TEA Connect Blog

09 October 2014

Christine Kerr recaps first "TEA Talks" webinar

Reporting on the first "TEA Talks" webinar is Christine Kerr of BaAM Productions, who concludes 2 years as president of the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) in November 2014 (when president elect Steve Birket of Birket Engineering will step up to the position). The Oct 7, 2014 webinar addressed how people can build careers in themed entertainment. 

The inaugural TEA Talks webinar on October 7, 2014 focused on building an understanding of the themed entertainment industry by exploring the careers of five TEA members. I was honored to be part of a panel representing a wide range of experience, educational backgrounds and career trajectories. It was interesting to note that only one of the panelists is originally from Orlando or LA – revealing the global nature of the business today. The possible careers in the industry were reinforced by the geographic diversity of the panel members during the session – one in Berlin, one in Toronto, two in Orlando and one in Los Angeles.  

As the lead-off presenter, I was able to demonstrate how a formal theatre education led me to a job as a costumer in the entertainment department at Canada’s Wonderland – a humble starting point to an amazing career that has allowed me to have one foot in creative and one in production/operations. This unique perspective and mix of skills allows me to approach creative challenges with practical thinking and consider functional practicalities with a creative eye.  And my career journey has taken me to the UK and California as well as the Toronto area. Now with BaAM Productions I have an opportunity to work with clients throughout North America creating exhibits, event and experiences for clients in the worlds of culture, entertainment and sports. 

Designer Alex Korting hails from Berlin, Germany where his aspirations began at an early age and came into focus while he was in high school. Alex shared with the participants some of his very early sketch ideas for rides and other attraction concepts. His passion took him to industry events and conferences and allowed him to share his ideas with theme park operators as potential clients. His initiative bore fruit when he was hired to design a new front entry for a local theme park.  Alex’s early success led him to formal training in architecture and design – developing the skills and talent that had been evident from an early age. He is now working as a designer and project manager for a growing list of clients, including a recently opened project at Disneyland Paris. 

Recent grad and active TEA NextGen member Marissa Blake has taken a lifelong passion for storytelling and developed it into a flourishing career in the busy Orlando market. Marissa’s story has evolved as a textbook example of how TEA's NextGen initiative can help students identify a career direction, network with industry leaders, demonstrate a passion and talent for the industry and turn an internship into a job. Now working for VOA Associates, one of the busiest architecture firms in the themed entertainment industry, she is currently contracted out to Disney where she is able to further expand her skills and experience by working on projects in new and diverse roles. 

Jason McManus shared his journey as a kid in a military family originally from San Antonio, Texas, who travelled the US and visited theme parks as a favorite family pastime. He developed his skills as an artist and other related talents – all with a goal of finding a job in the industry. He started college and then landed his “dream job” as an intern at Walt Disney Imagineering. This helped him realise that he needed to expand his skills with formal training and he attended Cal Arts. Today, Jason is an entrepreneur who has used his experience and passion for the industry to build his own business, Lightning in a Bottle, responding to the unique needs of themed entertainment projects for clients around the world.

The final speaker of the session was TEA’s president-elect, Steve Birket. Steve is perhaps the renegade of the group – coming to the industry with an engineering degree and an MBA – but with a strong background working in Disney Parks seasonally through high school and college. He has worked on projects for both Universal and Disney, forging great relationships and developing a fantastic understanding of themed entertainment projects from conception to implementation. Steve and the team at Birket Engineering apply their collective knowledge and experience to the design and installation of life-safety ride & show control systems for the themed entertainment industry. They design, assemble, install, and commission the hardware & software systems that control the world’s best-known attractions. They work around the world and have offices in Orlando, Hong Kong and Shanghai.

Themes through all of the presentations provided webinar attendees with great career advice. Following your passion was a common recommendation, and it was clear that there is no direct route to a career in themed entertainment – it is a journey where the twists and turns only add to the adventure. Using your skills to get a foot in the door was also a common theme - all agreed that we should be open to opportunities as they arise, and shouldn’t let those skills define where you will end up. One of the most interesting things about this industry is the wide range of education backgrounds and skills our colleagues have, and the fantastic journeys their careers have taken them on. 

All panel members endorsed the programs offered by the TEA as being critical to teaching them about the industry and connecting them with potential employers. They also reinforced that it was possible to have a career in the themed entertainment industry and live outside of the Orlando or Los Angeles markets.

Special thanks and kudos to TEA NextGen chair Clara Rice of JRA, and Joe Fox from Birket Engineering, for making this happen! TEA Talks will be back in November with its second installment, focused on preparing students and recent graduates for the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) Attractions Expo in Orlando.



Posted by Judith Rubin



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