Podcast       About       Newsletter

[PODCAST EP01] Understanding Production Lighting Design w/ Richard Dunn

richard-dunn-production-channel
richard-dunn-production-channel

In The Production Channel’s first episode, Stephen Bowles of Shoflo and Clem Harrod of CLEMCO.AV, shine the spotlight on lighting design with industry expert, Richard Dunn. Also known to the world as viral video sensation The Lonely Airport Guy, Richard explains how his self-proclaimed “obnoxious dreamer, glass half full” personality helped catapult himself from a college concert lighting technician to designing a diverse portfolio of live events in the U.S. and abroad.

download-itunes

Richard Dunn is a Canada native, and he always had the desire to work for The Walt Disney Company. Through an unfortunate misunderstanding, he didn’t land his Disney dream job initially, but he turned a negative into a positive and got the chance to meet with the Tech Department supervisor at the Magic Kingdom. “I literally had nothing to lose and said, ‘I’m going to put myself out there.’ That, in a nutshell, is how I ended up as a lighting design professional.” Richard tells Stephen and Clem, “There’s basically three Cs in life that dictate everything–who you are, what you do, and where you’re going.” In this podcast, Richard expands on the three Cs, which are circumstances, choices, consequences. He states, “You only have control over one of those things, and that’s your choices.”

Light design is a very tangible job – “You walk in, you see it, the haze is going, the lights are going, and you can see what I’ve done. You can absorb it.” Richard eventually moved on as a freelance lighting designer, where he creates what a producer or a production company sold to the client, trying to fit everything in the room in a finite amount of time and within a specific budget. When asked about being overwhelmed and coping with those moments where you think “Is this the time we don’t make it?”, often the crew bonds together to solve the challenges, the show goes off without a hitch, and the client is thrilled. He says, “That’s the drug that keeps me coming back.”

Listen in as Stephen, Clem and Richard shed some light on the triumphs of work/life balance, the power of visualization during times of stress, and creatively seizing the day as a lighting designer.

Full Podcast Transcript

Stephen Bowles:

All right. Welcome, everybody. You’re listening to the Production Channel, where we bring you the stories and interviews across all sectors of the production industry including live events, broadcast, worship, sports production. Really just anything, all things production. If you’re a show tech backstage, or you’re a producer creating amazing events, this podcast is for you, it’s about you. We’re just really glad to have you here. I’m joined by Clem Harrod, my very good friend and freelance projectionist. Welcome, Clem.

Clem Harrod:
Chatter. What’s going on, Bowles?

Stephen Bowles:
Clem and I, my background, again Stephen Bowles, live video director and also founder of ShoFlo. We are here today just to really dive into really a whole new topic we haven’t gone to yet and that is lighting design. If you’ve ever been in a major show, been to a concert whether think U2 level or smaller, one of the most important and powerful experiences and parts of just everything that we call production is lighting design. As Clem and I have been going back, trying to figure out who is really one of the experts in our industry to talk about it, it just was very clear that we need to bring on Richard Dunn. Welcome, Richard Dunn, to the Production Channel.

Clem Harrod:
The one and only.

Richard Dunn:
What’s up guys?

Clem Harrod:
Hey, Richie.

Richard Dunn:
Pleasure to be sharing the room with you.

Stephen Bowles:
Yeah, man. A little background on Richard, for anyone who hasn’t known him. Richard is a freelance lighting designer but it’s really so much more than that. He services really the whole spectrum of production. Everything from live events, traditional corporate and also just specialty events and then concerts as well as really the thing that I’ve always really been impressed with with Richard is his television experience, because that’s just a different type of craft in the way that you approach that when you are really lighting for camera. Then he’s even, if you go way back in the day, had some experience with House of Worship and things like that, back in Canadian days.

Richard Dunn:
True story.

Stephen Bowles:
Richard, just high level. Again, welcome. Just very, very excited to have you on here. Why in the world lighting? How in the world did you even find this industry and, of everything you could have done, why lighting design?

Richard Dunn:
It’s crazy. When you think about this, it’s weird, too. I’ve been doing this for about, I don’t know, 22, 23 years. It’s one of these things where I literally woke up one day and realized this is it. I guess this is what I’m doing for a living. It started out, I went to university in Lynchburg, Virginia. I went to Liberty University. I grew up in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada. I ended up down there and went to a few concerts. I had always been very, very intrigued with lighting design. The church work I did was something that was very close to my heart, at the time. I got very involved in that. When I went to university I thought, “This is something I’d really like to continue.”

Again, I didn’t understand a lot of the philosophy behind it or even what was entailed. One of those, if I knew then what I knew now situations. Ended up at Liberty University and went to couple of their concerts and thought, “Man, I want to do this. This is really cool. I’d love to work with the lighting team.” I found out who the lighting director was for the concerts and I went and I talked with them. I said, “I would like to work with you.” He said, “What experience do you have?” I said, “Not very much.” He said, “I’m not sure that we’re interested in having you come onboard.”

Clem Harrod:
Wow.

Richard Dunn:
It was like strike one, out of the gate. I’m like, “You’re not supposed to say that. You’re supposed to encourage me and yes, come on board.” He’s, “I just don’t know if we have room for you.” I made a deal with him, I said, “Listen, there’s two more concerts coming up this month. Let me work for free for the concerts coming up and if you enjoy working with me and you like my work ethic and what I have going on, then maybe we can talk.” He paused and that was a very interesting way to approach this interview. He said, “You got a deal.” The next concert was coming up in a couple of weeks so I got on the install team and that night when it was all over he came up to me and he said, “Let’s not worry about working for free for the second concert. You’re in.”

Stephen Bowles:
That’s awesome.

Richard Dunn:
That was my first initial, “Hey, listen, this is what I want to do.” I just showed that I was willing to do whatever I needed to do to get in. Then, it was just four years of working concerts for the university. To just skip past all that, I’ve always been an obnoxious dreamer, obnoxiously glass half full. Growing up in New Brunswick, Canada, I just always had the Disney carrot hanging in front of me. Thought I would do anything to work there. It was a very unattainable dream to do that.

Once I got to Liberty I thought, “Well, my next step from here, I want to go down and work at Disney.” Everybody just kind of, “Yeah, that’s nice.” One summer, I drove down and interviewed with the folks there and, again, oddly enough they said, “You know what? We do have an intern position for you in the tech department at the Magic Kingdom.” I was stoked. Went back, and to make a very long story short, sold a bunch of things to get enough money to drive down the next summer.

Stephen Bowles:
That’s great.

Richard Dunn:
When I got there I went to the casting building and they said, “We’re not sure what you’re talking about. We don’t have a job in the entertainment department.”

Stephen Bowles:
Uh oh.

Clem Harrod:
Oh.

Richard Dunn:
Yeah, so I’m standing there, pretty much broke at this point, standing in the office and I said, “I’ll take whatever you have. I’m here now.” They said, “At this late time, the only thing we have is selling the glow in the dark jewelry on Main Street, at night.

Clem Harrod:
Lighting! Lighting!

Richard Dunn:
I thought, “That’s lighting. I’ll take it.” Yeah, I spent my first summer selling glow in the dark jewelry, just to get my foot in the door. By the end of the summer, I had managed to find out who was in charge of the tech department at the Magic Kingdom. Gave him a call, sat at his desk and let him know, “I’ve been working 4:00 pm to 1:00 am every night this summer just so I could sit here and meet you.” That was the second time where a prospective employer looked at me and said, “You were willing to do that to do this?” I said, “Absolutely.” He said, “I can’t deny that.” He specifically made sure that I had a place the next summer, and came back. That’s the beginning of it all.

Again, looking back on it, it’s interesting to see, in both those situations … Both those situations had to work for me to end up where I was. In both those situations, I literally had nothing to lose and said, “I’m going to put myself out there.” That’s, in a nutshell, how I ended up as a lighting design professional.

Clem Harrod:
You know, what’s so crazy for me is, as you’re talking about that and you’re talking about how you did what you had to do to get where you wanted to go, how that still applies for today. Just trying to find those jobs and trying to find that right fit for yourself, in our industry.

Richard Dunn:
Oh, yeah. It’s crazy. Not to get too deep on this, but it applied back then and it applies now, I personally know both your stories. I understand that this applies to you guys too. There’s basically three Cs in life that dictate everything, who you are, what you do, and where you’re going. First one is your circumstances, the second one are your choices, and the third is consequences. If you look at your circumstances, your choices, and your consequences, you only have control over one of those things, and that’s your choices.

You can’t control who you were born to, where you were born, the financial, the status you were born into. You make choices, based on your perspective, and then you have no control over the consequence of that choice. Life is just a series of making a choice, assessing the consequence, making a choice, assessing the consequence. In my situation, I made these choices to put myself out there. The consequence for the Disney thing was, “We don’t have a lighting design position for you, you can sell glow in the dark jewelry at one of the worst positions you can have,” being down there.

Clem Harrod:
Yeah.

Richard Dunn:
That was the choice I made, and the consequence was meeting the guy that ultimately hired me for the job of a lifetime, at the time.

Clem Harrod:
Nice.

Stephen Bowles:
Pregnant pause, it happens, even in production.

Clem Harrod:
Awkward pause.

Stephen Bowles:
This is when the CEO just hit the stage and then-

Clem Harrod:
The video was supposed to be rolling, but it didn’t come up.

Richard Dunn:
ETA go, go!

Stephen Bowles:
ETA!

Clem Harrod:
Somebody wake up, Clem! Somebody please wake up Clem!

Stephen Bowles:
All right, well tell me more about … Now that we know how you bumped into or backed into lighting, how does that look for you on the daily grind right now? I know, for a fact, that you’re not just doing small break outs or smaller level shows, but that you’ve really engaged in some large-scale projects. Take me through a fun one. Take me through one that’s more recent and, for people who are curious, what does the role of the lighting designer, what does that actually involve? What does it include? Take us through that, from soup to nuts.

Richard Dunn:
Got it. I guess, taking a quick step back. Looking at my role as the lighting designer is a very interesting one. I have a very tangible job. You walk in, you see it, the haze is going, the lights are going, and you can see what I’ve done. You can absorb it. It’s really interesting because, when people attend a production, there’s so many things. They walk out there with an average feel of how that entire night went. That included how the lights looked, how the sounds sounded. The air conditioning, was it too hot? Was it too cold? Everything about that night, they leave with one average opinion on what just happened. It’s interesting to know that, although not everything I do is noticeable …

A perfect example of that is when you get in, for cameras, and all the TV work, that’s not subjective. There’s either an evenly lit stage, or there’s not. Talking to some of the video guys right now that have had to shade my work is one of those things where it’s either right or it’s wrong. My audio friends see that every day, when there’s feedback, when there’s a frequency dropout, everybody notices what happened. There’s two specific parts of my job. The one is the very subjective part, where, “He’s in the dark, that’s wrong, fire that guy, why would you hire him?” Then the subjective part.

They’re both equally as frustrating because, with what Clem does, he has a specific goal. It’s converged, it’s colored correctly, and there’s not much left to interpretation. It’s either right or it’s wrong. On the lighting end of things, “I don’t like that color combination, I wish he wouldn’t do that, what a boring show, what an exciting show.” Once I load in, all the mechanics are done, the load calculations, the truss, the weight distribution, the power, when that’s all finished, I have literally everybody from the guy setting chairs to the executive producer telling me how it should look and what I should be doing. I have to handle all the criticism professionally, calmly, and with the right attitude.

At the end of the day, going through what happens with me on a show. I did a show about a year ago for a big corporate company. We were in Whistler, British Columbia. They had three waves coming in. Every wave ended with a Katy Perry concert. What was kind of cool about that was that they go ahead and they send their plot in advance. Somebody makes the call and hires Richard. I need to find out how big the show is, where the show is, what size of the show, what budget of the show, to make sure I know that I can put together a show that you’ve sold the client.

One of the frustrating parts is, a lot of the times, the production company will have already sold the client on a pretty picture, drawn by a set company, and a creative director, with no regards to physics. They put together a really pretty cartoon, they take it to the client, and they say, “That’s awesome! We’re going to buy that.” Then they bring it to the lighting designer, the audio designer, the projectionist, and the video guys and say, “Okay, this is what we’ve sold the client.”

Now, not only do we have to make it fit in the room, we have to make it fit in the budget. Sometimes that’s very difficult because, at that point, when they’ve sold the show, they don’t know the load restrictions on the rigging, they don’t know the loading docks and the accessibility, or how much power’s in the room. All of a sudden, we sell a show this size that doesn’t have enough power and we have to bring in a massive generator. There’s an expense that nobody counted on, so we have to make all that work.

Anyway, backing up to this, the Katy Perry folks send us their rider and what they need for lighting. We go ahead and we find vendors that can supply all this equipment. At the same time, I have to make my corporate show work. I have to take everything they need, fold in with everything we need on the corporate side of things, and we move ahead from there. Once the gear list is done, then we actually have to put pen to paper and put it down on a plot. With the venue drawings that we get from the technical director, we lay in all the truss, we figure out all the weight calculations, and then we send it back to the venue for approval. Once that gets approval, we can then move forward on booking the labor and working on our production schedule. This particular show, we had 24 hours from the time we got the venue, to the time Katy Perry hit the stage.

Clem Harrod:
Wow, that’s a short amount of time.

Richard Dunn:
Yeah. That’s crazy. It’s one thing if it’s a tour, where you’ve rehearsed [crosstalk 00:15:28], and you’ve rehearsed your pack, and you’ve rehearsed setting it up. That’s the stressful part about this that’s hard to convey to people. As much as this is an adrenaline rush, and we’ve all been there, when you pull it off. We’ve all been in those situations where you think, “Is this the time we don’t make it? Is this the show where something beyond our control happens, and we miss doors, and we don’t open on time?” That’s the difficult part. Staying calm and staying focused to get it all loaded in on time.

That one did, we had a phenomenal crew. We got that in and up and running. 24 hours later, she hit the stage and all was great. I wish there was a way to bottle up that feeling of, “We’re not going to make it.” We’ve all been there, where it’s a half hour to doors and you have a piece of equipment go down. Literally, there’s 5,000 people looking at you, saying, “Are you going to make it?” You don’t know if you’re going to make it, but you say, “Yes.”

Clem Harrod:
Yeah.

Richard Dunn:
Then you just find a way to make it work. That’s a lot of it. At this level, when they call you guys and when they call me, we’re not there for when things go right. We’re there, we’re hired, and we’re brought in for when things go wrong.

Clem Harrod:
So true.

Richard Dunn:
That was a situation where we had a really tight turn, the guys all came together, and made it work. Basically, once we get all of the parts and pieces lined up, and we get into it, there’s so much coordinating with the video guys, with the audio guys, you get all the truss laid out, and then you’re right at your max weight. Then you talk to the video guys and they want to put 2,400 pounds of projectors on your truss.

Clem Harrod:
I don’t like your tone there, I don’t like your tone.

Richard Dunn:
Then they walk in, we’ve got to resubmit drawings, all this kind of stuff. Or, they were already on the drawing and the lighting guy comes in and puts too much weight on.

Clem Harrod:
Puts movers on there.

Richard Dunn:
Yeah. Yeah, you don’t want movers on your projection truss.

Clem Harrod:
No.

Richard Dunn:
Anyway, those are some of the things that we run into that might not necessarily hit the audience, first off. Rightfully so, they don’t care. They want to walk in, they want to see their show, and they want to walk out. It’s our job to make when they walk out there at the end of the night, saying, “That was one of the best things I’ve ever gone to.”

Clem Harrod:
Richard, I want to touch on something real quick.

Richard Dunn:
Yeah.

Clem Harrod:
When you were talking about the Katy Perry and situations where, basically, you exposed some vulnerability that a lot of us face in this industry, and that fear, and then sometimes that overwhelm. What do you do, specifically, to try to calm that anxiety?

Richard Dunn:
Very great question. It’s not something I widely speak of, but I project. I project to the strike. I do this a number of times of years. When I’m in those situations where I think we’re not going to make it, we’re not going to make it, I think back to my 20-some years of doing this and the 99.9% success rate that a lot of us at this level have. I literally picture myself on the plane, flying home. All the other times I’ve been in that situation, and I’ve ended up with this incredible adrenaline rush, on the plane, on the way home, thinking, “We freaking did it. We shouldn’t have done it. It wasn’t physically possible. Nobody should have expected us to succeed, but we did it.”

In that moment, at 3:00 in the morning, when motor 32 is not going up and they have to swap it out, and that’s 45 minutes we do not have, I will literally stand there and imagine myself on the flight, on the way home, as I have with hundreds of other shows, thinking, “We did it.” That doesn’t fix motor 32, but it calms me down and lets me know that, “Okay, we’ve been here before and we’ve made it.”

Clem Harrod:
Yeah.

Richard Dunn:
I just remind myself of all the other times that I’ve felt that way, but we’ve actually pulled it off.

Clem Harrod:
I love how you’re talking about the adrenaline rush. That flight home, you get that adrenaline rush, looking forward to going home. That makes me think about that work-life balance, as well.

Richard Dunn:
Oh man. There’s been so many times … I literally called my wife at 3:00 in the morning one time and said, “I’m done. I can’t put myself in this.” It was a huge deal three project, and the TV on the show didn’t calculate the backstage throw distance far enough. I didn’t have enough projection for the lenses in the DL3s. Again, we were getting into doors at 8:30 the next morning, this is at 5:00 am and things still weren’t right. Before it got to that point, I just called her and said, “I have to vent.” Then, it works out, it gets through.

That’s the other thing. You literally go from 10 hours earlier, “I quit. I’ve got to find something else. I can’t keep putting myself through this.” To the rush of, “I can’t wait to do this again. I can’t wait for the next load in, for the next show, and for the next challenge.” That’s the drug that keeps me coming back.

Clem Harrod:
Yeah. The dopamine.

Richard Dunn:
Crazy, man. Crazy.

Stephen Bowles:
I’ve seen a lot of shows where, when things aren’t going well, right during walk in or even, really, the biggest one is like during the opening act, right? For general sessions, there’s usually a big opening or open, and it’s a sequence of cues that everyone’s been rehearsing for a couple of days and hours. When that’s not going well, when that train wrecks, typically, I find that there’s two different types of people that respond to that. There’s the people who watch the train wreck, and then there’s the people who jump in and try to get us out of it.

I’ve seen, literally, opening sessions happen where the doors don’t open and we just did the big announcement for the CEO to come to stage. Everyone’s just sitting there going, “It’s not open, it’s not open, it’s not open.” We’re all just, “This is going so bad, it’s going so bad.” Then, one person calls on and just goes, “Just send him around the side.”

Clem Harrod:
Right, right. So basic.

Stephen Bowles:
Someone just solved this, right now.

Clem Harrod:
Right.

Stephen Bowles:
I think that’s sort of what you were talking about there. That is, to an extent, what our responsibilities are. Particularly when you’re the leader of the department, right? When you’re the LD or the lead projectionist. You’ve got to have experience in seeing enough situations go left, right, up, down, to where you can, essentially, solve it just by going, “I’ve seen this happen before and we solved it this way.”

Richard Dunn:
Right. It’s so funny that you bring that up because, in my personal life, my wife will get frustrated with me sometimes because I don’t show emotion, or I don’t show concern, or I don’t get worked up. She’ll be like, “Doesn’t this bother you?” “Yes, it bothers me a lot.” Then it hit me like a ton of bricks, one time. I’ve spent the past 22 years not showing concern. I’m paid to tell the client, “It’s going to be okay.” It’s hard to turn that off. She just wants to see me freak out sometimes and say, “This isn’t right. We have to fix this.”

Stephen Bowles:
Right.

Clem Harrod:
You can’t do that on a show site.

Richard Dunn:
No, no, we’re conditioned to say, “It’s cool, man. It’s cool.”

Clem Harrod:
“Carpe diem.”

Richard Dunn:
“Carpe diem, man. Seize the day.” I was doing a show one time and it was a big, 50th anniversary celebration. They had this massive, 12-foot wide cake. We rehearsed it, the lights pick it up here, this and that and the other thing. We rehearsed it for hours, but guess what we didn’t rehearse it with? We didn’t rehearse it coming through the 10-foot doorway.

Clem Harrod:
Oh man!

Richard Dunn:
At the end of the aisle. In the middle of that session, all the lights swing back, the chefs are pushing it through, clunk! It hits the edge of the doorway.

Stephen Bowles:
No!

Richard Dunn:
It can’t come in. They literally sliced it and then walked it down the aisle.

Clem Harrod:
Oh man.

Richard Dunn:
It was crazy. You’re exactly right, we’re not there for when things go right. We’re there for when things go wrong.

Stephen Bowles:
You touched a little bit on the front as far as work-life balance. Tell us about that. You’ve been doing this now, you’ve been hustling for … Actually, how long have you been doing this?

Richard Dunn:
Probably 22 years. 22 or 23 years.

Stephen Bowles:
Yeah. How much, in a given year, are you on the road?

Richard Dunn:
A slow year would be six months. A busy year would be seven months.

Stephen Bowles:
Okay.

Richard Dunn:
I’m gone between six and seven months a year.

Stephen Bowles:
Got you. Tell us a little bit about your family. Where you guys are living right now, how many little ones, if any, do you have?

Richard Dunn:
Yeah, we’re in Canton, Georgia, about 45 minutes north of Atlanta. My wife and I have been married for 20 years. We have a four year old daughter. That changed everything. The work-life balance thing is such an interesting conversation. I have both influences in my life. One that says, “Hey, work is your focus. That’s how you provide for your family.” Then others that say, “You don’t need the iPhone, you can buy something cheaper.” All of these things take you on the road. It’s certainly something that I spend a lot of time thinking about.

I heard something, it was probably about a year and a half ago now, that really changed the way I feel about work-life balance. When you think of balance, you think of 50-50. You think of the scales being balanced, at any given time. Well, unfortunately, we don’t have that luxury. I look at work-life balance as a 50-50 balance over time. Are we talking a year, are we talking in a season of your life? I try to focus on a 50-50 balance through the year, not at any one given time.

There are times where I’ll be out for three, three and a half week run. That’s when it sucks. That’s when it’s FaceTime everyday, your daughter misses you, and you’re neglecting things at home. If you look at the schedule, and you can get around that, and you can get to your three week break at the end of it, that’s when you try to stay focused. My wife has been so cool during this whole time. It wasn’t a decision … I didn’t make the decision to leave, we made the decision for me to be on the road. That, certainly, helped.

At the end of the day, if she said, “I don’t want you gone.” I couldn’t put that on her. In some circumstances, she’s a single mom, as far as taking care of our daughter, taking care of the house, and running the business of a household. She does know that the other side of that 50-50 balance, when we do take a month off in the summertime, or we do have a lot of time together, we believe that the quality time that we have together, as a family, outweighs if I have a 9 to 5 job, coming home at 6:30, my daughter going to bed at 7:00. It’s a decision that we’ve had to make.

Also, as you guys well know, just because I’m on the road for seven months a year, doesn’t mean that I’m off for five months. You’re at home, preparing for those seven months. You’re doing pre-pro, you’re doing plots, drawings, and conference calls. It certainly is something that you need to focus on. I didn’t know that, early on. I remember a time that my wife and I were sitting by the back gate at Disney. I had gone in for a shift and she had just told me, she said, “I don’t want you going in. It’s been too much.” I just looked at her, I got out of the car, and I walked into work. That’s what I thought was most important. I’ve had to grow up a lot, over the years.

Stephen Bowles:
How are you doing that, now, on the road? How do you actually connect and stay connected?

Richard Dunn:
One way, and this is a very unique situation, some of my clients are so cool. I do a lot of work in Orlando, and it’s only a seven hour drive for me down there, normally I would fly. Just as a very specific example, one thing that we did is every time that I get a show in Orlando, and it works with our personal schedule, my wife and daughter will drive down with me. My clients are cool with them staying in the hotel room. We lived down there for a while, so they have friends and relationships down there. That’s four, five, six times a year that I get that month back with my family.

Stephen Bowles:
Nice.

Clem Harrod:
Yeah.

Richard Dunn:
Now, we’re working 18 hour days, but I’ll see them in the morning, be able to kiss my daughter good night, at night, after she’s asleep. That’s one thing that we’ve done to make it work is to spend more time together. Of course, technology is so awesome with FaceTime and staying in touch. I try to FaceTime my daughter every day. It’s not easy, that’s for sure.

Stephen Bowles:
Squeezing in a FaceTime in between a bio break, or something. It feels like an unnecessary pressure.

Richard Dunn:
It warms my heart, when I walk out into the ballroom and I see Clem coming from backstage, FaceTiming his son. It’s so cool.

Stephen Bowles:
Yeah.

Richard Dunn:
That’s why we’re all there. We’re all there to take care of our families. To see them making these connections, on the road, is pretty cool.

Clem Harrod:
Yeah.

Richard Dunn:
That’s what it’s all about, to me.

Clem Harrod:
It’s hard to make that time, though. Trying to squeeze it in, and then trying to get them to understand that, “Hey, I only have five minutes, but I just wanted to see you real quick.”

Richard Dunn:
Yeah. We had two, fairly large personal tragedies that happened in our lives, between shows. I was home for a period of 24 hours. I come home, we deal with it, we spend the time together, and then I have to go. Now, obviously, there would be a point where, if there was a death in the family or something happened, that we would back away. We all have to make that decision too. “Okay, is this the time where I call my client and say I’m not coming? Do I look at my wife and say I have to go?” To have that support at home, that says, “I understand you need to go.” I think that’s the biggest thing. It comes down to the relationship you have with your spouse. If they totally get it and understand it, or not. It’s certainly difficult. It’s certainly difficult.

Clem Harrod:
It’s beautiful to know that that support system is there. Like you said, that’s your spouse and they’re understanding. To an extent, you’re never all by yourself.

Stephen Bowles:
Aww. Have you ever met Celine Dion, Richard Dunn?

Clem Harrod:
Yeah, you do a Google search of Richard Dunn, you don’t see Dunn lights, you don’t see these beautiful pictures of the sets you’ve done. I see a picture of you with Celine Dion. Come on, man. What’s up?

Richard Dunn:
Okay, I didn’t know how long it would be, or if it came up. Here it is. Yes, I have met Celine Dion, and it was wonderful. Speaking of life on the road, and how awesome this is, we spend a lot of times in our glamorous, glitz and glamour-y life, in airports.

Stephen Bowles:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Richard Dunn:
There was one time that I was at the Las Vegas airport. With different circumstances, I ended up there overnight. While I was there overnight, I thought, “You know what? I don’t often get the chance to be in an empty airport. I’m going to shoot a little video and send it back to my wife. Show some of my road friends. See if they’re going to dig this or not.” I was listening to music, and I found the one, the only Celine Dion, singing All by Myself. I literally laughed out loud. I was like, “This is funny stuff.” I took my iPhone, a roll of luggage tape, and a wheelchair I found, and my computer bag. I just ran around the airport like a freaking idiot, and shot my own little music video to Celine Dion’s All by Myself.

I got home and put it online, just to show my life and show my friends. I thought, “Well, I’m going to get a call from Sony or somebody that says, ‘You can’t use the song, take it down.'” To my surprise, the next day, I had like 150,000 hits. Literally overnight. I’m like, “This is crazy.” I didn’t think a whole lot of it. Then, by the time I went to bed that night, it had cracked a million hits, and I got a phone call from Good Morning America saying, “We would like you to be on the show tomorrow.”

Stephen Bowles:
Oh my goodness.

Richard Dunn:
I’m like, “What for?”

Clem Harrod:
“I’m sorry, it wasn’t me.”

Richard Dunn:
“What happened?” Anyway, to make a very, very long story short, 22 million hits later, Celine Dion saw the video and she said, “I would really like to meet you.” We flew to Vegas, the whole family. Caesars sent the limo for us and they put us up in a suite. Got to meet her. It made all the media rounds. Good Morning America, ABC, NBC, CBS. I was on Good Morning Australia, Canada A.M. It was nutty. If anybody wants to know what Clem and Bowlesy are talking about, if you just Google “Richard Dunn All by Myself,” you’ll get about 1,000 links.

Stephen Bowles:
I remember when that was happening. I remember watching it on Facebook just thinking, “Is this the same thing? Is this thing still trending up, and up, and up?” I remember thinking, “Oh my goodness.” I remember watching it the first time and I was like, “This is getting massively viral, just in our production industry.”

Clem Harrod:
Yep.

Stephen Bowles:
I was like, “Everyone knows about this. So fun.” Then I’m thinking, “Wait, is that Good Morning America’s version of it, or whatever? Some sort of news bit on Richard Dunn.”

Richard Dunn:
Yeah.

Clem Harrod:
Yeah.

Stephen Bowles:
That was so fun, man.

Richard Dunn:
It was crazy. Then it went from there. Different schools started picking up on it. I had a chance to talk at Chapman University, UCLA, Writer’s Guild of America, University of Charleston, to film students and different folks. It was a real interesting tie in because I did it just for creativity’s sake. I didn’t know anything was going to happen. I didn’t expect anything to happen. If I did, it was going to be negative. That night, I just wanted to create something. I wanted to create something from nothing.

When I get talking to the film students, the bottom line is this … Clem and I have talked about this at great detail. You either have a goal, you have a passion, and you want to work on stuff, or you don’t. So many people, these film students have the excuse, “I don’t have the budget, I don’t have a cast, I don’t have a crew, I don’t have equipment.” That’s just crap. You either want to make videos, or you don’t. Everybody has in their pocket right now, the technology I used to shoot that video that was seen by 22 million people. No more excuses.

Whether it’s you want to work at Disney, whether you want to be a projectionist, whether you want to create the software, if you’re not doing it, it’s because you don’t want to do it. Don’t give anybody else any excuses. I would rather see a horrible, horrible video produced online than somebody sitting there, watching TV, saying, “I don’t want to do that.” I celebrate creativity, I celebrate people that say, “I’m going to go up and do this.” Without getting too into it, looking back on it, I realized that it was the same kind of drive in me that I apply to other things. That night, I could have read a book, gone to sleep, gone back to the Strip. I didn’t, I chose to do something that was hard and shoot that video. It sure paid off, for me. It was well worth every second, to be there and to be doing that. Yeah, pretty cool tie in, Clem. Nice work.

Clem Harrod:
Yeah, buddy.

Richard Dunn:
Nice work.

Clem Harrod:
Even with all of it. You did some tying back, some call backs to some of your life experiences as well. You worked for free, in order to get that paid gig on that second show.

Richard Dunn:
Yeah.

Clem Harrod:
You drove down to Orlando and you worked that whole summer, selling light up toys, in order to get that gig the next summer.

Richard Dunn:
Yeah.

Clem Harrod:
Sometimes, we have to make sacrifices in order to get where we want to go. It’s evident that you were able to do that. That’s great.

Richard Dunn:
Yeah, I mean, some of the younger folks, I love talking to them and just setting their expectations straight. Be thrilled that you’re in the industry. Get experience, work for free, go to your local theater. Don’t let the paycheck be the first thing out of your mouth. Even when I did get the tech job at Disney, the first thing I did, at 6:30 in the morning, every morning, at the Castle stage at the Magic Kingdom was sweep. I spent a half hour sweeping the stage, and did very untechnical things, but I loved it. I was there, I was getting the experience. You know, just get the show hours under your belt.

Again, volunteer at your church, go to your local theater. It’ll get to a point where you’re going to wake up one day and say, “I know what I’m doing. I can do this.” Then you have something to offer. I just find a lot of people put the cart way before the horse nowadays. I’m not trumping that you’ve got to pay your dues, and blah blah blah. There’s a lot of truth to that. Enjoy the moment, enjoy being there. I remember putting my name tag on for the first day thinking, “This is a victory for me.” Then I went and I swept the stage.

Clem Harrod:
Yeah.

Richard Dunn:
Anyway, it’s worth the effort, man. I wouldn’t trade a day of it. That’s for sure.

Clem Harrod:
On that note, man, let’s seize the day and give back.

Richard Dunn:
Seize the day, man.

Stephen Bowles:
Richard Dunn, thank you so much for everything, man. This has been awesome. If anybody wants to see or hear … Actually, there’s a really cool behind the scenes video too. We’ll make sure we’ve put both of those videos in the show notes for this episode. Richard, thanks again man, this was absolutely awesome. Appreciate it.

Richard Dunn:
Love you guys, it’s awesome. Appreciate everything we’ve been through and thanks for the invite today.

Clem Harrod:
Any time, buddy.

Stephen Bowles:
For Clem and I, this is the Production Channel. Again, stay tuned. We’ll be bringing you the very best from everything in the industry. Everything from audio, video, lights, media server, worship, producing. That’s what we want to do. We want to bring you this kind of stuff. We want you to listen to it when you’re backstage, or in between your bio breaks, or when you’re getting ready to go on a full day travel. Check back in to ProductionChannel.com, you’ll find the latest and greatest.

With that, thank you gentlemen. See you guys next time.

Clem Harrod:
Chatter!

Learn more about Shoflo at https://shoflo.tv
Learn more about clemco.av at https://www.facebook.com/CLEMCO.AV/
Freidn richard dunn at https://www.facebook.com/richard.dunn.735507

Signup

Production Channel Newsletter

More from our blog

See all posts

Signup

Production Channel Newsletter