Behind the Scenes: An interview with David Fortescue, Production Coordinator (Part 2)

Yesterday we posted part 1 of our interview with David Fortescue, Production Coordinator at the Dainty Group. Today we finish it off with some insights regarding how he found out about the role, the type of person who would do well in and enjoy his role, external influencers and advice for people who are interested in pursuing this career path.

We’ve also re-posted the audio in case you’d like to hear the full interview and/or would just prefer listening to reading.

Just a quick 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.

BE HONEST – DID YOU KNOW WHAT A PRODUCTION COORDINATOR WAS WHEN YOU WERE IN SCHOOL? HOW OR WHEN DID YOU FIRST FIND OUT ABOUT IT AND WHAT DREW YOU TO THE ROLE?

Taking a step back, when you're at high school and you're trying to make those decisions about what you're going to do for the rest of your life, you get the UAC book - a big book from the universities that's got all of the courses. So I'd read through them all and Psych was the only thing where I kind of even went, "That could be interesting" - probably pretty happy that I didn't do it now. But to be honest, one of the things that I couldn't see in my head was me willing to put my mind and everything into something for the next three or four years at the time...I wasn't ready for it.

When I was in high school I was always in the sound crew or the lighting crew and even then I had a really strong feeling about was the concept of 'the show'. It was really important to me that when everyone else was gone when we did this rehearsal, I'd be in sweeping the aisles, making sure all the seats were straight...all those small things. Because even then I understood the concept of 'show' - for me it starts when you leave the house until you get home - that's the concept of 'show', from start to finish. So all those little things do add up and they do count.

It was actually my drama teacher who mentioned to me the course - the music and event management course - that's when the penny dropped and I thought, "Yeah, that's what I wanna do." I still do, and did at the very start, want to be involved in artist management. I work with an artist out of Sydney, so that's my first foray into that. That's an industry that's probably even more niche than what I do. Especially in Australia, there's not many management houses - like large boutique agencies. It's often a guy who gets a few artists and builds up a company that way - he or she will find people as they go. Yeah we'll see - maybe I'll manage to get that but at the moment the skills that I'm learning are definitely transferable to that.

[At the start of my career] I had no idea what I was going to do. I knew that I liked music, I knew that I liked working behind the scenes - apart from that I had no idea what I was going to do. And I mean throughout my career I've had a million different ideas about what I wanted to do. The job at the Arena [Qudos Bank Arena] was just there...I've been really lucky, people have pushed me to do things in my life. Someone pushed me to apply for that job and I got it and then it was just opportunity...then this [job] came up. I mean I knew what this job was going to entail...but then ticketing wasn't part of the remit, the event management for the greenfields wasn't part of the remit.

One of the things that I always say - it's one of my biggest things - is that if you can own something within your organisation then do it, especially something that no one else wants to do. One of the reasons why I did well at the Arena [Qudos Bank Arena] was because I had that interest in safety. I was young but it gave me access to the General Manager at really a young age. I got to have some responsibility and you know, my own little fiefdom. And I think that's really, really important. Do whatever you can; learn whatever you can.

WHAT TYPE OF PERSON DO YOU THINK WOULD ENJOY AND DO WELL IN A PRODUCTION COORDINATOR ROLE?

This is one of the things I like about my job - there are different people who could do it. You know, I'm quite fastidious, sometimes quite annoyingly so for my colleagues...my boss calls me anal retentive. But he's a lot looser and he holds all his information in his head, and he can get away with that. Now, he's incredibly knowledgeable - he's still quite process driven but at the coalface he kinda just throws out the rule book and he just makes it work. Whereas I'm a lot more...I very much believe in a process, I very much believe in those things. So he can get away with either.

I think someone who's capable of thinking a couple of steps ahead...who has the idea of context, who has the idea of big picture, especially in an operational capacity. If you're not thinking two steps ahead, you're behind. You know, all of the usuals - someone who's diligent, someone who's on time, all those kind of things. There's a pretty famous saying, especially in the touring world - "If you're on time, then you're late." I think there's validity to that, I hate being late to things.

One of the great catchphrases of employment - eye for detail. It's so important in what we do. And it's taken me 10 years to get to a level where I still don't have a particularly good eye for detail. My boss Jarrod is phenomenal. The guy just looks at things and he just sees all the little things that are out of place. Me, I'm often going a little too fast so sometimes I miss them, which I know is kinda contradictory to the idea of being fastidious...I try to be fastidious, just don't always succeed! That eye for detail is really important.

At the end of the day, just be a decent person above all else. I've met so many people in this industry who are not the best at what they do, but people like them and they do fine. I've met some people who are fucking assholes but are really good at what they do so people tolerate it. If you're mediocre and you're an asshole, forget about it. Be a cool person, just do a good job. Always try to do a good job. Especially when you're contracting you're genuinely as good as your last job.

[Is it more suited to someone who's more extraverted or intraverted?] Totally either way. I mean I'm not in sales or something like that. I'm someone who, when I'm at work, I try to be really animated, I try to be really engaging. That costs me a lot of energy...the result is that when I go home I completely crash. So yeah, I think you can be a little bit of both. People think of events and music and all that sort of stuff and they think it's glamorous but it's not, that's bullshit. It's project management, it's accounting - I mean, that's the bedrock of what we do. It's totally not rocket science, it's really, really not, but doing it well obviously has it's challenges. And that's where the personality traits become far more important than the skills, so to speak.

  Credit: Genesis Industries

Credit: Genesis Industries

WHAT ARE YOUR INTERESTS/PROJECTS OUTSIDE OF WORK? HAVE ANY OF THEM HELPED YOU TO GET TO YOUR CURRENT ROLE? WHAT OTHER THINGS/PEOPLE HAVE INFLUENCED YOU?

I like music...but not really, to be honest. I don't think any of my external influences have overly helped me. I mean I like reading about...Inc.com, things like that...about ways to improve yourself as a leader and things like that, so there's obviously a direct impact. But outside of that no, I don't think there's too many things that I would do.

In terms of influential people in my life, I'm certainly not someone who is influenced immensely by Steve Jobs or Elon Musk or people like that, it's not how I learn. But there are definitely people I've worked with in my employment where I think, "Yeah, they were a mentor". People who were cool to me as well - who recognised that I wanted to learn, that I was willing to learn. You know I'm probably better now but I can be pretty militant in my views, and [people] who understood that I had to be given the opportunity to be militant, then slapped around a little bit, brought back down to size, and then let to run off and learn myself. I've had a couple of General Managers who were really, really good to me.

WHAT’S YOUR ADVICE FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE CONSIDERING A CAREER IN PRODUCTION?

One of the things that I'm learning more and more, especially on the music side of things, is that you can kinda make it for yourself. If you want to work with musicians, find musicians who you like working with...help them, do whatever...you know, the amount of information that's available out there at the moment. I've been working with my artist for 18 months - the amount that I've learnt in that time from just trial and error, just fucking things up...and learning from online and things like that is invaluable. Be willing to do the internships and things like that. They weren't really around when I was starting out, that I can recall.

Develop those other external skills. Consciously think about "what is my system?". Consciously upskill yourself in other areas. Like Excel, something that we use all the time in our jobs - regardless of department everyone uses it all the time. Learn how to run a good meeting. There's all this shit that you can do using free or minimal effort that will make you more valuable in the long run.

It's so much about who you know [in this industry]. And that's why the volunteering all those kinds of things are really really important and are really really valuable. If you're not good at networking, just do the best you can. Find where your weaknesses in networking are - so for example, I can talk to someone for hours. I like talking, I like listening, I like debate. I cannot walk up to someone I don't know and introduce myself...it fills me with terror, I get anxious...I HATE it. I mean, I don't even like walking into restaurants first, I don't even really like ordering...that's just the way I am. Cold calling someone? Fills me with dread. But if someone can make the introduction for me and I've got that first thread, I'm good to go. So I've learnt that about myself and so I now consciously, if I'm in a networking situation, find someone who I know and it's like, "I'll buy you drinks, I'll clean your house, I'll do whatever...you need to introduce me to people, you need to do that intro."  So yeah, learn how to network and also realise those networks take effort - take time to just drop an email every once in awhile, like something on Facebook, like an Instagram post...you know, just remind people that you're alive. Because you never know when that [relationship] will come to pass.

 

Wow...a lot of food for thought and it's so great to speak to someone who truly loves their job. We loved catching up with David and we hope that you enjoyed the interview. Also, let us know what you think of this new format - a longer interview with the audio option. This content is all about you so we're always open to feedback!