[PODCAST EP02] Production Touring vs Church Production w/ Andrew Stone
In Episode 2, Stephen Bowles of Shoflo and Clem Harrod of CLEMCO.AV interview Andrew Stone on his switch from live production touring to Church Production. He explains that during a tour, you go from city to city giving thousands of people the same experience in different venues. Working in church production, however, you stay in the same venue with the challenge of keeping things fresh on a weekly basis for one congregation. He states, “We do have to figure out how to make the content and the experience of what’s hitting people in the seats be unique and exciting, enough so that they want to come back next week and repeat it. That’s a challenge.”
His new calling came from out of the blue about 12 years ago. Life was about to change for concert touring manager, Andrew Stone. He was suddenly contacted by a music director friend from a church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Andrew was asked to consult on some ideas they were tossing around to make the church service more inviting, and after listening to their pitch, he ended up being the guy to help make these ideas come to fruition. Andrew realized, “This is a medium that is going to be huge, and these guys are wanting to embrace it and see if it can be a life-changing effort.” In 2005, Andrew Stone became the production manager for Church on the Move, a place of worship where church-goers can attend services and events resembling state-of-the-art live concerts.
At Church on the Move, the production timeline for the week takes on a “Tuesday to Sunday” mentality. The church production team starts planning the creative core of their service on Tuesday, and they are “show ready” by Friday. Saturday is a big day where the church volunteers are incorporated and immersed in the plan for final show execution on Sunday. “We’ve got live feeds going on between campuses, back and forth and open COM channels…all that technology comes into play.” Each campus is fiber connected so sending high quality, HD video and multichannel audio and COM can be easily synched, and all locations can stay in communication. Andrew explains how training crew volunteers opened his eyes to a different type of leadership. Since he came from the rough and tumble life of the concert world, he had to consider the alternative environment and have a more passionate frame of mind leading in the worship realm. “I had to get into a pastoring mindset, not only for myself, but in order to lead my team and to help cultivate them…I needed to relax a little bit. I needed to be a little more sensitive on some subjects.” Not only does Andrew lead a crew, he’s a mentor and a teacher, and he takes that role very seriously.
With an office full of gold records and his fond memories of touring on the road, he simply hopes “The legacy for me, I literally want people to say ‘That guy led us well. That’s it.’” He knows he had great mentors when he started in the concert business, and he says “I owe it to the universe, to God, to whatever, to try and do the same thing to the guys I’m around now.” Andrew tells Stephen and Clem how grateful he is for the opportunity to speak with The Production Channel about his experiences. “My only hope is that somebody listens to this, who this resonates with, because every single day there is something to be learned about how we can do this better and how we can be a bigger part of reaching people and being an example to them.”
Join in the fellowship as Stephen and Clem discuss Andrew’s passion for passing on the weekly word of God to people of all ages in this modern, quick-paced, HD world.
Full Podcast Transcript
Hey everybody. My name’s Stephen Bowles, founder of Shoflo and I’m here on another episode of the Production Channel. I’m joined by my good friend Clem Harrod. What up Clem?
Chatter. What’s going on [Bowlsey 00:00:20]?
Hey man. Not much. I’m excited about today because we get to change it up a little bit. The last couple of weeks we’ve been talking with lighting designers and video directors and audio but today we’re actually going to venture over into another side of the industry.
It’s all the same industry, production. Whether that’s worship, broadcast tour, et cetera but today we actually get to bump over into worship. Before we do that, real quick Clem, for those who are joining us first time this week, what are we doing here? What is the Production Channel?
The Production Channel is just a place for people of like mind in this industry to be exposed to more than just our individual channels. I’m a video guy. We have some audio people. We have some lighting people. This is just a forum, an open forum for us to just discuss our industry, our lives, challenges we face and an opportunity for us to grow and expand our knowledge to make sure that our lives are better.
I love it. It’s perfect. Yeah. At the end of the day we just want a place for our industry to be able to get together and talk. Our industry’s bigger than ourselves. It’s bigger than the backstage of one ballroom in the middle of Las Vegas, or in a broadcast newsroom, or in a church. It’s bigger than that.
That’s what we’re all about today. Again, that is why I’m excited to have my good friend Andrew Stone on today, he’s our guest. Andrew is a production manager with Church on the Move. Andrew’s really unique. He’s got actually, 25 years of experience, both in touring and honestly now, he’s really taken this industry of worship and churches and how they’re really bringing this production value that is commonly seen as, “Eh. Churches, they try to PowerPoint. They have a screen,” et cetera.
Now, Andrew’s lead with Church on the Move, that industry, to really see that a little differently. I’ll let him tell you about it but just really excited to have you today Andrew. Welcome buddy.
Man, thank you so much. Glad to be here. Glad to discuss some of these really important topics to me. This is stuff that’s really important to me. I’m glad the form exists to do it.
Yep. Okay, cool. Let’s kick it off. Andrew, I mentioned you guys, or you in particular, have some background in touring. Tell me a little bit about that. Where did you get started and how did you make the switch over to Church on the Move?
It was one of those crazy things where, again, it wasn’t on my radar, at all. It was just, I was raised in church, in a Christian home and all that, so that was great. This was around, I started at Church on the Move in 2005. I’ve been here now for, what, that’s going on 12 years.
I had an old friend of mine that I had toured with that called me out of the blue. I hadn’t talked to him in 15 years. He worked here at Church on the Move in Tulsa. He was a music director and he just said, “We’ve got some issues. We’ve got some problems. We’re trying to look for the right people,” et cetera, et cetera, “Would you be someone we could talk with, just to get some ideas?” Kind of a consulting thing.
I was like, “Sure. That’s great.” I come in, we meet up and all of a sudden, I don’t know, it hit me like a ton of bricks, that this place was poised to do exactly what I had been doing while touring all of these years, in a big, big way. They had big plans. They’re in the middle of the Midwest. This is nowhere. Why would this … This is nowhere cool but they had plans on how they were going to make a difference in people’s lives and grow and do big stuff.
Over a few weeks of just getting to know them and trying to help, it became clear that, “Hey Andrew, what you consider, maybe you’re the guy we’re looking for? Instead of you trying to help us find a guy, maybe you’re the guy.” It was some hard decisions on my part because I was trying to change a way of thinking. Church wasn’t on my radar. It wasn’t.
This is not where you go to be successful in the production business. This is not the entertainment business. What are you talking about? All of a sudden I realized that man, this is a medium that is going to be huge and these guys are wanting to embrace it and see if it can be a life-changing effort. It was a-
Question for you on that stuff would be, when you’re looking at your experiences in the tour, things like that, out in the world, taking that then into the church venue setup from a technology and production set of things, what’s it like to work in the same venue week after week? What do you guys find are those technical challenges?
I guess, in general, tell us a little bit about your setup. Give us a little bit of idea of what your production setup is and then how often do you guys shuffle that and do different production approaches from week to week?
Yeah, because the difference for us is we’re constantly traveling so we’re in a new venue all of the time like you were with the touring but you’re in the same place, all of the time.
There’s some cool parts to that. The thing I liked most about touring was we had our family. We had our stuff. We had our trucks and our buses and all of our stuff. We would make it happen at every different venue and there was a challenge every day because the four walls changed but our container … The container changed but what we had in it, didn’t.
There was a challenge there to give the fans the same experience as the fans the night before, even though we had a different building and different acoustics and different issues and different locale and different crowd and all of that. Okay. I loved that part. That was the biggest change when I started working at a church in going, “These are the same people every single day, so somewhere this is going to start to suck a little bit. How are we going to make this interesting?”
That is the challenge now, is, “Okay, I don’t have to hang PA and new lights every day but we do have to figure out how to make the content and the experience of what’s hitting people in the seats, be unique and exciting, enough so that they want to come back next week and repeat it. That’s a challenge.
Our setup is based around that. The thing that I was tasked with when I came here was, and we’re not pushing so much in this way now, but when I started here was, we want to make our experience as close to a concert level experience as you could have, in a church. In 2005 nobody was doing. That just wasn’t … Now it’s the trend, in that you could find that similar vibe in a lot of places.
2005, it was a really happening much yet. A few places perhaps. For me, I was going, “Well, that’s all I know how to do, is produce concerts, so this is going to work out. Let’s try this.” We built our teams and systems and rig in all of our venues over time, to do that, to be a concert level experience. The similar volume level. The similar lighting show. The similar infrastructure.
The similar stage set up, even down to the way we just pin a stage is exactly what you’d have on a tour, meaning that it’s very agile. You can change it and move stuff and adjust stuff and fly stuff in and out very quickly, week to week, like you would have on tour. Everything’s on motors. Everything is, it’s like an erector set. It can all go together different ways, week to week. That’s how we try to attack it from the production side.
It’s all A-level high-end gear and it’s in A-level staff that we’ve put a lot of effort into training and putting a lot of time into our team and our volunteers and how we can raise them up to a higher level that’s actually more what you’d find on the road.
Yeah. That’s what I was going to ask you because going from the road in that tour life, you obviously get exposed to a lot of nuances and a lot of different lifestyles that you may not want to be part of or know aren’t in your best interest, long-term.
When you’re bringing in, because, like you’re saying, I started up in the church as well and you’re around people who are trying to help you to be better, not just better at this craft but better people overall, what challenges did you face in changing your mindset to that type of environment and then training up people to have a more passionate mindset toward this task that we’re doing?
Man Clem, that’s a great point and that’s a great question. You’re exactly right. In fact, you take me and my time on the road, I was generally the loan Christian a lot of times, on some tours. Oddly enough, you get on some tours though and you’d find out that there’s a whole team of guys who are all believers and very strict in their faith. You would have never thought that. Just by the way they looked and all that, you’d think they were Devil worshipers or something, so I thought I was pretty centered.
I come to church and I realize that I am the crazy dude that has got a lot of rough edges and I’m thinking, “Man, I believe in Jesus and I’m saved. Man, this is going to be great.” All of a sudden I realized that these people were on a whole different level, not that they were better than me, but they’d been in church and a lot of them started as …
At this church, there were a lot of people on staff that started here as children. They were in the kids’ church and they’ve been here their entire life, being cultivated and hearing the word every single week. That wasn’t me. I wasn’t on that level at all. All the sudden I realize that, “Man, I’m in a place of leadership. I’ve got to really get serious about the … ” and I am by no means calling myself a Pastor, I’m not. I am not that but I had to get a pastoring mindset, not only for myself but in order to lead my team and to help cultivate them because I started with a team that was pretty beat up.
It wasn’t big. It was just a few people and they were beat up. They really had been through some crap. They hadn’t been taken care of and it hadn’t been cultivated and it wasn’t good. I had the box of discarded toys that we had to, “Okay let’s … Can we build this thing back up into something great?” but it took a while and it started with me.
I had to get my attitude right and I had to understand that this was a church and things were going to flow a little differently. Sensitivities were a little different than they were on the road. Everybody was rough and tumble on the road. Here, I needed to relax a little bit. I needed to be a little more sensitive on some subjects. Here’s the thing, I had to embrace the volunteer mindset. That was a big deal.
I honestly couldn’t understand who all these weird people were hanging around all the time. They were-
Clem Harrod: You mean you’re not getting paid for this?
Andrew Stone: Yeah. For real.
Stephen Bowles: Right.
Andrew Stone: I-
Stephen Bowles: They’re not complaining about their day rate all day long?
Andrew Stone: Man, seriously. Where’s catering and all that? No. Nobody’s doing that. They’re-
Stephen Bowles: Where’s my BFC?
Yes. I couldn’t get it and I was trying to be genuine and be honoring to these people who were showing up. I was trying to pay them like, “Hey, we need some welding. We’re trying to build some stuff backstage. I’ll take care of you. I’ll pay you for the day,” just what you would do on the road. I was offending everybody because they were just like, “Who’s the guy trying to pay everybody?” It was me trying to honor them but I had no idea that wasn’t what they were here for. The honor-
Clem Harrod: Yeah. You’re honoring them by allowing-
Andrew Stone: Yes.
Clem Harrod: Them the opportunity to learn-
Andrew Stone: To serve.
Clem Harrod: How to do this.
Andrew Stone: That’s right.
Andrew, just tell me a little bit about what does it look like. What his Church on the Move’s setup? You guys have got multiple campuses. Just to put something on like that and have lights, audio, video, the whole enchilada, what’s that look like week to week? How do you get that accomplished on the weekly?
Yeah. What’s interesting about our setup is we have a huge focus on the production side, which isn’t … You could have a lot of gear but we’re really focused on the creative and production elements and how they come together. We think that’s a huge part of our influence and the experience that we can provide for the people coming into our buildings. We do that.
Then, just real quickly, our trajectory starting Tuesday, if it was on a graph, it would start low on Tuesday and it would raise up to 100% by Friday. We’re on a trajectory where it’s all about the weekend in our world. It’s just real easy. Tuesday is planning and starting to get our head around what we’re going to do. Maybe maintenance repairing stuff that needs repair from the previous weeks or weekends.
Wednesday starts rehearsal stuff. Thursday we start getting into programming and fleshing out and building up our flow of how we’re going to do this stuff. Friday is our finish day. Today is a Friday, so everywhere, we’re doing the final mastering on all of our audio segments. We are doing our final polish on all of the lighting tweaks. We’re laying out all of our different queuing and all of that stuff that we do from our video graphics and all of that.
We’re getting all of that ready to go and what we call show ready, on a Friday. Then, we come in on Saturday and we start working with volunteers. That’s where we come in and now we’ve got all the stuff ready to go. We’ve set the table, basically. We’ve got information that’s in front of everybody, however they need it and whatever form it needs to be for the teams and canvases.
That’s where our arms are wide open and we pull in our volunteers and pull them into the immersion of what we’re going to do. Then, we focus on execution, a high level of execution for all of the services at all the venues. A lot of people are familiar with the same thing. We’ve got live feeds going between campuses, back and forth and open COM channels between campuses and venues and rooms and all that. All that technology comes into play but that’s how we function.
We get to Sunday, we get it all done, everything’s uploaded, all the broadcast stuff’s been archived, everything’s done and then we exhale and know that you’ve got a Sabbath the next day and then we do it again.
Tell us about that technical back and forth between campuses. How do you guys do it? Are you doing fiber between the two? Are you doing live streams? Then, yeah, let’s just nerd out on it. How do you get COM, audio and video back and forth? How do you synchronize it all?
Man, I took a lot of cues from the guys at Northpoint in Atlanta. Years and years ago before a lot of us were messing with this, they had started building a really cool network between the campuses they were building, all based on dark fiber and fiber connectivity in their city. Atlanta is pretty tech savvy, so they have a lot of that available.
Well, lo and behold, Tulsa did too, believe it or not. There’s fiber links from several different vendors all around where we go. We’re fiber connected to the different locations. Just between our locations on campus, we’ve got two main venues on our campus that are separated by a pretty great distance but we’ve put in fiber connectivity between all of those so we can send high-quality video, HD video and multichannel audio, multichannel COM communication back and forth, through all of that.
We don’t have to do any streaming technology to actually transfer information. It’s all HD quality stuff, high bit rate, all that. That is, we’re fortunate, so we’re sending very high quality. One of our COM channels is a party line, so I can pick up the COM and talk directly to the tech directors at any venue.
Clem Harrod: Production Channel.
Stephen Bowles: Production Channel.
I’m telling you and we all hear each other but that’s how we can stay in unison on how we’re going to keep our queuing together because we do have a time slip ability at the other campuses. When we go live with our message, typically it’s just the message originating from the main campus that gets sent to the other ones.
Every now and then, there’s a big, cool opener, or some other element that we’re trying to do, or maybe a common communion time, or something like that, but most of the time, it’s just this speaking. I think that’s pretty normal for most places but those are things that we need to stay in sync on. There is a lot of communication that we need to do at certain times in the event where I need everybody to be on the same page. That also helps us.
The knowledge hub is at the main campus, so if one of the other places is having a technical problem, we’ve typically got people here that can get COM and help walking through it or something. That’s just how that lays out. Then, we’ve split out, we’ve got other COM channels obviously, that aren’t talking to everybody. Just like you would have video and the production two channel. All the venues have their own channels so they can just talk to their team without being on the party line. Anyway.
There is a VOG, which is the Voice of God, maybe I should call it the Voice of Andrew, thing what you can pick up the COM and talk globally to everybody.
Clem Harrod: Yeah. Don’t be blasphemous with it.
Andrew Stone: Yeah. No kidding.
Clem Harrod: You can’t do that in the church.
Andrew Stone: It’s a little G, right? It’s a VO, little G.
Clem Harrod: No false gods. No false gods.
It’s actually really simple. We try to stay in sync with just all the typical stuff you would normally find in most other large places. For the most part man, I’m not saying it’s flawless, but it’s tried-and-true systems that we have tried to make as simple as we can and really, for the sake of our volunteers, so they can come in and embrace what we’re doing and embrace the technology to a certain degree and run with it.
We’ve tried to just figure it out in the best way possible and we’re also trying to think of it from the people sitting in the seats on the other end. Would they rather look at an image, an HD image, that we figured out how to send over fiber or would they rather look at a stream that sometimes is going to have some stream glitches and stuff like that?
For us here, we had the fiber available. It was worth us figuring out how to do the encoding and decoding and make it work. That’s not available at every location, so everybody can’t do that, but for us, it worked out really cool.
It almost sounds like you’re, to liken it to the event world, where you have your team that’s a part of production meetings throughout the week, your staff, that is. They’re going through creative, going through concept. Even potentially going through load-in in the initial tech rehearsals. Then, all of a sudden, you’ve got this other show-op, or for your case a volunteer, who steps in day of, does those last-second rehearsals for the morning and then actually runs the show.
Andrew Stone: That’s exactly it.
Which is a different … We would never do that. We would never do that in more of our traditional live event production approach. You would say, “Hey, if I’m going to actually direct the cameras or call the cameras for the IMAG, I’m there for the whole week.”
Andrew Stone: That’s right.
Stephen Bowles: All the rehearsals, all the tech rehearsals, all the way through.
Andrew Stone: That is exactly-
Stephen Bowles: I wouldn’t ever let somebody step in last second and actually hit the buttons, call the cameras.
Andrew Stone: Right. That’s a-
Stephen Bowles: That’s a very different thing.
That’s a thing that … Man, honestly that took me a while to get my head around because I was doing it the way you described. That’s the normal thing, right? If we’re going to go do a big rock show, or a country show, or whatever, you’re going to rehearse the whole time and get your chops as good as you can and then you’re going to execute. That’s how it goes.
Here, we’re trying to figure out, how can I make this so seamless to transfer some of these thoughts and vision and part behind what we’re doing to someone who just walked in the door and hasn’t been here for six days? They’ve not been thinking about this for six days, I have.
There’s a challenge because a lot of our … As technical people, our identity is wrapped up in what we do, which isn’t healthy but that’s what happens. You think about it. How many people do you know in the industry that they are known as Andrew the touring guy? They’re not known as Andrew the great husband or Andrew the spiritual leader, Jim the amazing lighting designer. That becomes your identity and that’s really hard to live up to-
Sorry to interrupt you. As you are saying that, I’m totally envisioning, why can’t that be someone’s title? Then, be like, “Oh, and by the way, he’s a great projectionist.”
Andrew Stone: Yes.
Clem Harrod: You know?
Andrew Stone: Yes.
Why can’t it be like, “That’s so and so. He’s a great husband. He’s a great person to talk to when we’re off the clock. He’s a great motivator, inspirer and by the way, he is the LD,” or the A1, or even the A2, or a stagehand, whatever, “He’s that person that you have to have on your show because he gives his all.”
Man, why don’t we make sure we’re healthy in our head, and our hearts, in our spirit and thinking about this the right way? Versus, how can I go have the coolest mix this week?” That will come. I’m confident that will come. God’s not going to … He didn’t set me up to lose but I think he wants something more for me, that’s something I can carry my whole life.
I’m not somewhere … I’m sitting in an office and I’ve got gold records all the way around the room. That’s great. I’ve got to mix a lot of stuff, cool. Who cares? At some point I’m not going to hear as well as I used to and I’m not going to be able to go do this to this degree. My eyesight will start failing. My arthritis will kick in. It will be hard to run a chain motor. Who cares?
What have I done to influence people? What have I done to help people? What kind of a husband have I been? Did I take care of my family the right way? Did I protect my heart? That becomes this great balance and this balancing act of, how can you do all this stuff? I fail at this all the time. This is a constant thing that I have to keep in front of me or it will just go the wrong way immediately but if I take care of the stuff in front of me, the spiritual side, the who Andrew is as a person, the other stuff then comes real easily.
I find that I don’t have to work nearly as hard to go put together and help produce a live event, or execute a live event, or put together all that stuff. It flows out of it. Does that make sense? Because the other stuff is together. I do not mean that I’ve got it all together because I don’t. I’m just saying, I’ve tried to change the focus a little bit on what’s important to me.
So, Andrew Stone. Andrew Stone, I have a question for you as we wrap this up. What do you want your legacy to be?
You know what? The legacy for me, I literally want people to say, “That guy led us well.” That’s it. I haven’t listened to a record I’ve mixed in in years and … I don’t even care. It doesn’t matter. Those were great at the time and it was what I did but I don’t care.
I don’t walk around with a resume of backstage passes hanging around my neck anymore. You’ve met those guys who walk in with every credential they’ve ever had in their life, on their neck. I don’t have a bunch of pictures of cool shows we’ve done on my phone. That’s all great and I love it but I want other people to be like, “He kept us grounded and he led us well and I became better because he was around.”
That to me, would be great, because that means that you were able to mentor someone and you were able to pour into them something that I had. I had people in my life early on that I did not deserve the chances I got. I didn’t deserve it. Several people I could think of a particular who we’re old touring salts. They’ve got a lot of stuff. They’ve done everything in they’re not impressed by anything anymore.
You’ve got those people, they’ve just done so much it’s all cool. They let me fail miserably but with guidance, if that makes sense, because they knew that I would get it and that I would need that as a training tool. That was huge to me and they poured into me in ways that I could never repay. I didn’t know it at the time but I know it now. I look back and go, “Man, those guys were mentors.” I didn’t even know what a mentor was in my 20s.
I had no idea what that was but I look at it now and go, “I owe it to the universe, to God, to whatever, to try and do the same thing to the guys that I’m around now.” That’s what I would hope. If there was any kind of legacy, I hope that I led you well and I inspired you well, to become better than I was. That to me, is awesome.
I don’t think I’m ever going to go in an old folk’s home. I’d rather have an old RV and be sitting beside an ocean somewhere but I would love to see people that I got to work with that have gone on to carry the torch and do it even cooler then I could have with it. That would be the most satisfied feeling I could think of.
Andrew, I just can’t thank you enough. This was awesome man. You delivered gold as I knew you would. Not only just in your position of leadership, inside of your church and inside of Church on the Move, but also, there is. There’s a lot that the greater production industry can pull from that in terms of behavior, in terms of approach to the experience, or to the production, or to the show, depending on what you’re coming at it from and what industry, but there’s a lot there to be had.
I think that what you’ve gone through personally, just in that switch from touring to Church on the Move, and the insights of the stuff that you’ve learned already, is huge. Thank you Andrew. I really appreciate your time today.
Man, thanks for having me on. This has been great to discuss some of this stuff. My only hope is that somebody listens to this who this resonates with because every single day there is something to be learned about how we can do this better and how we can be a bigger part of reaching people and being an example to them. Thanks for having me on to talk about it.
You bet you. All right. For everybody else, thanks again. If you know anybody out there that has a really great story, something to share, please reach out to Clem or to I individually, or find us at Production Channel. The point is, we want to bring awesome stories to this industry. That’s what we’re all about.
Next time you’re flying from gig to gig, or preparing for your next event or show, or news gathering, whatever it is and you’ve got an extra moment, please tune into the Production Channel. That said, I appreciate it Clem. Thank you sir.
Clem Harrod: Always a pleasure. Always a pleasure.
Stephen Bowles: We will see you guys next week on the Production Channel.