THANKS AND APPRECIATION
FROM A CAREER AND A LIFE
It’s always dangerous making lists like this, as I have so many people in my life to be grateful for, and I’m sure to leave someone out. This is definitely an incomplete list and if I’ve forgotten to include someone important, I hope they’ll forgive me. Still, it’s important for me to try and express my thanks, so here goes, sorted by the phases of my life. (It’s a long list . . . Keep reading if you can! Some of the best stuff is at the end.)
ROLE MODELS and HEROES
These individuals have inspired and motivated me throughout my career and my life.
DAVE HETTEMA, My Dad
I learned much of what I know about design working for my Dad. He was incredibly clever and creative, but more than that he was the most honest man I have ever known. He lived his life as an exemplar by treating people fairly and holding himself to the highest level of ethics. Including him in our WWII project was a lifetime bonus for both of us. My hero.
NORMA HETTEMA, My Mom
My Mom was my source of encouragement and my greatest cheerleader throughout her entire life. Whip-smart, with a great sense of humor, she stayed in the background and always took care of everyone around her before herself. I miss her every day.
Keith is as experienced and capable an executive, producer and project director as you will ever find, but he is much more than that. I had the honor to watch Keith at work while we were building Universal Studios Florida. It was a tough opening, but Keith supported his team, deflected bullets coming from every direction and kept his head down to finish the job he started. It was an example of integrity and leadership that I will never forget. A true gentleman and a prince of a guy.
The most creative producer ever. He mentored me, gave me countless opportunities and inspired me to pass it on to the next generation. After Disneyland, Bob invited me to join his team, and provided huge opportunities, challenges, responsibilities, inspiration and wise counsel. He taught me how to dream big. I wouldn’t be who I am without his influence.
Besides being a Hollywood legend, Jeffrey has been a mentor, creative visionary and both a terrific client and a terrific boss. He’s got all the energy you've heard about and more, and it’s all focused on making the work as good as it possibly can be. I’m so grateful for the confidence and support he’s given me over the last 20 years. It’s a little-known fact, but there would not be a Hettema Group were it not for Jeffrey’s recommendation for our very first project. I owe him my profound thanks and gratitude.
HARRISON “Buzz” PRICE
I knew about Buzz and read about his important contribution to the strategy and business side of our industry, but I didn’t really get it until I got to participate and watch him lead one of his fabled charrettes. He was a true visionary and innovator, and I was honored to know him, serve on the THEA committee with him, and am doubly honored to receive the award that bears his name.
While I was working with Bob Jani, he began to develop a park project based on the stories of Beatrix Potter, and he assembled an amazing team of creative talent to work on it, including the Sherman Brothers and Herb Ryman. I really didn’t know what I was doing, but was charged with organizing the master plan. Herbie was delightful and gracious as he patiently helped, explained and taught me along the way. I wish I had known him better, and find it sweetly synchronous that I’m now helping to lead the amazing organization which bears his name.
I don’t know anyone who can blend right and left brain worlds like Nancy. She is a talented artist, brilliant project director and consummate executive. On top of that, a beacon of warmth and friendship. My role model of how to work with people effectively.
Marty was always at the top of the pantheon of our world. Even as a kid I was aware of Marty’s writing and key role in creating Disney’s magic. Miraculously, when I actually got to meet him and work with him through TEA and Ryman Arts, I discovered that the man was so much greater than the legend.
It would have been beyond my dreams to even meet the greatest filmmaker and storyteller of our time, but to get to pitch ideas and collaborate creatively with Steven Spielberg exceeded my wildest imagination. On top of that, he’s really as great a guy as you might imagine. He truly loves our business and the creative collaboration that it requires. I still pinch myself.
I feel so fortunate to have met and worked alongside Mickey for a brief period of time. I’ve never met a better or more accurate judge of people, and nobody knows how to get big things done the way he does.
Before we get to the rest of my professional life, let’s start back at the very beginning . . .
LUTHER BURBANK ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
LADONNA LAND GUILL
My first grade teacher, who gave me the greatest gift possible, which was to make learning an adventure.
My fifth grade teacher, who inspired passion and curiosity for art, other cultures and world travel.
My chorus teacher, who opened the door to the joy of making music with others.
Teacher and friend,
who made years and years of keyboard lessons fun.
CHARLES ELIOT JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL
Believed in me and allowed me to be an artist.
Taught me to see history and encouraged me to find my own voice.
My “brother from another mother,” the closest friend I’ve ever had.
PASADENA HIGH SCHOOL
CAROLYN “CANDY” SCHOENHOLZ
My high school band and orchestra director, mentor, teacher, musician. She inspired me to work as part of a team and aspire to do my best, and gave me the chance to be a leader.
My high school choral director, musician, sorceress, demanding teacher, inspiration. She set a high bar and challenged us to exceed it.
He lived as a musician and modeled that for his students.
CALIFORNIA STATE UNIVERSITY LONG BEACH
A fine musician, hero and mentor, the legendary director of the CSULB Band.
Taught me costume history and the importance of the small details.
ALISON BOND REICH
Opened the door of the CSULB costume shop and let me learn by doing and watching.
DISNEYLAND / WALT DISNEY WORLD
Disney Costume Designer extraordinaire and my great mentor. He taught me the importance of the “the big idea” and that achieving great results always requires overcoming obstacles.
Head of the Disney costume division who recognized a green kid’s enthusiasm and gave me my first big break.
(See “Heroes and Role Models” above)
Produced amazing Disney shows and parades that I got to work on and learn from, including the Main Street Electrical Parade. He (and his son Ryan) still do amazing projects.
My first boss at Disneyland . . . he really got me started.
Great costumer, great guy who made us all look good, and is still doing it.
Costume tailor extraordinaire, who took me under her wing and spent countless late-night hours in the Disneyland costume workroom teaching me how patterns are made.
The wizard of character costume construction, could create any shape body out of foam and fabric.
MARIE AND HER TEAM OF SEAMSTRESSES
These incredible ladies taught a whole bunch of things I needed to know on my first big project, and worked miracles for me while no one was looking.
ART CENTER COLLEGE OF DESIGN
GREG AND MARGIE WRAY
Kindred spirits, brilliant artists and companions through the many long nights of the Art Center years.
Coolest teacher ever. Making art with him seemed magical.
The consummate teacher. Brilliant artist and warm human being
Thanks to him, I learned a lot about being a teacher. He left us way too soon.
Design chair at Art Center, amazing thought partner and champion teacher.
SID AND MARTY KROFFT PRODUCTIONS
World-class puppeteer and creator. He taught me, challenged me, and expanded my ideas about the magical world of puppetry.
A great executive who brought organization and a steady calm that kept our crazy band of creatives functioning.
ROBERT F. JANI PRODUCTIONS
(See “Heroes and Role Models” above)
She watched out for me, was a cheerleader for me and made everything work. An incredible lady.
L.A. OLYMPICS / STATUE OF LIBERTY CENTENNIAL
Showman and impresario par excellence. A savvy and seasoned producer who knew how to assemble an incredibly creative and capable team. His generous recommendation was key to my joining Universal.
The grand master of showmanship. I felt so lucky to work with and learn from him. A true original, who created the template for live pageantry in our world
Brilliant production designer, teacher, leader, creative conspirator. He really showed me how to find joy in doing the work, not just in the final results.
Creative genius, wonderful human being. Speaks magic fluently. I’m still a huge fan.
Producer, shaker and mover. His expertise organized the team and made the impossible seem easy.
The ultimate capable and professional designer. Diligent, thoughtful, prepared, creative, great guy. He tackled difficult assignments on these projects and made it all work. Now he’s one of the best design directors I know.
GINNI RUSCIO BARR
The joyful (and talented) creative force that kept the design team’s spirits up.
Gifted costume wizard and friend who outfitted thousands of people and did it with hard work and diligence, and the greatest sense of humor ever.
The best designer and creative director I know. The best creative partner I ever had. Introducing him to our industry was either the smartest or luckiest thing I ever did.
My boss and mentor at Universal, his experience and wise guidance was golden. Beyond believing in me and giving me great opportunities, he taught me that I could learn as much from a flop as from a triumph
Nobody challenged me more, or gave me more chances to succeed. A true visionary and a testament to the power of persistence. There wouldn't be Universal theme parks without Jay.
My idea of the ideal boss and executive. Tough, fair, visionary. He let me know what was expected and got out of the way. I loved working for him.
My partner in crime for more than a decade. With mutual respect we split up the work to be done and accomplished some pretty amazing things.
(See “Heroes and Role Models” above)
I feel lucky to know and to have worked with Craig. As a creative producer and executive, nobody does it better.
TRACY BOVASSO CAMPBELL
My indispensable right hand and dear friend through the early Universal years, who stood by me through great times and not, both at work and in life.
Genius of public relations, he knows how to tell a big story with one picture or one line. We’ve had a mutual admiration society for years, which continues to this day. I owe him a lot.
As colleague, boss, client and mentor, I continue to value his steady hand and wise counsel.
The original Mr. “wrestle the problem to the ground,” his talent, energy and persistence lifted Universal’s attractions to the next level.
A great creative leader. Happy I got to work with him before he led Universal to bigger things than we ever imagined back then.
Besides being a Hollywood legend, Jeffrey has been a mentor, creative visionary and both a terrific client and a terrific boss. He’s got all the energy you’ve heard about and more, and it’s all focused on making the work as good as it possibly can be. I’m so grateful for the confidence and support he’s given me over the last 20 years. (And read more in Heroes and Role Models, above).
Yoshi has been a colleague and a friend at Universal, Dreamworks and beyond. He is the most astute negotiator and politician I’ve ever known, and I have learned so much from him.
(See “Heroes and Role Models” above)
THE HETTEMA GROUP
This list should include everyone who has ever been part of the THG team, now or in the past. I’m so blessed by the amazing creative people who have joined our team. I wish I could mention all of them . . . here are a few special people.
The heart and soul of THG and my indispensable right and left hands. I am such a lucky guy to have her and her partner Peter in my life.
THG’s rock solid foundation. Nobody has worked harder or with greater commitment to our work and to the company. We wouldn't be going strong without his leadership.
THG’s (not so) secret weapon and a much treasured friend and colleague. The most capable, creative and dedicated professional I know.
His talent is unmatched, his experience treasured, his work ethic unsurpassed. A jewel of a designer and a gem of a great guy.
I’ve known Joe and his work for a long time and am so thrilled that we’re able to work together now. Creative, passionate and a great leader and member of the team.
Our THG institutional memory, whose talents continue to grow and enrich us all. A key member of our company family, and a treasured friend.
I don’t know anyone who can take a complex set of ideas and turn them into a strong soulful story. Smart, capable, intuitive, creative, she’s one of my favorite thought partners.
The first THG employee who carried me through our early years. She took our hearts with her when she left us too soon, and I’ll always treasure her memory.
What a privilege to work with a true master of design, and one of the finest people I’ve ever been lucky enough to work with.
His experience and ability made it possible for us to accomplish amazing things. John showed me how to work hard and have fun as well. Can’t imagine exploring remote corners of the world in search of the perfect martini with anyone else.
AND HUGE THANKS AND APPRECIATION TO THE ENTIRE THG STAFF
From the beginning these talented individuals have made me look good.
I'm grateful to each and every one of them:
|Juan Acuna||Kane Fritz||Dan Molitor||Scott Sabens|
|Matthew Adams||Skyler Gage||Lydia Montes||Michael Scheffe|
|Cheryl Aguilar||BreeAnna Garcia||Paul Nam||Melissa Schulman|
|Nicole Balderrama||Jeremy de la Garza||Lisa Nash||Mark Shumate|
|Gwen Ballantyne||Doug Gordon||Barbara Nelson||Connor Sinclair|
|Chuck Ballew||Tim Guo||Judd Nissen||Susan Beth Smith|
|Sid Bingham||Richard Gutierrez||Michael Overman||Keith Sneider|
|Chris Bradley||Danny Hartigan||Diana O'Rourke||Nicholas Souza|
|Sunnie Burke||Mario Huerta||Terry Palmer||Gus Stone|
|Monica Buzzi||Ashley Huettner||Maggie Parr||Matthew Sweeney|
|Don Carson||Eric Hungerford||Jerry Parra||Nina Tchaghayan|
|Steve Cathell||Yutaka Izutsu||Yasmin Pazandeh||Karen Thompson|
|Bob Chambers||Zane Jensch||Jared Peter||Ron Vance|
|Alex Chao||Stephanie Jones||Amber Pfeiffer||Tom Vannucci|
|Scott Chase||Keith Kaminski||Jimmy Pickering||Jesse Vargas|
|Dave Clare||Tim Kirk||John Polk||Nina Rae Vaughn|
|Ana Claxton||Andrea Klein||Randy Printz||Brigitte Waites|
|David Clayton||Martina Kostkas||Vinita Pugal||Lisa Welch|
|Mary Cluff||Jeff Kurtti||Larry Quach||Nathaniel West|
|Jeff Cook||Joli Lam||Estephan Quass||Paul Westacott|
|Seth Cover||Jessica Leivo||Matt Ramos||George Wiktor|
|Jared Cryder||David Lepor||Vincent Richards||Valerie Williams|
|Susan Cummings||Sue Li||Quinn Riddle||Cat Wisnoski|
|Anita Damiani||George Mandella||Kelley Ritch||Kun Yang|
|Linda Danet||Leo Mauricio||Christine Robinson||Carol Young|
|John Enete||Cassie McGinnis||Jeff Rosen||Hazim Zidane|
|Devin Flanigan||Sam Michlap||Nikki Rossini|
I’ve met so many amazing people in this crazy business of ours. There isn’t a more creative or passionate group of people in the world. My life is so much richer for knowing and working with all of them. I wish I could say thank you to every one of them.
(In alphabetical order)
I’ve known Adam since we were both getting started (a looong time ago), and he is one of the most innovative, thoughtful and creative professionals I know, and a great guy as well. He can find a smart and unexpected take on just about anything.
David has the special ability to organize a story and fill it with genuine and heartfelt human emotion. Generous, patient and affirming as a collaborator, it’s joyful to work with him.
How I value my semi-regular recurring breakfasts with Chris and his smart take on our industry, and all of us who work in it. His advice has helped me more than he knows.
Writer of dozens (maybe hundreds) of wonderful shows in our industry, Chris is a gem. He has the ability to sculpt content and bring it to life with powerful images. I’m proud to work with him, proud of the work we’ve done together, and thrilled that we’re still doing it.
Daniel is a brilliant artist and creator whose talents span many disciplines. Personally, I’ll always be grateful that he spotted a young kid, thought I might have a place in this industry, and was instrumental in getting me my first gig at Universal. I’m forever grateful.
LISA PASSAMONTE GREEN
Lisa is so many things in my life: Great designer, thoughtful business owner, innovative collaborator, generous industry supporter. More than that, she is a true and valued friend.
There’s no problem that Benj can’t figure out, calmly, methodically and with a positive attitude which is contagious. His expansive spirit is a gift to us all.
Our fearless and visionary industry leader. Many are the times Monte has been there to provide wise advice and counsel. He does it quietly and generously and I’m very grateful for his friendship.
Pat has been a key figure in the growth of so many professional circles, and she knows better than anyone else how all of our worlds intertwine. She’s been a great friend, wise and respected advisor and patient ear, for which she has my great thanks.
How amazing to watch how Jennie’s leadership has continued to build the TEA, following in the footsteps of Gene and many before her. Her smart and effective focus is helping us live up to our aspirations for our industry.
Bob’s gifts as a storyteller are the gold standard as far as I’m concerned. The quality of his work has always been at a level I can only hope to approach. I’m so grateful for all I’ve learned from Bob and for the opportunity to work alongside him on the THEA’s and Ryman Arts.
Judy has become the voice of our industry, and her magic way of making all of us look good are so appreciated. More than that, she’s an amazing person and a much appreciated friend.
Nobody has the kind of energy and spirit to build great teams of people and to execute projects as effectively as Kelly. Great to see her success in expanding our industry.
Having had the good fortune to collaborate with Daren on multiple projects, I don’t know anyone who brings mere “added value” to any endeavor. Thoughtful, smart, capable, he makes everyone around him look great.
Not only has Steven been a great creative collaborator on many projects both at THG and elsewhere, he brings such a fun and positive attitude to everything he does, even when the pressure is highest. Beyond all that, he’s really an incredibly gifted artist, and I’m grateful for our friendship.
Ryman Arts is an incredible program which has no peer in introducing talented and deserving young people to the world of art and design. Its success is in no small part due to Diane Brigham, an amazingly gifted leader and teacher who has served as Executive Director of the Ryman Program for almost 18 years. I can’t imagine collaborating with anyone who has her level of passions and a clearer sense of purpose, along with a multilayered set of skills which she brings to bear. I’m honored to get to work with her.
I don’t think anyone is more responsible for the founding vision of Ryman Arts than Leah Sklar. In its early years, she led the formation of the organization as well as development of the initial program and structure. Ryman Arts is only one episode in a life of public advocacy and service. She is a remarkable woman, and I’m grateful to have the chance to know her.
RYMAN ARTS BOARD AND STAFF
I need to acknowledge the talented and dedicated Ryman board and staff. The board is an incredibly dedicated group who carry on the vision set by the founders and ensure we can pass the torch on to future generations. The Ryman staff is simply an amazing group who go the extra mile every day to make a difference in young lives. It’s a small but amazing team, and each member brings their own talents, skills and commitment to the organization. What a pleasure to work with them all.
SOME FAVORITE CLIENTS
His faith in me and our team helped get us started on the international project scene. A real friend.
I’ve often described Dave as the “perfect” client. He had a clear understanding of how the project process works and a respect for creative design. He was tough but fair, and together we did great things. Thanks, Dave.
The National World War II Museum in New Orleans exists in large part to the determination and leadership of this man. His faith in us was constant, even when the path didn’t seem clear. Ultimately, he made it possible for us to do our very best work, to tell the WWII story with honesty and candor. I’m very proud of what we accomplished together.
More than just a client. A great collaborator and friend. (See “Universal” above)
Possibly the smartest client I’ve ever had. Greg and I go back to Universal days, and I don’t know anyone who is a better strategic thinker. He’s also a great guy who is a pleasure to work with.
MY MOM AND DAD
I’ve always described my parents as “Ozzie and Harriet.” I was lucky to have two amazing parents. You can read more about them under “Heroes and Role Models” above.
PETER & HANNAH SOLEM
HAROLD & JENNIE HETTEMA
I feel so fortunate to have known each of my grandparents well, and am so grateful to each of them for their unique wisdom and example. They gave me a heritage to be proud of, and built a foundation of family that made everything else possible.
PETE, SUE AND KATHY
Pete, Sue and Kathy have been a remarkable part of my life. I’m so lucky that we’ve always lived close in Southern California and have gotten to share all of life’s big events together.
All of them have focused their lives on helping people. Pete has dedicated most of his career to public service as part of the Pasadena Police Department, and I’m proud that he’s my big brother. Sue’s career was as a physical therapist helping disabled kids, and Kathy is a senior Cardiac therapist. Together with their spouses, Cheryl (my buddy!), James and Gary, they’ve raised an awesome tribe of 6 nieces and nephews (who have now produced even more kids of their own!). We’ve shared a lot of adventures together as a family and I love them all dearly.
Ed was my late partner, who left us all when he was much too young. Flashing the brightest smile you’ve ever seen, he had both the joyful spirit of a child and a wise old soul. A child of Hawaii, he taught me that life was about more than work, and during our time together, I got a glimpse of that ideal balance. He will be with me forever.
From the moment I met Jonathan almost 30 years ago, I knew he was possessed of an impressive character and mind. I didn’t know that he would become one of the most influential and closest friends I would ever have. There is no one on the planet that knows me inside out the way Jonathan does. His soulful presence in my life has been a great gift and I treasure it more than I can say. (He’s also a brilliant musician and composer)
We originally met when Lisa served as an associate pastor at my church. We became good friends, and together we’ve shared good times, painful times, vacations, holidays, and the birth of her two kids, who are my goddaughters! Lisa, her partner Renna, Caitlyn and Michaela are an important part of my life.
I met Carol in 1986 when she was the director of the Stage department of the Juilliard School. We had much in common professionally, building teams of creative people and executing challenging projects, and would spend hours comparing notes and supporting each other in our careers. Even more, the friendship that we share has been extraordinary. I think of Carol as family. Everyone should be so lucky to have her in their life.
Daniel and I have been good friends and members of a book group for almost 20 years. He has a great sense of humor, and an evening with Daniel is always full of fun and laughter. More than that, he has a heart of solid gold and is as loyal and sincere a friend as anyone could be.
A friend from an earlier time in my life, Nelson grabbed me by the throat and challenged me to see the world, both literally and figuratively. A fine musician and force of nature, our lives have taken different directions, but I would not be who I am without his friendship and influence on my life.
My good friend for over 30 years, Patrick and his partner Darren are like second family to me. In addition to being a steadfast friend through the roller coaster of life, I will always admire the way Patrick decided to change the course of his own life, going back to school and earning his doctorate in psychology, which he now uses in his work with young kids.
My significant other and partner in crime. We’re sharing life’s adventures together, one after another, one day at a time, and headed into the future side by side. He’s funny, he’s wise and he has my heart.