Film Challenge judges share their advice

We had the chance to sit down with two of this year’s judges, Tiffany Brown, Assoc. AIA, architect and co-founder of the Urban Arts Collective, and I. Marlene King, executive producer of Pretty Little Liars, to discuss the Film Challenge and what the convergence of architecture and film means to them.   

What inspires you about the AIA Film Challenge?

TB: Architects are visual people, and when I’m telling stories about my experiences, I can visualize these moments and describe the neighborhoods I’ve helped out with. To walk through them with an architect or someone in the community helps people understand what we do as architects. The Film Challenge is a great way to show how architects and people in the community can work together to change our cities. 

IMK: Architects and filmmakers can change the world with their respective visions. Connecting them through the powerful tool of cinema puts no limits on what we can learn from their stories.

What was the most impactful project that you have worked on recently?

TB: I worked with the Detroit Housing Commission whose goal is to develop, manage, and preserve quality affordable housing options and solutions in our cities. I grew up in low-income housing, and when I’m on these types of projects, I understand what they need and what their concerns are. 

IMK: I recently shot a TV pilot on location in Portland, Oregon. The rain was not a part of the story but quickly became a part of every day’s shoot. Instead of fighting the elements we decided to embrace them. It enhanced the scripted story and the pilot also looks amazing. 

Tell us about your experience at the intersection of architecture and storytelling. How do you see the two as being complementary?

TB: Creative writing has been something I loved to do throughout school. I’ve learned a story is good if the reader can visualize what is going on in their minds. In a film, you are seeing the world through the eyes of that filmmaker and architect. It’s a good opportunity to put people in our shoes and the other way around.

IMK: The on-screen architecture is a part of every cinematic scene. The right architecture can enhance your storytelling, and the wrong architecture can be extremely distracting and pull you out of the scene, maybe even the film. As a visual medium, the filmmaker can never ignore the architecture. It can help to give the audience all the right feels… stark and lonely, moody and depressing, or traditional and uptight.  

What can architects learn from working with filmmakers, and vice versa?

TB: Architects can learn a better way of communicating. Architects can sell sand to the beach, but they can often speak on a level the average person doesn’t understand. If we can learn how to communicate in a better way through the eyes of filmmakers, it would be beneficial. 

A filmmaker can learn from an architect what design thinking means and what a solution-based approach to a problem looks like. We’re looking for ways to solve a problem and do it in a beautiful way. How can you apply that to film and make something even more impactful? That is something I’ll look at when I’m judging. 

IMK: Both filmmakers and architects can learn how to build a story within their respective mediums.

Why would you recommend architects participate in this year’s challenge? 

TB: Architects love to be creative in all different mediums but don’t always get the chance. We throw numbers, data, and charts at people, but to display that data and research on film is a profound way to show it. I think we can do that in a complementary way to a filmmaker. In a broader sense, architects can use film as an outlet to tell a story in a more visual way. On the other hand, film benefits architects, and especially big firms, who may be out of touch with the community. It gives them more of an edge with local communities when they do projects like this. 

Why would you recommend filmmakers participate in this year’s challenge? 

IMK: This year’s challenge is a tremendous opportunity to connect with other creative people and explore new territories, while also shining a light on how we can change the world together.  

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