School of Cinematic Arts Directory Profile

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Alexander McDowell

Professor of Cinema Practice
Media Arts + Practice Division
The William Cameron Menzies Endowed Chair in Production Design

Affiliated Divisions:

Media Arts + Practice Division

Email: amcdowell@cinema.usc.edu
Work Phone: 213.821.5700
Office: SCI 101K

Alex McDowell is one of the most innovative and influential designers working in narrative media. With the impact of his ideas extending far beyond his background in cinema, he advocates an immersive design process that acknowledges the key role of world building in storytelling. In his 30+ years as a narrative designer, Alex has worked in commercials and cinema with renowned directors Alex Proyas, David Fincher, Steven Spielberg, Terry Gilliam, Andrew Niccol, Tim Burton, and Zack Snyder, amongst many others. He has designed for consumer, corporate, live performance, and interactive, immersive user space.

From 1999-2001 he worked with Steven Spielberg to production design and develop a world for the film Minority Report, prior to a completed script. The process that evolved changed the nature of his film design process from analogue to digital, and profoundly affected the nature of all digital production, pushing a radical shift towards a non-linear workflow. Since then his work has built on the dynamic relationship between creativity and emergent technologies.

Alex recently designed Man Of Steel, Zack Snyder and Chris Nolan’s retelling of the Superman origin story, where he used world building practice and process to build the holistic world of Krypton, its history and its integration with our present day world.

As visiting artist at MIT’s Media Lab from 2006-2011 he designed the robot opera Death and the Powers for composer Tod Machover. He is a Getty Research Institute scholar, a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences SciTech Council, and on the executive board of the AMPAS Design Branch. In 2006, he was awarded Royal Designer for Industry by the UK’s Royal Society of Arts, and in 2013 the D&AD President’s Award.

Alex McDowell is Visiting Associate Professor in the USC Cinematic Arts divisions of Interactive Media and Games, Production, and Media Arts + Practice, where he is also creative director of the USC World Building Media Lab and the thought leadership network, the USC World Building Institute.

He is founder and creative director at 5D | GlobalStudio, a cellular and interdisciplinary multi-platform and cross-media design studio.