Part 3 (go here for part 2)
About 6 months later, I decided I was going to move to Los Angeles to try this Art Center thing, and possibly work in the Hollywood industry. The first thing was to get in contact with the person who could help me get into the Hollywood industry, so I could support living in LA. I called him and asked if he had time to meet with me to discuss my options. I had hoped to work in Hollywood doing something… anything. After meeting with him, I was disappointed that there weren’t any job openings with him at the time (Star Trek: TNG was wrapping up its final season at that time). However, he told me that he thought I had a lot of potential and didn’t want me to waste my trip. He gave me a list of industry professionals to contact while I was still in LA. He said I could name drop him to try to get into the offices of some busy design professionals. I took him up on that offer and picked 3 names on the long list: DesignworksUSA (before they were purchased by BMW), Ashcraft Design, Honda R & D of N. America, and one more car design consultancy (which shall remain nameless).
DesignworksUSA was an amazing eye opening experience. I was staying in Hollywood at the time and had no idea what was where in LA. I knew this place was up the 101 freeway in Newbury Park, but didn’t quite realize how far this really was. It was more than an hour. I left for my 8 am interview at 6:30 am. The drive in LA traffic seemed never ending. When I arrived, I was in this large industrial park, and DesignworksUSA was this large building wrapped in black glass in the middle of nowhere. It was intimidating to say the least. I was pretty scared. I wasn’t even sure why I was here, and why would someone here want to talk to me. I checked into the lobby, and clutched my ugly portfolio waiting to be called in. When I was given to the OK to enter the office, I had no idea I was meeting with the CEO of DesignworksUSA. I showed him my mediocre drawings. I don’t think he was impressed, and asked if I had anything else to show him. I said, “Well, I have this car…”
He said, “Show me!”
We went to the parking lot and I whipped out the remote control and did my little song and dance. He seemed pleasantly surprised. We went back to his office. He asked me to have a seat and he then proceeded to call his staff together to meet in the parking lot. Now we return to the parking lot to find more than 25 designers gathered waiting for a show. I did my thing and I think everyone was impressed. I had designers crawling all over the car wondering how I had designed and executed some of the installations. I was feeing pretty good that many were impressed by my work. After the show we returned to the office again. DesignworksUSA CEO asked me if I had ever considered going to Art Center. I told him I had applied once, but was rejected. He said that was too bad and that it was their loss. He also mentioned that if I wanted to try the Art Center thing again, that I should come talk to him, since he was on Art Center’s board of directors. I was feeling pretty good at this point.
My next stop was to visit Ashcraft Design, a design consultancy in West LA. I met with Daniel Ashcraft, the president of the company. He was very polite and gave me the tour of their design office. I showed him my car and explained my background in auto sound and security. I think it intrigued him to ask me if I was interested in building the JBL show car. JBL was one of their big clients. I didn’t know how to reply. I felt overwhelmed. He also suggested that I attend Art Center. Okay, I was 2 for 2 in positive responses and now feeling upbeat and a bit more confident.
My third stop was Honda R and D of North America in Torrance. This was special to me. Growing up, I always loved Honda cars, and had owned 2 Hondas up to that point in my life. When I arrived at the gate to the facility, I could see the long road up to the intimidating building on top of the hill. I was really nervous. I wondered what they would think of the crazy things I did to their car. I met with their studio chief. When I showed him my car sketches, he was definitely not impressed, however he did like the car. He had never seen some of the options I had installed on my car, and was mildly impressed by the modifications. But he didn’t give me the encouraging “you should goto Art Center speech.” He gave me a harsh reality check about designing cars, and that the car industry wasn’t doing well at that time. It was disappointing but hardly discouraging. I kept on going.
Last stop for that trip was a visit to a car design consultancy in Orange county. They weren’t particularly receptive to my request for a visit and meeting. The reply to my request for a meeting was, “Okay, it’s your dime! You can have 10 minutes.”
You know a professional business doesn’t take you seriously if they don’t even ask you if you would like a beverage while you wait. When I arrive, I see a big glass building with a receptionist desk. After waiting 15 minutes, a designer finally came out and said, “Okay, show me what you got!”
I showed him my awful car drawings.
He said, “You got anything else?”
I replied, “ I have this car!” Off we go to the parking lot. I start off showing him that the windows can roll down by themselves, then I open both doors by remote, and top that off by remote starting the car. Now I have his attention, and he was impressed! At that moment, the receptionist got up from her desk and came outside.
She said, “Excuse me, did I just see that car open its doors and start by itself?”
She seemed impressed. I felt kind of vindicated to show them that I wasn’t wasting their time. After the show, they were surprisingly nice to me, and even offered me a beverage. I got the office/studio tour and they even asked my suggestions about one of their projects; which I thought was unusual since it seemed like I was wasting their time when I first arrived. Now after all these meetings, I knew my destiny was to go to Art Center, but how was I going to build a portfolio and get in?
Continued in Part 4