Story Conference

Posted on August 19th, 2019

Revisiting one of my favorite Production Design memories - Story Conference 2012
This is from my Production Design Training slide deck. I ask questions like these when I’m designing:
  • What is the desired vibe?
  • What resources do I have in storage that I can reuse?
  • What can fit in my minivan to transport from Detroit to Chicago?
  • How can it look like it has more depth than the very shallow stage actually has?
  • Who is the crew? What are their skills and talents and passions? Do they want a challenge?
The journey to get to from concept to actual design (including materials list, rigging notes, lighting plot, setup checklist, and rendering of vision) took a lot of iteration. It required lots of emails including scanned sketches and study of blueprints of venue that I was out of town and not able to do an in-person site-survey. We also utilized video conferencing for "face-to-face collaboration between Executive Producer, Production Manager, and myself, the Production Designer) including screen-sharing and digital sketching. The most interesting development was the week-of donation of an LED screen that let us gain a lot of stage space because of the throw distance not being required; which was great for the final product, but required some last minute adaptability in redesign of all the rigging and the lighting plot. One of the key layers of this design that wasn’t there when I arrived at the venue was four lekos with abstract gobos. I pushed way hard for the day of rehearsal that our PM managed to find a way to procure the morning of the conference was some theatrical gobos to throw textural light at the curtains. Sometimes it's the simple, old-school, theatrical tricks that really create the mood and set the tone for the experience. When the team saw them turn on only minutes before doors opened, they realized why I was pushing so hard for such. Magical!*this post adapted from my post in September 2012. Feel free to look it up for greater detail and explanation of choices.


Ward Planning Process

Posted on August 18th, 2019


As the Creative Director, I’m responsible for leading us in the tactical now, the strategic near, and the vision of what we’re steering toward.

Now - Every weekend we have another event! I’m responsible for everything that is presented in each of our 3 venues.
  • I directly lead the Worship Directors to lead the art and presentation in each of their venues.
  • I lead the Production Department to support and enhance the art and communication with excellence - not only for the live experience, but also the broadcast audience web streaming and listening to radio.
  • I am coaching the hosts and teachers in navigating transitions and delivering their content with authenticity, tone, and clarity.
  • We’re always iterating and we’ll make any audible to the plan necessary to better tell the story and inspire life.
Near - We have Production Meetings every Monday. We break the meeting into three parts:
  • 3-Weeks-Out - PCO (our online production order and scheduling tool) 60% - The production order is mapped out with at least placeholder elements ("Song 3" or "Focus") in place to estimate timing of the day. Casting roles band/vocal positions are slotted.
  • 2-Weeks-Out - 85% - Order is filled in with specific song names and intended feel of moment in Producer column. Casting of band/vocalists is scheduled.
  • Week-Of - 95% - Order is detailed with who is leading each moment and talking points are outlined. Arrangements for every song is uploaded with accurate detail of what will be rehearsed. (If a change is realized during rehearsal; that’s totally fine, but we communicate any alterations by noon on Thursday) Musician backline support requests are fully detailed with what they want from Ward and what they’re brining.
Far - In the winter and spring, we begin mapping out the following year.
  • We try to maintain a road-map that is over a year in advance. I have created a master document for every event (weekends and special event) that happens in our main venues.
  • By 12-weeks-out, I work with the lead teacher for each event to write a paragraph of vision for the narrative of the experience, the angle of the teaching, and the hope for response. I’m also working with our Executive Staff and key Directors to make sure that we know any necessary elements, promotions, or calendar notes that must be factored in to the planning.
  • I have lead us to be 12-weeks-out in that "treatment" that we can plan from. I lead our team in a meeting where we look at each sermon series and we brainstorm ideas we might plan. We fill up the whiteboard with ideas, sketches, stickie notes, and optimism.
  • I followup with our Worship Directors and Lead Teacher and we hone in on what we want to develop. Storyboarding, writing, "braintrusting", re-writing, producing, designing, ordering, shooting, editing, prototyping, etc.


Invent the new, Break paradigms, Strive for magic

Posted on August 16th, 2019

A repost originally from 5 years ago:

Invent the new - artistically, with technology, and by helping people realize a better process.
Break paradigms - dare to bend the implications of what people think they know.
Strive for magic in relationship between technology and art.

(August 28, 2014)

Bend The Curve

Posted on August 8th, 2019

At Global Leadership Summit today. Craig Groeschell with the first keynote on leadership influence:
"Bend The Curve" rethinking traditional ROI cost:quality graph. The ideas are available if we have the courage. Innovate.
Make it better; offer hope; change the world.

Leadership and Design Principles

Posted on August 1st, 2019

Create excellent systems and ideal processes to best support a brilliant team.
Intentionally develop what is usable and useful by focusing on the end experience.
Imagine the experiencer’s situational hopes and needs; then dream further about how to care for what they don’t even yet realize would be better.
Empathize with the misfits of society; never settle in curating only for those in the middle of the bell curve.
Design for humanity.
Strive for justice and peace.
Love everyone along the journey.
Consider every perspective.
Pursue sustainable excellence.
Refine continually.
Enhance the good; discard the clumsy; innovate the untapped potential.
Illuminate the future; building toward virtuous legacy and health for all.
Pioneer possibilities.
Optimistically always forge ahead.
Be ambassadors of hope and beauty.
Value effective as well as efficient.
Multiply intuition and knowledge.
Relentlessly pursue the greatest intersection of stewardship and creativity.
Coach and reveal beauty to enhance story and experience.
Maximize ideation and strategy.

Connected Hunches = Progress of Ideation

Posted on July 29th, 2019

"Chance favors the connected mind."

Jessica shared this video with me. https://youtu.be/NugRZGDbPFU I do indeed find it fascinating and encouraging.

Anyone who wants to meet up for some ideation over coffee, hit me up!

Measurements of Good Design

Posted on July 17th, 2019

What are "measurements" that we can use to determine what "good" design (or etc.) is?

Attendance? Giving? What else? Certainly engagement - with those who interact with the design…

It’s usually obvious when something is good...

Progress Requires Disruption

Posted on July 14th, 2019

Creative disruption is a beautifully healthy thing. It freaks out the status quo folks, but we would wither without the artists and leaders.

"It is the business of the future to be dangerous. The major advances in civilization are processes that all but week the societies in which they occur."
-Alfred North Whitehead

hope-filled collaborative-leadership

Posted on July 11th, 2019

Contemplating the virtue of hope-filled, collaborative-leadership, seasoned with authentic ownership and light humor to keep from having his progressive thinking turn too many people off to the ideas bringing forward…
I love such a leadership model. Instead of doing things the way that they have always been done, I want to help people work for the win-win of problems being solved using current common-sense and strategizing also with future hopes. I know that this is something I want to keep working on as far as what our approach to venues is and how we grow in preparation for the season to come.

Macro:Planning::Micro:Progress

Posted on July 5th, 2019

"When making plans, think big. When making progress, think small."
-James Clear

Eric Wolfe

Visual Artist and Leader. Production Designer and Consultant. Developer of Ideas. Maximizer of Resources. Strategic Thinker. Creative Innovator. Husband. Father. Philosopher. Photographer. Backpacker. Athlete. Cook. Artisan. He shares thoughts here about all of the above. He would love to connect to partner in coaching and revealing beauty to enhance story and experience. Please do reach out!