Third Eye Blind photo by Sunny Martini
This star on the rise got his start in the entertainment design industry just like many a professional in the field: high school theatre. After graduation, Schellenger began the Theatre, Film, and Video Production major at University of Colorado. The next year, he switched to the Architecture program, which provided him valuable skills in CAD drawings and designing sound, creative structures. In his free time, he moonlighted as a stagehand in downtown Denver, working everything from theatres to arena shows.
Imagine Dragons photo by Oliver Halfin
“Being a stagehand gave me a very real look at how it all works, from the very bottom,” says Schellenger. “I really learned what a stage manager does, why there's so many trucks, the different roles of the lighting director versus the lighting crew chief. I learned what these companies were and who was doing what. Eventually, I started just calling these lighting companies, trying to get somebody to take me on tour as a lighting tech. I finally got some opportunities that were good enough for me to drop out of school.”
Rob Thomas photo by Steve Jennings
While touring as a lighting tech with Christie Lites for a few years, Schellenger developed an ambition to become a lighting director and programmer. “I would talk them into letting me run the opening acts and doing the lighting for the tours to get some console time,” he says. Meanwhile, he also worked with PRG Denver on various corporate shows before getting calls to go out on smaller tours as lighting director, programmer, tech, all in one.
Third Eye Blind photo by Stephen Eckert
“I had just finished a tour when I got a call saying, ‘Are you available to be the LD for Third Eye Blind?’” explains Schellenger. “I said, ‘When do you need me?’ and they were like, ‘Tomorrow morning.’” The tour had already started, and the lighting just wasn’t working out, so Schellenger grabbed his unpacked bag and headed to the airport. He’d done programming and designing for some corporate shows and one-offs, but this was his first full tour design. “It was super stressful, and I was really nervous but it was a great way to get right into it. The band was really supportive of me, and the production manager was excellent.”
Rob Thomas photo by Steve Jennings
From there, Schellenger added more tours to his resume, including DJ Hardwell, fun., Rob Thomas, Enrique Iglesias, J Balvin, and Pentatonix. He also toured as head of electrics and board operations for the first national tour of Broadway musical, Elf.
Enrique Iglesias 2018 Tour; photo by Joseph Okpako, WireImage, Getty Images
Along the way, Schellenger has made lasting impressions – and connections. The tour manager who previously hired him to work with Third Eye Blind but now represents Diplo called on Schellenger again to design the artist’s recent festival tour. Travis Shirley, production and lighting designer for Enrique Iglesias, hired him again, this time, to work with him on the 2018 tour set design, an avenue of design that Schellenger is increasingly frequenting.
2018 Latin Grammy Awards; photo by Ethan Miller, Getty Images for LARAS
Within the last year, Schellenger has teamed up with Australian creative powerhouse The Squared Division, working with artists like Bebe Rexha and handling full production design for all 17 performances at the 19th annual Latin Grammys. “The Latin Grammys was a big project to take on and an interesting one since over the last couple of years, I've started to deviate a bit from lighting, which has always been my focus throughout my career,” says Schellenger. “It’s been cool getting into scenic because I'm focusing on a different part of the overall structures. Even if I'm not the one lighting scenic, it's still cool to collaborate with the lighting designer and figure out a cool, unique look. When the lighting, sets, and everything are very cohesive and all fit together nicely, it just looks great.” Schellenger called on various team members from Station Six to crank out the drawings and renderings within the short timeline for the ultimately successful production.
AWOLNATION’s 2016 Fall Tour
Schellenger often draws inspiration from the initial conversation with the client. “I always like to get on the phone with the band or singer, whoever from the act who is leading the show creatively, and get inside their head a little bit,” he explains. His favorite success story? AWOLNATION’s 2016 Fall Tour. “I got on the phone with the singer, and I basically said, ‘If you were singing and performing your music, where would you see yourself?’ He said, ‘If I was waking up, going to the beach, getting on a surfboard, paddling out into the water, and having this feeling as though I wasn't sure I was going to meet a beautiful mermaid or any evil pirate, that's what I want my show to look like.’”
AWOLNATION’s 2016 Fall Tour
Super abstract, right? But Schellenger instinctively understood. “We played on some of the nautical feelings and used these great big lights, Robe PATT 2013s that almost like portholes but they have a nice tungsten color to them.” He mixed in some other lighting fixtures like Claypaky Sharpies to punch through it. The watery, nautical color palette of greens and blues shifted in intensity from softer tones to darker for heavy moments. From a chase to a wave lighting effect, subtle details in the lighting programming harked back to the sea to emulate the rolling waters of the ocean. “He loved it. It was exactly as he imagined,” beams Schellenger.
Imagine Dragons photo by Ralph Larmann
Eventually, he got a call from Matt Miley, production manager for fun. who had taken a chance on Schellenger a few years prior and was about to offer him another chance of a lifetime, without even realizing it yet. “Matt said, ‘Hey, I have this band called Imagine Dragons, and they need an LD.’ So I went to Mexico and did a one-off with Imagine Dragons,” Schellenger recalls. “It was at the very beginning of their Smoke + Mirrors album cycle, and I thought it was just going to be a one-off so I went to another Third Eye Blind tour that I had designed, and I figured that was it.” Little did he know that five years later, that band would still be one of his biggest clients.
Imagine Dragons’ Evolve Tour photo by Galya Moiseeva
While Schellenger was getting Third Eye Blind up and running to go out on the road, Miley called and invited him to the Smoke + Mirrors Tour, which was designed by Sooner Routhier, carrying him to every corner of the globe. In between tours with Imagine Dragons, he kept himself entertained designing TV performances and various one-offs. In 2017, Schellenger was promoted to production designer for Imagine Dragons’ Evolve Tour, and he has been handling their full creative direction ever since.
Shinedown tour photo by Sanjay Parikh
Currently, Schellenger is prepping upcoming private shows and stadium performances for longtime client Imagine Dragons, while lighting Shinedown and doing full design and creative direction for Logic and AJR. With his own company and loyal clients, he has come a long way since his days as a stagehand watching the lights on the fire trucks across from his hometown venue. Schellenger gives credit to the people who helped him excel and hopes to do the same for the next generation.
AWOLNATION’s 2016 Fall Tour
“As I was beginning my career, John LaBriola, who passed away in 2014, was the lighting designer for The Jonas Brothers and Justin Bieber and things like that. Even when I was annoying little kid just trying to break into the business and learn how it all worked, he would invite me to shows and let me sit at front of house,” he recalls. “He was definitely a mentor to me, allowing me to shadow him and answer all my questions. I now have a new generation of people asking me questions. Jon taught me that you have to help the next generation. Everybody can work together. So I always try and invite people to shows if they want to learn because that was me really not too long ago, to be honest.”
Imagine Dragons photo by Galya Moiseeva
Tyler Elich, owner of Orangelite, is another industry professional who offered life-changing advice when Schellenger was a young lighting tech and Elich a video programmer out on tour. “One night, I was stressed, and we were chatting about business and careers. At that time as a young lighting tech not doing that many tours, I started to get a little worried about money and just paying my bills. I never wanted to be rich or anything like that, but I told him that I hope that doing what I love to do can at least pay my rent. He basically told me, ‘If you love what you do and you're passionate about it, don't ever worry about the money because you'll be just fine. Focus on the art first, and that's all that matters.’ That was a huge thing for me because I did just that. I focused on art, and it's all worked out. I never stressed about the bills because I focus on what I like to do first, and I think that's healthy, too. It's good for people to do what they love to do because life's too short not to,” Schellenger concludes sagely.