Democratizing Creativity: Dan Gedman and the Impact of Technology in Filmmaking


Alan Olsen

Hi, this is Alan Olsen and welcome to American Dreams. I’m busy here today with Dan Gedman. Dan, welcome to today’s show. Thank you. So Dan, you have a lot of great experience of diverse industries. And, you know, in American Dreams, we’re all about problem solvers have people’s path in life and what it took to get here. So for the listeners, can you explain your path of how you got to where you are today,

Dan Gedman

for sure. So I started off as a copywriter and advertising ended up actually after my freshman year in college, getting an internship, and having my first batch of commercials produced for the regional Toyota, which was really interesting, because I was not qualified to do that yet. just happen to be lucky. And so after graduating, I moved up to Chicago worked during Boom, as a writer. And I think I figured out before everybody else that websites were just brochures that moved a little bit. And so kind of had a really good early career.

By the time, stuff was slowing down, my wife had had enough living in Chicago, and so we moved to Denver, we moved September first 2011 had a job waiting for me, decided to go fishing for two weeks and planes hit the building. And everything kind of changed in my career. Because the agency I was going to work with was closed and two months after that, and went from a market that there was so much growth in what I could do in Chicago to a market there. At one point I counted, there were eight people who had my skill set in the town.

And so I was fortunate enough to work in San Francisco work in Chicago, worked in Charlotte, North Carolina, did almost no work in Denver the whole time I was there. And as we were about to have our first child, my parents had a real unfortunate car accident. And I had spent, you know, five, six months of when my document Lord, right when the child is in the womb, they’re not born yet, whatever. My wife’s pregnancy, let’s use it that way. Back in Kansas City, kind of just sorting things out. And some time along that way.

For the first time ever, really, maybe we should move back home. My wife’s from Oklahoma City. So this feels real similar to her. Maybe we should move back to Kansas City like maybe in five years when our daughter is about to go to kindergarten and stuff like that.

And we were probably back four months from after that, that day, moved back to buy a company with my dad and really just didn’t enjoy what we’re doing and bumped into my old professor who was running the creative department of a company called Bernstein rain that at the time was the largest independent ad agency in the country. He was running late to his wife’s birthday, he was carrying a cake I was coated in weed whacking my backyard like one of those things that he to me he’s like, What are you doing in Kansas City is that you moved back six months ago.

He’s like, I need you tomorrow. And I like I don’t know that I can start tomorrow Harlow. But what it was great. I mean, wonderful parents went and talked to my dad and my dad, I don’t think I’m enjoying this. He’s like, Man, I just was hoping you’d figure that out sooner rather than later. Because you are not enjoying this, go take that job. And truth be told, got right back in the middle of the ad industry. Four years later, we had started a company at night, we were doing more work at night than we were during the day.

And we had the ability to make three music videos at the last era when that mattered, you know, 2008 and there was no way I could do it while I still wore to Princeton rain. So my partner and I in that business bought two thirds of this company now it’s now called Outrider, but it was liquid night at the time with the business that we built at night, and have been doing that for over 15 years now. So commercial production. At that point, we were doing a lot of music work, we were doing album art, we still do to this day, a little art and a lot of merch design for national acts.

But we ended up doing a whole bunch of music video work. And at some point, that industry changed so much while we were doing it that we had to get back into the commercial side. And so as opposed to back in those days, when I would have been writing the commercials, I ended up effectively directing the commercials. So I consider my life to be kind of a fortunate culmination of accidents and you know, luck for lack of better way to describe it. But I think a lot of luck is being made by standing on the right corner at the right time looking for luck.

And so but yet never in a million years would have put myself on the path that I am this is not the way the map would have been drawn and I’m reasonably confident I wouldn’t bother drawing a map anyway because that isn’t how my brain works. You know?

Alan Olsen

So you know when when we’re looking at the industry there’s technology and as you know, the it becomes cheaper and cheaper and cheaper. It’s also affected and impacted the the way that things are produced. However you adjusted well,

Dan Gedman

that’s the single biggest challenge of this business was that when I bought it we had about it was about a half million dollar cost of entry. To do post, write, and then we shot the first big project I did here on a RED camera with three numbers, and it’s 0363 digit serial number. So it was one of the first ones to ever have hit the street. And we shot this project and tried to put it into our half million dollars with a post gear. And it couldn’t open it up. So all of a sudden, we’re like, Huh, what do we do?

Well, we go buy a Macintosh for $7,000, which we had a million of, but we had to buy a real fancy big one. And all of a sudden, that box had the same capabilities in that half a million dollar room. And so what we realized immediately, and you know, you know, this stuff without anybody paying attention, within two years, you can go to Best Buy and buy a camera for $2,000. That was better than the camera that George Lucas made the second Star Wars reboot on for 2 million. And so we realized quickly that this was a talent job now, not an infrastructure job.

And so that core shift, I think, led to our ability to be as successful as we are, you know, however, that’s judged, at least longevity wise, we’ve been successful. Because we knew that it was all about people at that point, it was no longer about gear. And it took a lot of people who had been doing it longer to figure that out. Because the gear, I mean, I still have a $4,000 machine somewhere upstairs that I mean, I’m sure it’s worth $14 copper right now. But that we haven’t plugged in since we moved into this building in 2009. So Cray, it was a crazy shift was fun.

It led opportunity. And I’m sure you guys think about this all the time that the kids these days is when people would say that they have so many opportunities to advance through the filmmaking process, whether or not you’re commercial, or, or narrative or doc or whatever. You can be great at your job when you’re 25. Were when if I had come up in that industry, I really didn’t I came up adjacent to it. You weren’t allowed to touch the camera until you were 35 years old.

And so we’re going to have and whether or not we believe in Malcolm Gladwell, but we’re going to have people who have those 10,000 hours so much sooner. A camera is like a guitar. Now, it’s not like veto this magical tool that costs millions of dollars. And you can even purchase if you wanted to. And every time you run it you’re running through, you know, $2,000 with the stock. That’s what it’s now just a it’s now it’s a guitar, you can go to the store and buy one and you can make great things. So I think it’s that.

I don’t know, I’m sure some other ones. But I don’t know that any industry has democratized more than the film industry in the last 15 years.

Alan Olsen

What projects are you working on now?

Dan Gedman

We got a bunch. Here, we do a lot of work for Omaha Steaks, we do some work for h&r block, we have a couple of fun clients. Right now we have a client that started kind of a new way of banking out of San Francisco, which we enjoy a lot. We also have venture capital companies buying fishing lodges Alaska, which is super fun. So we have a really wide and varied kind of skill set that we do that we’ve adjusted into here. outside of this building, I was again, one of those lucky moments, we helped develop the original branding for Jay Rieger, which is a relatively large distillery here in town.

And as of the last couple of years, I’ve served as a fractional CMO of J. Rieger, which has been a great learning experience and really, really rewarding because in an organization that size, you can see the input and output and it happens really fast. And that’s cool. I’m always, I’d always rather be building and growing, that I would be sustaining to the sustaining party doesn’t work for my brain very well. And then final thing I’m working on is we’re me and my best friend from high school in college who lives out in LA, are trying to bring the film industry back to the Midwest.

There is this When Bernstein rang was vital. When Walmart was doing their work through town, we were a giant film town, it was amazing. The infrastructure, it was almost as good as Chicago when I moved here, way better than Denver. And kind of through a couple of unfortunate turns and a couple of unfortunate decisions.

There’s no infrastructure left, I can barely hire a crew right now. Like we have to leave when we have big projects. And so by helping our you know, everything from helping local government, but finding investment and finding work, I believe that we’re kind of on the precipice of bringing some of that back into town. And it’s I don’t know that the idea started with altruism. I think the idea started with an opportunity. But I actually really am excited about doing that because I can go out to LA and hire a crew of people who were my interns here.

I want them to be had the option to stay here. I want them to have the option to grow a career like people would have in my generation even though that wasn’t path it went down. You know, we have 55 year olds who’ve been doing this whole time. If you’re 25 you move out West or you moved to Atlanta or you moved to New Orleans. We have little pockets of talent kids everywhere that I believe,

Alan Olsen

Dan, the Where do you see with AI evolving and the changes in industry? Where do you see the future heading?

Dan Gedman

That’s a great question. And I am not smart enough to we should probably ask AI. My hope is that the way I’m using AI right now is I use AI as my checkpoint. I want to think I want to apply my brain to the problem. I want to make sure I didn’t miss anything. I think AI is magical right now, to give you the obvious answer to things, I think in art, and in advertising, really honestly, especially the writing side of it. The goal is to never have the obvious answer. The goal is to have the startling answer the answer that shouldn’t work.

But does AI is not capable of doing that just yet. What it is, I think we all just drink? No, he does. Because none of us have a job anymore. But when you know, you can tell AI to write a script in the vein of Tarantino. But you can’t tell AI to be Tarantino. And so that’s that, my hope is is that we use it as a tool, it saves time. But that there still is a place in the world for art. Because if not, inevitably, if it’s high brain making it it’s going to become homogenized and less interesting than what we get right now.

So but then again, I am not smart enough to really understand AI. I’m confident of that. I’m confident that it’s remarkable to me. And but like you know, there’s a writers sort of going on in Hollywood right now. And they’re really worried about it. I’m like, I’d be worried about if you were a sitcom writer, I wouldn’t be worried about it. If you’re coming up with what is the movie version of the next great American novel? Because I don’t think AI is that’s not what it’s wired to do. It’s almost wired to be the opposite of that. So,

Alan Olsen

So Dan, if a person wants to reach out to you and talk to you more about, you know, engaging you and some of your talents and abilities, how would they go ahead and do that oh,

Dan Gedman

Outrider. They were the The easiest way to get to it. I’m one click away from that. And we’re pretty diligent about answering that. So in I would tell you, I love I love talking to people. I love talking to young people. It’s something that I feel like our industry is really good at and people were kind enough to do that to me. So anybody wants to chat and pretty much available for it so

Alan Olsen

Dan it’s pleasure having you with us today on American Dreams.

Alan Olsen’s

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    Dan Gedman on Alan Olsen's American Dreams Radio
    Dan Gedman

    Dan Gedman is a seasoned professional in the content and advertising industry, known for his visionary leadership and creative expertise. Currently serving as the President and CEO of Outrider, a prominent content agency, Dan has successfully shaped the company’s ethos by combining his team’s diverse backgrounds.

    With a solid foundation in big agency thinking and high-end production, Dan’s unique contribution lies in his exceptional design acuity and expertise in post-production. He strongly believes in finding better and more efficient ways of creating content, especially considering the high volume required by clients. His relentless pursuit of innovation has enabled him to build Outrider into the exact company he has envisioned throughout his extensive career.

    Prior to his role at Outrider, Dan held the position of President and CEO at Faction, a content studio closely affiliated with Liquid 9. As the chief visionary and lead operator, he skillfully managed client relationships and ensured the studio’s success. Dan’s leadership played a pivotal role in positioning Faction as a thriving entity within the industry.

    Before his time at Faction, Dan established himself as an accomplished director and owner of Liquid 9. As a live action commercial, music video, and narrative director, he consistently delivered exceptional results and earned accolades such as Cannes Lions, One Show Pencils, and National Addys. His passion for storytelling and his ability to bring ideas to life on screen set him apart in the industry.

    Dan’s journey in the advertising world began as a copywriter at Bernstein-Rein Advertising, where he worked on notable accounts such as Bayer Animal Health, Hostess, and Farmland. His experience in print and broadcast advertising honed his skills and laid the foundation for his future success.

    Throughout his career, Dan has encountered various twists and turns that have shaped his path. From starting as an intern and having his commercials produced for Toyota at an early stage to weathering the challenges of the dot-com era, he has consistently adapted and thrived in dynamic environments. His experiences in cities like Chicago, San Francisco, and Charlotte have enriched his perspective and contributed to his professional growth.

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    Alan Olsen on Alan Olsen's American Dreams Radio
    Alan Olsen

    Alan is managing partner at Greenstein, Rogoff, Olsen & Co., LLP, (GROCO) and is a respected leader in his field. He is also the radio show host to American Dreams. Alan’s CPA firm resides in the San Francisco Bay Area and serves some of the most influential Venture Capitalist in the world. GROCO’s affluent CPA core competency is advising High Net Worth individual clients in tax and financial strategies. Alan is a current member of the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (S.I.E.P.R.) SIEPR’s goal is to improve long-term economic policy. Alan has more than 25 years of experience in public accounting and develops innovative financial strategies for business enterprises. Alan also serves on President Kim Clark’s BYU-Idaho Advancement council. (President Clark lead the Harvard Business School programs for 30 years prior to joining BYU-idaho. As a specialist in income tax, Alan frequently lectures and writes articles about tax issues for professional organizations and community groups. He also teaches accounting as a member of the adjunct faculty at Ohlone College.

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