ACL managers produced Obama inauguration events
Dirk Stalnecker and Chris Sorlie ran President Barack Obama's election night party in Chicago's Grant Park, the "We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial" concert on Jan. 18 and the inauguration itself on Jan. 20.
So they had between Nov. 3, 2008, and Jan. 17, 2009, to put together logistics on a celebration of the first African American president in U.S. history, an event of great interest to the rest of the globe.
The concert, which included performances by U2, Bruce Springsteen and Beyoncé, was attended by about 400,000 people and viewed by millions more. The inauguration itself has been described as one of the most observed events ever.
Quite literally, the whole world was watching, and both men describe it as hardest gig they've ever had.
"I think I lost about 20 pounds due to stress," Stalnecker said. "You involve the National Park service, the Secret Service, TV production, involving no time to build it and a very needy client. And it was incredibly cold the entire time. Hypothermia was an issue, and people were crashing out left and right."
The logistics of producing an inauguration are similar to producing an immense concert — both involve large gatherings of people — and wildly different — a lot of the people interested aren't actually there.
"When I met with the Obama people," Stalnecker said, "they said they wanted the stage facing this hill about 300 feet away. But there was this huge expanse of the Mall with hundreds of thousands of people. I asked, ‘There are all these people; why not point it at them?' They smiled and said, ‘The TV cameras are on the hill.' Ohhhhhh, yeah."
Then there was the location, a place that had its own set of rules.
"It's at the Lincoln Memorial, and it turns out you can't just build stuff on a national monument," Stalnecker added, dryly.
"We went to at least one meeting just about focusing one light on Lincoln," Sorlie said. "We had two miles of P.A., wireless power, video screens and one day to time-align the whole system (to make sure the crowd could hear and see everything). That was the most insane thing I've ever been through in my life."
But there's no question that the event's production value was increased exponentially. And now they can say they produced an inauguration for the president of the United States. How hard can anything else be?