Grad Finds Success in a Small Town Setting

Dean Sell took an unconventional route after graduating from Full Sail’s Recording Arts associate’s degree program in 2002. Instead of accepting an internship or moving to Los Angeles with the hope of snagging a dream job at a major recording studio, Dean tore a page from the classic Jack Kerouac novel On the Road and crammed all of his belongings into his Dodge Neon, strapped his surfboard to the roof, and embarked on a journey of self-discovery.

“When I graduated I really had no idea what I was going to do,” says Dean. “I was still searching for my path.”

After making his way from Orlando to the Farm Aid benefit concert in Columbus, Ohio, to meet with a friend who was working backstage, Dean moved to Austin, Texas, on a whim.

“Austin was really about leaving everything that I knew behind and being in a place that was foreign, where I didn’t know anyone and could take a break from life and school,” he remembers.

Growing up in a small town, Dean knew he didn’t want to settle down in a major city – a notion that was confirmed after spending some time at The Hit Factory in Miami. After a few months of adventure, he ended up moving back to his hometown of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where his career got started. Dean cut his teeth as a recording engineer at FLL Studios, producing voice-over spots for both radio and television. As time progressed, he began to develop relationships with ad agencies and cultivated an interest in the advertising world.

“Incorporating creativity into business strategies and utilizing production tools to help foster business really intrigued me,” Dean says.

Never one for taking the traditional route, Dean decided to make a jump from production work to the advertising world. He landed at Go Welsh, a boutique agency with international credentials that specialized in high-end ad work.

“It was the intersection of production work with creative strategy,” says Dean about his move to advertising. He spent the next few years jumping from advertising to a broader creative focus at JPL, an integrated communications firm, where he worked as a producer/director on documentaries, television spots, and corporate video projects before landing at his current position, leading a team of in-house multidisciplinary creatives at Sight & Sound Theatres, a theatre company that transforms large-scale biblical epics, such as Moses (pictured below), live on stage.

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“This year alone, between the two properties (one in Lancaster, and another in Branson, Missouri,) we will have over 1.2-million people attend our shows,” says Dean. “It’s a very immersive experience where the audience is not just watching the stage, the story unfolds all around them.”

Dean leads a team of scenic artists, photographers, graphic designers, video editors, prop designers, 3D artists, motion graphic designers and project managers in this massive production, which is set on a 300-foot wrap-around stage. “People compare our shows to Broadway, but our shows are much larger.”

Dean couldn’t be happier about where his unorthodox career path has led him. “I do more than just video production, advertising, and design here, it’s a culmination of everything I’ve been exposed to along the way,” he says. “I realize now that, while I went to school for a technical degree, I did not have any desire to enter a technical profession. I know it helped get my foot in the door, but in hindsight I see how I always wanted to be involved in projects on a larger scale, not just as a producer or editor, but be in a place where I can be part of an entire team.”

Pictured above: Dean Sell (far right) with his team at Sight & Sound Theatres. 

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