The Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the renowned SCAD Savannah Film Festival October 22-29, 2022, with the marketing and advertising for the event already in full swing and prominently featuring SCAD students.
Under the guidance of SCAD president and founder Paula Wallace, university leadership, students, and alumni collaborated to create a new dynamic campaign for the festival’s milestone anniversary.
Over twenty students and alumni collaborated to bring the festival campaign to life from an array of the university’s top-ranked programs including performing arts, photography, film and television, graphic design, fashion, industrial design, and production design.
The five talent leads featured in the campaign are also current students and alumni.
Nicole Wheeler, a Performing Arts senior originally from the Washington, D.C/Northern Virginia area, is one of the talent leads featured prominently in the glamorous campaign, an opportunity Wheeler said was, “a game changer” for her.
“Instead of finding inspiration from [the festival] this year, I can be part of the inspiration. I can be part of the history,” she said. “I look at my photo and I see it encapsulates so much of what SCAD is trying to do. Even as a student, I’m in awe.”
“I feel very lucky and blessed to be here at this time. We’ve been building for 25 years and it’s been magical ever since. It’s like we’re at the start of a whole new, bigger SCAD,” Wheeler said.
Even with the film festival’s brief hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Wheeler feels she and her fellow students and teachers took the extra time to prepare for this important anniversary. “We have amazing honorees and the feeling in the air is legendary. You know [this year’s festival] will leave a mark and do so much good for future festivals and the city,” she said with clear excitement.
“I’d always studied musical theatre and… I knew I wanted to perform. I wanted to try some of the new technology SCAD offers and a lot of the opportunities you can only get here,” Wheeler said. “I moved all by my lonesome and I’ve been working ever since. I have worked on many a film set, I had a Lifetime movie come out last year, and I just keep going.”
So, she gladly jumped at the opportunity afforded her in this 25th-anniversary campaign.
Wheeler’s personality and enthusiasm show when she speaks. “Getting to do this campaign means so much to me because ever since my freshman year, I’ve been working with the theatre department. The film festival has done so much for me, especially as a performance major, giving me experience in my chosen field.”
The creative concept of the campaign merges classic Hollywood imagery through state-of-the-art technology. The promotion was shot at different locations throughout Savannah including the historic Lucas Theatre for the Arts and SCAD’s new LED volume which took the SCAD team to the Mediterranean coast of France to invoke the glamor of Cannes [France] without leaving Savannah.
Wheeler’s flowing red gown was a masterpiece creation in and of itself.
“Oh, my goodness… my dress was so beautiful,” she said with emphasis on the last word.
Of course, dramatic designer gowns, don’t just appear out of thin air.
“My dress definitely has a story,” Wheeler said. “The head of visual media here at SCAD has a friend in New York who works in the fashion industry, in a fashion warehouse. They have kept these amazing gowns from throughout fashion history preserved in this warehouse.”
“The dress I wore was an original Zac Posen,” she continued. “Posen designed and made the gown for another designer to wear to the MET Gala many, many years ago. Since then, the gown was in storage waiting ever since—I’d like to think—for it to be sent down from New York just for me to wear.”
The classic Hollywood-esque ads will be featured on digital billboards at the airport, on pedicabs throughout Savannah, on billboards along the interstate, and, most importantly, in Variety magazine and The Hollywood Reporter.
Wheeler wants people to see these advertisements and gain an understanding of what this festival offers.
“I want people to loooooooove it,” she said, enthusiastically. “This festival is all about the timeless magic of film and what it means. We’re encapsulating everything new that we’re bringing to the festival and film world, in general. We have our XR stage with new technologies and creative stuff no one’s used before. We’re truly making magic.”
“Look… we are glamorous and we understand the roots of SCAD, but look what we can do. Our marketing (for the film festival) has always been colorful and fun in the past. However, I think this project adds major class. It’s fancy.”
The work isn’t only for the honor of representing your school, it’s also a huge feather in Wheeler’s cap for future work following her time at SCAD.
“I know for students, the film festival always feels like a time where we’re a real part of the professional world we’re so close to being in. We’re still students, but we get to dress up, go to events, participate, get awards, and give speeches… it feels like we’ve made it. We may be students, but we show we’re serious, creative professionals,” she explained.
Being able to work while in school is something unique to SCAD, according to Wheeler.
“SCAD students have an advantage over other university’s students because many schools don’t always allow their students to work while they’re studying. I definitely took that into account when I was choosing where to go for college,” Wheeler noted. “I don’t want to just learn things in the classroom, I want to experience them on set.”
“With all I get to do, it doesn’t feel so much like school because I’ve been working in the business since starting my schooling,” she said. “We are expected to hold ourselves to the same high standards we would use working in a professional setting, only, we’re doing it in the classroom, as well. I was working once on a set and was so thankful I’d learned [a similar situation] in the classroom. They’re pushing us here to be professionals while we’re all learning. It gives us an edge. It gives our resumes an edge.”
Because of opportunities such as this 25th-anniversary campaign, Wheeler feels like her learning is equivalent to being thrown into the deep end. “In a good way,” she added.
“I’m honored to be part of this campaign and part of the showcase. I hope to continue working in the film industry because I love it so much. I’m focused now on getting representation… an agent.”
Wheeler shared how students from last year’s showcase had a 100% offer of representation, so the hopes are high for this year, as well. “Because of last year’s success, we’ve had a lot of agents actually reaching out to us,” she shared. “We’ve already had 30 or more [reps] contact us ahead of time. It’s very exciting and crazy how quickly our program is moving right up there behind Julliard in ranking talent. There are some amazing actors here and I’m honored just to be a part of all of it.”
As always, the city of Savannah provided the perfect picturesque setting for such a glamorous campaign, almost acting as a character of her own attempting to steal the photo.
“It was perfect to bring Savannah into the shoot,” Wheeler said. “Especially the shoot at Plant Riverside. I worked in a small shop when they first opened up and it was great to see River Street so vibrant since stores had been struggling after COVID. Plant Riverside isn’t really part of the city’s history, but it’s certainly part of the city’s future.”
Getting this campaign was a milestone accomplishment for Wheeler.
“It shows me how far I’ve come. If you know what you want to do, then do it. I always told myself I wanted to get on the next bigger stage and I haven’t stopped. To be asked to participate in something like this that will be visible to so many people is an honor.”
Wheeler paused for a moment and then said, “It sounds weird to say, but I’ve had a lot of students tell me how much the work I’ve done has meant to them and how I’ve been inspirational… to them. That blew me away. It means a lot to younger students to know these doors are open for them, so seeing what I’m now doing gives them ideas for their own future.”
“If they [fellow students] put their minds to it, they, too, can be asked to do things like this. It’s humbling to know I’m one of the faces of the Film Festival, but also one future students will see and see what we here at SCAD are capable of and how we hold our future.”