Technical Director: 7 questions for Todd Elliott

Kate­gorie: Allge­mein, Menschen

1. Oktober 2014

technical director live events

Tech­nical Director Todd Elliott & high­lights from the GLS 2014 (Quelle: youtube)


This year I had the oppor­tu­nity to attend the Global Leader­ship Summit 2014 in Chicago, a confe­rence that gathers leaders from around the world. This event is crafted to infuse vision, skill deve­lo­p­ment and inspi­ra­tion for the sake of local church trans­for­ma­tion. Speakers include people like former US foreign minister Colin Powell or Condo­leezza Rice and U2 lead singer Bono. To set up the two-day, world-class leader­ship event which is broad­casted live and expe­ri­enced by more than 170,000 leaders around the world, it takes guts. Reason enough to inter­view the tech­nical director Todd Elliott:



1. Todd, you just finished one of the most influencing conferences worldwide, the GLS. What are the things you make sure of and keep an eye on as the technical director at the conference production?


Probably the most important thing for me is to surround myself with super creative, highly quali­fied people to handle each aspect of the produc­tion. Once I know I have the right people to get the job done, I spend most of my time trying to clear a path for them, so that they can bring their best to the table. My feeling is that they are the experts in their area, and I need to trust them. Once they have the vision for the produc­tion, I let them loose. Along the way, I need to reset direc­tion and answer value based ques­tions, but the goal is to keep them moving forward in their area of exper­tise. I want them to feel a great deal of autonomy, so that they have full owner­ship over their area of the project, and that they feel totally supported by me.



2. Todd, you consider yourself a technical artist – what does this mean to you?


I believe that produc­tion done well is an art form. It is more than just simply pushing buttons and turning knobs. I believe that each of us in produc­tion is an artist at some­thing. It could be mixing audio, or fixing a light, making graphics or leading volun­teers. The secret is to figure out where you are an artist and dive into that. For me, it took me years to figure out exactly what I’m an artist doing. I’ve done each tech­nical disci­pline of audio, video, lighting and set design. I’m just OK at all of those things, which makes me really good at seeing each aspect of an event. I’m an artist of seeing the whole produc­tion picture of an event and helping to trans­late creative ideas into a production.



3. Why is excellence in productions important and what are the principles behind this approach?


Produc­tion should be done well, regard­less of if it is in church or not. From a prac­tical stand­point, produc­tion should be comple­tely trans­pa­rent. People should not notice that there is a layer of produc­tion between them and the content coming from the stage. When you start talking about produc­tion in the church, now you’re talking about the content being the Gospel. If there was ever some­thing for produc­tion to get out of the way of, it is the message of Christ. We don’t want anything to stand in the way of God moving and working in people’s lives during our services. If produc­tion isn’t done well, it is a distrac­tion from this message.
On another level, if we are serving in the local church, it is an act of personal worship to God. Am I willing to give anything less than my best when God only deserves my best?



4. What was the most challenging event at Willow Creek that you worked on?


Each year, the Global Leader­ship Summit is the event that stands out as the most chal­len­ging and meaningful. There are so many details and so much content to figure out how to execute, that it is always a chall­enge to figure out how to get it all done with the time, people and budget we have to work with. Also, knowing that close to 200,000 church leaders are going to be affected by what I do is pretty crazy to think about. If a leader on the other side of the world is inspired to lead better because of atten­ding the GLS, then their commu­nity will be better, which means their country will have a chance to become better. Affec­ting the lives of leaders is some­thing that will never get old to me.



5. Up to 16.000 people attend a single church service every Sunday at Willow Creek Chicago (multiplied by 3 services per weekend). What does it take to realise a great service, especially working with paid staff but also unpaid volunteers on a weekly basis?


I never think about the number of people who are atten­ding. Whether there are 100 or 10,000, we still have to do our best with the resources in front of us. We spend time working together with the creative artists to figure out what the ideas are and how we can accom­plish them the best way possible. We do this knowing that we only have so much time and volun­teers with certain abili­ties. We try to come up with the best plan possible during the week, knowing that once we see the service for the first time in rehearsal, that we might have to change things. We encou­rage our staff and volun­teers to realize that we will work really hard to figure out ever­y­thing we can before the service, but that there are some­things we can’t figure out until they’re happe­ning. In those moments we try to be as flexible as possible.



6. Where do you get inspired for your job?


I love to learn new things. I would call myself a curious explorer. Whether it is painting or photo­graphy or piano or another kind of art form, I love the creative process and what it teaches me about the creative processes that I am in during my normal job.



7. What was your biggest mistake and what did you learn from it?


I’m not sure I can point out one mistake that changed how I do produc­tion. I do make mistakes quite often and I feel like they are essen­tial to becoming better as a tech­nical artist. If I’m not making mistakes, I’m probably not stret­ching myself or trying new things. Once I’ve made a mistake, it is really important to learn from each one, so that the same mistake isn’t repeated over again. If I’m making a mistake a second time, I’m not learning and I’m not doing my best.
In general for me, my most common mistake is not clearly commu­ni­ca­ting fully at the begin­ning of a project. As a leader, for people to be able to follow, they need to have clear expec­ta­tions from the leader. Because I want people to engage fully, I hesitate to tell people exactly what to do, because I want their opinion and artistry, not neces­s­a­rily mine. What ends up happe­ning is that without clear commu­ni­ca­tion from me, we have very diffe­rent ideas of what the goal is.



technical director live events Todd ElliottTodd Elliott  is a tech­nical artist whose expe­ri­ences range from being a produc­tion volun­teer at a portable church meeting in a high school, to more recently leading the produc­tion depart­ment at Willow Creek Commu­nity Church. He has a passion for tech­nical artists to uniquely contri­bute to accom­pli­shing God’s plan through the local church. Follow him on twitter @_ToddElliott and check out his blog at



Want to know more about Chris Cuhls and this blog? Please find more infor­ma­tion about the German producer and director here.


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