On September 19, 2020, I had the privilege of working with a group of true professionals, folks committed to the quality of their work and the expectation of what they would bring to the project: selflessness, generosity, kindness, toughness, work ethic and the “never give up” attitude (never give up is, actually, my personal mantra!). The event was LACASA Center’s (www.lacasacenter.org) annual Denim & Diamonds Poker Run Fundraiser. LACASA is a non-profit whose mission is to serve adults and children who have been abused, neglected, are in a dangerous situation or need help with life skills, like parenting, anger management etc. How the Denim & Diamonds 2020 event evolved is a good story, so I’m using it as my first blog post.
Normally the Denim & Diamonds event is a sit-down dinner affair for LACASA’s donors, with entertainment, a raffle, prizes and such. But this year, Director of Development Gerie Greenspan started thinking out of the box. She wanted to do something different. Being long-time friends with a professional relationship as well, Gerie called to ask me if I would like to be involved in the project. I was interested, but needed more information, like, “what are you doing?” We had lunch and started hacking it out. Gerie had lots of ideas but they needed to be streamlined, and the technical aspects discussed. The shortened version went something like this:
- Gerie: I’m thinking of an outdoor, country event, where the Poker Run ends up at this big ranch owned by some of our donors, around 6:00pm. Then there would be music, maybe a live band, and food, and a raffle, and this Diamond Mine game that’s new this year, and then I thought it would be cool if we could record it on video and stream it to our YouTube channel, and. . .
- Christina: Wait, wait, wait! When did you say this event is? The 29th? That’s only three weeks away!
- Gerie: Yes, but we have a lot of hands on deck, and people willing to create content and do the legwork.
- Christina: Well, OK, OK, hmmm. But this is going to be a LOT of work. I mean, what if it rains? Is there going to be a stage? A roof over the stage? And who is the band gonna be? And, really, if the streaming part starts at 7:30, it’s gonna be dark. We will need lighting. . .
- Gerie: Oh, right. I didn’t think about lighting. Well, maybe Jacques could bring in some lights.
- Christina: Yeah, and we’ll need a PA system, for the live audience.
- Gerie: Steven knows some guys and I think they are bringing the sound system. And I thought you could be the videographer. . .
- Christina: I can’t be the videographer, I have to be the streaming engineer. Man, Gerie, this is biting off a lot in such a short time frame.
- Gerie: Steven and Gwen Haggerty Bearden are excited to help with this project, and Steven really wants to be involved in the production. I think they will be awesome to work with.
- Christina: OK, how about this. I talk with Jacques about it, we come up with a plan and a soft (rough) budget proposal. Our company, Day & Night Media, can co-produce and direct the event along with you and Steven. Would that work, to get this thing going? Time is of the essence!
And time really is the essence in most of the shows we’ve produced. People tend to come up with ideas late in the game and projects tend to evolve. It’s important to have a production schedule that at a certain point becomes firm (e.g. no more additions/changes). In the case of the LACASA event, ideas were being developed and discussions about how to get them implemented were being had up until the last possible moment in the production schedule. The final list of elements that needed our (and other hired professionals’ help) was this:
- Outdoor event at the Haggerty-Bearden ranch. Decorate, set up, plan, mow grass etc.
- Food boxes catered and delivered to the donor guests.
- A sound stage with a roof delivered and set up.
- A sound system for the audience and the band delivered, set up and run during the show.
- A second sound truck with engineer brought in to feed the “video mix” audio to the live video hot switch, which then feeds the streaming video to the virtual audience.
- A lighting system for the stage, delivered, set up, and run.
- Supplemental lighting set up and run to get more facial highlights and coverage for video.
- 4 matching 4k video cameras with operators to capture the show.
- A camera jib (crane) with camera to get the really cool overhead and closeup shots.
- An Audio/Video truck belonging to Day and Night Media brought in to enable us to direct the cameramen via headset (Comm), capture and record the live 4k video hot switch, mix the supplemental lighting and engineer the streaming video that entertained the virtual audience, and of course transport all our gear.
- Two enormous generators to handle all the power needs.
- A very nice trailered in “outhouse” for the guests.
- Thousands of feet of fiber optic cable run to the job site to enable internet connections in our A/V truck, to send out and monitor the two hour live stream.
- 25 brand new pick-up trucks brought in for the day of the show, for the guests to rest in on hay bales and blankets while listening to the band.
- A live band, featuring national singer/songwriter Kari Holmes as the main entertainment.
- Fireworks for the end of the event at 9:45pm., (pyrotechnic pro hired).
What? That’s it? Trust me that is an awful lot of 7-P planning that needed to be done, in a ridiculously short time span. You might be asking why we would take on a gig like this, and that’s a good question. But Gerie is a good friend and we had some powerhouse Rock Stars on the production team, as well as an overall great group of people helping out with all aspects of the event.
The Rock Stars included ranch owner and event hosts Steven (and Gwen) Bearden. Steven is the kind of guy who hears or comes up with a great idea and immediately starts thinking about how to get it done, rarely entertaining the thought that it cannot be done. He has a “go for the gusto” attitude, a willingness to take on huge challenges, and we like that! Then there’s Gerie Greenspan, who has vision and talent, an incredible work ethic and the ability to organize to the very last detail, while managing a thousand things at once. Huge kudos to her for thinking up this cool event, having the guts to pursue it, and the ability to get it done. There’s Matt and Charlie (last names to come), who handled the stage, sound, lighting and all the equipment for same, adapting to changes with professionalism and ease. And finally, there’s my Rock Star husband, Jacques, who helped coordinate so many elements of the show, from what kind of generators to get, to where to set-up the camera crane, to where to put the supplemental lighting. . . Jacques hired the 4 cameramen, the jib, the additional sound engineer and his gear for the video mix, and the extra guys to help with the audio and video requirements that we had for the recording and streaming elements. He directed the cameramen while hot switching the live show and recording it all in 4K, and sending the output to me for streaming. Whew!
Then everyone pitched in to help set-up and tear-down gear pre and post-show. There were many hands on deck, and that made it a pretty nice experience. Oh-and they provided food and drinks for the crew. Always a much-appreciated bonus!
As for the show itself? Wow! I didn’t get to see it outside of the truck, but it sure looked and sounded great on screen. My favorite parts were singer Kari Holmes and her band, who did an excellent job of entertaining the audience, and the fantastic fireworks display at the end. Our camera crew was awesome, and Jacques’ live switch was the bomb! Overall, it was an amazing day in the world of production. What problems we had were solved (mostly) at the time, or saved for later. The best part of all was seeing how well everyone worked together, how every necessary cog in this complex wheel was tuned and turned to create the final product. It always feels good at the end of a show like that, when the crew is humming and all the parts are performing at their best.
Special thanks to Gerie Greenspan, Director of Development at LACASA Center in Howell, MI and Steven Bearden, the Executive Producer of this event and many others.
By Christina Mersereau