Meet Mr. Creative

By Michael Kotsopoulos
Paul Hawkins ’99 held his breath.
 
On the night before the Golden State Warriors opened the Chase game in the fall of 2019, he stood side by side a trio of top Warriors executives on the far end of the new court.
 
Senior leaders tilted their heads up toward the rafters, where they saw the largest center-hung video board in the NBA flash from a sea of yellow and blue to a close-up frame of Stephen Curry.
 
“It’s going down right now,” the NBA superstar said.
 
“It sure better be,” Mr. Hawkins thought to himself.  
 
Every part of the Warriors’ pregame video needed to look perfect with less than 24 hours to go until tipoff.
 
After a few seconds, Mr. Hawkins looked down to sneak a peek at the eyes of his bosses. They were still glued to the 9,699-square-foot LED screen – his canvas for the evening.
 
A smile broke over one of their faces, then another and another. At this point in his 18-year career in video production, Mr. Hawkins knew the expression of a job well done when he saw it.
 
Relief washed over the 38-year-old. It felt all too familiar. It brought him back to his earliest memories of CMTV – Catholic Memorial’s video production class – when Br. Oxx would give him feedback on his latest CM hockey highlight video.
 
Needless to say, this wasn’t a high school video. It was the pregame video for the defending Western Conference Champions and an expected crowd of over 18,000 spectators.
 
“You and your team pour so much blood and sweat and tears into this video and you want to be proud of what you do,” Mr. Hawkins said.
 
In his role as the Warriors’ executive producer of video content, branding, and storytelling, Mr. Hawkins oversaw the entire team of editors, graphic de-signers, and videographers responsible for putting the video together.  
 
“We had no idea how this thing was going to look on this multimillion-dollar screen until the day before,” he said.
 
But Mr. Hawkins had anticipated this moment since the day he arrived in San Francisco in 2017.
 
The organization was midway through its plan for building a state-of-the-art downtown arena at the time and asked him to design the control room for its $1.4 billion building.
 
So, how did a video producer turn into an architect?  
 
It didn’t happen overnight. Rather, it required a creative mindset and a willingness to adapt to an evolving work landscape. It necessitated the exact skillset tomorrow’s worker will need to thrive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution: the ability to use creativity to plan and anticipate the future.
 
The workforce will look much different in 10 years than it does today.
 
As technology advances at a breakneck pace, the demand for a workforce equipped with a one-dimensional skillset will diminish.
 
CM President Dr. Peter Folan often talks about this Fourth Industrial Revolution when he mentions the “robot-proof” skillset needed to combat a future full of volatility, uncertainty, and complexity.  
 
Mr. Hawkins understands this. His own industry, he said, transformed in a matter of 10 years thanks to rapid innovations in the way technology displayed content.
 
“When I first started off in sports [in 2002], there was no such thing as Facebook, YouTube, or Twitter,” Mr. Hawkins said.
 
“Now we have an endless number of distribution points. Each one has its own form of content that needs to be produced too.”
 
So, when the Warriors tasked Mr. Hawkins with designing a control room for an arena with larger-than-life expectations, Mr. Hawkins knew he needed to get creative and think well ahead of his time.
 
“The hardest thing was trying to predict what the technology was going to look like in 2020 while living in 2017,” Mr. Hawkins said.  
 
With a multimillion-dollar budget at his disposal, Mr. Hawkins set off on a six-month pilgrimage to different NBA and NFL venues across America.  
 
At each stop, Mr. Hawkins studied the latest technology in every control room. Innovative 4K televisions and varying forms of HDR took his breath away and led him to imagine new and improved ways to engage with fans inside and outside the arena.
 
“He keeps the fan opinion at the top of his mind at all times, especially when thinking of content that performs well in a digital capacity,” said Mr. Blake Wilbering, director of production for the Warriors.
 
Out of all the venues he visited, Mer-cedes-Benz Stadium, the home of the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United F.C., captured his imagination most. He marveled at its LED video board, especially the way it hung in a halo atop the round, retractable roof of the stadium.
 
“What they were doing with their video board had never been done before,” Mr. Hawkins said.
 
“And I wanted to beat them.”
 
With this new inspiration, Mr. Hawkins got to work. He visited conventions and vendors in Las Vegas, determined to find the perfect platforms. Eventually, he settled on a layout of more than 60 LED screens and an 83-by-53-foot Samsung video board that ran nearly the length of the arena’s court.
 
The size of the board and sheer number of displays made it possible for every fan in the stadium to see up-to-date stats, game information, and team promotions at all times.
 
With a groundbreaking control room set in place, Mr. Hawkins then turned his creative focus toward what the fans wanted most: a story.
 
Prior to joining the Golden State Warriors, Mr. Hawkins spent close to 20 years of his life learning how to bridge the gap between the subject of his videos and the fans watching them.
 
Such experiences provided him with a deep sense of direction. He’d need it when planning the content required to make the price tag of his platforms in Golden State worthwhile.
 
Storytelling always felt second nature to Mr. Hawkins. Over the span of his 20-year career, he had met plenty of superstars. So, for every Manny Ramirez story he told from his time with the Boston Red Sox, he offered another equally impressive one about Draymond Green or Klay Thompson in San Francisco.
 
However, one story sticks out most, he said. During his seven-year tenure as senior director of multimedia and broadcasting for the New York Red Bulls of Major League Soccer, he received direct access to striker Thierry Henry.
 
During the team’s preseason training in Florida one year, Henry and Mr. Hawkins spent one night talking for hours.
 
“We stayed up late talking about how many players we could name in the original NBA Jam video game,” Mr. Hawkins said.
 
Henry, a World Cup winner from France, treated him just as he would an old friend. It allowed Mr. Hawkins to see the human side to Henry that most fans miss when only watching a game. In fact, Henry’s candor reminded Mr. Hawkins why he fell in love with his job in the first place.
 
“If you could tell me I would be talking to Thierry Henry, talking basketball, drinking wine in Florida 10 or 15 years ago, I would tell you that you’re crazy,” said Mr. Hawkins.
 
“But telling their stories is why I love what I do.”
 
That love began at CM.
 
His former teachers often remember Mr. Hawkins for the creativity he exhibi-ted when he enrolled in the CM middle school’s inaugural 7th grade class in 1993.
 
“He’d come up with things outside of the box all the time,” said Ms. Ellen Eberly, his English teacher at the time.  
 
“But, he was also a go-getter who would really meet you more than halfway.”  
 
At the high school, Mr. Hawkins shined on the Speech and Debate Team, winning a state championship for radio broadcasting as a junior in 1998.
 
He also blossomed in the CMTV program, where he took charge of filming and creating highlight reels for the hockey team’s MIAA Super 8 games at the Boston Garden.
 
“He bought into the multifaceted CM profile just about as well as any student I’ve ever encountered at the school,” Ms. Eberly said.
 
His time in CMTV then blazed a trail to Emerson College, where he graduated in 2003 with a degree in TV and Video Production. Right out of college, the Boston Red Sox hired him as a
production assistant.
 
Mr. Hawkins, who grew up in Weymouth, remembers calling it his “dream job” at the time. Every kid in Boston, he said, wanted to grow up and work for the Red Sox. He didn’t want to squander the opportunity.
 
“I wanted to stand out and I wanted to be someone who my superiors could count on,” Mr. Hawkins said.
 
“So, I was trying to learn everything, whether it was shooting batting practice or editing a feature in between innings. I had no idea what a 9-to-5 job was.”
 
His willingness to perform any task, no matter how menial, proved vital for Mr. Hawkins’s career. In fact, Mr. Hawkins saw those tasks as opportunities to hone his craft and understand the different video platforms needed to tell a story.
 
Within months on the job with the Red Sox, Mr. Hawkins had produced video features for the center field display screen and directed in-game shows at Fenway Park. That first taste of success inspired him to keep creating new content and adjusting to the times.
 
By 2004, the Red Sox had hired him as a full-time producer and editor, which culminated in him winning an Emmy in 2006 for his work on the weekly broadcast of The Red Sox Report.
 
“I was never surprised by his success,” Ms. Eberly said.  
 
“He was always a leader of the pack. It was never about popularity; it was always about what opportunities he wanted as an adult and how to get there.”
 
Year after year, Mr. Hawkins continued to find new opportunities to reinvent himself, bringing him to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2008 and then to the New York Red Bulls in 2010.
 
“It was saying yes to everything, failing, making mistakes, and learning from them,” Mr. Hawkins said.
 
With the Dodgers, he got the chance to work with the Chief Marketing Officer to develop creative strategic methods for the team. He also launched an innovative daily “webisode” called
 
“Inside Dodgertown,” which streamed on the team’s website.
 
When he moved to New York, Mr. Hawkins took on a role that afforded him the chance to design and build the team’s control room. He also oversaw the team’s broadcasting partnership with MSG Network.
 
Seizing opportunities, adapting to the times, and honing his passion, Mr. Hawkins understood the most creative and efficient ways to deliver large-scale content to just about any fanbase.
 
“[Mr. Hawkins] likes to look at analytics and what the numbers say,” Mr. Wilbering said.
 
“But, he always reads the comment sections in videos, which often leads to new ideas and franchised content.”
 
Keeping his proverbial finger on the pulse of the fanbase paid off in one big moment last fall. On October 24, 2019, the Chase Center opened its doors. Mr. Hawkins remembers the night vividly.
 
He remembers fans pouring into the arena’s forum, excited to find their seats before the Warriors tipped off against the Los Angeles Clippers. It was the first-ever regular season game in the new arena and an unmistakable buzz filled the air.
 
About 10 minutes before the game began, the lights dimmed.
 
Every member of the audience turned their attention to the video board as Mr. Hawkins held his breath again.
 
When the video board erupted in a dazzling display of color and audio, he and his production team tried their best to listen for the applause.
 
It didn’t take long to hear it.
 
“Hearing that ovation from the fan base just put smiles on all our faces,” Mr. Hawkins said.
 
After years of planning, their moment had finally arrived.
 
But even then, Mr. Hawkins knew better than to rest on his laurels. Rather, he set his sights on the future and began to imagine even more amazing possibilities for content.
 
“Yeah we’ve built this arena and yeah we have guests, but we’re still trying to evolve and see what we can do to make this thing better,” Mr. Hawkins said.
 
“You need the ability to shift because, at any given moment, these platforms could shift to a whole new medium.”
 
The ability to find creative ways to forecast those changes makes all the difference in the world, Mr. Hawkins believes.
 
And, in 10 years, it might just set him apart from everyone else in the new-age economy.
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List of 3 news stories.

  • Mr. Hawkins poses with his Emmy trophy.

    Meet Mr. Creative

    In the next 10 years, the workforce will rely on creativity more than it ever has. Luckily for Executive Producer Paul Hawkins ’99, it already comes second nature.
    Read More
  • Log in to Online Learning

    In the face of a global pandemic, CM never flinched. Instead, the school community united, stronger than ever, and transitioned to a virtual platform.
    Read More
  • An Ethnography of Online Learning

    How does a faculty member move a classroom to Zoom? To help readers better understand the transition, English faculty member Mrs. Caitlin Corsano got creative.
    Read More

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