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Meet Venetia Harpin

Today we’d like to introduce you to Venetia Harpin.

Venetia, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I started in the live music and festival scene in the UK (I’m British, by the way, so you can read this in an English accent!) I used to work at all these crazy, bohemian festivals that had walkabout entertainers, kinetic sculptures, and loads of weird activities and games. It was so much fun getting grown-ups to be playful, and it just made me want to organize events that were as interactive as possible. From there, I started working for experiential marketing agencies. We would design these mad, fun pop-ups to get customers to interact with new products, and by the time I moved from London to LA a few years ago, I was hooked on creating fully immersive experiences and events.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I think something that comes up pretty regularly when you are trying to be groundbreaking, or do something really exciting and different, is it can be hard to give assurances to a client of exactly how it will turn out or be received by the public. A lot of really bold, creative ideas get diluted down along the way. That said when you have household name brands and million-dollar budgets on the line, I understand why there has to be caution too. It was also interesting when I moved from the UK to the US to see certain nuances between marketing trends and cultural expectations. On a practical level, I had to learn a more American vocabulary for various technical terms. I had never heard the phrase ‘What’s your twenty?’ before!

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
My specialty is creating highly interactive, immersive environments for brands. What does that mean in practice? Everything from a Harley Quinn inspired paintball Rage Room, to a ‘Space Bar’ that served flavored oxygen for the TV show Archer, to an antiquated Vampire Lair for the comedy show What We Do In The Shadows at San Diego Comic-Con, to a pop-up Mermaid Museum here in LA for Popsugar. I am brought in as a specialist to marketing and experiential agencies, or directly with studios, to work alongside talent, design and technical production teams. For one project with the agency Giant Spoon, we even got tech-savvy grandmas to show you how to make cocoa over video call for Portal from Facebook.

These are usually narrative-driven, multi-sensory events. They often involve a combination of live storytelling using improvisational actors, personalized technology, and 360 ‘in world’ set design to enhance the guest experience. There is a lot of moving parts that have to work seamlessly together in real-time. It’s like shooting a movie but you only get one take for each scene. Being a team player is crucial, as is being flexible enough to go with the flow as ideas inevitably evolve. I’m known for being an ideator and a producer. A bit of a left-brain/right-brain mashup if you will. I think creatively but also have the production expertise to work through the logistics. The best ideas in the world are only as good as their execution, after all.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
Building dens and treehouses! I was a total tomboy and was obsessed with climbing trees and creating secret hideouts. I would read classic children’s adventure books like Enid Blyton’s The Famous Five, and then do my best to recreate a pirate escapade while in the middle of rural English countryside. I lived about as far away from the sea as you can get, so I guess it was a good challenge for my imagination.

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