|Featured Member: Valerie Johnson-Redrow|
New Media Council
1. WHAT DREW YOU TO THE ENTERTAINMENT BUSINESS?
My early career focus was animal behavior. I began by writing shows and training animals in theme parks, including Six Flags and the Bronx Zoo. After traveling to Europe to work on film projects, I moved back to California in 1987 to pitch my brand of productions to Hollywood. I’ve been there ever since.
2. WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB IN THE INDUSTRY?
My first traditional production job was with Ralph Andrews at his game show production company. I supplemented on-the-job training with UCLA courses, which led to a production coordinator position for Columbia Pictures. I have 2 mentors: Producer David Brown taught me volumes about film production. He referred me to Irwin Winkler- who I worked with in Paris and New York on Round Midnight, for which Dexter Gordon was nominated for an Oscar.
3. HOW DID YOU START OUT AS A PRODUCER?
Shortly after arriving in LA, I took a job at Disney, where I was when the personal computer took over. I soon heard about Imagineers and how much fun they had. I applied and was hired on the team for the Disney/MGM studios in Florida. They needed interactive media producers that knew about traditional media. I was hired as a Show Producer.
4. WHAT LED YOU TO JOIN THE PGA?
I came to the PGA after meeting Debra Hill when she worked on the Disney/MGM Studios project in Florida in the late 90s.
5. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE VOLUNTEER/COMMITTEE WORK YOU DO FOR THE GUILD?
After the new group was created for Special Venues in the New Media Council, I increased my participation and I’m now on the Board. I try to work with people in the Guild whenever I can.
6. WHAT PROJECTS ARE YOU WORKING ON NOW?
For me, it’s now about immersion. That’s my current interest – to create more immersive experiences than even King Kong 360-3D. For that experience, you feel like you’re being knocked around by the creatures, but it’s actually all just digital media. I find it thrilling to suspend belief using immersive media. As a producer, you have to know how to figure it out, to define the goal and how to get there. You don’t know the technology you’ll need until you imagine the show and its requirements. My ultimate goal is to promote nature and conservation in general and incorporate that love of nature into highly immersive experiences.
7. WHAT HAVE BEEN YOUR MOST INTERESTING PROJECTS, AND WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM THEM?
For my first project at Disney/MGM Studios, I developed an interactive show called Superstar Television. The venue married a live feed of guests on stage being videotaped with playback from a laser disk for the canned part of the show. The live action was composited with the feed. For example, we incorporated guests appearing in I Love Lucy. I had great fun at this new career, that’s for sure, even altering existing show footage and shooting new footage for Golden Girls for one of the experiences.
My last film compositing project for Disney was Body Wars, a simulator ride where the guest was shrunk to participate – similar to the environment in Fantastic Voyage. For this project, I produced content with ILM.
I left Disney in 1995 to be a media producer for Metreon, where I produced location-based entertainment for Sony Development. I seem to prefer the science projects. I produced a 3D film with David McCauley about his hugely successful The Way Things Work combining film, cell animation and CG - 3 screens with 3-D in the middle! I was thrilled to work with Maurice Sendak to re-envision Where The Wild Things Are. I also produced the pre-show for an interactive game called Quaternia.
I went back to Disney in 2005 and produced a prototype that used handheld devices at the theme parks.
Since then, I’ve worked with WETA Digital to produce Peter Jackson’s King Kong 360 3D experience for Universal Studios. It opened 2 years ago and was my last theme park project. It was supposed to be a redo of the original animatronic attraction, but at Universal’s suggestion, Peter loved the idea of making it an all media experience. He was in agreement that digital media was ahead of animatronics. We created a 3D attraction made entirely from WETA digital media. My favorite experience was smuggling vials of scent to New Zealand for a review with Peter. Jennifer Sauer (the Creative Director) and I met with Peter so that he could make a decision on what the jungle and the dinosaur breath should smell like!