The Long Road: Getting into Art Center Part 2

Art Center College of Design

Art Center College of Design. I never realized how difficult it would be to get in.

This is part 2 (go here for part 1)

I called Art Center to request a catalog, and when I received it, I remember ogling at all the cool things I saw. I knew this was for me.  I sat my parents down one evening to have the talk about changing majors to my new found love of ID (industrial design).  My parents weren’t thrilled that I was about to throw away 3+ years as a business major, just to start over again in design.  But I had always been responsible and was trusted to make the right decisions. They said if I was sure this is what I wanted, then they would support it.  I quickly threw together some car drawings, and sent it off to Art Center.  A few weeks later I got a reply.

For those wondering, when you receive the standard white envelope from Art Center, you know you didn’t get accepted.  This was devastating; I had my first rejection letter from Art Center.  I thought this was art school, how hard could it be to get in?  Being young and naïve, I didn’t realize the status Art Center held in the world of art schools.  This was the Stanford of art schools.  It was “Top Gun”!  Only the best of the best get to go there.  I was totally unprepared, and should have researched their portfolio admissions policies more thoroughly.

A few weeks had passed and summer arrived.  I went to LA to visit relatives.  While I was there, my cousin invited me to her work.  She worked at Warner Bros. Studios, and I was a bit star struck.  Back then I thought LA was all 90210 and Baywatch.  I loved the movies and thought to myself what an awesome job and lifestyle she must have had living in LA.  While I was visiting her office, we were invited to go watch the filming of a new sci-fi pilot on set at the studio.

I barely remember anything about who starred in the show or what the show was about.  What I do remember was all of the futuristic cars rolling around in the background.  I even got to meet some cool designers and special effects (FX) people.  During one of the breaks, my cousin’s boss asked me to show my “pimped out” ride to some of the FX guys.  Reluctant and a bit embarrassed, I showed them what my car could so.  I was a college kid from San Francisco, what did I have that could impress the professionals that worked in Hollywood?

Well, I had this car.  Actually a little bit more than a car.  I had a 1989 Honda Accord Coupe 2-door.  This was the beginning of import tuning.  I had what people would call a “tricked out” ride.  It was kind of sleeper from the outside (not so obvious), but on the inside it could do wonders. Remember how I mentioned I liked to modify my car?


“The car” modified from before. No door handles was just the start…

That was an understatement.

I had a 12 button remote control keypad that looked like a calculator and could operate 30+ options on my car.  My car had no door handles and no keyholes.  I did this modification when I was 18 because someone tried to break into my car, and since I had to fix it, I just removed them all together.  Every option I installed was remote activated, and from this remote control my car could: start the engine by remote, roll the windows up and down, turn on/off the headlights, pop the trunk, unlock the backseat, turn the stereo on/off, etc. (you get the picture and all this in the mid-late 80’s).  I installed all these crazy things myself in my teen years.  Think Knight Rider, the Batmobile, and Bond cars.  You name it and my car could do it, short of driving itself.


There’s the keypad inside the car. I also had one as a keychain believe or not…

I was already a designer and didn’t know it yet.

I may have ended up here if things had gone a little differently...

I may have ended up doing FX if things had gone a little differently…

The FX people saw these crazy things happening before their eyes and couldn’t believe what they were seeing.  They asked all kinds of questions about how things were done to the car, which I naturally assumed they would have already known.  I commented, “Don’t you do this kind of stuff all the time?”

They replied, “Are you kidding, our stuff is make believe… it doesn’t work for real!”

Then it dawned on me that maybe I do have a gift.  The FX people asked, “Are you trying to get into the business?  Do you study this in school?”

I responded, “No, I just do this for fun.  I study business administration.”

They asked, “Why?  You can do this stuff for real… you should be working in special FX!”

One person asked if I was interested in working in Hollywood to look him up, he worked doing props and FX for Star Trek: The Next Generation.  I was overwhelmed.  I had my ego stroked and was feeling pretty good!  Maybe I should reconsider this moving to LA thing again…

To be continued in Part 3