Episode 1 - Digital Transformation

Episode 1 November 08, 2021 00:23:49
Episode 1 - Digital Transformation
Forward Together
Episode 1 - Digital Transformation

Nov 08 2021 | 00:23:49

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Show Notes

In this inaugural Forward Together podcast, we focus on digital transformation in the arts. We're joined by Shocker alum Dean Hargrove — writer, director and producer, whose credits include “Columbo” and “Matlock — and Wichita State's dean of the College of Fine Arts, Dr. Rodney Miller
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Episode Transcript

Speaker 1 00:00:06 Welcome to the forward together podcast. The term digital transformation sounds like something that belongs in a scifi movie or a computer lab, but it's an emerging field of study at Wichita state university. And it's growing into a thriving industry for the state of Kansas. It's a broad and inclusive field that supports our state's current industries and diversifies and attracts new jobs and industry through infusing the technology of today and to the practices of yesterday to talk about digital transformation in the entertainment industry. I'm joined by my guest today, Wichita state alumna's Dean Hargrove. Dana's a television producer writer and director whose credits include the man from uncle Colombo, Matlock, Jake, and the fat man diagnosis, murder and Perry Mason. So thank you Dean for joining me today on this inaugural forward together podcasts. Speaker 2 00:01:00 Oh, it's my pleasure. Thanks for inviting me Speaker 1 00:01:03 So appreciative of your, uh, willingness to, to be on today. We're looking forward to the conversation before we get into the changes you seen throughout your career. I want to talk about your time at Wichita state. You graduated in 1960. Tell me a little bit more about your time here. And what about shocker experience influenced your desire to work in the entertainment industry? Speaker 2 00:01:27 Well, I always wanted to deal in the film and entertainment industry. And of course there are very few places in Kansas where you have an opportunity to do that. Uh, at the time when I was at Wichita, uh, the facilities really didn't exist that much, but what there was, was an enormous atmosphere for experimentation and support and all kinds of appreciation for people who are trying to do something it's quality. I think the university has always had, and is now being carried into the future in a ways that are really quite amazing. And I think that would be exemplary for other universities. Uh, you were speaking about my experience there. The seminal experience I had that I took away from that was a Hippodrome, which is, you know, is a big variety show that still exists. I believe every spring is a competition. And, uh, I produced with a friend of mine named Brad Hammond. Speaker 2 00:02:28 I also, uh, directed and acted in and wrote the material for the show. It allowed me not only to get involved in something very creative, but it allowed me to experiment because we did something that really hadn't been done before, which is I used film and stage in the production. We'd open up on film, then we'd go to the stage for musical parts. Then we go back to film and then we go to the stage again and then we'd end on film. Uh, no one had ever anything like this before. So I think it gave us something of an edge on the other competitions who really were doing things that were much more conservative or much more traditional. Uh, we won three out of the four years and the fourth year we were disqualified because no one could believe that we did the early era photography. Speaker 2 00:03:21 And a lot of the other dimensions I put in my own sound system, we, uh, shot on an anamorphic lens like cinema scope. And even though I suspect we did go over a little bit of the $125, most of the stuff was donated by alumni and other people. Anyway, that was a seminal experience for me. And when I went to UCLA as a graduate student, uh, these were films that I could expose there and, uh, get some attention and also give some further insight in terms of starting your career. I got a lot of experiments going when I was in Wichita, uh, through the English department with professor Rosenblum and, uh, Johnny Bryant, who was there he's he's folks. I know her long longer there. My mother was the executive secretary that you go, whoa. And so I had three different majors. I started in what was filled the speech department because there wasn't a television or film department. And, uh, that was kind of limited because it was primarily for radio. So then I became an English major then because my mother's influence. And because I became familiar with the staff at the political science department, that became my major. So I was very pleased that I got a kind of a very broad liberal arts education from Wichita state. And I've always been very grateful and very proud of the university and not just for basketball. Speaker 1 00:04:48 Well, that's great. Those experiences, um, uh, really, uh, very interesting to hear about your career path and Hollywood has spanned decades, and you've been able to witness so many technological changes. Tell me a bit about some of those changes. Speaker 2 00:05:04 Well, from a producing standpoint, for example, uh, I was, uh, the associate producer. Initially the first series I was on was called, it takes a fee with Robert Wagner and the series of those periods of time. We didn't have computers. So every script had to go through what was called a mimeograph machine. I don't even find that in a museum today, but it was kind of a sloppy stencil on the, which you would crack up the pages of the script. It was very inefficient because you're always making changes, which meant you had to go back and print other pages that had to be inserted in the script. It was a very tedious process and very inefficient. Of course, now that's all different now that we have, you know, computers and word processors, uh, it's made a huge difference. Uh, that was very noticeable to me because it had a lot to do with our efficiency when I was doing Matlock, uh, we were doing like everyone else was doing at the time shooting on 35 millimeter editing on what a machine called a Moviola, which was a kind of ancient device where the film editor would have boxes of the little strips of film. Speaker 2 00:06:14 The various takes that you've done on a film. You have to search through the box to find the strip, to film, to put it into the movie, to select the tape you want. And then they'd have to tape it together in order to get a print or a cut any way that you can show before it went over to the laboratory color processing was a tedious process and it was left almost entirely to the labs. Whereas today, a film is basically like Photoshop. Um, my director of photography, that's been working with me recently, I've gone into color correcting sessions with him, where he sits with, with a laser and says, well, let's change that to red and let's put the light over there and it's, it's miraculous and it's time-saving and as much more creative, creative people now have so much more latitude because of the digitizing of all of this process. You know, in the film business films were delivered on 35 millimeter and old heavy cans today they're delivered on drives, uh, which costs a lot less money. Speaker 1 00:07:20 And so what are you working on right now? Uh, I know you're not retired yet, so what's next for you? Speaker 2 00:07:26 I'm very busy for someone who's not employed. Uh, so I'm doing a documentary on Willie Brown. Who's a Seminole politician, the state of California. He was the, uh, head of the assembly for many, many years. He was then mayor of San Francisco is a very colorful and interesting man who lends itself to being very entertaining and educational about the way politics works on a day-to-day basis. I'm doing a project, uh, with iHeart radio, uh, which, uh, they are committed to doing, which is a biography on Johnny Cochran, whom I've known for many years. Most people only know him from the OJ case. Johnny Cochran was an extraordinary man and a very worthwhile man in terms of what he did and the improvements and the, uh, the ways that he enhanced his own community. Uh, so when I talked to him years ago, and then when the OJ case came around, I didn't want to do that. Speaker 2 00:08:26 It was done forever. So I wanted to do his story, which is very worthwhile and fascinating. I have a project with Oprah's company, which is a new way of looking at the Joan of arc story, which hasn't been done in about 20 years. And in our particular version, we're doing it as though it's a live television event. A small fact that fascinated me in doing this because I looked at all the movies are about eight or nine of them. Of course, there's a vast amount of material on her as a character and as a person. And that is that we have a copy of the transcript of the actual trial from the 15th century, because it wasn't a state trial. She was trialed tried by the Catholic church. And on top of that, I'm writing a couple of screenplays, one of which I did back in the last century, which I'm updating and, uh, that's pretty much what I'm doing. And I managed to, I managed to keep busy. I've been a writer since I was at Wichita state. And, uh, I'm going to stay doing that until somebody stops me. Speaker 1 00:09:30 Well, those are awesome sounding projects. I can't wait to see those projects when they come to fruition. Thank you so much for joining us today and being on this inaugural podcast or forward together. Speaker 2 00:09:45 Well, thank you very much, Mr. President. Uh, it was a real thrill to be here and to talk to you again and again, I, I applaud as much as I can to the work you're doing and the modernization and taking this university into the future in a very big way. I'm very proud of, of the university and everything that's happening there. So thank you Speaker 1 00:10:07 Much here. Now. I want to welcome another guest, Dr. Rodney Miller, Dean of the college of fine arts at Wichita state. Hi, Rodney, how are you doing and thanks for joining me on this inaugural podcast forward to Speaker 3 00:10:23 Thank you, Rick or Mr. President, I should say it's an honor, first of all, to be part of the initial, um, podcast in this series. And, uh, I think that speaks well to the emphasis that this university and your administration places on the arts. Um, we're, we're thrilled to be here. Okay, Speaker 1 00:10:46 Great. When people think of digital transformation, they often think of engineering in the stem fields, but it's also played a huge role in fine arts and performing arts, not only in the creative processes, but also in the way we, as an audience experience the arts. Can you talk a little bit more about how digital transformation has changed the arts? Speaker 3 00:11:07 Well, I don't know that the word would be changed per se, because the one thing that I really want the audience to understand is that the arts have embraced technology from its inception. I mean, all the way back to the ancient Greeks, utilizing mathematics for the acoustics, for the amphitheater to, uh, the technological innovations of the 20th century. But, uh, we have always had, um, technology in the forefront of what we have developed. Uh, every instrument in the orchestra for example, is the by-product of some creative mind thinking of a new technological way of shaping, uh, the instrument into a new acoustical sound and same, thing's true with the visual arts as well. So when, uh, digital transformation came around, um, we were already on the ship ready to sail. Uh, I specifically, uh, as you know, uh, we have developed a, a fourth school in the college of fine arts. We had music and performing arts and, and art design and creative industries, but we have a new school called, uh, the school of digital arts. And it's the school where we have in a very direct way, embraced digital transformation Speaker 1 00:12:37 Regarding Dean Hargroves career that we just spoke about and the television and entertainment industry in general, he spoke about mimeographs and Moviola machines. What are some of the other ways that the industry has changed and what future technologies are we anticipating? Speaker 3 00:12:55 Oh, gosh, the sky's the limit on the future technologies? Um, my, my career, which hasn't been, you know, overly long, uh, about 40 years in academia, we have, uh, seen the, the growth, uh, from the personal computer all the way to, uh, where we are today with the digital transformation. And there have been, uh, many milestones that have come about, uh, because of that little thing called a computer. Um, most of what we have down in the school of digital arts is the by-product of, um, of that digital, uh, development, you know, um, animation and game design are the two biggies that are digitally formulated. Of course, we have also have filmmaking. We have audio production, which is recording, which, uh, all obviously predate, uh, digital transformation, but those are becoming digitized as well. Um, so there's been a lot of developments in this area. Speaker 1 00:14:01 Yeah. And one of the ones related to the pandemic that as you know, when I was the provost, um, I've sort of mesmerized by these virtual acquires. And, uh, just what, um, uh, uh, as an institution and other institutions were doing to continue that performance we're allows students to perform, but also use the digital arts to put those choirs together. And, and we, you all played a little bit, uh, with that, um, during the pandemic, I know that we recorded some, uh, uh, some work for commencement because we didn't have the performers there in person. So yeah, it's, it's, uh, incredible. And I know I was talking a lot about these virtual choirs. I couldn't stop watching them cause they're just incredible how they put those together. Oh yeah, Speaker 3 00:14:51 Absolutely. It's, it's all in the algorithms and how you put them together. And, uh, there's been a lot of developments in the software. Uh, there, there are a lot of subtleties and nuances that go into making sure that something like that is, as I'll say, engaging as an actual live performance. Uh, but as you already know, uh, people go to a play and that's a live performance and they'll go to a film, which is not a live performance, but it might be a film of the very same thing, but it's just simply a different, medium communicating the same thing. And that's what the arts are all about is the communication of those elements of humanity that engage us. And, um, if, if the technology is something that is digital, then so be it. Yeah. Speaker 1 00:15:46 Great way to explain that. And on the subject of industry change, how are we preparing Wichita state university students for these changes? Speaker 3 00:15:55 Well, I have been, uh, the, uh, Dean for the college of fine arts for, um, almost 18 years when I got here in 2004. The first time I stood before my faculty, I said, you know, this is a wonderful, phenomenal college, fine arts. Uh, we have faculty and alumni who have worn w either been nominated or won just about every award there is, but I said, what we need to be going forward in the future is a college of fine arts that's relevant in the 21st century and to their credit. Uh, they were already there. I wasn't saying anything to them that they didn't already know, and didn't already embrace. And one of the great things about being a Dean is I get to sit here and pat myself on the back for the hard work that other people have been doing in the trenches. Speaker 3 00:16:51 Uh, and so, uh, I don't want to give the impression that all that we are doing is wrapped up in this one new school that we have the school of digital arts, uh, they have embraced and, and the other schools have embraced, um, uh, the, the digital transformation, uh, one statistic, uh, just to give you an example, uh, that school because of its popularity has grown exponentially to now be the largest school in the college, however, and, and they generate over 40% of our credit hours in the college. However, that credit hour generation, more than half of those credit hours are from the other three schools, plus the Elliott school of communication in Las. So this is truly a cross-disciplinary crawl, cross collaborative effort. And it also is expanding, um, the work of our faculty and our students who are going to be our future performers and painters and artists, um, in, in ways that we're just scratching our heads. Speaker 3 00:18:09 And I'm wondering about, uh, I'll just give you one for instance, um, uh, the, um, school of performing arts, uh, one of the disciplines in school performing arts is dance. And, uh, right now we have, uh, one, uh, dance professor in particular Taylor Clawson, who has a film that she did, uh, that was cross-disciplinary. She, uh, has, uh, engaged, uh, with writers, directors, producers, filmmakers, students from multiple schools across multiple disciplines to, uh, create this 25 minute video. She moved the Prairie and it's, um, sort of a historical, uh, reflection on the influence of, uh, female, uh, pioneers and, and, uh, uh, and, and women in the early part of the 20th century, living in rural Kansas, that film has gone on to have international recognition it's been submitted to and accepted in film festivals, uh, literally all over the world. And that's just only one example of how the digital transformation, how, how we're preparing our students. Speaker 1 00:19:32 Yeah. And I just have to say as a, when I was the provost of the university, when that school was formed, it's, it's a really good example of how the faculty and the entire college came together to, to use existing content and create new content. That's really important as we move forward in this digital space, not to change the subject to off-base, but we've talked a little bit about, um, uh, the virtual choir during the pandemic. And I know that your faculty have had to be very creative of how they teach during, um, the, the pandemic using some digital tools. I just recently attended the performance of keeper of the flames, which is a, uh, a production that was, um, produced by, uh, the students in the school of performing arts and honor of a retiring school director, Linda Starkey. And there was some interesting things that were done there because of the pandemic. Can you talk a little bit more about some of these things that your college is engaged in during the height of the pandemic? And now that we're not exactly coming out of the pandemic, but we're, we have a little bit more leeway in how we do things? Well, Speaker 3 00:20:45 The college of fine arts is a little bit unique in that the teaching methodologies that we employ run the entire gamut all the way from the traditional lecture class to really hands-on applied learning. Um, I mean, applied is probably in the title of about a third of the curriculum that we, um, provide our students, but, um, and there've been some major challenges, uh, and quite frankly, if there is a silver lining and only really you want to call it a silver lining, maybe, uh, a pewter lining to this pandemic it's that our faculty were more or less forced to engage in some things that they'd been thinking about already. Um, uh, just to give you one, for instance, uh, in the, um, in our opera program, we have a series of, um, uh, language diction classes. Uh, you know, if we're going to S if you're going to perform opera, you have to know how to sing and how to pronounce, uh, German, Italian, Spanish, French, uh, and so forth. Speaker 3 00:21:51 Uh, and those classes were taught pretty much, uh, in a traditional manner, but, uh, during the pandemic, uh, we had to, uh, utilize, uh, zoom and distance and so forth. And one of the things that the, uh, faculty did was they engaged people from Germany and Italy and France to actually, uh, interact with and coach, uh, our students in their, their, their addiction. So it was, uh, it was something that had been in the back of the mind of, uh, one or two faculty, but this is, uh, uh, I forget what the saying is, uh, the, uh, opportunities arise, uh, when challenges hit you. And so, uh, um, that's, and that's just one example. Speaker 1 00:22:42 I never forget at the height of the pandemic, you filming peanut Mizani, I'm teaching one of our opera students in a remote situation. And so, even though we weren't able to do that in person, we still had those tools and digital transformation was, was part of that. So thank you, Rodney, and thank you to everyone for joining us for our first episode of the forward together podcast. Join us next month. When we reflect upon how Wichita state university has grown and flourished in 2021, go shockers

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