Jillian Werbisky Introduction: Psychology and Film Design

Hello, hello!

My name is Jillian Werbisky, and my pronouns are she/her. I’m a rising senior from Coopersburg, PA majoring in Psychology and Administration of Justice, with minors in Theatre Arts and French and a certificate in National Preparedness and Homeland Security. My free time typically includes reading, painting, walking my dog, or watching movies. A fun fact about me – I’ll be working on a movie this summer!

When I came to college, I thought I knew the exact direction my future would go. I had big plans to study psychology and criminal behavior, get a PhD, and apply for federal research positions. While I came from a creative background growing up, I hadn’t seriously considered pursuing an artistic field until my sophomore year here at Pitt. I was enrolled in Set Design 1, a theatre class taught by Professor Gianni Downs, the undergraduate chair of the department, where I learned the basics of scenic design. As I acquired new skills and learned my strengths and weaknesses, I began to really enjoy the design process. It became more than an interest – it was an actual, plausible career option that, should I dedicate myself to, I could see actually working out.

Through the Creative Arts Fellowship, my project will focus on the interaction of psychology and film design. The inspiration for my project actually came from a video I had seen in class which focused on, of all things, chairs. To quickly summarize, it suggested that a well-designed chair can influence the viewer’s understanding of the place, the characters, and the story. I’ve designed my project to expand on this concept and explore how each piece of a film set can impact the viewing experience of the audience, oftentimes subconsciously. By generating designs with a basis in psychological phenomena related to perception, emotion, and evolution, my hope is to test the ways an understanding of the human mind can be beneficial for both the designer and the audience.

My basic pitch – think The Shining, but as a romcom. Under the mentorship of Professor Gianni Downs, I will be redesigning an iconic set to suit a new genre in the hopes of eliciting a different experience for the viewer. While much of this project’s importance revolves around my personal growth and journey in discovering myself as a designer, my hope is that it can also reinvigorate interest in the field for new students. Covid-19 hit the theatre industry hard, and Pitt Theatre is no exception. By re-introducing the topic in a (hopefully!) new and engaging way, I hope students can gain a newfound fascination in theatre and film design.

While my professional life post-graduation is by no means set in stone, I am looking forward to taking a few years off to pursue work opportunities, wherever that may lead me! With my future in mind, I’ve designed this project with the goal of having it grow and evolve with me. While I complete my design and reach the finite end to this stage, the analytical and creative skills I’m developing are a starting point for a design approach I plan to continue utilizing. This project will hopefully grant me a greater understanding of myself as a designer, which will aid me throughout my career.

If anyone has an interest in learning more or has questions to ask, feel free to contact me (jiw161@pitt.edu). Thanks for stopping by!

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