For his work on the hit TV show Alias, Scott Chambliss ’85 won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Art Direction and the award for Excellence in Production Design from the Art Directors Guild of America. (Photo: Courtesy of Paramount Studios)
Scott Chambliss ’85 didn’t intentionally set out to design what the future – its cityscapes, warcraft, weaponry and hospital beds – might look like. But his steady employment as production designer for A-list Hollywood films, from the recent Star Trek: Into Darkness to the upcoming Tomorrowland, suggest his forward-facing vision and warp speed career trajectory won’t change course anytime soon.
But pursuing a career in theatre wasn’t a foregone conclusion for the young Chambliss. When he arrived at 18 on the Hayward campus from the small Central Valley town of Tracy, he’d had high school drama experience but hadn’t picked a major. English, art and, yes, theatre were all on the table.
After running into a hometown acquaintance (Cathy Poppe ’82) who had recently worked on a production of Oedipus at then-Cal State Hayward, her zeal for the program inspired the teenage Chambliss to enroll in some theatre classes. At first, he says, he dabbled, but by junior year he was smitten. Home! He sensed he’d found a deeply fulfilling fit artistically, academically and, as it turned out, professionally.
“They let me design so much there,” he says. “They really allowed me to develop my creative interpretation skills.”
“With Scott, it wasn’t hard to see that he had potential as a designer,” says Professor Thomas Hird, chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance. “I frequently use the metaphor of a Swiss army knife. Everyone’s going to have a different blade. Some people have multiple blades.”
The professor acknowledges that even in a tight-knit theatre department, some people can be hard to work with. Chambliss, on the other hand, treated everyone with respect, which in turn made others want to help him out with whatever tasks he needed done on a production. No doubt it’s a trait that has contributed to his success in a business that is notorious for ranks filled with strong egos and challenging personalities.