Executive Producer, OtherSide Entertainment
“The second career-defining skill that Middlebury taught me came outside of the classroom. When I arrived at Midd, everybody around me was so fascinating, they came from all over the world and all had stories to tell, things they wanted to do, places they wanted to go. I felt I had to meet everybody and learn everything I could about them and their perspectives. And there were a couple years where it seemed like I knew almost everybody on campus. I could sit down at any table in Proctor and join in the conversation, or just comfortably listen. And now my job calls for working with another group of fascinating people - artists, programmers, designers, etc., so many folks with different perspectives and different ways of approaching problems.”
Tell us what you do.
My job is to shepherd a crew of extraordinary, talented people (artists, designers, engineers, etc.) through the daunting, wondrous, sometimes impossible, yet forever rewarding process of making video games.
What have you done since Middlebury?
After graduation, I entered a video game-themed film competition, and used my winnings to move from Keene, NH to LA and pursue a career in film. …That proved to be harder than I would’ve liked and instead I ended up scoring a job as a video game tester.
Despite the amazing hamburgers and tacos there, I soon realized LA wasn’t for me, and moved up to San Francisco, where I pinged so many Midd alums in the Bay Area looking for work, and Suzie Reider (Class of ‘87) came to my rescue. Thanks to Suzie, I was hired as an intern at GameSpot.com, making online videos about video games in that medium’s infancy (2003). While there I got to create one of the first ever podcasts about video games, and host live streaming game shows, talk shows, events, and more to millions of people, (yet unfortunately before people figured out how to really make money doing that).
After 5 years in SF, my wife and I decided to move back to New England so she could pursue a law degree, and to be closer to our family. Once settled in the Boston area, I made the leap from being a video producer about video games, to a video game producer, scoring a job with ex-Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling’s 38 Studios, where I worked for 5 years alongside hundreds of folks on a never-to-be-released MMO, codenamed Copernicus.
After that studio’s somewhat notorious collapse I joined Disruptor Beam as Executive Producer, where we specialized in licensed, mobile games based on properties like Game of Thrones, Star Trek, the Walking Dead, and more. This gig coincided with the birth of our two boys, who have done an excellent job of teaching me the importance of work-life balance.
Most recently I joined OtherSide Entertainment as Executive Producer, where we are currently working on an unannounced game set in the world of Dungeons & Dragons.
How has your major influenced your life after graduation?
The film professors introduced me to so many amazing, varied films and artistic genres that I never would have experienced otherwise. I learned to appreciate that every storyteller has their own, personal approach. And that in nearly every piece of media, if you pay close attention, you can find those rare moments when everything comes together on screen. The vision, the performances, the technical skill, it all can entwine into something really special, sometimes for hours and sometimes for just a moment. And thanks to our hands-on lessons with cameras and editing suites, I learned creating those moments is super hard work! So whenever I can recognize that I am participating in one (which is difficult in itself), I should make time to appreciate and savor it.
More directly applicable as a career influence, my two-time independent study project ended up being a near-perfect clone of my job at GameSpot! For 2 J-terms, my roommate Ben Coello and I created a weekly TV show “The Ben and Rich Show,” aired on Middlebury Cable Access TV. We wrote, filmed, starred in, and edited 30 minutes of content in under 5 days on back-to-back-to-back weeks during our Sophomore and Senior years. Professor Leger Grindon and the film department gave us the equipment we needed and let us rip. The second time around they even let us add a third person as camera operator - Ryan Koo, so Ben and I could start appearing on screen at the same time. It was a tiring whirlwind of fun, an amazing experience. A couple years later at GameSpot, my job was to write, star in, and edit online videos and podcasts about video games with even tighter deadlines, sometimes in under an hour. Thanks to the Ben and Rich Show I could handle it.
Two more skills from my major and time at Midd have been powerful tools throughout my career. The first is one that I honed from years of practice and still use daily - editing. At Middlebury I learned that the audience only sees what you show them. They never get to know how much effort went into a particular shot, whether it was an off-the-cuff bit of improv, or if you spent 3 hours setting it up and 20 takes to get perfect. So you have to sever yourself from that investment, and be OK with cutting something if doing so improves the final product. This lesson was reinforced during my time as an intern for Ken Burns’s editing house on “Jazz”, and put into an industrial level of practice when I was cranking out hundreds of scripts and countless hours of content at GameSpot. Being able to make those decisions, and make them quickly without second guessing myself, has proven invaluable. And now in my career as a video game producer, those editing skills are called upon for bigger decisions that inform longer term plans. What features are the most important to make this game work, and what previously precious idea should we remove from the game’s design now so that the team can instead spend those upcoming weeks or months focusing on the most important elements?
The second career-defining skill that Middlebury taught me came outside of the classroom. When I arrived at Midd, everybody around me was so fascinating, they came from all over the world and all had stories to tell, things they wanted to do, places they wanted to go. I felt I had to meet everybody and learn everything I could about them and their perspectives. And there were a couple years where it seemed like I knew almost everybody on campus. I could sit down at any table in Proctor and join in the conversation, or just comfortably listen. And now my job calls for working with another group of fascinating people - artists, programmers, designers, etc., so many folks with different perspectives and different ways of approaching problems. I help them communicate effectively and collaborate to bring to life a shared, complex vision. The appreciation I have for my coworkers and their skills, and the ease with which I can talk to them is directly thanks to all of the open, friendly people at Middlebury who were willing to share their stories and time with me.
When did you know which major you were going to choose?
Before I set foot on campus. In high school, I was a big math and science nerd but had more fun working with computers and making doofy movies with my friends. As I toured various schools, I found myself drawn to media, communications and film studies programs. I was accepted to Syracuse’s Newhouse School of Communications and was tempted to go there and become an anchor on ESPN’s SportsCenter. After I got into Middlebury (my top choice) though, the Film Studies program was clearly the best fit to my interests. I also thought I could dabble in Computer Science minor. (I tried, but the story on how it didn’t work out is for another time.)
How did you decide what career path you wanted to pursue after graduating?
I knew I needed to get out of New Hampshire if I was going to have a career in film or television. My decision was less of a career path and more of a destination. Once I had saved up enough money living at home and working at a video rental store, and could convince some friends to come with me, we were off to California to figure things out from there.
Finally, what advice or suggestions do you have for current students as they consider their post-Middlebury futures?
Hopefully you are reading this with enough time to act on it. While at Middlebury, you are living in this bubbling cauldron of creative opportunity. You are surrounded by a ridiculously high percentage of people with similar interests, similar creative drives, and, most importantly, similar amounts of free time. Grab some friends and create something. Create many somethings. Learn what you enjoy doing and get better at it through experimentation and repetition. I only made a handful of doofy ninja movies during my time at Middlebury, and if I had a second chance I would make hundreds more. Once you graduate and have to rejoin the world, that confluence of people, drive, and time becomes very hard to reproduce. Take advantage while you can!
If you’re about to graduate, and your doofy ninja movie window is nearly closed, don’t fret. Find the friends who can best help you maintain that creative drive, move somewhere interesting together, and keep making stuff. Even if you all have to pay the bills washing dishes or worse, being investment bankers,. make stuff in the off hours. Your life will be more rewarding for it.