Gianna Pulitano is an imaginative and enthusiastic multimedia artist, specializing in video production, set design, and media management. Her passion for visual storytelling stemmed from her 2017-2018 Walt Disney World College Program experience in Orlando, FL. She loves finding innovative ways to tie together the digital and physical worlds.
Gianna transferred to The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) in Fall 2018 to pursue a BA in Interactive Multimedia. She wanted to challenge herself to master multiple areas of the tech design world opposed to just one. While at TCNJ, Gianna demonstrated her social media skills working as the Director of Social Media & Public Relations for TCNJ Lions Television. She transferred her skills learned as a student to the professional world when she began working for Social Stamina, a social media management company managing 30+ clients.
Gianna intends to use her diverse skill set to work in entertainment production and design theme park attractions and theatrical sets.
Run Dry is a unique and immersive installation piece advocating for the water crisis. Inspired by April Wilkerson’s “DIY Glass Waterfall,” Run Dry features a nearly four foot tall waterfall that is transformed into both a drinking well and a functioning screen. A projector is used to showcase a video about the lack of safe drinking water, projecting the video onto the plexiglass in the middle of the waterfall. The video features several residents of Newark, NJ, sharing personal experiences of living in a city where you can’t trust your drinking water. It was just a few months ago that The College of New Jersey experienced what it is like to adapt to a lifestyle without safe water. This is a rapid growing issue and one that is often pushed aside due to its effects being mainly long-term. As you watch the video projected against clean, clear water you begin to really think about what it means for water to be truly clean and all of the chemicals that hide inside our drinking water. Outside of the drinking well, you will notice various props that relate to the issue, each telling a story about the world's rapidly growing water crisis.
The biggest challenge I faced with this project was learning a new skill from scratch. I had never touched a saw before this project and it was intimidating at first. I went through three tries for the bottom box of my project. I found that the challenge motivated me to keep going though. I was excited whenever I made progress and with every mistake I found myself becoming more experienced. I was able to work more efficiently and waste less time making corrections. I have always been a hands on learner so it was a lot of fun experimenting with my design and seeing what worked and what didn’t work.
Process and Tools
- Sketch out a design for the water screen
- Build the screen (table saw, miter saw, band saw)
- Test out different types of glass, cut plexiglass to fit into waterfall
- Cut and drill holes in PVC pipe for water to drip down the plexiglass
- Organize interviews with residents in Newark
- Directed/worked camera, lighting, and audio on nearly all interviews (DSLR)
- Film visuals for video projected onto the water screen
- Test projection on the screen, color grade accordingly
- Transform waterfall into a drinking well (brick, paint, vine, roof)
- Decorate environment around well (jerry-can, plants, rocks)
- Produced final video trailer
Planning out this project, I knew I wanted to incorporate skills that focused on the area of multimedia I had put the most work into thus far, video production. I also wanted to teach myself a completely new skill that would expand my current capabilities. At an exhibition for contemporary video artist Bill Viola, I noticed Viola was able to utilize an installation to create an immersive experience that played with viewers' senses using a mixture of water and video projection. I had always been interested in encompassing the elements in my work and suddenly realized that water can be tied in to my passion for video projection and installation.
My admiration for the Walt Disney Company led me to study company projects that involved some form of water. Eventually I ran into Fantasmic!, a Walt Disney World finale show that focuses on water projection storytelling. Fantasmic! is what led me to the idea of building my own water projection screen.
I started with YouTube to find some insight on how this sort of structure could be designed. Woodworking professional and creator of Wilker Do’s, April Wilkerson, created a tutorial on how to build a glass waterfall out of wood and PVC pipe. Woodworking is an activity I have always admired, but never thought I could execute. I didn’t even know how to create a joint between two pieces of wood let alone build an entire structure that could function as both a waterfall and a screen! Wilkerson’s tutorial was clear and easy to follow and I appreciated that she provided me with a base to build off of.
I knew I wanted my project to be meaningful and something I could use to share a story but what kind of story was unclear at first. I sat down to think about my values and what important messages I had to share and came to a connection between my project and the Thirst Project, a non-profit organization aimed at globally helping young people advocate for safe and accessible drinking water. I knew I had one chance to catch the attention of New Jersey residents so I decided to narrow in on Newark, NJ where there is a current struggle for clean drinking water. Through communication with the Newark Water Coalition and the Thirst Project, I have created a strong video to project the story of the rapidly growing issue for safe drinking water.
Video Projected in the Project
Featured in the Projected Video
- (Upper left) Isaiah Rosado - Student at Rutgers Newark, Newark Resident
- (Upper right) Al Moussab - Educator in Newark, Newark Resident
- (Lower left) Kevin Cenac - Educator in Newark, Newark Resident
- (Lower right) Samantha Portillo - Student at Rutgers Newark, Newark Resident
This project required TONS of project management skills and learning from others and I am incredibly thankful for all of the help I received along the way!
Before beginning my project, I sought out opportunities to meet with woodworking professionals. I wanted to share my idea with people who could tell me if my idea would be one that would be able to come to life in such a short period of time. I met with the Woodworkers Guild of South Jersey in Cherry Hill, NJ and met some incredible people. I was asked to stand up and explain my project idea to all of the members who then questioned any gray areas of the project and helped me create a more concrete design plan for my project. Members from this group offered me various resources such as glass and their shops. I kept in contact with the members of the Guild and was able to ask questions even towards the decorative ending of my project.
I reached out to the Thirst Project through email hoping to learn more about the issue I was advocating for. I wanted to make sure I was able to capture all of the details in my video. The Thirst Project went above and beyond in offering me video resources, logo assets, articles, and more! The non-profit organization also was willing to come and speak to the College of New Jersey during the spring semester but unfortunately this fell through due to COVID19.
When I decided to narrow in on Newark, NJ, I reached out to NJPIRG Students at Rutgers University. Keeping in contact with a friend who attends the school, Camila Ventura, I was introduced to a few amazing students who were generous enough to share their stories in my video. Through social media, I discovered the Newark Water Coalition and attended their first meeting of 2020. At that meeting, I shared my project idea and let members know I would love for their input. I was lucky enough to have two people reach out about being in my video and set up interviews for a later date. I learned so much from these interviews and spending time with the Newark Water Coalition, it opened my mind to how quickly the media can drop such important issues.
Missing the date to become trained on my campus woodshop, I was worried I would never learn how to safely use the tools. I shared my concerns with the safety and studio technician, Kyle LoPinto, and he assured me that he could train me that same week. Kyle spent hours in the woodshop with me, dedicating time to supervising the shop during winter-break, and answering any and all questions I had while designing and assembling my project. Kyle helped me become familiar with all of the tools our woodshop had to offer and is the reason I was able to safely use my saws at home after being forced to leave campus.
Without having any production equipment of my own, I turned to the TCNJ Cage for all of my equipment. Having to travel to Newark a lot and commuting from an hour away from campus, I needed to extend my equipment past its due date on a daily basis. AIMM technology coordinator, Brett Ratner, always made sure I had the equipment I needed when I needed it and would take time out of his day to make sure I knew how to use the equipment correctly.
When sharing my fears about woodwork around the IMM department, I was advised to share my work with professor John Kuiphoff. John has been an incredible mentor throughout this entire project. With every problem I ran into, John was always able to offer a solution. He inspired me with projects of his own and offered me advice that helped me avoid burning out. I learned from John how to spend less time stressing and more time working. He was always available when I needed feedback on how something looked or ran into a design problem and I don’t think I would have finished this project without his guidance and support.
My thesis professor, Chris Ault, helped me build structure into my project. He introduced me to the project management tool, Trello, which not only pushed me to get my tasks completed but also kept me organized throughout the chaos of the last eight months. Whenever I needed a book, a cord, advice, Chris was always able to help. I spent a lot of time stopping by Chris’s office hours to get feedback on my thesis, plan out space for my project, and get advice for post-graduation plans. I’m glad to have someone who helped me stay on track throughout the entire school year!
When campus shut down and I was forced to bring my project home, I was worried. I couldn’t afford to buy the resources the woodshop had and I didn’t even own any video equipment either. My dad offered me his tools and dedicated his free time to helping me bring this project to life. Whenever I needed an extra set of hands, he was there to help. My mom and siblings were also a big help with this project as they watched all of my video rough cuts and gave me feedback. This offered me the perspective of people who don’t know about the water crisis and helped me figure out what would and wouldn’t capture their attention.
Through posting on social media about adapting my project to something that can be made at home instead of my school woodshop, I was fortunate enough to receive resources from so many kind people. I was given a camera, lighting equipment, and a table saw to use for my project by various people and it was because of their selflessness that I was able to create Run Dry. Thank you Caitlyn Connelly, Tyler Law, and Rob Macejka!
I spent a lot of time reaching out to various professors and faculty, inside and outside of the IMM department, throughout this entire project. I want to thank every single one of you that offered me feedback on any small or large piece of my project, you helped bring my thesis to life!
Run Dry gave me my first opportunity to storytell through an environment. I realized how much time and money having a strong design plan can save you. Towards the end of my project process, I used LinkedIn Learning to learn how to use SketchUp and be able to create 3D models of future projects. Using SketchUp will make it easier for me to articulate plans to clients and quickly identify any issues in the design. This project also prompted me to pay attention to little details. When deciding between types of materials and props for decorating the well, I had to make decisions on what matched the theming of the project best. I would love to continue to create immersive environments, narrating a story through set design and props.
I designed Run Dry to inspire a new way to advocate for a cause. Visually, this project pulls people in because it’s not every day that you walk past a human sized waterfall with a video projected onto it. Once the waterfall has your attention, you walk a little closer and begin to listen to what the people are saying. The interviews were recorded with four residents of Newark, NJ and feature personal stories of not being able to count on their city for clean drinking water.
By the end of the video, I aim to have created a deeper understanding for my viewers on why we need to start pressuring for change now when it comes to the water crisis. I am spreading this message far beyond TCNJ and hoping that if even one person shares this story with their friends then it will light a spark and the torch will keep being passed until we make a change.
Adapting to the COVID Pandemic
My original dream for this project was to have it set up in a small room so that wherever you looked, you were experiencing part of the story. Not having the proper space available for my project inside my house, I am now presenting the project outdoors. It has definitely been a challenge not being able to work on the screen part of my project during times of inclement weather but it has also taught me to be better with managing my time. I spend the rainy days planning and purchasing materials and spend the sunny ones building! I also view the outdoor setting as something that will help bring the vision of a well even more to life.