A behind-the-scenes glance at our alumni
Interviewed by Allen Lee Hughes. This month: Kris Layng ‘16
What are you currently doing in your life and career that you are proud of?
I’ve been doing concept art for film and TV shows, some art directing, and designing projects for virtual reality and emerging technologies. Last January, I became the artist-in-residence at the NYU Future Reality Lab, which researches social VR and AR (augmented reality). There, I am working with Bose and Google to direct a VR theater experience with dozens of audience members for SIGGRAPH 2018. Then, hopefully, we’ll take it to film and art festivals around the world.
You graduated in 2016 and your career has been very productive. What secrets, principles, talents, assistance, and support do you feel have made you so successful?
Getting out of school was rough, but I’ve stayed focused on computer graphics and VR and I think I’ve fallen into a cool niche. Although I still love opera and theater, I haven’t designed a “traditional” show since my grad school thesis. I’m more interested in the unknown and doing something that hasn’t been done before. VR feels like the birth of cinema in the early 20th century, and that’s irresistible to me.
How are you currently involved with the department? Are there any ways that you would like to be more involved?
I’d like to invite students, alumni and faculty to test screenings of my current VR project, “Cave”, this summer. Hope everyone who reads this will come see the future!
Have you worked with any NYU alumni or current students? How did that work out?
I’ve worked with many alumni, including the costume designer for my current VR project, Kat Jeffery ‘17, and on films and TV shows as well. A classmate of mine, Adrienne Carlile ‘16, who is now an art director, recently hooked me up with a job on an upcoming Netflix series! It is great to have this support system.
Do you have an anecdote that you think current students and faculty would find amusing or learn from?
I started meditating second year of grad school by taking a free class and using a cool iPhone app, and I think it helped me tremendously. In a short period of time, I found myself more clear-minded and better able to deal with the challenges of our program. I recommend that students make an effort to take care of themselves, whether through contemplative practice or anything that appeals to them. I don’t think being stressed and tired leads to good work.
When did you get interested in theater or film design and how?
When I first heard my aunt’s Phantom of the Opera soundtrack in the 80s, and saw production pictures in that little cassette tape booklet, I was hooked on this stuff. For years after that I made model theaters in my grandparents’ basement, and put on stunt shows in my backyard (it’s amazing I had friends). I’m sure that’s a very common story for us designers.
What or who were your influences?
Evan Alexander, who taught drafting and 3D rendering at Tisch, was a big influence on me. His passion for 3D visualization was contagious, and I caught the bug. My three set design teachers, Christine, Andrew and especially Paul, were also important and learning from them was a profound experience.
I’m also very thankful for the production designers I’ve worked for, especially Alex DiGerlando, who really helped me grow as a designer in the past year.
Any final thoughts?
Thank you for interviewing me. It’s an honor and I hope we can do it again one day!