We had the good fortune of connecting with Danny McPadden and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Danny, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
My inspiration to start a video production business began when I was in the Army. I was a Psychological Operations officer—basically, an expert in creating military propaganda campaigns.
In doing that, I learned the craft of writing TV commercials and documentaries. I became infatuated with the production process…script writing, cinematography, directing, editing—all the cool stuff.
Burned out from the Army, I decided to leave and start a video production company. I started by purchasing $15K of video equipment, built myself a crappy little website, and dove headfirst into commercial advertising and filmmaking. I was off and running, right? Wrong. It was a long hard road to developing clientele and sharpening my skills. But, I stuck with it because I loved it.
After starting my business, my plan was to use my artistic passion and Psychological Operations background to bring style and cinematic storytelling into local advertisements and documentaries.
I noticed a lot of local TV advertisements and documentaries lacked style. They resembled a very bland, tired looking, copy-and-paste production format. I’ve always had an artistic side. As a kid, I would draw elaborate action scenes in my notebook just to see what reactions I could get from my friends. It was usually a scene from some violent action movie I watched behind my parents back. Anyway, I think that’s always translated to the video world—making cool art and seeing what reaction you get.
Creating videos on a budget without sacrificing quality or swagger, I believe, is what sets me apart from other production companies.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
What sets my work apart from others is the look and feel of my videos. I value my work from an artistic standpoint, first. I study other film directors to see how they’ve lit or framed a certain scene, or what colors they’ve used, and why. All these things affect the audience.
I actually hate the word “storytelling”, because it’s so overused…”We’re storytellers”, “I tell stories”, “stories this…stories that”. It’s all I see and hear. Sadly, most video people don’t even know what storytelling means.
Here’s what it means to me. As a video producer, I constantly take notes on movies. I’ve learned that movies, sitcoms, reality TV shows, documentaries all follow a specific plot-point structure. Certain events need to happen at specific points for the story to work. For example, at the midpoint (the halfway point) of every movie or show, the main character must enter the point-of-no return, i.e., the stakes are raised and there’s no possible way they can turn back.
Now, that doesn’t mean all stories are the same, or predictable. An analogy would be sports. Just because football has rules about how the game is played, doesn’t mean every game is the same.
Whether I’m making a documentary that’s 5 minutes or 30 minutes long, I incorporate this plot-point structure to tell a better story. Storytelling is not to be confused with the artsy/flowery thing most people slap on their website because it sounds good. It’s a science that has rules and must be respected.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
If my friend was coming to visit for…let’s say 3 days, I would show him the hidden gems around Tucson.
DAY 1: I’d take my friend on a mountain bike ride through the desert hills and massive saguaros on the outskirts of Tucson. We’d weave through towering saguaros 30 feet tall. We’d see jack rabbits, coyotes, mule deer, short-horned lizards, and raptors racing through the air. We’d tear around corners of jagged rock and spiny cholla cactus, thinking we’re invincible because of the cheap helmets we bought from Target. In our heads, we’d be going mach 1 and jumping 10 feet in the air. In reality, not so much. We’d compare our simpleton bikes to the $7K super bikes commonly seen on the trail, yet we’d foolishly feel as capable.
DAY 2: We’d escape the city heat by driving up Mt. Lemmon. Mt Lemmon is about 9K feet in elevation, right on the edge of Tucson. On the way up, you go from the 100-degree desert, to grassland, to 70 degree pine forests. The one-hour drive from Tucson up to Mt. Lemmon is the ecological equivalent of going from Mexico to Canada. I read that somewhere and tell people that just to sound smart.
Once at the top, we’d go for a long hike through ponderosa pine forests, catch the panoramic views of Tucson, and then grab beer and burgers in Summerhaven, the small town atop Mt Lemmon. It’s all overpriced, but who cares after a long day when you’re tired and hungry.
Day 3: We’d shove our faces with good Mexican food. Tucson was designated the first UNESCO City of Gastronomy back in 2015. I also read that somewhere and tell people that to sound smart. Basically, that means good diversity in food and it’s all stupid good, especially the Mexican food. One of my personal favorites is BOCA Tacos in downtown Tucson. Here, we’d get authentic fish tacos, made by famous Chef, Maria Mazon. It will not disappoint.
After 3 days, I would tell my friend “goodbye” because I have things to do; plus the old “fish and friends” saying.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
One source of encouragement that led me to start my video production business was the book, “Ridley Scott: The making of his movies”.
The book chronicles the career of Ridley Scott, the famous Hollywood director.
I’ve always liked Ridley Scott movies—the cinematography, the set design, the massive worlds he creates. He’s a master of his craft.
He began as a painter who transitioned into set design and then directing. When Ridley was 30 years old, he decided to leave his video production job with BBC and start his own commercial advertising business. 10 years later, with 3,000 commercials under his belt, he took the leap and made his first movie. A terrifying thought, because if the movie sucks, you’re broke and left with nothing.
His first movie “the Duelists” did ok, nothing to write home about. But a few years later, Ridley made his second movie, Alien, which launched him into super stardom as a Hollywood director.
I thought, ok, if Ridley Scott started as an artist, then created his own production company, then decided to go into movies, why can’t I. I may not have a cool British accent like he does, but it’s all possible. He didn’t go to film school. Nothing was handed to him. Ridley worked for everything through pure talent and ambition.
Heather Gallaher Danny McPadden