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Revisiting U2's Iconic "Joshua Tree" and Capturing a Moment in Time with Saj Patel

Production manager is one of those titles that may not sound particularly sexy and exciting. While it isn’t necessarily the definition of these things, it does give you a ringside seat to what clearly IS and can enable your career to be a succession of these experiences. Everyone likes to hear about “I saw the Beatles at Shea Stadium”, “I was at Woodstock”, “I was backstage at Beyoncé”, etc. but being a production manager gives you that experience and immerses you in it as well. People outside the industry have a look ranging from glazed eyes to astonishment when they hear the title production manager in the same sentence as the more well-known productions I’ve been a part of. Those in the industry often have a more curious desire to hear the details. I feel quite fortunate to have a resume which includes so many productions that are internationally recognized. From international TV hit show The Voice to Netflix specials like Seth Rogen’s Hilarity for Charity, ears typically perk up if I’m sharing my experiences with others. One project which instantly elicits queries is my work with the iconic Irish rock band U2. There’s almost nowhere in the world where people are unfamiliar with them. They’re most certainly a global phenomenon of more than four decades. In 2017 I received a call as the band had made an 11th hour decision to film and create a DVD of The Joshua Tree 30th Anniversary Tour. It meant hitting the ground running, which is something I’m quite familiar with. Of course it also meant working with one of the most famous bands in music and documenting the anniversary of their most acclaimed album. It was an offer I absolutely could not refuse.

U2 is one of the bands which defines a sound spanning several decades. Working with them is something that instantly attracts attention for your career. I had worked with Emily Wolfe on several productions prior to this one and I knew that things would be done correctly if she contacted me to be a part of this. I also knew that the team would be excellent. While you’re not always certain what to expect, the experience of working with talented people who do excellent work gives you piece of mind even when the project is out of your wheelhouse. While I’d worked with musical acts as a part of The Voice, this was the filming of a DVD done “on the road” and in multiple cities. While some of my skills would directly apply, I knew there would be unexpected factors. I actually look forward to the unknown as it offers a chance to learn new applications. For this DVD, I had to successfully manage a number of last-minute shoot-dates in multiple cities. This meant hiring multiple crews and traveling internationally to facilitate an end product up to par with the biggest band in the world, directed by internationally renowned Director and Photographer Anton Corbijn. Because this was a last minute decision, the time to prepare everything was sufficiently shorter than what I’m used to. This meant that flying by the seat of my pants and figuring things out as they occurred was inevitable…and it occurred quite often. We hit the ground running with the show in San Diego at the SDCCU Stadium and then again in Mexico City at the Foro Sol stadium. It was late 2017 and the Earthquake in Mexico City had recently occurred. Finding a courier who could guarantee delivery of our camera equipment to the stadium for the shoot was a major challenge. Keeping your cool in a majorly stressful situation cannot be overstated in its importance.

There are several segments in the DVD but the main concert is the part which I was primarily responsible for. Without our incredible crew, none of my coordinating would have meant a thing. There’s a very real mutual admiration that is shared by those working behind the scenes in the production world. You might work on a film, a television program or with one of the most famous rock bands of all times but talent and hard work speaks louder than anything. Having worked with U2, one of the most famous rock bands of all times definitely looks good on the resume and adds to the list of experience and different types of work I have done or am capable of doing. I don’t know if I have more “street cred” because of this work but I know that I have widened the sphere of professionals whom I respect and who respect me. You have to try different things in your career, even if it involves using the same skill set. Your talent may apply well to many different areas. Being a Production Manager is definitely something I am very good at and have a lot of experience in which has been proven time and time again when executives I have worked with ask for me back on future projects. There’s plenty of adventure involved for those of us who work behind the scenes as well as those in front. My advice is to challenge yourself from time to time to take that unusual project and see where it might take you. It’s exciting.

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