ITEC has just celebrated its 20th anniversary. You have worked there on several occasions during that time period, including your current stint that began in early 2000. What does your job as project producer encompass?
ITEC is a design and production firm. We have a base staff of 12 in-house people that needs to be very versatile. Being a project-based company, we expand and contract personnel as needed, and the creative design and technical production divisions of the company can work independently of one another. Some are specialists, such as engineers, architects, or theatre designers. I am more of a jack-of-all-trades who also understands lighting, music, theatre, and video. As such, I lead the teams that come up with creative concepts at the earliest stages of a project. We probably crank out 15 or more projects a year from concept to development to design intent. Another producer at ITEC is an architect who leads the actual building of at least one project each year.
ITEC began in the themed entertainment business, which is a perfect fit for your background at Universal and Disney and your own company, MANic Endeavors. How did you end up designing religious projects like the Holy Land Experience and The Scriptorium in Orlando and ITEC's current project for Pastor A.R. Bernard in Brooklyn?
We are finding that the market for theme park companies has expanded into mixed-use projects with commercial, retail, resort lodging, even residential components, in addition to the familiar attraction components. We now work on projects where the product is not necessarily pure entertainment in places like China, where we designed a theme park in X'ian, near the terracotta warrior museum, and in Qingdao, where we master-planned a mixed-use project. The Holy Land and Scriptorium projects were a benchmark for ITEC, marking an increase in religious-based cultural projects. For Pastor Bernard in Brooklyn, we are creating a Christian Third Place. It's not just entertainment; it's an immersive, non-urban environment in the heart of Brooklyn. He knows we are not going to turn his church into a theme park, but the design concepts and production approaches are the same.
What makes for a successful project?
It's all about the guest experience. We approach it from the guest's first encounter with the client's destination, whether it's in a Footlocker shoe store or an attraction like Terminator 2:3D at Universal, and carry it forward to the conclusion of the experience.
- How has the way ITEC's designers work changed over the years?
The biggest change is our use of computer modeling with Autodesk's Maya 3D animation software. Almost everything is done with computer modeling, even down to flowing waters in a fountain. CGI fly-throughs of our attractions make it simple for our clients to understand creative concepts at any level of the design process.
What does the next 20 years hold in store for a company like ITEC?
Convergence in our show technologies. As designers, we are looking at our products more holistically. Every project has a different level of scenery, lighting, audio, video, and effects. As the design team, we have blurred the boundaries, as directors and producers ask us for a more versatile environment, just as there is a blurring of the lines of places that people consider entertainment venues. Themed entertainment companies now specialize in “experiences,” and as developers of destinations become more and more competitive, they want to tap into our expertise. We can give them that extra edge.