Behind the Scenes: An interview with David Fortescue, Production Coordinator (Part 1)

Age: Late 20s

Location: Melbourne

Some people are fortunate enough to have been able to marry their work with their interests from the start of their career. But this hasn't come without a few risks and a lot of hustle for David Fortescue, who's the Production Coordinator at Dainty Group, the 5th largest promoter in the world. Some of the events he's been involved in run the gamut of Prince, Iron Maiden, Katy Perry, WWE and some comedy shows.

  Credit: Dainty Group

Credit: Dainty Group

This interview was jam packed with absolute gems, so we've split it into two parts. We're also trying something a bit different and have included the full audio of the interview which includes some bonus content, including David’s thoughts on:

  • The promotion industry compared to the corporate world
  • Specialising versus generalising
  • The ins and outs of how promotion companies make events work – from both an operational and dollar point of view
  • His favourite event that he’s been involved in.
  • Taking initiative to make the job work for you…including proposing a four day work week while it’s quiet at work, and having the maturity to talk to your employer when you’re unhappy, to give them the chance to fix it if possible.
  • Developing a system that works for you and the type of person you are.
  • How to negotiate an internship.

Plus our bonus little whine about ticketing and fight events.

And of course the standard disclaimer – the views expressed in this interview are the views of David in his personal capacity and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Dainty Group.

TELL ME ABOUT YOUR CAREER PATH LEADING UP TO YOUR CURRENT ROLE

After high school I completed a one year Advanced Diploma in Music and Events Management. I graduated from that and the next sort of half year I was just freelancing. One of the people who had come to speak to us at the college I annoyed incessantly until he allowed me to do some work experience with him, and then I just kept working with him as stuff came up.

He did a lot of weddings and things like that - but, like, really high end big stuff. Really fancy, half a million dollar weddings - things like that. And then one time he said, "Hey, I've got some extra money in the budget - I can pay you now." I was looking for more casual work and the AV company that this guy would often use, I just called them up and said, "Hey, if you ever just need some extra hands on a show...". And they said, "Look, we're actually looking for a full time warehouse assistance/tech - did you wanna do it?" So I thought about it and was like, "Yeah!". At the time I'd thought I probably wanted to be more involved with technology...I lasted 6 months. The employer was challenging, but I also learnt about myself as well. I understand people - you know, if they're unhappy, you ask them what's wrong, they tell you and, within reason, you fix it. Technology's just an asshole...I just didn't have the patience for it, or the interest.

So then I applied for a job at Allphones Arena [recently renamed Qudos Bank Arena] - a 20,000 person indoor arena. I started there as a junior technical assistant and worked there over the next 6 years and rose [through the ranks] to Assistant Tech Manager, the 2IC of the department. At the same time whenever I could I was trying to do other shows as well, mostly again working as site crew or a production assistant, or stuff like that. So always logistic or operational roles - basically making stuff happen as opposed to doing the stuff itself. We were the liaison for all of the physical elements between the venue and the tour - sort of like project management. When I was looking for extra things to study, project management was the sort of thing that I was looking at.

  Credit: The Daily Telegraph

Credit: The Daily Telegraph

Part of my role became a fair degree of safety, mostly because no one else wanted to do it at the time and it just gave me something to be my little differentiator. And I liked the systematic nature behind it and so it borrows a lot of elements from project management.

After six years I was getting to the point where I was wanting to move on anyway, but had signed a one year lease with my roommate. Then I got a call from the Dainty Group, asking whether I wanted to be their Production Coordinator - so providing support to the Production Manager. For me, it was the move from the supplier side to the client side - the "light side" to the "dark side". I came down [to Melbourne from Sydney] and I've been there two and a half years now.

 

WHAT DOES YOUR ROLE INVOLVE?

My role's changed along the way - as assistant to the Production Manager [it involves] drawing up all of the seating plans, developing our run sheets, assisting with that kind of stuff, helping out with Accounts, you know, general lackey work. I also drive the safety system. When we did some winery shows, I took over as Event Manager for those. And as of three days ago I've actually had ticketing added to my remit, which is interesting and exciting because I don't actually know anything about it! But I'm super keen to learn something new and to get into a different facet of the business. I've kind of always been happy to do whatever. I mean, as long as I'm learning and doing something - oh, and being paid...although sometimes not even being paid - then I don't care, I'll do whatever you need me to do. 

I can't really speak for other industries as I haven't been in them, but in my industry, lateral movement is a really big thing. Because it's a pretty niche industry and finding jobs is quite hard, there's a lot of lateral movement so people who were Event Managers become Production Managers, Production Managers become Event Managers...moving to ticketing - ticketing people move into event management. Every extra little bit of knowledge you have makes you more valuable and also just more rounded in the long run. You see it as well on the large touring end. We see guys who come through sometimes as the Tour Manager, sometimes they're the Production Manager, sometimes they're the Stage Manager...sometimes they do all of those things.

  Credit: Dainty Group

Credit: Dainty Group

One of the reasons why I really do like the job is because of the variety. I mean, you know ultimately every show has similarities, but at the same time, there's just a series of different curve balls and challenges to fix. I don't tour very often; I'm not on the floor very often - which I'm OK with.

I also like the people. Traditionally it's not one of the best paying industries and couple that with potentially some really unpleasant hours...particularly when working at a venue. But I like the niche element. Because of those challenges of this industry, it means the people who are here want to be here. So people are cool...because if they're not, they kinda just get ousted.

I think last but not least, and I guess this is one of the downsides of being not as operational, is that feeling you get when you see 20,000 people losing their minds for something that you had, even if only just a very small part of, is great. I love it...you know, that sort of tingly feeling...I really enjoy it. I genuinely believe that the industry does fulfill an important service to the community. It's a commercial endeavour, but ultimately if people want to be entertained, then doing that in the best way possible is valuable.

 

Look out for part two of our interview tomorrow! We cover the concept of 'show', being up for anything, learning about yourself so you can make the job work for you and your personality, and compensating for your weaknesses.