We’re diving into F.I.R.S.T. Institute audio graduate Donnie Crawford’s unique career path in digital media. From filmmaking and television gigs to going to audio school to master sound, Donnie has gotten experience in it all and even started his own business, Show Palace Entertainment! Learn how an audio education perfectly complements a film industry career in today’s Audio Graduate Spotlight.
WHEN DID YOU FIRST START GETTING INTERESTED IN THE DIGITAL MEDIA INDUSTRY?
My interest began sometime after high school. I was getting into the Pixar movies like Toy Story and wanted to go into animation. I’ve always been into characters, mythology, and archetypes which led me into an interest in drawing and comics. At that time, 3D film animation was becoming more prevalent.
WHAT ABOUT YOUR START IN THE AUDIO INDUSTRY?
My family is full of singers, recording artists and musicians and I grew up singing with them but wasn’t really serious about music. I played saxophone and bass in middle school, but that was it. At some point after I was married, I decided to pick up the bass guitar again and really focus on it. My wife is a songwriter and we wanted to be able to get her music recorded.
WHEN DID YOU DECIDE TO PURSUE THIS AS A CAREER?
I worked in IT for about 8 years in the Washington, DC area and I eventually decided to move down to Florida and pursue my passion and a new career. I enrolled in Full Sail and completed their Digital Arts Bachelors and Entertainment Business Masters programs. I chose the design program because I felt that it allowed me to experience different media platforms and merge my IT background. The program exposed me to 3D animation, web design, graphic design, video and editing. My ultimate goal was to use this wide range skill set to start my own business.
HOW DID YOU BRIDGE MOVING FROM A FILM BACKGROUND TO TAKING CLASSES FOR AUDIO ENGINEERING?
Actually, the same week I began my Master’s program, I secured a job at a local television station to be an editor and camera operator. That’s where the transition really happened, I worked there for 5 years in different roles: editor, camera operator and floor director. One day, our audio engineer was taking some time off and I and was trained to be the backup audio engineer.
I’m a musician. I play bass guitar and my wife is a songwriter. So I figured it would be a good idea to get some more training. I went back to school at F.I.R.S.T. Institute for their audio program.
WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO GO TO A SCHOOL VERSUS LEARNING ON YOUR OWN?
I tried for a few years working full time and learning on my own part time. I just wasn’t getting as much information as I needed fast enough. I found that school was a more focused use of my time to get the skill sets quicker. I was able to learn more dedicating my time to school.
WHAT WERE YOUR GOALS WHEN YOU WERE JUST STARTING OUT IN THE DIGITAL MEDIA INDUSTRY?
Well, I didn’t really know. Originally, I figured that web design would be an easy transition to merge my artistic side with a technical background. That was my start, but as I got into doing it more and more, I found that I liked the mental challenge of the technical side of coding but I didn’t enjoy the process and it wasn’t quite enough creativity for me. I knew that I eventually wanted to start my own business, just wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do.
SINCE GRADUATION, CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT SOME OF THE INTERESTING WORK YOU HAVE DONE IN THIS INDUSTRY? CLIENTS, PROJECTS, GIGS, COMPANY, FREELANCE, ETC.
The program at F.I.R.S.T. Institute required an internship. I did mine with Adrenaline Films in Orlando as a post production intern. Really, that’s what transferred me career-wise from TV to film. I enjoyed being a part of these mainstream projects and having the opportunity to learn. From there, I met some people who did broadcast sports and I began freelancing as a camera operator for some of the local sports teams. I’ve done things at Amway, like the Stars on Ice tour last year, and worked with the Predators, UCF & USF women’s basketball, Orioles Spring Training and some other sporting events.
I also picked up part time work with PSAV as a freelancer doing Audio/Visual work at the local hotels and the Convention Center.
About this same time last year, I entered into a business incubation program that was holding a competition modeled after the “Shark Tank” TV show. I was the winner of the competition and started a film production company. As a winner I received some grant-giving and business consultation.
My personal focus is Cinematography, but I also have a home studio where I do voiceovers, work with my wife on her music, record full bands and things like that… so I definitely still use my audio education background.
WHAT’S THE MOST REWARDING PART OF YOUR JOB?
For me it’s being an entrepreneur. In the entertainment industry, you can create and
invent yourself in any way you want and make a living in so many different ways. A lot of the things that I do are never the same so I never get bored. I make my schedule and I really enjoy that.
IS THERE ANYTHING WE CAN LOOK FORWARD TO SEEING COME FROM YOU IN THE FUTURE?
I’m working to produce original content through my company, Show Palace Entertainment, that’s the goal. We are currently writing a webisode and working on a script for a feature film.
3-5 YEARS FROM NOW, WHAT DO YOUR CAREER GOALS LOOK LIKE?
My personal goals are to have done one or two feature films and be working on the next one.
HOW DID ATTENDING F.I.R.S.T. INSTITUTE IMPACT YOUR LIFE OR CAREER?
I think being in the film industry, understanding the importance of audio is so big. A lot of people don’t realize that. Whether it’s the music or sound design, the audio is 50% of the experience. Film is not just about the visual.
Also, being able to record my wife’s music, do voice overs, engineer my own sound design and offer recording services to others extends my capabilities and income potential. It also allows me to do more in house and not have to pay someone else for that service.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE WHO IS LOOKING TO GET STARTED IN FILMMAKING OR AUDIO ENGINEERING?
Two things: first, get educated, whether traditionally or on your own somehow. Get involved with as many projects as you can to learn your craft. Really focus on what you want to do and define what that is. Focus and work on it daily because that focus and dedication is what turns your passion into a viable means to live off of.
Second, be professional. Your success depends on your relationship with others, you want to be someone easy to get along with and able to be counted on.
Would You Like to Be Our Next Audio Engineering School Success Story?
There are a wide variety of careers in the audio engineering industry available, and you can start on the road to yours by enrolling at F.I.R.S.T. Institute‘s Audio Engineering and Music Production program. At our Orlando campus, you’ll learn hands on, in real studio settings, with small class sizes. Faculty at F.I.R.S.T. Institute are working audio industry professionals who have a passion for mentoring the next generation of audio engineers.
Contact us today for more information on how you can launch a career in the audio industry and even take a video tour of the campus. Start on your path to a career in the audio industry at one of the best sound engineering schools in Florida today!