Whether they’re creating the iconic bloodstained tank top worn by Hugh Jackman in the hit movie “Logan,” discovering their comedic writing skills on Cartoon Network’s Regular Show, or helping “Grease: Live” land an Emmy, these successful MICA alumni have one thing in common: they each landed their first job in the entertainment industry through a chance connection — and let their hard work and the skills they learned at MICA take it from there.
Amy Mann ’10
Amy Mann ’10 (Fiber B.F.A.) is one of New Mexico’s leading ager/dyers, responsible for aging, dyeing and painting costumes in blockbuster movies like “Logan” and hit television shows like “Preacher” and “Fear the Walking Dead.”
But eight years ago, she didn’t even know what an ager/dyer was.
Mann, who moved back to her hometown of Albuquerque after graduation, was interested in experimental costume design. While searching for a job, she shared her MICA portfolio with award-winning costume designer Amy Stofsky, whom she met through a family friend. Upon seeing Mann’s work, Stofsky said, “You need to be an ager/dyer.”
“I asked, ‘What is that?’” Mann said. “It sounds like a witch or something.”
After shadowing an ager/dyer for two hours and watching her put artificial blood on actors on the set of “Lone Survivor,” she was hooked.
Without even realizing it, Mann had already prepared for the career at MICA through classes in the fiber department, dyeing and accumulations and metaphor. Those classes, especially Introduction to Fiber taught by Piper Shepard, showed her you have to “first figure out what your process is going to be, then focus on the final results,” she said.
“The work I do now is so heavily surrounded by the process in which you do things,” she said. “That’s what I really love about aging and dyeing.”
And the ager/dyer process changes with each project. On the first season of the AMC show “Preacher,” Mann had to age a large leather duster coat for a character who lived in the 1880s.
“A lot of times it’s just a little elbow grease,” she said. “We used a leather conditioner and worked it into the leather, especially where the actor would be wearing down the jacket naturally. Then we used scrub pads to make it look as though he was walking through the sagebrush getting scratches on the coat.”
Then, she had to duplicate her work on nine other dusters — enough for the actor, photo doubles and stunt doubles to wear.
“It is about telling the story,” Mann said of her job. “You get a brand new pair of pants and the designer tells you a story about this character. This is what he does, this is where he goes… You tell me what his pants are going to look like based on this story about him. That’s what’s exciting about what we do, the storytelling through the distressing and the colors on set.”
On the set of “Logan,” the Marvel Entertainment movie starring Hugh Jackman, she created multiple gunshot wounds with a range of blood thicknesses on Jackman’s white tank top. “Hugh himself wore the same white tank top the whole entire show, which was really incredible when it has accumulated real sweat and real wear and tear,” she said. “The tank should be in a museum or something. But his stunt doubles, stand-ins and photo doubles had to wear their own tanks — that’s where I come in. I aged probably a dozen of those tank tops to match what Hugh was wearing.”
Most of the movies and shows filmed in New Mexico are westerns or science fiction given the state’s desert and mountainous landscape, and as of this past spring, there were none scheduled in the area. That means a break for Mann — one she welcomes.
“The one thing about aging and dyeing that I don’t like is it’s physically exhausting,” she said. “You’re moving your hands and arms all day, and there’re a lot of chemicals that we use. We are as safe as possible, but it still takes a toll on your body.”
Still, she said the joy she feels after seeing the final product and seeing her name in the credits makes it all worth it. “Going to the screening and watching the film that you had blood sweat and tears over and seeing it on the giant screen is extremely gratifying,” Mann said. “It’s what makes us come back show after show.”
Gideon Chase ’09
After successfully showing his paintings in art galleries for five years, Gideon Chase ’09 (Painting B.F.A.) said he grew tired of being alone and “cooped up” in a studio for months at a time. So he packed up his paint brushes and moved from San Francisco to Los Angeles with a new goal in mind: To become a storyboard artist for the Cartoon Network hit “Regular Show.”
Chase, who had no experience as a storyboard artist, had been a longtime fan of the show and the artists behind it.
“I liked the creative control they had over each episode,” he said. “I didn’t want to be a cog in a giant machine, and that was a way I could have a lot of control over something and have my voice heard.”
Luck was on his side. His second night in Los Angeles, he met a storyboard artist for another Cartoon Network show. That connection led to Chase “testing” for “Regular Show.” As part of the test, he wrote an original script and jokes and then illustrated a storyboard with the main characters to go along with it.
To his surprise, he got the job.
“I was an anomaly when I got there,” Chase said. “Everyone else wrote comics, and I was a painter.”
But that didn’t stop him from thriving in his new career. Chase partnered with another storyboard artist and quickly learned the ropes. They worked on a new, 11-minute episode every five weeks, writing scripts, drawing the characters on Post-it notes, pitching their ideas to show creators and writers, and even acting the scenes out, complete with character voices.
“It’s a very close partnership that’s really intense for good and bad,” Chase said of his storyboard partner. “A lot of heads clashing together over ideas. I had been in the studio on my own for a long time… This was really good for me in terms of having to work with someone else.”
He also embraced the chance to write comedy, “something I always wanted to do,” he said. Chase worked on seasons seven and eight of “Regular Show,” which ended in January 2017. He has tested as a storyboard artist for other animated shows, but his new goal is to pitch his own show using his art and newfound comedic writing skills.
Javier Ameijeiras ’05
Javier Ameijeiras ’05 (Illustration B.F.A.) is a concept illustrator, production designer and award-winning art director who has created visuals for everything from movies and commercials to Broadway shows and live television specials, and he owes it all to a connection at MICA.
During his senior year, Anne South, former director of the College’s Office of Events, handed
him a piece of paper with a phone number on it.
“She said, ‘I have a friend with the Maryland Film Commission who told me about a production designer working on a film in Maryland who is looking for a concept illustrator,’”
Ameijeiras recalled. “I didn’t think anything of it. I didn’t think about doing film or if I was interested in film, but I called, interviewed and got the job.”
The film, “Step Up,” starring Channing Tatum, premiered in 2006. Since then, Ameijeiras has worked as a concept illustrator for numerous productions, including “Hamilton,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Greatest Showman.”
“At its core, concept illustrators help create the visual vocabulary for a film,” he said. “We help production designers visualize their ideas for the scenery. We’re literally saying, ‘it’s going to be in a loft, and it’s going to have beautiful lighting. There’s going to be one sofa and there’s going to be a huge sculpture in the corner, and everything is going to be geometric or soft and pink.’ Whatever the concept may be, we help create a visual for that concept.”
Ameijeiras's Concept illustration of Hamilton finale
Ameijeiras also works in design and art direction. “I call myself the chameleon of the art department because I like jumping around,” he said. “I want people to know if they
hire me they can hire me for anything. I’m like a one-stop shop.”
This past spring he wrapped work on “Beetlejuice,” a musical comedy based on the movie of the same name making its world premiere in Washington, D.C., this October. As associate designer for the show, Ameijeiras helped create the look of the comedy’s three houses.
In 2015 and 2016, he also worked as one of two art directors on “Grease: Live,” a live television
special and one of his most challenging projects to date.
“In one scene in ‘Grease,’ we were transitioning in a dream sequence between a girl’s bedroom and a USO number,” Ameijeiras said. “We storyboarded it out… Once we had convinced the director it was the right way to go, then we sat down and started thinking about what it actually looked like.”
After Ameijeiras sketched his ideas for the set, technical designers flushed out specifics and sent technical drawings to the construction team.
“I had to get this thing built,” he said. “I had to deal with the draft people and say, ‘It’s this tall, and this material.’ I had to contribute and work with the team to put the whole thing together in a way I’d never done before.”
As a result of his hard work, “Grease: Live” won an Emmy award for production design. And in 2017 Ameijeiras received another honor when the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences invited him to become a member.