Guest Feature: Jordan Goodfellow
The last 20 years have been quite a ride. I started at a small Christian Non-Profit back in 2000 working for their touring Division as an Audio Patch guy and worked my way up to Production Management over the course of a few years. By the time I was 23, I had the privilege of managing and producing 25+ arena events all around the country every year. This catapulted me into the world of live events and really set me on a path that I had not expected at all.
Through years of rock and roll touring, I met a great friend on a one-off corporate event in Las Vegas while working for Journey in 2012 and 5 months later I had my first corporate Tour Director (TD) gig. From there it was off to the races and started going back and forth between TD and touring for 3 years before finally deciding on that corporate was going to be home for the foreseeable future.
Growing my corporate chops and my small company at the same time became my full-time Job and it was always exciting and many times very difficult. I love bringing people together through the leadership of a Tour Director by providing direction, solving problems that others do or do not see and helping the entire team accomplish a project that could not be done alone. I’ve had the privilege of doing 100 person shows in Ballrooms to 70,000 people in a stadium and the one thing I take from every job is that ultimately this work is about gear and people. Nothing else. Venues, companies, bands, they all come and go but those around you, how you work together and execute on a vision are almost always very similar. Working with a team that you love to work with and helping them be perfect together is incredibly rewarding.
When you look at a Technical Director, we are individuals who manage and execute on the vision of the Producer, Executive Producer, or end client of any event. As a TD I’m expected to provide solid and actual knowledge of all live event disciplines, including but not limited to: lighting, sound, video, special effects, scenic, and staging. If you ever want to be a TD, this is where to start.
The Technical Director is one of the most critical components of any event strategy. We’re the glue that holds it all together. When people are left to their own devices without this type of direction, they do what is most important to them in the moment rather than what benefits the entire team. I find that this isn’t a malicious tendency though – it’s a human trait and quite natural. One of the great things that I work with my teams on is seeing the big picture and making sure that they know what each part of the crew is doing and how they fit into it. As a Technical Director, I embody this extra measure of foresight in order to help humans become better humans. I always say that my job is to anticipate problems by removing physical and technical obstacles before they actually cause serious issues on site. In this way, it keeps the flow of work unobstructed so team members can move freely during the course of a live event.
Becoming a TD is more about big picture planning and foresight than it is about knowing every technical in and out of each piece of gear, however I find it necessary to learn and retain knowledge on the critical pieces to make sure you can jump in anywhere at any time and assist your team in getting the job done. At times that is exactly what they need.
Besides general oversight, we are actively involved in every step of the event process. My job begins far in advance of the physical setup of any event, spearheading the budgeting process by ascertaining how much the client is willing to invest, and then procuring the best equipment and personnel possible with the funds available to us. Many times, this involves adjusting equipment and tools to accommodate the venue my client wants and needs. I’m also responsible for the plan drawing, knowing where every piece of gear is, goes and comes from. How is the gear positioned and will it fit into the space provided? With the ability to handle Drawings you will be dead in the water as a TD.
This is all part of the Preshow process. In an ideal scenario we will visit each site prior to the show to ensure that all is in working order and that we will be able to accomplish all of the planned and laid out goals in the planned location. This also involves handling the planning, technician selection, and team assembly in preparation for the big day or days.
Finally, on site, the fun doesn’t stop! We are constantly directing every part of the setup. All equipment and staging, managing the crew as they complete each part of the process. During the show itself, a Technical Director is always present to deal with any complications that might arise and keep everything running smoothly.
Once the event has concluded, we supervise the teardown and loadout procedure and then finalize any outstanding vendor payments and wrap up loose ends or overages in the client’s budget. Conducting sunset reviews are critical as we need to know how well or poorly each part of the process went, and delineate areas for future improvement. From beginning to end, the investment of time and energy is critical for delivering outstanding results.
Moving into the role of Technical Director puts you in control of a great many things and you need to be prepared to answer questions that you may not be used to answering. If you want to be a TD, you need three main things:
A good work ethic that takes every project all the way to end no matter what it takes.
Good communication and observation skills both before and during events.
Willingness to get us and do your job. All too often I see TDs that sit in the corner and let things come to them. That doesn’t work. You are always on the offense, looking to the next step and what the team needs to do to be successful.
The Technical Director plays a pivotal role in realizing our clients vision. When people fumble their way through the event process without guidance, things fall apart rapidly and lead to a disastrous experience. Too often, department heads will label themselves as Technical Directors without realizing that they have overestimated their bandwidth. Each and every event needs an expert whose express role is to remove unforeseen obstacles and act in the best interest of everyone present. That way, team members can focus on their specific tasks and execute them with precision. Memorable events simply don’t happen by accident.