Jameel Haiat: Theatre Industry Worker Tag
We are asking anyone working in any capacity of the theatre industry what they love about it and have learned along the way. Here is Jameel Haiat based in Hong Kong.
1. Do you remember your first experience within the theatre/entertainment industry?
Growing up in Los Angeles, it’s difficult to remember my first experience, as it’s almost an inevitable part of daily life. But, I do remember my parents taking me as a very young child to see Liza Minnelli perform at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Even as a young boy, I was mesmerized, by her, by the venue, the extravagance of it al.
2. When did you know you wanted to work in the entertainment industry?
That’s easy…when I saw early Ray Harryhausen films. The moment I saw those incredible stop motion creatures on screen, and the fact that someone could create sculpted monsters like that, I wanted in. Finally, in 1977, when I saw the original Star Wars at the Hollywood Chinese Grauman Theater, that solidified it. I wanted to do nothing more than to be part of that world.
3. Did you study the arts?
Yes, I have my Bachelors Degree from California State University at Los Angeles in Art, with an emphasis on Sculpture and Paint.
4. What was your first job in the theatre/entertainment industry?
When I first graduated college, I found a job (at the school job board!) as a sculptor designing and creating Halloween products. It was my gateway into the industry.
5. What’s the best role you ever had?
I’ve had many amazing roles and been part of incredible teams, but I would have to say my current role as Writer is the best and most rewarding.
6. How is your role misunderstood outside the arts and how do you explain what you do to people?
When I was a Production Designer for Walt Disney Imagineering, most people had no idea what that truly meant. Explaining the “in’s and out’s” of what I actually did could be incredibly challenging for those that didn’t know me. So I would always best explain it like this: “One part Art Director, One part Construction Manager, One part Psychologist, One part Teacher, and a whole lot of me!”
7. What are the top three skills you need for your role?
More than skills, to be a Production Designer requires some basics: 1) Have a great eye. 2) Be a great listener. 3) Be decisive and unafraid. Forget all the traditional training, software and what they tell you is needed. Those “skills” might get you in the door, but won’t make you great.
8. What advice do you have for anyone looking to do what you do?
Don’t do it, haha! Seriously, if you want to get into the Industry, especially into Themed Entertainment, and especially as a Production Designer, be prepared to work your ass off. It’s a tough job, with long hours, tons of responsibility and constantly parenting and mentoring many people while still trying to bring amazing products to life. If you still want all that, and can do all that, then have it.
9. If you could do anything else in the theatre/entertainment industry what would it be?
Ultimately, I want to write a screenplay/screenplays. I plan on turning the novel that I am writing now, and future ones, into film.
10. What advice do you have for anyone looking to make a career in the arts?
Don’t think about the what if’s. If it’s in your heart, in your soul, do it. Don’t listen to the naysayers and the doubters, they will never give you a good reason to work towards a career within the Arts. You do it not for the money, you do it to fill your soul. But, if you do succeed, emotionally and financially, then hallelujah, it’s that much better!
11. What do you wish someone told you before pursuing a career in the theatre?
There really is nothing that anybody could have told me before I ventured out into the Arts world. I had my mind set form day one that I was going to make, or not make it, it on my terms. In fact, I’m actually happy that so many tried so hard, and for so long, to tell me otherwise. It made me stronger, more determined and better at what I did.
12. Were you still able to work in the theatre/entertainment industry during the Pandemic?
Unfortunately/fortunately, I was laid off during the pandemic. But, that only allowed me more flexibility, time and drive to pursue my writing venture, and to succeed at it!