March 28, 2013
Alumnus translates art skills into sports images, creates company
By Steve Wieberg, contributing writer
Baseball’s opening days are special. No two ways about it, Ryan Stadlman says. So when the Kansas City Royals play their first game at home in early April, he’ll settle into his seat in Kauffman Stadium and take in all the sights, sounds and mesmeric sensations.
The crack of bat on ball. Venders barking. High-def images flashing across the 104-foot-tall video board behind center field.
A little more than 15 years ago, the Maryville native left Northwest Missouri State University with a degree in studio art. His focus then was on photography and drawing. He’d eventually get hooked on moving images – video, motion graphics, animation – and today owns a Kansas City-area firm that produces marketing and other videos for an array of clients ranging from a prominent, Chicago-based food and beverage packager to the Royals, American League rival Seattle Mariners and pro hockey’s Calgary Flames.
This will be the third consecutive year that Stadlman (pronounced STALL-man) has produced the minute-long opening video, head shots, interviews and other content carried season-long on the Royals’ towering CrownVision board. He spent nine up-close-and-personal days with the team in February, shooting and gathering material at its spring training headquarters in Surprise, Ariz.
“Opening Day, that’s your day to go and enjoy, just sit back and look at it and go, ‘Wow, we did it!’ ” he says.
“It’s rewarding. People (in the stands) are seeing those things, Instagramming photographs. Sports Illustrated ran a piece on Eric Hosmer last year, and a shot of him was from behind home plate. And behind him, on the CrownVision, was a graphic we had created. That was cool.”
Pro sports franchise or corporate client, Stadlman’s mission is the same: Tell its story, and do it in a unique and compelling way. Be creative.
Northwest equipped him for that, he says.
Growing up in Maryville – his father, Rollie is a Northwest alumnus, a former member of Northwest’s Board of Regents and helped start public radio station KXCV in 1971, and stepfather Joe Drake is Maryville High School’s wrestling coach – Stadlman initially plotted a move away to Missouri, Kansas, Kansas State or some other larger university. But he made a visit to Northwest, and was drawn to the one-on-one attention from faculty. In its art program over the next 4½ years, he found himself challenged and inspired.
“I was exploring self-idea and self-creativity at a way earlier stage in my collegiate studies than I would have at a larger school. They really pushed for that,” he says.
“I hate the cliché ‘thinking outside the box.’ But it was truly looking at things differently, approaching things in a way that’s not the norm, saying, ‘OK, here’s the obvious. Let’s attack this from the not-so-obvious way to tell our story.’ The exploration of the creative self was so stamped into us. If you want to do 100 paintings of landscapes because you’re trying to understand lighting, go do it.”
Professor emeritus Russ Schmaljohn, who had Stadlman in beginning drawing and several ceramics classes, recalls him as earnest and hard-working, a “serious art student.” On the side, Stadlman shot photos for the school and for The Maryville Daily Forum – lots of them at sporting events – and worked for both KXCV and KDLX radio and on weekends for local station KNIM. He also fit in work as a disc jockey at the World Famous Outback Bar.
“I was working all the media angles I could have possibly worked in that town, now that I think about it,” he says.
He landed an internship with a Kansas City photographer after graduation, and started his move to video with freelance gigs for ESPN/ABC and then Time Warner Cable’s Metro Sports in KC. The latter turned into a four-year, fulltime job in which Stadlman won three regional Emmys for direction.
The Kansas City Chiefs found him. So did a succession of broadcast and cable networks: Fox, TBS, CMT, TLC, MTV and Animal Planet. Stadlman has freelanced for all of them, ultimately setting up his own shops. He and wife Stephanie launched his current company, S Group in Overland Park, Kan., in November, providing video content for television commercials and web marketing, sports and entertainment venues and social media.
Beyond the Emmy awards, Stadlman has won 11 Tellys, which recognize film and video production and both TV and online programs and commercials, among other things, and collected a couple of ADDY awards from the Kansas City chapter of the American Advertising Federation. Passing through Maryville and Northwest last summer, he lent that expertise to University Photographer Darren Whitley on a 31-second video commercial for the 2012-13 school year.
The final product was “just a lot more professional, a lot more polished” as a result, Whitley says. “He clearly knows how to package video and how to present it.”
Pro sports teams also have come to appreciate Stadlman, 37, who was a Maryville High school classmate of current Northwest football coach Adam Dorrel. In addition to the Royals, Mariners and Flames, he has worked with baseball’s Atlanta Braves, Houston Astros and Tampa Rays, football’s Denver Broncos and basketball’s San Antonio Spurs.
“What we want to do for every one of our clients is tell a story in a way they never thought possible. It just so happens that we’re doing it really well currently with sports and a few other corporate clients,” he says. “Some of our sports stuff, other clients will see and say, ‘We want that. We want to look like that.’ It kind of carries over.”
He appreciates where it has taken him.
“I’ve been to some places I probably would never have gotten to,” Stadlman says, “from shooting a deep sea fishing show on the Perlas Islands in Panama to Costa Rica to as far north as the tundra line of Canada (for Outdoor Channel shows) to the sidelines of the (baseball) All-Star Game. This profession has given me those types of experiences.
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