Monday, April 21, 2014

Is This Thing On?

I know what you’re thinking…It has been forever (and then some), since FILO’s latest blog entry. But there’s good reason for that and let me throw some numbers at you to help explain why.

50. Fifty is the total number of travel/out-of-town days I have currently under my belt for 2014. That’s not a typo, and definitely not an exaggeration. Work or play, I have more than a month and a half of traveling, and we are barely out of Q1.

73. Seventy-three is the total number of eligible “work days,” we’ve had thus far in 2014. Now granted, as an event professional, you often work on the weekends, but for the purpose of comparisons here, there have been 73 Monday through Friday “work days” in the 2014 calendar year thus far. For all you math majors out there, that’s about 68% of “work days” spent away from home (Minnesota).

105. One hundred and five is the very simple number that equals that total number of days in 2014. That means for nearly 50% of 2014, I have spent my time “on the road.” That is the primary reason for the delay in blog entries around FILO.

Now….I’m not complaining. We have done some tremendous jobs and worked on some great projects over the last 4 months (and year for that matter). I’ve been to Toronto, New Orleans, Boston, Las Vegas, Reno, Phoenix, New Jersey, New York, Wisconsin and Memphis since January 1. The best part about it all, is imagining not traveling for those 50 days and being stuck in one of the worst winters Minnesota has seen in a VERY long time. So hats off to ya, 50.

For the immediate future, I don’t have any other trips planned, but that can change with the blink of an eye. This is what one comes to deal with when working in the events industry. Moral of the story here though, is that we are going to begin doing a better job of blogging and keeping everyone in the loop with the life of FILO. Busy = good. Good = fun. Fun = let’s keep everyone in-the-loop, Puff. :)

So stay tuned folks!

Until next time my bloggettes!

Written By:
Andrew Westphal

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Hey Kendra! We will miss you! :)

Last week Friday, FILO Productions full-time employee Kendra Meyers, took a job with another business in the Twin Cities area. Kendra, who officially started working with FILO in 2010 at the NBA All-Star Jam Session in Dallas, TX, was brought on as a full-timer in November, 2011. I still remember one of Kendra’s first ever events in the Dallas Convention Center as she scorned a bunch of employees for sitting around, eating pizza when we needed to pull tape and finish emptying out the Convention Center—she stood out right then and there as an energetic and devoted worker.

We don’t need to mention where Kendra’s headed, but let’s just say the FILO team isn’t too fond of red and white bullseye’s! Juuuuust Kidding, Kendra….

But in all honestly… We, as the FILO team, wanted to write a blog thanking Kendra for all her hard work over the years.

Kendra spent time with FILO working on multiple Jam Session’s with the NBA, traveling around the country with one of our BBVA Compass Tours, helping manage our PlayBall! Minnesota Tour and taking on the meticulous monthly duty of invoicing and expense reports. She will be missed immensely, and as a big THANK-YOU for your years here, Kendra, we decided to gather a few sentences from each of the FILO workers to let you know how we REALLLLY feel about you:

“Who am I going to visit malls and yogurt shops with now in every city we go? Or who am I going to drive around “crazy dancing” in the car with when we are running errands? I am going to miss my lil sis in the office. It has been a blast having another girl here at FILO to share “girl issues” with and to talk trash about the boys with when they make us mad. I wish you nothing but the best, have fun and keep your head up. LOVE!” –Carrie Hagen

“Hey Kendra, I am not sure who I am going to jump on stage and get my dance on with, but I sure hope you enjoy your new journey! I hope this new job brings you an exciting and successful future! We are all going to miss you over here!” – Shaun Donovan

“I really enjoyed the fire she had when working; she took things seriously and followed through on all tasks. Being the two youngest FILOs, we pushed and helped each other as much as we could, I appreciate that more then she knows.” – Tom Butina

“No one in FILO will ever lay sport court quite like you. We have some vets on this crew that will always admire your skill and finesse while performing this duty. Now that you are gone, we are now looking for qualified applicants to match your overall ping pong game. You will be missed.” –Andy Acosta

“Although we didn't work together for long I couldn't have asked for a better coworker. I wish you the best!” –Dan Fosse

“I’ve only known Kendra for a short time, but she has had a big affect on my life. For example, I actually consider my wife to be a safe driver now and realize her organic diet restrictions are relatively low-maintenance when compared to Kendra’s Gluten-Free obsession. But, seriously, I will miss Kendra and her passion and energy and sincerely hope she stays connected with FILO.” –Lou Bavaro

“You have come a long way since dominating janitorial in Dallas 2010! It has been a great couple of years and I wish you the best! Don’t forget to come visit us!” –Brian Buron

"There are many things that I'm going to miss about seeing you (Kendra) daily but the main thing is your positive attitude and infectious smile. Your new employer is lucky to have you. Good luck and don't forget to come back and carve Howie's pumpkin next year." –Kevin Weinhandl

As you can see, Kendra, we are really going to miss you around here! I(Puff), for one, am better off having met you and would like to thank you for your hard work, effort and dedication you have shown over the past few years. All too often hard work can go unnoticed, but everyone at FILO noticed and appreciated you. You have made an impact on each of our lives and we all wish you well. If you ever need anything, be sure to let us know! :)

Good Luck and you will be missed!

Kendra Meyers

2013 NBA All-Star Event Diary (Day 12)

Tuesday, February 19th-TRAVEL DAY!

“AHHHH….NOOOOOO,” was my thought when the alarm went off at 6:45am on Tuesday morning. Mind you, this is the day after we finished loading out. One would think early morning crew calls would be done by now, but NOOOOOO!

After lying still for a few minutes I made the call to have the valet pull up our three vehicles to start making trips to the airport. I am certain the guys in valet think I am a man every time I call down. Between the lack of sleep and the lovely air of hotels and convention centers, my morning voice takes on a whole different tone each year at All-Star.

Today is the day that the majority of the staff heads back home. It is also the day everyone realizes just how sore, stiff and tired their bodies are after working 12 straight days at 10 to 15 hours a day. For us, the full-time FILO’s, Tuesday marks the day to just CHILL…well, sort of. After airport drop offs we still had the final walkthrough at the convention center and a farewell lunch with our partners at OSA before we finally got to really chill.

The guys all had naps on their schedule, but Kendra and I decided to take a more active approach with an amazing hour-long pedicure, trip to the mall and, of course, a stop at Yogurt Land. Kendra and I do not leave a city we are working in without a quick stop at a mall and yogurt shop!

There were still two crew calls left for this event…one at 7:15pm and the other at 10:30am, but crew call at 7:15pm was the one I was most looking forward to. Our FILO farewell dinner/night out always turns out to be so much fun. I am not sure if it is because we are all sleep deprived and a little goofy or that we are just that cool and know how to have a good time. Regardless, the final crew call tomorrow morning at 10:30am is sure to be a little rough after tonight… Peace out Houston!

Written by:
Carrie Hagen

2013 NBA All-Star Event Diary (Day 11)

It’s all finally over. Well, almost over. The 2013 NBA All-Star Jam Session has come to an end for the people of Houston, TX, but FILO is far from calling it a wrap. Today, Monday, is load-out day. Granted, we took some time yesterday after the event ended, to begin what we call a soft tear-down, but the real work takes place today.

We brought in trucks as early as 7am to get as many into the loading docks as possible. But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. First things first… Our FILO crew works imminently to strike all the NBA owned equipment that must find its way back to the warehouse in St. Paul, MN—the place we call home. You can tell when it’s the last day because people really kick it into gear to empty out the Convention Center as fast as possible. Just when I didn’t think our FILO team could take anymore, I see this wonderful group of individuals step it up, yet another notch. People attack the fence, tearing it down safely and quickly; our hoops crew start striking the basketball goals, backboards and bases; Shaun and his crew get after all the signage to organize it and store it in a standard in preparation for the detailed inventory process it’s about to go through in the warehouse; and the distribution crew begins their process of picking up and organizing all shipments headed to New Jersey, New York or anywhere else around the country. These are only a handful of the last day duties FILO works on for load-out. I didn’t even mention the intense loading of 17 semi-trailers that incorporate a method of precision, patience and a LOT of Tetris-like skills.

The story for me this year, however, was our crew. It sounds cliché and you hear people say it every year, but enough cannot be said about the FILO’s that worked the Jam Session Event this year. Each year, we tend to worry a bit about losing a few names who have worked the Event before, but the rookies really stepped it up this year and helped produce an Event that everyone could be proud of. These are the people that I want to say THANK YOU to, for all their hard work and effort. It definitely does NOT go unnoticed and we appreciate you. It’s important I share how proud I am of our team. Everyone worked together and without each and every one of them, the Event could not have been as successful as it was (and that’s a fact, not an opinion).

The best part of the day was the “Guess What Time We are Going to Finish,” game. It’s an annual, for fun, game we incorporate year-to-year. Everyone selects a time slot (set aside in 15 minute increments) that they think the last door on the last trailer is going to close. It’s a bit of incentive and motivation for everyone and it just makes it more fun.

The final time was 8:30PM. T-Jay from VEE Corporation called it, and the show was officially a wrap (well, sort of—A few of us, myself included, have to come back tomorrow to check up on a few things, get a last couple shipments out and make sure the Convention Center is back to normal. We don’t say “Last Out” for nothing, ya know?).

All 17 trucks were loaded and on their way back to Minnesota, all of the FILO team was wiped out after the longest 10 days of their lives and all of the Convention Center was one step closer to being empty. Other vendors had a few last minute details to work out, but all in all, the 2013 NBA All-Star Jam Session was yet again, a tremendous success. I am extremely proud to be a part of such a prestigious event year-in and year-out, and feel so lucky to have the opportunity to work with one of the premier sports entertainment enterprises in the world.

Most importantly though….I am proud to be with FILO and the team that was at Jam Session this year. We are already excited and looking forward to next year.

Thank you EVERYONE for all your hard work. You are a huge part of the reason we get to keep coming back, year-after-year.

Written by:
Kevin Weinhandl

2013 NBA All-Star Event Diary (Special Edition -- Double Event)

With this being my 4th NBA All-Star Jam Session, I still feel like I am learning and experiencing something different every time. This year was nothing short of a new experience.

A couple weeks before we started loading trucks for Jam Session, FILO got the call to manage and produce the Detroit Pistons interactive area at SportsFest in Novi, Michigan. SportsFest is an awesome event where the four major sports teams (Pistons, Lions, Red Wings, Tigers) in Detroit come together and put on a festival for their fans.

This is the third consecutive year FILO has managed the Pistons portion, and the second where I was the lead FILO. In prior years, SportsFest was held the weekend before All-Star; this year, it landed on All-Star Saturday Night. For those who don’t know, this is the busiest day for Jam Session.

That’s when I knew this was going to be a very different All-Star.

My week stared just as any normal All-Star would; early morning lobby calls and long exhausting set-ups. For me the end of set-up is the most rewarding. Months of hard work preparing back in Minnesota, three full set-up days and finally seeing what you created, is very fulfilling.

Normally, I, along with entire crew would start to mentally and physically prepare for show days. I, however, had a plane to catch to Detroit.

One could look at having to go to Detroit during All-Star as a negative; however, I saw it as a great opportunity to hone my event management skills and learn a few things.

SportsFest was a success, the crew and I did well. It was nice having a couple seasoned vets along with me (Tyler Eischens and Mike Steadman). Those guys, along with newbie Cotter Kelly made my life easier.

Was my week over? Back home to Minnesota? Nope, the next morning I was back in the sky, headed to Houston to help tear down Jam Session.

From the moment I got off the plane, I was back in high gear, preparing myself for 18 hours of breaking down, what seems like I just helped build.

I learned a lot this All-Star and will take all these experiences as great knowledge.

Written by:
Tom Butina

2013 NBA All-Star Event Diary (Day 10)

I started off the week flat and out of gas, but as the NBA All-Star Jam Session crowds started rolling in I was uplifted by the energy and, of course, the canister of helium that was emptied into my belly. When the event was over, thousands of people had passed through the premiere fan festival and I looked down on all of them, even Yao Ming and his parents.

This was my inaugural year at the NBA All-Star Jam Session event and to sum it up, “WOW!” As I floated across the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston I saw everyone from Lebron James at Center Court for the Sprite Uncontainable Game, to NBA Legend George Gervin getting kids in shape on the NBA FIT Court, to thousands of happy families dribbling, passing, shooting and dunking at the Slam Dunk Court, Pop-a-Shots and in the Kids Zone. I circled the globe in NBA Digital Village at least 50 times and followed players like Russell Westbrook, Clyde Drexler, Muggsy Bogues and James Harden as they bounced from booth to booth.

The smiles were so big I could see them from the rafters and the coolest part is that there was a camera attached to me the entire time. Once we go through the footage, y’all will get the same birds’ eye view that I had (yes, 10 days in Houston even gets a Blimp saying “y’all”).

Speaking of FILO… I was unaware of who they were until this week. And, in fact, it wasn’t until we played back the footage in slow motion that I realized they even existed. They race around at warp speed helping to create smiles and memories. I can’t wait to work with them again.

Written by:
The Blimp

Thursday, March 7, 2013

2013 NBA All-Star Event Diary (Day 9)

What a great day for a 5K! My 5K day started with an early morning wakeup call at 5:00am, and that is when the fun began. The lights stayed off since my roommate didn’t need to be up for hours, so as I searched for open floor space with each step I tripped a few times getting dressed. Once I was ready, I headed downstairs to meet up with co-workers Greg and Ethan and once we arrived at Discovery Green in Houston, it was go-time.

The first task was to set-up the NBA tunnel inflatable, which is a crucial piece leading the runners through the finish line and the street intersection. Once setup, we could start building the court and getting everything else show ready. As we worked to be open on time, more and more participants were arriving and I just knew it was going to be a full house. Soon Greg opened up the court to anyone who wanted to play and started to run games, while Ethan and I pumped up the balls for the kids dribble portion of the race. Before I knew it, 8:30AM arrived and runners were getting ready to start the 5K. Just like that…they were off and with almost 1,000 runners, it was an awesome sight to see. I wanted a picture of the first place runner so I headed over to the finish line and, to my surprise, the winner raced across at a time of 17:55.

Next up was the 1K portion of the event. The crowd was definitely excited. There was a mix of families running together, as well as younger runners. The race went off without a hitch and finished up just in time for the dribble portion to get going, which was great, because the kids couldn’t wait to get started. At the sound of the horn they were off and before long came the sweet sound of bouncing basketballs and laughter everywhere. Once the running portions were completed we struck the inflatables in the street and prepared for the awards ceremony.

A funny thing happened on my way to the stage, when I saw the winner of the 5K and congratulated him on his race and the tickets he won. He looked puzzled and asked, “What tickets?” to which I answered that the winner of the 5K gets tickets to the NBA All-Star game. He freaked out and started jumping up and down. I guess he didn’t read the fine print and hadn’t yet been told what he had won. It felt pretty good to be the one to tell him, but at this point there was still a lot to do so I was off to make sure everything was set for the awards ceremony.

Once the ceremony wrapped up, we began to strike all event assets and teardown was underway. Joe came on site to help the team, and the four of us raced from transframe, to sport court, to sand bags, methodically loading it all up. Once the truck was back to Jam Session we all helped unload and put everything back in storage before rejoining the FILO crew on the show floor. With a turnout of 4,000 people, no injuries and a satisfied crew, I would say the event was a great success.

Written by:
Dan Fosse