SM: Well, I joined the bank right out of college, managing one of their branches. While it wasn’t a bad job, I knew that it was not something I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
So, I quit after two years and began to search for something I could be passionate about. I learned aboutJRAthrough a college friend, interviewed with the principals and have been here since.
BTT: What is the greatest demand on you daily?
SM: Time management. There are so many things that I have to do, and want to do well, that it can be hard to get it all done each day. Luckily, I’ve got a lot of help here at the studios, and I’m working on improving my organizational skills.
BTT:How do you feel the theming industry has changed over the last 10 years? For better or worse?
SM: Definitely for the better. We went through a big theming boom a decade ago or so, where it seemed like everything was themed, sometimes for no apparent reason. I think the market has corrected itself a bit now, and you are seeing much smarter theming. Designers today are using theming as a part of the story, and are not counting on it to be the story. Plus, theming today is much more personalized and focused on interacting with the guest, which has made it much more engaging.
BTT:What has been your biggest challenge so far and how was it overcome?
SM: Because our firm works in so many different markets — from theme parks to museums to halls of fame to branded attractions — the challenge has always been to stay educated about each market and keep on the leading edge of developing experiences that will resonate with each audience.
The key to overcoming that challenge has been to research and read as much as we can about new projects and trends, while attending various industry conferences where you learn so much about the pulse of each specific market.
BTT:You can go back in time and change or alter one project. What would it be and why?
SM: I don’t think that there’s any project that I would change, because I know our design team always put their hearts and souls into developing each project to the utmost, taking into consideration client goals, budget and schedule. That being said, there are certainly a lot of projects where we would love to have the chance to enhance now that new technologies have come aboard which could help make these experiences even more engaging.
BTT:What is worse for a project, running out of money or running out of time?
SM: The good news it that our project managers are diligent about not letting either of these two scenarios happen. However, if one of these project parameters were to change for reasons beyond our control, I’d have to say I’d rather be running out of time, because I know our team performs well under pressure.
BTT:What is your favorite attraction or themed item that you did not work on?
SM: I love the City Museum in St. Louis. It’s the essence of a beautiful vision realized, and is as magical as it is engaging for guests.
BTT:You are offered your dream project, what would it be?
SM: It would be great to work on a big popular culture brand experience, like a Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings attraction.
SM: We are currently working on three science centers in Saudi Arabia, theme parks in Russia and Turkey and a major branded attraction which opens this May. We were just awarded the Beijing Children’s Museum, which will also be a lot of fun.
BTT:What does the term “Theming”or “Theme” mean to you?(i.e. theme park or themed attraction)
SM: “Theming” to me means using the physical environment to immerse guests in a story. The important thing is that the story drives the theming, not the reverse, or the resulting experience will lack depth and meaning for guests.