Center Stage is where we, The Connector, introduce to you a face you may have seen around campus, but never really knew much about or what they do. It is an opportunity for students on and off campus to connect and network with each other, as well as know what everyone else is up to. This week, we’re getting to know Vandon Gibbs, a BFA Film and Television student that will be graduating this Spring 2014 quarter. Take a moment to share in this insightful interview with him.
It is a quiet Wednesday afternoon at the DMC. Senior television producing major Vandon Gibbs and I are at a small table on the balcony enjoying a crisp spring day. I was anxious to learn what makes this vibrant young man tick. With an award for Best Dramatic Feature at Cinequest Film Festival for his film “Solace” along with numerous screenplays, this charismatic director will be graduating from SCAD this May with a resume of accolades. He reveals his experience at SCAD along with his internship at Afterlight Pictures and what it takes to succeed in one of the toughest creative industries.
Tell us a little bit about your experience here at SCAD Atlanta.
It’s been great. The professors have been great and very hands-on. My heart lies in film, and I know that is more so the Savannah campus, so here in Atlanta we are more television versus film and movies. I came kicking and screaming, — “I don’t want to learn TV!” — but actually it’s been good for me to learn. I feel like I know television and film. I feel like now I can get a job in either.
My film projects have typically come outside of class. It could take me three, four, five months or a year to complete a project. The short I did took me 8 months. That’s not a class project. For a class project you have typically four projects due in a 10- week span. You are only allotted two and a half weeks per project, and I just can’t do my best work in two and a half weeks. Regardless, I was going to make film anyways, but now I feel like because of Professor Arnold and Professor Judson I have a pretty firm grasp on television.
Were you able to contribute to your television classes with your film experience?
The short I did called “Moments” counted towards my internship here. I used an all-student crew and that was a really good experience to work classmates of mine. Professors know what your strengths are and kind of let you do things a certain way if need be.
Tell us about your internships.
With your television/producing major you have to do four internships before you can graduate. I’ve done two. One was for SCAD, in which I produced a live version of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.” We shot that here in the studio. I produced it, I cast it and it screened here at the 2013 aTVfest. The second internship I did was with Robert Pralgo at Afterlight Pictures. He is a prominent acting coach in town. I was a co-director and co-teacher in his acting class for 10 weeks. That was great to work with a lot of local actors.
What inspires your work?
I’m a little older and the first time I went to college I was a fine art major. I went through stages when I wanted to be a comic artist, then I wanted to be an art teacher, I really didn’t know. I just knew I enjoyed creating. My transition over to film has been an easy one. It’s about the act of creating, which is what I enjoy doing. I enjoy having a blank sheet of paper and filling it up with words or a drawing or just something visual. I enjoy being in charge of the creation. I’m here to tell a story.
How do you begin your creative process?
It’s never the same. It’s always different. I could see something, just one little thing, and “bam!” I can get a whole story based off of this one little thing. You get 50 ideas and maybe only two are solid. Those are the ones I hitch my wagon to. There is a lot of work to get something from my mind to the page to the screen. You have to love it, because it’s a long, tough journey.
You have been doing so much work on your own that you don’t get paid for, how do you balance your time?
That’s a difficult one. You sound like my wife. I tell her, “It’s going to bring us some money next year, I promise!” Even though I haven’t had a big return on an investment yet, I know all the thousands of hours I’ve spent on shooting, editing and research will never be a waste of time because I feel like I am growing. I feel like one day, whether it’s today, next week, next month or next year, I’m going to get an opportunity. That’s where all that preparation has come to onto play for this one moment. You want to be prepared because opportunities are not something that come along a lot. You never know who you are going to meet. I once heard a quote, “If you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready.” I’m ready.
What is your dream job and why?
I would say my dream job would be telling interesting stories in the feature film realm full time. If I could wave a magic wand I would make one feature film every two to three years, something I’ve both written and directed. In my downtime I would love to mentor budding artists, to interact with students who are just starting out in the business. I love to share information that I have learned because you never know if it may help. I want to give back.
What advice would you give to upcoming film and TV students?
I would say take the responsibility to learn as much as you can at SCAD and outside of SCAD. There are only so many hours in a day. You are only going to classes two days a week for two and a half hours. If you’ve never edited before and you take one quarter worth of editing class, you are not going to finish that class being a master editor. Whenever you can, write. If you only write in class, you’re not going to be a great writer. You have to sleep, eat and drink this stuff. Get comfortable with it outside of class. Writing, directing, producing, editing, that’s something that needs to be a part of your life, not just something you get a grade for. You can do that, but your work is not going to compare to someone who really logs the hours. Passion is what you do when you are not made to do it. Whether I came to SCAD or not, I knew I was going to make movies, I was going to write, I was going to direct and work with actors.