ABOVE: Dila Kiliboz’s pitch. Photos courtesy Miziker Entertainment
Miziker Entertainment, a 35-year creative design company serving the attractions industry, collaborated with the Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD) to give eight outstanding students from SCAD’s graduate program in Themed Entertainment Design a special boost to help them on their way into professional careers.
Originally planned by Miziker as a weekend intensive in the global hub of Los Angeles, the program was reshaped (due to COVID-19) but still met its objective to inspire and assist the students with meaningful, real-world exposure to the industry and project experience on a professional level.
The relationship between Miziker and SCAD began in November 2019, when Miziker CEO Charlotte Huggins and the company’s own SCAD-grad-hire Michael Howell met SCAD team members and students during the IAAPA Expo in Orlando. “Our idea was born then – to bring a select group of SCAD students to LA for a whirlwind industry weekend,” said Huggins. It was to include meetings with prominent artists and producers, curated visits to Disneyland and Universal Studios, and a dinner party at company founder Ron Miziker’s house. “SCAD loved the idea, and after working out the details, we began interviewing students,” said Huggins. “Then the pandemic intervened. But we rebounded with a new plan and the students really stepped up to the challenge.”
“Our goal is that students will be industry-ready at the time of graduation,” said Megan Clarke, who as SCAD’s industry and alumni engagement manager for the Southwest, cultivates relationships and collaborations such as the one with Miziker. The college prides itself on its high employment rate for recent graduates, which Clarke cited as 99% for the past three years. “The industry wants artists; even companies that aren’t traditional creative companies need a designer. There are still jobs out there right now. Artists will always be needed. It’s my job to help students and alumni understand how wide the options really are and guide them to a good fit.”
Miziker Entertainment selected the eight students from an applicant pool of 100 and – interacting remotely over a two-month period – the Miziker creative and production team devoted time, resources and expertise to helping each student conceive and produce a short video that would express their personal brand. The students gained new hard and soft skills, and direct professional experience along with a tangible result – the video itself – to help them in their job searches. Miziker team members were available to the students in twice-weekly meetings and as needed between meetings, to give advice, feedback and support from start to finish. The completed videos can be viewed at https://miziker.com/mizpitchfest.
“It was a very fun learning experience and I always felt welcome by the Miziker folks, whenever I reached out,” said Dila Kiliboz, one of the eight students and an aspiring conceptual designer. Now in her final year as an MFA student at SCAD, having previously studied architecture at the University of Kent (UK), Kiliboz speaks Turkish, English and French. She created her video with a combination of live action and stop motion, using cut paper and handcrafted items and learning the process as she went along, with Miziker’s guidance.
“It helped prepare us for what it’s like to work with a company, including having a budget and the nitty gritty details of the financial aspect,” said recent graduate Lydia McDaniels, another of the eight students and a native of the US Midwest. “I learned a lot about how project teams communicate – and I loved getting to know the Miziker team.” Her video, animated from her own drawings, expresses her love of storytelling. “Themed entertainment is a mode of art to tell stories and share them with the world, and it gives us so many ways to connect with people,” said McDaniels.
Also participating SCAD students were Chloe Castillo, Lindsey Ellis, Michael VanderMate, Sara Joy Needham, Sofia Olivar, and Yun Enya Huang.
The project and the act of mentorship had its rewards for the Miziker team as well. “Collaborating with artists is probably my favorite part of the job, and here I got to collaborate with eight young, up-and-coming artists all focused on different mediums, still developing and honing their skills,” said Miziker Project Director and Creative Producer Adam Ellison. “We helped them along the way, but they conceived and produced the work themselves – writing scripts, making props, finding local resources and equipment, drawing animations, choosing and mixing music and sound… They jumped in without hesitation, eager for this extension of their education. And each of them had their share of life turmoil happening – juggling jobs or other life changes, being far from home or even in quarantine – yet they continued to invest time, energy, ambition and focus. Their grit and tenacity were incredible. I am impressed, envious and proud. It was so exciting.”
“This is about giving back,” said Huggins, a storied veteran of the industry who leads the company with COO Ryan Miziker and President Sean Chung. The company was founded by Ron Miziker, a celebrated showman and Disney pioneer best known for the original Electric Light Parade and spectacular parades and live shows continue to be a specialty at Miziker Entertainment. “We applaud what SCAD is doing and we wanted to make a contribution. We were thrilled to find a way to give support and encouragement to these eight shining stars of our industry’s future.”
Asked about her own vision of the industry’s future, Kiliboz said, “We’re in an era of globalization, where diversity is of high importance – bringing in different cultures and views, everyone having a say at the table. And from working with Miziker, I have a better understanding of how to bring that to all phases of a project.”
“I’m really grateful for what Miziker did – especially when they could have just canceled it all because of the pandemic,” said McDaniels. “When Miziker came back and said, ‘We are going to do this,’ it inspired this sense of hope, and I will remember that as I go through my career.”