What you always wanted to know about Robert…
A native of Las Vegas, Robert is not a “title” person; his official title is Janitor Emeritus, but in truth he is the creative force for the company. He is a third generation IATSE member who began learning the craft of flying with Peter Foy almost 25 years ago. Although grateful to learn from such a legendary pioneer, he felt his potential would never be fully recognized at Foy Enterprises and he left to make his own mark. In 1994, he founded ZFX in his two car garage and drove for eight hours with a bundle of I-beam strapped to ski-racks on top of his sedan to install ZFX job #1. Now, thanks to 20 years of hard work, ZFX is known world-wide for their innovation and infectious enthusiasm, as well as for their quirky sense of humor. You’ll never find Robert sitting on his laurels about what he has done right, but instead focused on what can be still be improved. According to Robert, the American Dream is still a real thing and he gives his life story as proof.
Favorite ZFX gigs:
The First ZFX Peter Pan in 1995
Prestonwood Baptist Church’s Christmas Show (19 years!)
Solving problems under duress
Any project in any place he hasn’t already visited
Favorite part of ZFX…
Being surrounded by artists and craftsmen who are dedicated to coming to fun.
What you never thought you would know about Robert…
Danger is his middle name. It is spelled like William but pronounced like Danger.
Actual quote: “That’s still not right.” or “Did you ever notice…”
Education: Robert is an autodidactic polymath who shuns sesquipedalianists
Nom de Guerre: Dean-Oh!; (Japanese) Loba-yan; (Chinese) Jackie Chan; (Arabic) Ibn-Battuta
Other Artistic Endeavors: Photographer, Storyteller (it’s a lost art)
States Visited: All 50
Countries Visited: 60+
Favorite Places: Mojave Desert, Utrecht
What he wants on his tombstone: “After-life-ing the American dream”
What you always wanted to know about Emily…
Emily is a Louisville native, who after being homeschooled through middle and high school, moved to the locally notorious Highlands Neighborhood and did the neo-hippie thing for a while. While bartending for 4 (or 5) years of college, she ultimately earned a business degree from UofL. Not previously from the entertainment world, a chance – some would say serendipitous – encounter led her to joining ZFX in early 2006. She was instrumental in the creation of our Producing Department and to bringing sales and client relations at ZFX into a new era as the company’s focus has expanded into automation. Emily has helped thousands (literally) of productions incorporate flying effects. She enjoys working closely with our international and event clients.
Favorite thing about ZFX…
Men in kilts, obviously (she married one). And also the family environment and occasionally getting to visit the productions.
Favorite projects include:
Wicked – Melbourne
Zac Brown Band
Arab Idol 2012 & 2013
What you never know you would know about Emily…
She flunked out of ninja school since she is unable to walk silently. She once got dragged into going to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia and liked it (fermented mare’s milk, not so much). Has a weird medical condition that makes it so she can’t suffer the sound of other people chewing.
Actual quote: “I’m the patient one!”
Education: BS in Business Administration from the University of Louisville.
Call Sign: Mly (pronounced like “Emily” but uses less ink)
Other Artistic Endeavors: Fashion Director for her 7 year old, at home chef-ery
States Visited: 31
Countries Visited: 28
Favorite Places: Red River Gorge, any Greek island, with family
What she wants on her tombstone:
What you always wanted to know about Gert Jan…
Gert Jan Brouwer started in the event industry as a lighting technician 19 years ago. In 1998 he and two colleagues founded Frontline Rigging Consultants B.V, of which Gert Jan is the President. During the last decade he became especially interested in the mechanical and safety aspects of rigging. Gert Jan now works closely with ARBO, the Dutch equivalent to America’s OSHA. Because of our mutual concerns for safety, it was a natural step to form a partnership between ZFX and Frontline. In addition to functioning as our VP of European Operations, Gert Jan is working successfully to certify ZFX flying systems with various European government agencies.
Favorite part of ZFX… Coming to the states for some R & R with Dean-OH!!
Favorite ZFX projects:
What you never thought you would know about Gert Jan… Gert Jan is pronounced “Hert Yahn.” Get it right! He is so tall he can actually see half way around the world and he employs little elves to tie his shoes.
Gert Jan’s Stats:
Education: Dutch… nuff said.
Nom de Guerre: Whatever you call him, just don’t call him late for dinner.
Other Artistic Endeavors:
What he wants on his tombstone:
Almost to the Top Brass
What you always wanted to know about Kalen:
Kalen has been flying people for over 10 years. Early in his entertainment career, he started out as technical director and scenic designer before discovering the joys of balancing design and tech with performer flying. He’s also spent quite a bit of time in education and was a tenured Associate Professor at Michigan Technological University prior to joining the world of flying effects. These days he’s often in the office moving mounds of paperwork as Operations Manager here at ZFX HQ. However, no matter how much paperwork there is, Kalen will find a way to sneak out of the building to be a flying director whenever possible.
Though his teaching days are behind him, Kalen’s academic roots run deep. He’s a proud ETCP trainer and voting member of the ESTA rigging working group, the organization that establishes ANSI standards for rigging in the entertainment industry.
Favorite thing about ZFX: The excitement in the air when working on a classic show with a school.
What you never thought you would know about Kalen: Kalen towers above the average person at 6’-4” but with a style like one of those giant teddy bears from Costco.
Actual Quote: “Do a squatié, it’s kind of like a plié.”
Education: MFA in Technical Theatre Production from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and BA with a double major in Theatre and Art from Siena Heights University.
Nom de Guerre: Kalen (he’s not boring, his name is already pretty unique)
States visited: 34
Countries visited: Canada, Saudi Arabia
Favorite Place: Sitting on a beach anywhere along the Great Lakes.
What you always wanted to know about Harry:
Harry is originally from exotic Erie, PA. He says that the most logical thing he’s ever done was to move to Louisville after the Vegas office closed, but he’s probably just being humble. “Logistics Manager” isn’t just a fancy title, it’s a fast paced Jack Ryan type of job with sudden changes, plot twists, and intrigue. It’s like juggling chainsaws while reciting the Cyrillic alphabet backwards. Outdoors, in a lightning storm. When you’re in charge of moving equipment around the planet, you’d better be one of the more reasonable people in the room. Harry started out wiring cabinets and drive boxes. Now he’s in charge of all the shipping, receiving, and inventory management.
Favorite thing about ZFX: Even though it’s fast paced, it’s a relaxed environment. Even when it’s busy and tensions run high, there’s always somebody that can relax the situation and make you enjoy yourself. He hasn’t dreaded going to work, not even once, in his ten years at ZFX.
Favorite projects: Well he doesn’t do his kids’ school projects for them, I’ll tell you that. How else would they learn anything?
What you never thought you’d know about Harry: Harry is an open book, so you already know pretty much everything about him. (Note: If you borrow a book from somebody, don’t keep it for too long. It’s rude.)
Actual quote: “You can’t have anything running behind when you’re dealing with live productions.”
Nom de Guerre: Harry Love IV (but he hasn’t named any of his 5 children Harry Love V… yet)
Other artistic endeavors: (no answer)
States visited: Not many.
Countries visited: Canada.
Favorite places: The beach. Anywhere on the ocean.
What he wants on his tombstone: I’m finally gone.
What you always wanted to know about Jon…
Jon is a graduate from the University of Louisville, and is a Kentucky native, born and raised. He has a BFA in sculpture and three dimensional design. In addition to creating contemporary art, he enjoys building anything that is technically challenging. Examples of some of Stich’s previous builds include gallery installation, kinetic sculptures, stage sets, and custom off-road vehicles. His life-long exploration of making things from scratch has significantly contributed to his understanding of how things work. Working for ZFX gives him the perfect opportunity to showcase his skills as a technical builder and artist while sharing his humor and patience with peers and clients alike. When Jon is not flying for ZFX, you can find him racing sailboats with his friends and family.
Favorite ZFX gigs:
Starlight Kansas City Wizard of Oz
Favorite part of ZFX… The hours….
What you never thought you would know about Jon… Stich is pronounced like “stick”
Education: BFA in sculpture and three dimensional design from the University of Louisville
Nom De Guerre: Stitch
Other Artistic Endeavors:
What he wants on his tombstone:
What you always wanted to know about Matthew: Matthew has been in love with theatre since he first got a taste in elementary school, and has spent the time since learning all the aspects of it he can. Starting with High School and community theatre in Idaho he moved to Alaska where he went to college and worked as a freelance lighting and sound designer and technician. After graduating he spent nine seasons at Actors Theatre of Louisville in the scene shop, running the trap system for over 360 performances of Dracula. That bit him with the automation bug, combining his love of tinkering, live performances, and machinery.
Favorite thing about ZFX: The laid back yet intense atmosphere. The only thing people take seriously is the work.
What you never thought you would know about person: Matt is generally better with animals than people and is an expert at getting cats to like him
Actual Quote: If it’s stupid and it works it’s not stupid, but that’s still really dumb
Education: BA in Technical Theatre/Design from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks
Nom de Guerre: Auto-Matt or just Krell
Other Artistic Endeavors: Papercraft or card modelling, whatever you want to call building things out of cut, folded, and glued paper.
States Visited: 26
What he Wants on his Tombstone: We’ll know better next time
What you always wanted to know about Jessica:
A Louisville native, Jessica spent the majority of her formative years running around barefoot and dabbling in all things creative (visual art, theatre, dance, singing, piano, you name it!) Graduating high school from the Youth Performing Arts School in 2001, Jessica continued her studies at Millikin University in Decatur, IL. After graduating in 2005, she continued north and set down roots in the Windy City. Now she’s happy to have escaped the endless Chicago winters and landed back in her beloved Derby City, where she is able to help bring the creative vision of others into reality with her work at ZFX! When she’s not donning a cape as a Producer, you can usually find her in the kitchen tinkering (she just might whip you up something from scratch if you ask nicely,) sneaking sushi & sake into movie theaters, critter whispering, supporting local farmers & artists, or snuggling at home on the couch with her daughter (aka “The Beast,”) and a book.
Favorite thing about ZFX: Being able to drop f-bombs around the office without anyone batting an eye. Also, observing/celebrating Koningsdag.
World premiere of Sarah Ruhl’s “For Peter Pan on her 70th Birthday”
EVITA with Asolo Repertory Theatre
Anna Nicole the Opera with BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music)
Dr. Faustus with University of Nevada, Reno
What you never thought you’d know about Jessica: She’s twisted onstage with Chubby Checker. She also worked in a Veterinarian’s office for 5 years and – thus – can tell you everything you wanted to know about your pet’s anal glands (they’re at the 10 and the 2, by the way.)
Favorite quote: “Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.” – Conan O’Brien
Education: Bachelors of Fine Arts in Theatre (Acting Emphasis) from Millikin University. Minor in African American Lit.
Call Sign/Alias: J-May
Other Artistic Endeavors: Active with local Louisville theatre scene.
States visited: 18
Countries visited: USA
Favorite Places: The Smoky Mountains & home
What she wants on her tombstone/ash vase: Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt.
What you always wanted to know about Steve…
Steve was born and raised in Kentucky. He wasted most of his youth playing sports and choreographing sweet battle scenes with G.I. Joes and Transformers and the original 5-Lion Voltron and other excellent socially acceptable male dolls…(cough cough)….erm….action figures. All of which he still has. It took Steve 10 years to officially graduate from college. He was living in NYC performing, writing, and having a good time when he finally got his diploma in the mail. He was on a city league basketball team in Manhattan and has balled with some of the most hardcore I.T. Professionals, Teachers and Salespeople in the city. He returned to Kentucky to be closer to his family, and luckily the job at ZFX sort of fell in his lap. And what do you do when a lovable critter jumps in your lap? Pet it, of course. Steve has been with ZFX for several years now, and he even scratches behind its ears.
Favorite thing about ZFX: He can curse all day, wear silly t-shirts, and everyone here works really hard.
Favorite projects: Dropping 50 Cent into a boxing ring. (Well, we set him down gently, actually.)
What you never thought you would know about Steve… He has performed stand-up comedy at least three whole times. And lived to tell the tale.
Actual quote: “Silliness is its own reward.”
Education: B.A. in Communications, Georgetown College. Masters in Urban Wisdom from the mean streets of Bowling Green, KY.
Call Sign: People stopped liking him enough to assign him a pet name, so he’s just Steve.
Other Artistic Endeavors: He wrote three un-published novels and is currently working on his fourth.
States visited: 21
Countries visited: Mexico.
Favorite places: New York City, the state of Kentucky, and the Red River Gorge.
What he wants on his tombstone: He had a way with words. (With all of that other stuff about loving husband, father, etc. in the event of a wife and kids.)
What you always wanted to know about Jennifer…
Jennifer is a Louisville native who fell in love with theater at a young age when her mom took her to see touring productions that passed through town. She studied dance for 16 years and went on to study voice at the University of Louisville. She eventually moved to the Theatre Arts Department after being cast in her first production. She stayed involved as an actor in the local theater scene for several years, but is currently enjoying a brief hiatus to focus on raising her beautiful daughter Lily. She is grateful to have the opportunity to work with other artists and collaborate on cool projects through ZFX.
Favorite thing about ZFX…
The casual yet hardworking atmosphere.
What you never thought you would know about Jennifer…
She’s a bit of a country girl at heart.
Favorite quote: “The earth has music for those who listen” – George Santayana
Education: Studied Music and Theatre Arts at the University of Louisville
Call Sign: JT
Other Artistic Endeavors: Occasionally performing, honing her home cooking and baking skills, and teaching the young one all about the arts
States Visited: 16
Countries Visited: 12
Favorite Places: Switzerland, Disney World, Home
What she wants on her tombstone: She lived and loved.
What you always wanted to know about Ashleé:
Growing up Ashleè was one of the lucky Army brats that didn’t have to move every 3 years, she was born and raised in Huntsville, Alabama. Ashleé attended the University of Louisville and graduated with a Communications degree while participating in community service and planning large events for the university. During her time at UofL she grew to love the event industry and went on to work for companies including Cosmo, KDF Fashion Show, and Rue La La managing their events and photo shoots. Ashleé now implements all of her organizational skills to make sure everyone at ZFX is coming and going correctly, kind of like herding cats.
Favorite part of ZFX:
Every day is different and every employee is unique
What you never thought you would know about Ashleé:
It drives her nuts when people don’t put the accent mark in her name.
Actual Quote: If you desire to think better, start with your mind. If you desire to feel better, start with your body. If you desire to be better, start with your soul.
Education: University of Louisville, Communication (BA)
Nom de Guerre: Ashley
Other Artistic Endeavors: Cosmetology | Writing
States Visited: 18 and counting
Favorite Places: Anywhere with great food and company
What she wants on her tombstone: I’m actually on my beach.
Actual Title: Recepticon (kind of like a receptionist but with the ability to transform into other useful forms, much like a robot in disguise)
What you always wanted to know about Lindsey: I’m not sure anyone is clamoring to find out if I can tap dance or not, but for the record, I can.
Favorite thing about ZFX: There’s never a dull moment!
What you never thought you would know about Lindsey: Despite working at ZFX, Lindsey doesn’t actually care for heights, thank you very much.
Actual Quote: What’s for lunch?
Education: University of Louisville, Maggie Flanigan Studio
Nom de Guerre: [redacted for, uh, reasons]
Other Artistic Endeavors: Oh, gosh … All sorts of things!
States Visited: 28
Countries Visited: 13
Favorite Places: home, somewhere out in the wilderness, or New Orleans
What she Wants on her Tombstone: Surprise me.
What you always wanted to know about Brian…
Brian, a Tennessee native, has been flying with ZFX for nearly 9 years. One of the first employees added upon creation of the Louisville office, Brian literally helped to build the current ZFX headquarters from the ground up. His first trip as a Flying Director was quite a milestone; it was also his first time ever to fly on an airplane! Being a natural leader and creative problem solver, he is now the Lead Trainer of the Flying Department. His time is divided between training up and coming FDs in the ZFX way and working on large projects that require his skill and choreographic genius.
Favorite part of ZFX… Working on stages all over the world!
Favorite projects include:
The World Premiere of Sleep Rock Thy Brain for Actors Theatre of Louisville Humana Festival 2013
FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Bogota, Columbia, 2012
WICKED – Australia, New Zealand, Germany, the Netherlands, Philippines and South Korea
Toronto Nuit Blanche 2011 – Flight Path project
Zac Brown Band US tour 2011, flying Clay Cook on a 150’ track over the audience!!
What you never thought you would know about Brian: Brian choreographed horses before he choreographed people.
Actual quote: “So this is what Kennedy airport is like. I’ve only ever flown through JFK.”
Call Sign: O’Wens
Education: Sinclair College Theatre and Dance
Other Artistic Endeavors: Photographer, Musician, Photo Retoucher, Comedian
States Visited: 40+
Countries Visited: 15
Favorite Places: Dominican Republic (as long as there is no gunfire) and the Hongdae area in Seoul, where he made his SOKO street band debut
What he wants on his tombstone:
What you always wanted to know about Andrea…
Andrea has learned it best not to flaunt her Indiana roots too much around the shop, but she is indeed a daughter of the Hoosier state, despite her growing appreciation for horses and bluegrass music. She is a graduate of the University of Evansville’s Department of Theatre, and as one of the department’s generalists, she spent her days outside of class in the scene shop and her evenings in rehearsals. After graduating with the intention of pursuing directing, she took a little detour to France to teach English and came back to the States ready to become a pastry chef. Thankfully she got it out of her system and is back to her first love of helping make stories a reality.
Favorite ZFX Gigs:
The MUNY ST. Louis – Mary Poppins and Tarzan
A Christmas Carol at the Goodman Theatre Chicago
Programming crashing chandeliers for Phantom of the Opera
Seaworld San Antonio
Nutcracker with Cincinnati Ballet
What you never thought you would know about Andrea… If you stay quiet long enough to make her think she’s alone, she starts singing showtunes in the Dojo. Or Johnny Cash, it’s really a toss up.
Favorite thing about ZFX… That creative problem solving is a daily occurrence around here, and that in the ZFX lexicon, “MacGyver” is a verb.
Actual quote: “Waaaaak!”
Education: BS in Theatre Studies from the University of Evansville in Evansville, Indiana.
Call Sign/Alias: Gurl
Other Artistic Endeavors: Making Macarons, not macaroons. Get it right.
States visited: 63 ½. … What?
Countries visited: 10
What you always wanted to know about Michelle:
Michelle grew up in one of those small towns where there isn’t a lot of access to arts and culture, so she didn’t even consider working in the theatre until she filled some empty space in her high school schedule with a drama class. Before she knew it, she was going to school all day and spending all night at rehearsal. She kept pursuing a career in technical theatre in college, and ended up spending eleven years as a deck chief before finding her place at ZFX.
As a kid, she wanted to be Indiana Jones when she grew up. The funny thing is, her current jet-setting role at ZFX requires her to be more like Indy than if she had actually become an archeologist. Her place is on the road; she feels most useful there and that’s where she learns the most. She is an expert automation technician, and her organizational skills from her time as a deck chief make her one of ZFX’s most valuable players. Whether she’s wiring hoists and drives, or troubleshooting automation with clients on location, she cherishes every opportunity to learn something new while helping to realize an artistic vision.
Favorite thing about ZFX: Learning every single day from the best people in the industry, constant challenges that keep things interesting.
Evolution in Shenzen, China
Peter Pan at Memphis Ballet
What you never thought you’d know about Michelle: She spent all four years of high school as a proud member of the FFA before she got into theatre. Because of all the traveling she does, she’s not a Present Farmer of America, but she still plans on getting back to her roots sometime in the future.
Actual quote: (boisterous super-villain laugh)
Education: BA in Technical Theatre from California State University at Stanislaus.
Call Sign/Alias: Don’t call her “Tinkerchelle”; she’s far too powerful for that little name.
Other Artistic Endeavors: Cross-stitching, jamming/jellying.
States visited: 15
Countries visited: Canada, Bahamas, South Korea, China, Mexico, Argentina, Peru, USA.
Favorite Places: SHENZEN!!!
What she wants on her tombstone: There’s a little string that you pull and her pre-recorded spooky laugh comes out of a speaker. Just think about how creepy that’s gonna sound after the batteries start to die. Whew.
What you always wanted to know about Shad: Shad grew up in Nebraska (yep, worked in the cornfields as a kid). Moved to Missouri for his undergraduate and Master’s degree. After getting his MFA in Acting and Directing he moved to New York City where he spent 12 years working as a Fight Director and an Actor. He joined the ZFX team because of the fantastic opportunities to discover and explore new methods of physical storytelling.
Favorite ZFX Gigs: All my kids are special in their own way.
Favorite Thing about ZFX: Freakin awesome people, learning a little something new every day, being able to help create great stories on stage, and getting into a flying harness to play around.
What you never thought you would know about Shad: Shad has been a fight director and teacher in NYC for the past 12 years. He has worked on Memphis: the Musical, Bonnie & Clyde, Macbeth, and Doctor Zhivago on Broadway: Two Boys, Faust, Boris Godunov, Rhodelinda, Iphigenie En Tauride, and Prince Igor at the New York Metropolitan Opera; he has also taught and been a Fight Director at the Juilliard School. He also loves kittens and Muppets.
Quote: Nothing can possibly go wrong with this idea
Education: B.S. In Theatre, Northwest Missouri State University; M.F.A. in Acting and Directing, University of Missouri Kansas City
Nom de Guerre: Rams, Ramsey, Master of pointy things and things that go boom, uh… Hey you, blonde guy.
Other Artistic Endeavors: Fight Directing, Acting, Directing
States visited: NE, MO, IA, KS, TX, NY, VT, MD, NC, SC, OH, IN, IL, NJ, FL, TN, KY, NV, UT, NM, WA, ID, WY, MN, CO, GA, CA, OR, VA, MN, CT.
Countries visited: Canada, Germany, South Korea, … and possibly Mexico
Favorite places: New York City; Greensboro, VT; Kansas City, MO; Frankfurt, Germany
What you always wanted to know about MarKeith…
Born and raised in Alexandria, VA. After attending Shenandoah University for a B.A. in Musical Theatre, he went to pursue his dream of working for Disney. In Walt Disney World Orlando, FL, MarKeith was a dancer and character performer in parades and shows all across the property. After moving back to the DMV he became a Senior Supervisor in Entertainment at Six Flags America while directing, producing and choreographing some of the largest productions the theme park had ever seen. Also at the same time MarKeith was Artistic Director and Choreographer at one of the largest churches in the Washington, DC metropolitan area, producing stellar Christmas and Easter pageants, which included 300+ cast members, live animals, pyro techniques, and flying aerial effects. Mr. Scott has been featured in the Washington Post and Gazette for his work and also holds several awards and certificates from theatrical companies and organizations. Head of State, Commander and Chief, Not Just News, and Disney are a few of the movies, TV series, and commercials Mr. Scott has appeared in.
Favorite part of ZFX… Getting the opportunity to work with such brilliant people who are passionate about their craft
What you never thought you would know about MarKeith… MarKeith is actually not his first name…
Quote: “All our DREAMS can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.”
Education: Grade Schools, Shenandoah University, Walt Disney World College Program, My parents and brother, and Various Directors/Choreographers around the country.
Nom de Guerre: Key (Too many people mess up my name or want to shorten it to Mark or Keith)
Other Artistic Endeavors: Owning my theatre venue experiences around the world.
Countries Visited: Bermuda and Canada
Favorite Places: Disney
What he wants on his tombstone: “Just believe…”
What you always wanted to know about Jason:
Originally from Alaska, Jason rigged and choreographed over 300 productions as a ZFX Flying Director before taking on the General Manager position. After three years in that position he now works on special projects for ZFX. Jason is an ETCP Certified Rigger, member of SAG/AFTRA and an ordained Spiritual Warrior with the Universal Life Church.
Favorite ZFX gigs: This one, with the next one a close second.
Favorite part of ZFX: Creating magic with the people of ZFX. They are extraordinarily talented and generous of spirit.
What you never thought you would know about Jason: He’s been kicked by a horse, charged by a moose and stung by a stingray.
Quote: Some things that are just plain unprintable.
Education: BA in Theatre from the University of Wisconsin – Madison
Nom de Guerre: Schu
Other Artistic Endeavors: Filmmaking, stunt coordination, acting and the art of living.
States visited: All but Hawaii and North Dakota
Countries visited: 17
Favorite places: Alaska
What he wants on his tombstone: “That was fun.”
What you always wanted to know about Reilly:
Bryan (he goes by Reilly) is a performer-turned-technician who grew up with grand plans for being on stage and never touching that filthy tech stuff. Little did he know that one day he would take a job doing that filthy tech stuff, fall in love with it, and leave his dance and acting on the shelf (until ZFX, that is). He has run the gamut from working at Busch Gardens Tampa as a Rigger and Crew Leader for seasonal park installs as well as theatrical shows, to being a rigging electrician with Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey’s Greatest Show on Earth, to being an Automation Technician with Carnival Cruise Lines, and now flying people across stages with ZFX (which is actually his dream job, and that’s no lie). Needless to say, he likes to travel. You can find him obsessively researching every new location he travels to, and he will often know more about the place than most locals when he is done.
Favorite thing about ZFX: The people. The personalities and people at ZFX are unmatched.
Favorite projects: While compiling this list he says, “always the next one”.
What you never thought you’d know about Reilly: He actually has pretty bad social anxiety, but he doesn’t let it get him down, and he will still make friends with anyone. He is also an avid scuba diver with multiple certifications.
Actual quote: “Let me trick reality into making this work”
Nom de Guerre: Reilly
Other artistic endeavors: Loves to get back on stage whenever he can and scratch his acting itch.
States visited: Somewhere between all and none (30ish)
Countries visited: Mexico, Bahamas, Bermuda, Honduras, Belize, Aruba… you know what? The Caribbean, if it’s there, he has been
Favorite places: Between 50 and 130ft below the surface of almost any body of water, but primarily tropical waters.
What he wants on his tombstone: Occasionally brilliant moments, the moment preceding this was not one of them.
What you always wanted to know about Sean: Before trading arabesques for aircraft cable, Sean choreographed for concert dance, circus, theater, film and music videos in NYC for 10 years. His career choreographing on the ground had him working with clients such as Cirque Du Soleil, Lady Gaga, New York Fashion Week and many wonderful stage and touring productions. He is thrilled to bring his choreography up into the air with ZFX!
Favorite Thing about ZFX: Getting to hang around the coolest people doing the coolest thing. Oh and the dress code.
What you never thought you would know about Sean: While completely comfortable performing suspended 300 feet above the ground, he had a fear of flying (on airplanes) for many years.
Education: BFA NYU
Other Artistic Endeavors: Artistic Director of NYC based contemporary dance company Roschman Dance. Terrible, but enthusiastic singer.
States Visited: Most of the swiggley ones and a few of the square ones. Can’t wait to visit more.
Countries Visited: Italy, Mexico, Dominican Republic
Favorite Places: East River Park NYC, Chicago, British Virgin Islands.
What you always wanted to know about Wesley…
Wesley was raised is South Carolina (slightly adjacent to nowhere), where he began his theatre career as both a performer and technician of the past 13 years. It was here that he acquired his undergraduate degree in Technical Theatre, before deciding to continue his education by moving to Ireland for his masters in Theatrical Design. Upon returning to the states, he began bouncing from contract to contract flexing and showcasing his creative mind and abilities. It was in this time that Wesley first interacted with ZFX on the client end and would eventually find his way in the door to the best job he’s ever had.
Favorite thing about ZFX: Coming to work each day feels like going to a family reunion.
What you never thought you would know about Wesley: Wesley was a gymnast as a child.
Actual Quote: “yeah, yeah?”
Education: BFA in Technical Theatre from Coastal Carolina University, MFA in Theatrical Design from Trinity College of Dublin.
Nom de Guerre: Wes, Weasel, Gus, Jebediah, Ugly, Hey-you, and *insert obscenity here*
Other Artistic Endeavors: woodworking, sculpture, painting, and miniatures
States Visited: AL, AZ, AR, CA, CO, FL, IL, IN, KA, KY, LA, MA, MD, MS, MO, MT, NE, NJ, NM, NY, NC, ND, OK, PN, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, WV, WY.
Countries Visited: Ireland, Italy, England,
Favorite Places: Wherever his is, and wherever he’s going.
What he/she Wants on his/her Tombstone: “There was definitely poison in that cup”
What you always wanted to know about Russ:
Simply put, Russ loves people. But unlike most philanthropists, he shows his love for humanity by flying them around onstage. Working with clients is his favorite part of being a Flying Director. And the nice part is, they love him back! People are constantly requesting him when they hire ZFX for their flying productions. (For example, he’s worked with one particular high school in California around 20 times!) Russ has been involved in theater, both onstage and behind-the-scenes, since 1996. He doesn’t prove his experience by sitting around telling stories; he proves it by teaching his clients everything he knows. Coming from a background of Little League coaching and coordinating youth theater, he especially loves working with kids. He’s known for his attentiveness and patience; when clients ask to try something again, he’s fond of saying, “Sure I can, just put another quarter in.”
Russ is a truly laid-back dude, and he loves living in Southern California (where else can you begin the day with surfing and end it with skiing? Can you blame him?). He doesn’t surf as much as he used to, but it has certainly kept him young. Besides working with people, the real treat of his job is the challenge of coming up with new choreography and flying effects for shows. “But that’s what makes it fun. If it was the same thing over and over I’d quit. Once it becomes a job then I quit.”
Favorite thing about ZFX: Meeting people around the world, going places he’d never get to go to if it weren’t for being a Flying Director. You know, fun!
Favorite projects: So many that it’s hard to list them. The traditional ones, especially: Peter Pan, The Wizard of Oz, Mary Poppins, Beauty and the Beast, Tarzan.
What you never thought you’d know about Russ: Of all the famous folks he’s met, Dick Van Dyke was the nicest. He was fascinated with flying, and they talked about absolutely nothing for about an hour. That’s class!
Actual quote: “I’ve had a good time. I got no complaints.”
Other Artistic Endeavors:
States visited: 48 (all but Maine and Alaska)
Countries visited: New Zealand.
Favorite Places: New Zealand (he worked on The Wizard of Oz there when he first started out…how fun does that sound?!)
What you always wanted to know about Johnathon:
Johnathon began his path to ZFX as an Accounting major at the University of Tennessee. He didn’t know it would lead him here, but that’s the magical part of the story. He wanted to open a hot rod shop and he thought some accounting would look good on his loan application. But while choosing his general education courses, he decided to take classes in theatre and a scene design. He quickly realized his knack for CAD (that’s Computer-Aided Design) translated to a real strength in scene design. He never did take that Accounting class. His story rings true with one of ZFX’s founding concepts – that sometimes you have to ignore the traditional path to success and listen to your inner voice of ingenuity. (Don’t be scared; it’s a healthy voice with a soulful timbre.)
Johnathon spent years honing his craft, and eventually landed at ZFX Headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky. Here, he is an invaluable shop brain. He’s not satisfied just focusing on one aspect of managing projects; he likes to have a hand in everything from the design to coordinating with clients. Mostly involved in permanent install projects, his quick mind and maniacal laugh give him sort of a mad shop scientist feel; which is something you just don’t see everyday.
Favorite thing about ZFX: The broad range of things he gets to work on: not just budgeting and coordinating with clients; but also designing, and going out in the shop to do fab work. And he gets to see the world.
Uniqlo Hong Kong
Dixie Stampede Pigeon Forge
NASA hoist for JPL
What you never thought you’d know about Johnathon: His parents put an “H” in the John part of his name, in the event that he ever wanted to go by John, he wouldn’t have to misspell it Jon. (That’s right, Jons of the world – you’re doing it wrong.)
Actual quote: “I think it would be really cool if we had a shop donkey.”
Education: Bachelor of Arts in Theatre from the University of Tennessee Knoxville, emphasis in scenic design.
Call Sign/Alias: Tackett
Other Artistic Endeavors: (none)
States visited: 22
Countries visited: Hong Kong, China, Macau, Japan, Korea, Sweden, Qatar, Italy, Netherlands, Germany
Favorite Places: Knoxville, Utrecht, Louisville, San Antonio (Even though it is in Texas)
Tombstone: “I’m letting you have shotgun, but that’s only because I’m dead.”
What you always wanted to know about Brandon…
Brandon was born in Conway, SC and raised in the Myrtle Beach area. Though he now resides in Louisville, KY, Brandon has lived in the tourist towns of Myrtle Beach, SC and Pigeon Forge, TN, making him one of few people who can say they have lived in the two Putt-Putt capitals of the world.
Raised on a small farm, Brandon grew, harvested, and sold fruits and vegetables as a child, moving on to the tobacco fields as a teenager. As early as the age of 6 he began hands-on mechanical projects, often learning from his three uncles who had heavy equipment, an automotive shop, and shared a jack-of-all-trades approach to life and building things. Brandon reckons he’s now a true life American picker (you know, the kind that randomly pulls up in a driveway to ask about some junk in the back – just without a flyer and a camera crew.)
In higher education, Brandon did a stint studying computer science, but ended up returning to his first love: working with his hands and building things. Soon thereafter he found a job that utilized both his mechanical skills and those same programming skills he’d thought weren’t for him. Ten years on, that job had allowed Brandon to grow in many ways he’ll always be thankful for, and in no small part because it led him to ZFX where he continues to grow and learn the crafts of American Manufacturing. Becoming an American Craftsman and taking pride in his work is a daily reward.
When Brandon is not at work he enjoys being with his family: his wife of ten years, Jodi, and their two little boys, Adam and Landon. The Sudiswas get outdoors for fishing and kayaking whenever they can.
Favorite ZFX Project:
Obtaining TUV certification on ZFX’s secondary action quick-release harness clip.
Favorite part of ZFX…
The drive and speed at which we can design, prototype, and manufacture.
The motivation to continually seek efficiencies.
What you never thought you would know about Brandon…
His first name is Amerindo, which is derived from his heritage… his father is Indonesian and his mother is American. They blended the first four letters of each country to came up with his name.
His voice doesn’t match most people’s expectation of his appearance. Per Brandon: “The look of an Asian and the voice of a country bumpkin wearing a straw hat, chewing on hay.”
Education: Some college at Coastal Carolina University. On-the-job experience. Google and YouTube…(seriously, he learned how to program and run a CNC vertical mill with google and YouTube).
Nom de Guerre: Munk
Other Artistic Endeavors: Art of fly fishing (that’s an art form right?)
States Visited: 18
Countries Visited: 1
Favorite Places: If there are fish and the water is salty it’s my favorite.
What he wants on his tombstone: Hopefully he has many years to come up with this one
What you always wanted to know about Ken…
Ken is a native of Guangzhou who now resides in Hong Kong. He has lived and worked in Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia, as well as in China. He has worked on various large projects including the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Ken started working with ZFX in 2009 on our first flying mannequin install for the Uniqlo flagship store in Shanghai. He is diligent in planning, quick to spot potential problems, and dynamically able to adjust the plan to accommodate unforeseen issues at a moment’s notice. That’s why he’s our go-to guy whenever we have a project in the Chinese speaking part of the world!
Favorite part of ZFX… He gets to be the C.E.O… Chinese Entertainment Officer and/or Chief Enforcer of the Orient
Favorite projects include:
Uniqlo – Shanghai
Uniqlo – Hong Kong
Evolution – Shenzhen
What you never thought you would know about Ken: Ken grew up speaking Cantonese, but he is also fluent in Mandarin – so he speaks Mandarin with a distinct Cantonese accent. Also, he does not know Kung-fu.
Actual quote: “Wassup Holmes, it’s ok, I engineer.”
Education: Guangzhou University degree in Mechanical Engineering and Automation
Call Sign: Wassup Holmes
Other Artistic Endeavors: designing stage equipment and vacuum systems, building indoor playground for his kids
States Visited: 0 (the first one will probably be Kentucky when he comes to visit ZFX!)
Countries Visited: 11
Favorite Places: Hong Kong
What you always wanted to know about Aaron:
Aaron began his career quest at The Production Studio. Starting there as an errand runner, he showed eagerness in learning the trades. Eight years later, he had worked his way up to Shop Foreman. With an eye for detail and his innate ability to do extraordinary finish carpentry, he began to explore the world of custom furniture and cabinetry. Although woodworking was very gratifying, his desire and drive to always learn something new led him to the Knights School of Welding, where he received his certification in MIG and TIG. As a fabricator, Aaron uses his mad skills to help facilitate ZFX’s role in world domination.
Favorite thing about ZFX: Being able to say he flies people for a living, it never gets old.
Favorite projects: I am a shop dude. I like making drums and anything to weld
What you never thought you’d know about Dale: He can say the word “ANAKEPALALOUSISTHA”, and actually knows what it means. He wants to drive at speeds of over 200 mph before he dies.
Education: Degree in Philosophy, University of Louisville
Nom de Guerre: Road Kill
Other Artistic Endeavors: One of kind functional art pieces by MADD AK Designs
States visited: I have been in the state of Limbo, state of Denial a few times, state of Inebriation for a stint, Meditative State, but my favorite has been the Hallucinogenic state. I am thinking I might retire there.
Countries visited: I am not at liberty to say….It’s a federal thing.
Favorite Places: With my wife and dog.
What you always wanted to know about Dale:
This man is a machine. Well actually he’s a machinist. Steel is in his blood (just below the legal limit). He comes from a long line of machinists. He remembers going to work with his dad when he was just five years old, looking up at all those machines running and being fascinated with them. That fascination has fueled a lifetime of experience and excellent craftsmanship. Working with steel has always come easy to him.
Someday when he retires, he looks forward to restoring and showing the ’72 Cheyenne truck that’s currently sitting in his garage. For now though, he’s happy to keep up the solid work here at ZFX, and we’re lucky to have him.
Favorite thing about ZFX: Working with really good people, being a great team.
The ZFX Twisty Ring
Putting a 4WD under a 2WD ’72 Cheyenne truck (big project, took about six months)
What you never thought you’d know about Dale: Whatever you thought you’d never know about Dale shall remain just that…what you’ll never know. Dale’s a private dude and likes to keep things low-key.
Actual quote: “Ya’ either got it or ya ‘ain’t.”
Education: High school shop class, two years of vocational school, tons of on-the-job experience.
Nom de Guerre:
Other Artistic Endeavors:
States visited: 20 or 25
Countries visited: Mexico, Argentina.
Favorite Places: Argentina. California.
Tombstone: (He hasn’t really thought about it…hey, maybe that would make a good epitaph!)
What you always wanted to know about John:
Meet John Kusniercyzk, Apprentice Craftsman. In case you were wondering, it’s pronounced Ka-SNER-Chick. (No sneezing jokes, please – he’s heard them all.) The essence of John is that of a hard-working, honest student of the shop. When he’s not water-jetting or powder-coating, he bounces around to wherever he’s needed. Every day he sharpens his skills, learning from the experienced craftsmen who not only take pride in their job, but enjoy passing on their knowledge.
John moved to Louisville from a small town in Pennsylvania and never looked back. He’s quick to point out that he has a career at ZFX, not just a job. The career-versus-job mindset suits him well; he’s curious about everything that makes the business run, and has ambitions to be well-rounded enough to help out in every department. Definitely not a man who’s afraid to get his hands, or his white shirt, dirty.
Favorite thing about ZFX: ZFX is like a close family. “Everyone comes in and does their job and doesn’t try to put themselves above anybody.”
Favorite projects: Likes powder coating the parts, knowing that when it leaves the rack it will be built into whatever the design was. He also enjoys the Waterjet process from start to finish, from cutting to cleanup.
What you never thought you’d know about John: He wants you to drink at his funeral. To make sure of this, he’ll have cases of beer in his casket. Brings new meaning to “cask of ale”.
Actual quote: “Pay respect to earn it. If you can’t, then don’t expect it.” -Renu Sukhani.
Education: LCCTC (vo-tech), Industrial Electricity
Call Sign/Alias: Whiteshirt
States visited: 6
Countries visited: USA
Favorite Places: Texas.
Tombstone: “Remember me how I was and party.”
What you always wanted to know about Tiffany: Originally from Southern California, Tiffany never realized her adventures would bring her to Louisville, Kentucky–to work in a harness shop no less.
Favorite thing about ZFX: The work environment
Favorite ZFX projects: My first project on the first day on the job as a stitcher: Copyediting harness manuals! (Thanks James Coomer >_< )
What you never thought you would know about Tiffany: She’s got the travel bug. Bad. And is obsessed with Japanese street fashion and languages.
Actual Quote: “Got to make it happen”
Education: MA in Literature (Hopefully will have a PhD in Humanities by spring!)
Nom de Guerre: Any spin on the name Tiffany
Artistic Endeavor outside of ZFX: Fashion design and rendering, creative writing, textile dying and screen printing, karaoke
States visited: Too many to count. I think I have the most Southern and South East Coast states left. Oh, and Idaho.
Countries visited: Five- Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, Mexico, Canada
Favorite Places: Anywhere with good food
What she would like on her tombstone: Made it happen
Favorite thing about ZFX: Being part of the creation of something greater than myself.
What you never thought you would know about Steven: He’s a published poet.
Favorite quote: You have to be smarter than what you’re working with.
Education: Jack of all trades and master of one.
Other Artistic Endeavors: Art, Painting, Wood Carving, Digital Photography, Writing, Playing Harmonica.
States visited: FL, GA, TN, NC, Al, MO, MS, NM, AZ, NEV, CO, UT, CA, IL, KY, OH, PA, IN
Favorite Places: Appalachian Mountains, Grand Canyon, Pikes Peak, Meteor Crater, Mammoth Cave, Anywhere on my motorcycle, Home.
What he wants on her tombstone: Uh…Pepperoni? (Just cremate me)
What you always wanted to know about Jeff: Jeff is originally from the small town of Corbin, KY. He moved up to Louisville to pursue a degree in HVAC and to be with his girlfriend. In return, he found himself being brought on as part of the logistics team at ZFX.
Favorite thing about ZFX: The friendly environment the place has and the amazing people that work at ZFX
What you never thought you would know about Jeff: Jeff served 5 years in the military and has deployed 3 times. He is currently a reservist in the army and plans on retiring soon and taking on the HVAC field.
Education: Studying at Sullivan College of Technology and Design for HVAC-R
States Visited: 9; MI, PA, OH, TX, CA, WV, SC, FL, TN, MO, IL
Countries Visited: Korea and Afghanistan
Favorite Places: There is no place like the good ol’ bluegrass state
What he Wants on his Tombstone: He lived his life how he wanted it
What you always wanted to know about [Maybe You?]:
Hails from anywhere, and brings diversity to ZFX, with excellent people skills and a good sense of humor, getting along in any environment. Even in the “off-hours,” they’re thinking about their career. They understand that it takes hard work and dedication to get there, and know that paying their dues is part of getting ahead. They know that their opinion is valued, but that it’s best to only give it after mastering the situation. They make ZFX a better place with their addition.
Favorite part of ZFX: Coming to fun, and their employer’s commitment to personal growth. Also, their parking spot.
Favorite ZFX projects:
Any project they can put their creative energy into.
What you never thought you’d know about [Maybe You?]: That their aptitude was a bigger career factor than their education or experience.
Actual quote: “Find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”
Education: eager to learn
Call Sign: Rookie
Other Artistic Endeavors: actor, choreographer, musician, comedian, storyteller, writer, film producer, sculptor
States visited: the state of excitement!
What they want on their tombstone: “I had no idea what I was in for”
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