. I started off as an actor doing more production work and I migrated more into behind the scenes because I really became interested in art and from art, I really wanted to find that boundary of how to create space. And that kind of led me into theme design which is basically just creating three-dimensional environments for people.

Abhinav Narain: That kind of leads into my next question. Was the themed entertainment industry a surprise or was it always part of the plan?

Charlie Jicha: It was not a surprise.

Abhinav Narain: Oh really? Okay.

Charlie Jicha: No, I grew up around themed entertainment and it was just always that wonderful place of being able to go escape and just to have a story built in a completely different environment, where you're able to just lose yourself in. And I was hooked from a young age.

Abhinav Narain: Who or what has influenced you as an artist?

Charlie Jicha: Yeah. Coming from scene design I think there's the expectation of always going to Broadway. And I did that circuit for a little bit and I found that to be really interesting. And I think it was more the fact that for me beyond just going to theme parks, it was finding out that a more traditional theatrical background didn't really cut it for me. I found my interest really in building three-dimensional worlds that you could get lost in. Like going to a Diagon Alley and you go there and you know exactly where you are and the rest of the world is gone. I think something of creating a world like that or being involved in that world is just beyond interesting.

Abhinav Narain: And how did you get your foot in the door? How'd you get into the industry?

Charlie Jicha: I was really stubborn. After I finished college, I emailed the head of the scenic shop at Disney Hollywood Studios for a few days straight and his wife actually ended up being my advisor in college. And through that I was able to get an interview and it was all history. So I started off as a scenic painter at Disney World doing sculpture painting for rides, resorts, everything. And then from there it was a really interesting transition because I knew I wasn't meant to just be an artist. It was great. I loved what I was doing, some of the coolest stuff ever. But I wanted to be able to create it rather than just be able to create other people's work. So that's when I made the decision to go back to school and pursue design.

Abhinav Narain: Thanks Charlie.

Charlie Jicha: Awesome.

Corinne Tau: Hi, my name is Corinne Tau and I'm the Graphic Design Manager at Falcon's Creative Group.

Abhinav Narain: Corinne, what is your background?

Corinne Tau: I went to school for illustration at Ringling College of Art and Design.

Abhinav Narain: And that led you into graphic design?

Corinne Tau: Yes, it did. I kind of had an interest in both and I had to pick one or the other for my major. So I chose illustration, but I was still kind of did graphic design on the side.

Abhinav Narain: Was working in the themed entertainment industry a surprise or was it always part of the plan?

Corinne Tau: It was not planned.

Abhinav Narain: Okay. Total surprise?-

Corinne Tau: I didn't even know it existed. When I was in college they didn't have that kind of major. Nobody talked about themed entertainment specifically, but now you see it popping up as a major in lots of-

Abhinav Narain: Different schools.

Corinne Tau: Yeah.

Abhinav Narain: So how did you get your foot in the door? How did you enter the theme entertainment industry?

Corinne Tau: I kind of just got in because Falcon's needed a graphic designer and then-

Abhinav Narain: You answered the call.

Corinne Tau: I answered the call and I learned all about theme parks and attractions and all kinds of-

Abhinav Narain: Awesome, do you have any advice for people who are hoping to get into the industry?

Corinne Tau: Go to lots of theme parks and pay attention to all the little details you didn't notice before.

Abhinav Narain: Important homework.

Corinne Tau: Yeah.

Abhinav Narain: Thanks, Corinne.

Corinne Tau: Thanks, guys.

Patrick Reilly: Hi, I'm Patrick Reilly. I am a Senior Concept Artist.

Abhinav Narain: Patrick, what's your background?

Patrick Reilly: Actually, I originally started doing t-shirt designs and then I moved into doing storyboards and concept art for commercials and movies down in south Florida. And I did that for a while and eventually, I was called by Falcon's Treehouse to come in for an interview because they saw my stuff online.

Abhinav Narain: Nice. Was the themed entertainment industry a surprise or was it always part of the plan?

Patrick Reilly: No, I knew I wanted to get into concept art, but I never expected theme parks. I was actually expecting more video games or film because I figured there was more openings for that then there would be for theme parks. But this was actually a surprise for me to be contacted to do theme parks.

Abhinav Narain: Awesome. Who or what has influenced you as an artist?

Patrick Reilly: As far as artists, probably Frank Frazetta is probably one of my favorite artists. Syd Mead, Ralph McQuarrie, concept artists around that.

Abhinav Narain: What was a turning point in your career?

Patrick Reilly: Probably being accepted into Falcon's-

Abhinav Narain: And entering the industry right here?

Patrick Reilly: Yeah and entering the industry being called up to come in for an interview and eventually being accepted into Falcon's. Which is I've actually learned a lot working here as far as, because I was more about character concept designer. I had done concept designs for environments and stuff before, but mostly characters. But since working here I've been concentrating a lot more on-

Abhinav Narain: Environments-

Patrick Reilly: Environments and stuff and I've learned a lot from the people working here.

Abhinav Narain: Awesome. Last but not least, do you have any advice for people who are hoping to get into the industry?

Patrick Reilly: Yeah. Create your own style because that's always unique. People are always looking for new styles of art. Be influenced by other people, but don't try to be a copy of somebody else yeah. Try to come up with your own design.

Abhinav Narain: You said that Falcon's approached you because they saw your stuff online. Do you have any advice on how artists can get their work out there?

Patrick Reilly: Yeah. You can either ... There's a few art websites out there that they tend to be free. Some of them you have to pay for it, but you can put your stuff on their website. But if you can afford it, you can also create your own website. But when I came here to Falcon's they just, stumbled across my site. Somebody saw some of my pieces and they went to my deviant art site and they saw my stuff and then contacted me.

Abhinav Narain: Great. Thanks, Patrick.

Patrick Reilly: Yeah.

Stephen Ricker: Hi, I'm Stephen Ricker I'm the Associate Creative Director here at Falcon's.

Abhinav Narain: Stephen, what is your background?

Stephen Ricker: My background comes from live entertainment primarily set design for theater, special events, broadcast television.

Abhinav Narain: Was the themed entertainment industry a surprise or was it always part of the plan?

Stephen Ricker: Going into themed entertainment was not originally part of my plan. I wanted to do the whole theater, the whole Broadway route. But it was a long journey kind of early on in my career that led me to realize that that was not what made me happy. That wasn't something I wanted to pursue. And I found themed entertainment by living here in Orlando, being surrounded by it being exposed to these amazing immersive worlds.

Abhinav Narain: And the fact that there is that huge overlap between those two realms.

Stephen Ricker: Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, what I do every day has roots in theater in designing for stage except the stage is all around us here.

Abhinav Narain: Oh, that's good. Who or what has influenced you as a creative professional?

Stephen Ricker: Wow, a whole lot. Everything from growing up, my aunt was a figure skater, so I got to be exposed to going backstage and seeing all of the rigging and all of the sound. from at a very early age to constantly being surrounded by these incredible, talented professionals from day one of my career who have given me opportunities that were probably beyond my current abilities but gave me a chance.

Abhinav Narain: What was a turning point in your career?

Stephen Ricker: I had been out of school for five, six years and I'd been working in broadcast TV, live entertainment and there was still something missing. I was just designing for the camera, for a very narrow point of view and immersive quality is so much more limited because you are in a theater or you are just in this kind of black box and shooting just for a limited perspective. So that really pushed me towards finding a change in what I was doing in the type of work I was doing and really led me to Falcon's and the amazing immersive worlds that they create.

Abhinav Narain: Do you have any advice for someone who's looking to get into the industry?

Stephen Ricker: If I have any advice for somebody who's looking to get into the industry, it would be that you never know what your break is going to be. Your big break. It could be tomorrow, it could be three, four, five years down the road. You don't know how close it is until it's already passed. Until you've already achieved it. So just keep going. You'll get a lot of rejection. You'll feel like your abilities and your worth aren't up to speed with the rest of the industry. But they are, you'll make it, you'll get your break. Just keep going.

Abhinav Narain: Thanks, Stephen.

Stephen Ricker: Hey, thanks Abhinav.

Claudio Gonzalez: Hello. My name is Claudio Gonzalez and I'm a CG Supervisor at Falcon's Creative Group.

Abhinav Narain: And Claudio, what's your background?

Claudio Gonzalez: I am a CG supervisor here. I went to school to study computer animation. I focused in compositing and the back end of production. But I've had experience managing teams. I was in the military before I went to school. So all of that has kind of prepped me for what I'm doing right now.

Abhinav Narain: Was working in themed entertainment a surprise or was it always part of the plan?

Claudio Gonzalez: It was 100% a surprise. When I first got into the industry, I was focused on working on live action films. The next Transformers was a big thing for me. A big goal. So that's kind of I did get a chance to do that after I graduated. I was one of the few fortunate people that got a chance to work on the movie and they actually wanted to work on. But from there that my career took me into computer animated films. I worked at Blue Sky for a little while and while I was up there a friend of mine who I actually met while I was working on the Transformers film and he went to the same school I went to and then a couple of years passed and when he graduated, he's like, "Hey, I just graduated here at Full Sail and I know there's this Falcon's Creative Group place that's right by here. And I see they're working on media. Do you happen by any chance to know anybody that works there that maybe can help me get a tour or maybe get my foot in the door? Right.

Claudio Gonzalez: And I checked LinkedIn and Jason was working here and I worked with him at Digital Domain as well.

Abhinav Narain: Jason Ambler?

Claudio Gonzalez: Jason Ambler yeah, the Executive Producer here. And I was like, let me send them a message and see if that's possible. Right. So, I messaged Jason, he's like, "Yeah, by all means, have him message me and have him come by." And then we kept talking, we were catching up because it's been a few years and he's like, "You know, we're trying to build this digital media division here." And I was like, "Yeah, for what?" Like "Oh, we do theme entertainment and stuff." And I was like, "I've never heard of this before in my life."-

Abhinav Narain: You didn't even know of such a thing?

Claudio Gonzalez: Yeah. Yeah. So I started looking into it and he's like, "Man, yeah, if you're interested we'd love to have you down here and help us build a compositing department down here. It'd be great to have you." And then before you knew it within the month we were down here and working on a theme park entertainment stuff.

Abhinav Narain: Awesome. You kind of already answered my next question was going to be how did you get your foot in the door? But your story about how you got in touch with Falcon's kind of does that.

Claudio Gonzalez: Yeah. I mean, that's how I got my foot in the door for the entertainment industry. For the VFX industry in general that was just probably the right place, right time kind of deal. I was in Florida, graduating from Full Sail. Digital Domain had just gotten a contract or some type of deal with tax Incentives to build a studio here.

Abhinav Narain: How did you find out about that?

Claudio Gonzalez: Just being really active with different forums and different expos checking out online-

Abhinav Narain: Staying plugged in.

Claudio Gonzalez: Yeah, just staying plugged in. That's what it's about when you're in school is trying to work on your networking as much as you can because when you graduate you need to know where to send your stuff. But I found out through an expo down in Fort Lauderdale for a game expo actually and Digital Domain just had some people out there and I talked to one of the recruiters, they're like, "Hey, you know, about a year down the line we're going to be building something here." And I was like, "Yeah, here's my info. Let me get your info." And I kept in touch and then I just keep touching base with them every month or so. Yeah, "I'm doing this now. I'm doing that now. What can I do to like cater my demo reel to be more in tune to what you guys are looking for?" And then the time came and they opened up a studio here and they called me before they even had the place open and they're like, "Hey, submit your stuff." And I got the interview, I submitted my stuff, got the interview. A couple of weeks after the interview I finally got a call and I got my first gig in the industry working in Port St. Lucie.

Abhinav Narain: Awesome story. Do you have any other advice for people who are hoping to get into the industry?

Claudio Gonzalez: It's not going to be easy. You have to have that drive to go home. It has to be something that it's almost like a hobby to you. Like you get joy out of being at home working on it and like a thirst for more knowledge. Always looking at movies, looking at breakdowns listening to people that are doing it now. Seeing how they ... Like what we're doing right now. Listening to what people did so that you can follow in those footsteps. You've got to have that passion. If you don't have it and you're just faking it, eventually it'll just, that flame will just die out and then you wasted all this time getting it to something that requires that. And I think you're going to probably apply that to just about anything in life, but specifically in this industry it's very tough industry to kind of get into. So it's very important that you find something you're very passionate about.

Abhinav Narain: Thanks Claudio.

Claudio Gonzalez: Yeah.

Mike Wallace: I am Mike Wallace. I'm the Creative Director here at Falcon's Treehouse.

Abhinav Narain: And Mike, what is your background?

Mike Wallace: My background is traditional architecture.

Abhinav Narain: Was the themed entertainment industry a surprise or was it always part of the plan?

Mike Wallace: Definitely not always part of the plan. Themed entertainment was something that I discovered pretty late in my schooling almost maybe six months into a master's program for fine arts and the theater. And it was something that a lot of people told me it didn't exist. And when you realize how small this themed entertainment design community is, I can see why people might feel that way. You know, there's maybe 200, 250 people who really do all of this work that we see.

Abhinav Narain: Who or what has influenced you as a creative professional?

Mike Wallace: I have been fortunate enough to work with some incredibly creative individuals. Dale Mason, who's Executive Art Director at Universal, he was one of my mentors for a long time. I worked with Stuart Craig throughout the development of the Harry Potter installations at Universal as well and Allan Gilmore during that same time. So these are some of the best vision creators and vision keepers that I could think of.

Abhinav Narain: And how did you get your foot in the door?

Mike Wallace: This is a really kind of falling blindly backwards into the industry bit of information here. I was working in a traditional architecture firm in Gainesville shortly after my undergrad. And I was miserable. I know it's 10 hours a day copying railings and AutoCAD for SPEC homes. I had an offer to go back to Grad School for scenic design in the theater. That was supposed to be a three-year program. About six months into the first year I got in touch with TJ Mannarino who was the Director of Universal Art and Design. And one kind of phone call and quick interview later I was convinced to drop out of school and come down and work. And looking back it was ridiculous that I did that. 'Cause I was in the middle of a Master's program and TJ had four weeks of work for me-

Abhinav Narain: Just for weeks?

Mike Wallace: That was my contract was four weeks long and that turned into a 10-year career at universal just on a whim of moving down here. I came down and interviewed on a Saturday. I got my job offer on a Tuesday. I came down and went through orientation on Friday. Back to Gainesville, packed up all my stuff on Saturday, moved down here, got an apartment Sunday. Started work Monday.

Abhinav Narain: Wow.

Mike Wallace: It was nuts.

Abhinav Narain: Well, do you have any advice for anyone who's hoping to get into the industry?

Mike Wallace: The advice that I wish I had gotten when I was getting started was diversify your abilities. Because I started as a freelancer. My only real goal in life was keeping my butt in my seat for as long as possible. And it was 3D modeling that got me in the door. But what kept me in my seat was being able to use AutoCAD, being able to transition into Photoshop. Being able to build physical models in that industry, in that freelance world you have to do a little bit of everything. And carrying that through even to now my experiences with structural engineers, with plumbers, with architects and draftsmen and whatnot, all of that has just made it so much easier to navigate in the Industry today.

Abhinav Narain: Thanks, Mike.

Mike Wallace: Thank you.

Yvette Whittaker: Hi. My name's Yvette Whittaker and I'm the executive VP of operations at Falcon's.

Abhinav Narain: And Yvette, what's your background?

Yvette Whittaker: So my background was actually in healthcare, believe it or not. So talk about a completely opposite direction as far as careers go. But there's a lot that I have been able to bring to the entertainment industry from my background and knowledge in healthcare.

Abhinav Narain: That kind of answers my next question. Was this industry a surprise or was working in themed entertainment almost part of the plan?

Yvette Whittaker: Well, I wouldn't call it a surprise, I'd call it a great surprise because I am blown away with how much fun it is and how much passion there is in this industry. It really still even after 20 years I get up every day and I'm excited to come in, that says a lot-

Abhinav Narain: See what everyone's up to yeah-

Yvette Whittaker: Yeah.

Abhinav Narain: Who or what has influenced you as a creative professional?

Yvette Whittaker: Well, this is a pretty easy question for me because my only experience in the industry has been working for Cecil and Marty and I think that they are just such a well-balanced machine when it comes to running this business. And I've learned so much from them. Every aspect of a project from beginning to end. Best practices for sure. So they have definitely influenced me.

Abhinav Narain: What was the turning point in your career?

Yvette Whittaker: The turning point in my career was definitely the opening of a dragon's treasure in Macau. It was the first time that I was really involved in a project from beginning to end and I was lucky enough to be there on opening day and watch all the guest's faces and the excitement when those curtains came up and it was a moment I'll never forget. And it really ensued my passion for being more involved in every aspect of a project. It really, I learned so much. And still utilize that knowledge-

Abhinav Narain: Seeing it to opening day.

Yvette Whittaker: Oh yeah. Yeah, for sure.

Abhinav Narain: Last but not least Yvette, do you have any advice for people who are looking to get into the industry?

Yvette Whittaker: Yeah, I think my advice would be passion. Everybody that has been successful along my path that I have dealt with has an incredible passion for this industry, for fun for the themed experiences, for immersive attractions. They live it, they breathe it, and that's how you will be successful. So that's my advice. Just be passionate about it and make sure that that passion shows.

Abhinav Narain: Thanks, Yvette.

Yvette Whittaker: You bet.

Abhinav Narain: We want to thank everybody around our studio for sharing such interesting stories. Cecil?

Cecil Magpuri: Really refreshing to hear everyone's kind of journey into our world.

Abhinav Narain: I completely agree. Before we go, I did want to ask you if you had any advice for people looking to get into the industry that you wanted to share.

Cecil Magpuri: You know, being involved, you know, I was at Universal for several years and interviewing different resources. There was never an avenue to get into themed entertainment. I think now there's been a lot more exposure in the universities to embrace business and industry-

Abhinav Narain: Absolutely.

Cecil Magpuri: I mean, where you went to school-

Abhinav Narain: SCAD.

Cecil Magpuri: Yeah Savannah College of Art and Design has a great themed entertainment program. I believe Ringling has just announced that this fall will be their first.

Abhinav Narain: Fantastic.

Cecil Magpuri: And I am currently on the Advisory Board for UCF for a Masters in Themed Entertainment-

Abhinav Narain: It's really, it's expanding a lot.

Cecil Magpuri: Yeah. So I would promote for those who are interested in this industry-

Abhinav Narain: Seek out those programs-

Cecil Magpuri: Seek those programs out, yeah, I'm really excited about it. They're embracing real professionals to help create a curriculum that allows the students to be literally an asset day one from graduation to firms like ourselves. So really excited about that.

Abhinav Narain: Yeah. Anything else you want to say before we go?

Cecil Magpuri: I think it's important that we reach out again to those who are listening to please email us any questions.

Abhinav Narain: Absolutely. You can reach us at podcast@falconscreativegroup.com. Again, that's podcast@falconscreativegroup.com. Actually, in part the entire idea for this episode came from a listener submitted email. Shout out to Matt who sent us an email saying one thing that he enjoys his hearing about the backstory of the various team members who work for Falcon's. Thanks for your email and everyone else, please send any questions or ideas for future episodes that you may have to that email.

Cecil Magpuri: Awesome.

Abhinav Narain: Cecil, thanks so much.

Cecil Magpuri: You bet.

Abhinav Narain: See you in the next one.

Cecil Magpuri: Sounds good. This has been Experience Imagination. For more information about this episode's discussion, be sure to visit our blog at falcnoscreativegroup.com and don't forget to follow Falcon's Creative Group on Linkedin, Facebook, and Instagram.

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