Showing all posts tagged #storychicago:


Story Conference

Posted on July 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.


Travel Light

Posted on October 6th, 2014


Last week I took a three day trip to Chicago for the Story Conference. As per normal, I choose to travel light. A few people commented on my setup so I figured I’d take a photo and share about the contents I carried on my back.
  • Arc'teryx Axios 25 Daypack - I love this backpack. I have had it for 4 years and could not be more happy with my choice to purchase it. Ask me more about this and perhaps I can dedicate a post to it…
  • One pair of pants is all you need, otherwise a complete change of clothes for each day. Additionally a pullover for chilly mornings.
  • Toiletry bag is a nice little bag from REI. Tootbrush, toothpaste, deoderant, aftershave lotion, hair wax, q-tips, bandaids, etc. My lip balm I always keep in the pen pocket for easy access.
  • I carry my Moleskine journal with me.To write in this, I use my Uni-ball 207 black .38 tip pen. I rarely ever use paper; but for the discipline of journaling I enjoy my good pen on Moleskine. I also write longhand notes to people from time to time. My wife got one from this trip.
  • I have my iPad Air. I take all my conference notes in GoodNotes with my Adonit Jot Pro.
  • My Moo business cards were in the easy access hip belt pocket.
  • Attached to the inside clip, I had my card case (swag from Story2010) for collecting business cards and receipts.
  • Attached there as well is my key fob for returning to my car on the way home.
  • In that same outside pocket, I keep my headphones and sunglasses.
  • Buried deep in the bag were my charging plugs/cables. I also have the Jackery portable charger. I was on Twitter all through the sessions and was tethering often; therefore this was a great safety net to make sure my phone stayed alive.
  • My Fugi XE-2 is a fun addition. I love using this mirrorless camera! Not able to be seen is its case which I used to prop up the backpack. I have a great portable tripod, but choose not to take it on this trip. I knew I’d be struggling for time to use it and therefore made the choice for a slightly lighter pack.
  • Finally, my Contigo Thermos. I have owned this for 7or8 some years. It’s so durable. It doesn’t spill. It keeps coffee hot through to the afternoon. When I’m done with coffee, I use it as my water bottle.
Everything I need; nothing I don’t. Travel light; enjoy the journey.

Story2012 ProductionDesign

Posted on September 25th, 2012

Our goal was to create a space where lush beauty, artistic rock n roll, cinematic storytelling, and spoken communication could challenge and inspire for a 2 day conference.
An original sponsor backed out shortly before the event. I was honored to get the call. Can I design something for this shallow stage that can carry all the unique elements planned (several keynote presentations, multiple live music performances, interviews, short films, etc.) with immersive depth and beauty? Can I create an inspiring design that can tie in to already created branding? Can we break the fourth wall into the room? Can I do it with zero purchase - using only donated/recycled material? Can I transport it from Detroit to Chicago in my minivan? Can I lead the setup and execution with a team of volunteers (most of whom are young college students with no experience) that I've never met before? Can the setup be completed in a single day?

This is the view of the room. It was actually a little bit of a bummer to cover up the windows where you could see the Chicago skyline out of the stage left window in the back depth. However, the theme was not Chicago, but rather Everywhere. We wanted to transport people to a place of imagination.

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 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 isome 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!

The following screenshots show the final design plot as well as the iteration sketches, blueprint, and in process diagrams:


Crushed Screen-door strips hung between black pipe as textured depth-of-field behind live art. Burgundy CommandoCloth (from Rose Brand) finessed into a House of Blues inspired "theatrical proscenium" finished with three cords to "tie it" into a reveal. Our center focal point is a large LED Wall. Throughout the room are 12 chandeliers. In addition to being beautiful, I wanted to include them in the design to communicate this year’s theme "Everywhere". We’re called as the Creative Class to be light to the world, the best way to go out into the world is in community; not as an individual light but as a beautiful community of oneness. Therefore I see the symbolism that each chandelier represents the 12 tribes of the historical scriptures into all the world…
Oh, and the piano, harp, and guitar in the mid-depth behind the SL interview area: I only placed that there because we had the equipment in the wings and I thought they’d look pretty.



Eric Wolfe

Creative Director and Coach. Production Designer and Consultant. Developer of Ideas. Maximizer of Resources. Strategic Thinker. Creative Innovator. Visual Artist and Leader. Husband. Father. Philosopher. Photographer. Backpacker. Athlete. Cook. Artisan. Eric 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!