All Together Now: Terrence Masson and the Coming Age of Collaboration
But that’s half of the whole reason. Being married with kids, the film production business is brutal. You’re project-to-project, which is unstable, you’ve got long hours. It’s not conducive to family life. In my case, it led to divorce. That’s happened to friends of mine, too. Lots of relationships suffer in the business. So, moving the moving family to Massachusetts so the kids could grow up next to their grandparents, that was important. I wanted to give them some more stability with a fresh start.
I started inquiring to universities about full-time teaching. I’d been the SIGGRAPH 2006 Computer Animation Festival Chair, and I took the festival on roadshow after the conference, showing at production companies, on campuses, all over. After a screening at Northeastern's campus, I talked to professors, and mentioned getting into education full-time. They were very enthusiastic. I started on a consulting contract to build an editing suite, and the rest…
ZC: Is history?
TM: Well, yeah!
ZC: Where did the inspiration for Creative Industries come from?
TM: Northeastern had in place a multi-media studies program that was very, very progressive, very forward-thinking. They had started 12 years prior, really at the beginning of things. But they had stayed very small and stagnant. They saw the future, wanted to increase the program’s potential and impact. What I was brought in for was to take the basic photo/web design cornerstone they had, and build a house on top of it. Make it much, much bigger than it ever had been.
I tore it down curriculum-by-curriculum, transformed it into interactive media, game design, wrapped it into a single department. I wanted to get people out of the focus of Game Design, and expand how they think of it. It allows me to bring my entire career to bear, my understanding of those industries and connections, into curriculum, degrees, and students. Business plans, as well.
Right now, I’m on a committee for the Mayor of Boston, on how to develop the city’s Creative Economy. It's a privilege to help make that connection between city and University, of how to produce students that are appropriate to work in the ever-changing industry. It's still also the only state that has a state-level position for a "Creative Economy Industry Director." That says a lot about Massachusetts.
They’re reaching out, as well. I was part of a mission that went to Liverpool, through the British consulate, and exchanged business people and faculty.
ZC: Creative Industries focuses on bringing together academic departments that may not be traditionally linked to one another. How does one overcome the sometimes conservative organizational attitudes of college administrations to establish something new?
TM: The key is agility- be ready for change. Great administrations can bring change, and guide it through rough waters.
When you get into the glacial and very academic minutiae, that's just the way, and it was the single hardest challenge for me, personally, going into the academic world. In production, I was used to making speedy decisions. It’s 180 degrees different. This is all about procedure and forming relationships. It literally takes years to change things that in the production world would take days. It's not easy, but I'm making the transition.
Initially the career academics said, "This is really different, and you don't understand how we do things here." But I found out really quick, with the politics, it's really exactly the same. It's about egos, priorities, I'm sure it's the same with every industry in the world.
ZC: Pushing revolution and excellence means big risks. According to you, excellence should mean pushing your students to risk failing, without actually letting them fail. How can educators achieve this to push students to the next level? Is it a matter of experience?