An Interview with Brennen Sheridan Dicker, Head of Creative Media Industries Institute

Brennen Sheridan Dicker is the Head of Creative Media Industries Institute (CMII) at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Mandy News talks to Brennen about his early days in the film and tv industry and how it has shaped his latest role at the GSU, which aims at teaching the next generation of digital storytellers through emerging technology including AR, VR, game design and digital media.

2nd April 2019
/ By James Collins

Brennen Sheridan Dicker Brennen Sheridan Dicker

How did you get involved in the film industry?

When I was a kid, I really liked going to movies, really enjoyed immersing myself. One film that really touched me was Star Wars, it was amazing with the FX and story and I was curious at that age as to how someone would make that.  From that time forward in 6th grade my friend and I got together and started doing Claymation and stop-motion. In high school, I got an opportunity to meet a director/producer and told him about the super 8 films and wanting to learn the business. So at 16 I was on the set of small commercials, I was a PA and got coffee and I would do this in my school breaks. It wasn’t paid so I had to do a paid job like working in a factory and then my unpaid job at the production company, so by the time I graduated I had a couple of years’ experience. 

After some time I moved to Chicago working in film and television, I produced two indie features and was working with PBS also. I spent ten years there and had American mongrel productions.  I was at a point where I was making a living and then I think I just burned out, I was busy but not happy.  I took some time off and then came to Atlanta in 2002.5 years in to that move and the film incentive came in and it accelerated my career.  I worked on ‘The Walking Dead’ and ‘The Vampire Diaries’.  Some of the earlier shows were shot here and that lead to working with Sim Int as their general manager for 4 1/2 years working on ‘Gifted’ and ‘True Detective’. We worked on 9 or 10 episodic on the post side and I ran the Atlanta facility.  

So what made you move into the field of VR and AR?

I was very curious about VR and how stories will be told in those environments. I went to Dream Hack, a gaming convention, and I was overwhelmed by the 25k people visiting this conference and I think because I was on TV side I look at these new areas of entertaining and I’m very excited by all these ways we will be able to tell stories.  I was looking towards a university doing more in those areas and Georgia State had created the creative media institute that opened in 2017. So I reached out to them to see if I could help. A couple of people came to me from the faculty and said I should look at becoming the executive director and so I decided to throw my name in the hat.

Tell us more about the course and the role you have taken up

We are teaching the next generation of digital storytellers through emerging technology that would include AR, VR, game design and digital media. Those are the areas we are looking at but there are really three areas of interest for us which are;

  • To teach arts training so the Georgia students are ready to start careers in the creative economy.
  • We are building the model to nurture media entrepreneurs by connecting students with opportunity at CMI and in the community.  One of the reasons they hired me was to build bridges with the industry. 
  • To generate research as well as economic development in the film, TV and Music industry.We are here to help become an industry leader to the end that the industry can come to us and say ‘Hey we have problem in this space’ VR, etc. and we can help them. 
Creative Media Industries, GSU Creative Media Industries, GSU
Creative Media Industries, GSU

Have you noticed the uptake in courses like this as a reflection of the film industry in Atlanta?

Most definitely, it’s a direct result. The direct spend is 2.75 billion from the industry. You walk down the street and almost every day something is shooting here, it was transformative to Atlanta as Hollywood were not coming here. Now they realise they can shoot anything here; we have all different locales, oceans, mountains and all-year shooting weather. All of this has the kids hearing about what’s going on and how they can get involved. Our growth in majors is 51% over the year and we only started a year and a half ago.  The Georgia Peach is now famous across the world…Of course, it was a brilliant move and I know the gentlemen that created the peach as a logo. 

Governor Purdue asked for something more than the incentive, he wanted our brand on the TV shows and someone here came up with at idea and now I see it everywhere.  I travel all over the world and I see the peach pop up, people recognise that things are shot here now. We are around ten years into the incentive and, knock on wood, we get to keep it.  The people in the creative economy are making moves in gaming, VR and AR I think people see it as a vibrant community.  The standard of living is great here too, it’s cheaper than LA and allows the dollar to stretch a little more.The film and music industry, our arts community, is really vibrant. People want to visit and a lot of people stay.

How can Mandy help?

I think it’s a perfect fit.  I want you to come and be part of what we are doing here.  Students are not aware of what to do when they leave college and Mandy is a great resource to find talent.  It’s an area I believe we all need to do a lot better. To help bridge them to careers.