There are so many people who make the magic happen here at AtmosFX – the animators, the developers, the office and finance team, and, not to be forgotten, the incredibly important people who respond to the questions from the growing community of digital decorators around the world. Today, we’d like you to meet the person who maintains the essential conduit between AtmosFX and our fans: AtmosFX’s Customer Support Manager, Daniel Kelleher.
A 2009 graduate of University North Carolina School of the Arts, Daniel is a huge lover of all the arts — movies, museums, live music — a passion he attributes to his early childhood.
Daniel says he grew up on the internet as, in his hometown in North Carolina, apparently there just wasn't a lot to do. Through the computer, he found himself diving deep into the artistic subcultures including underground horror films. For instance, Daniel says he discovered Toxic Avenger as a kindergartener and, by middle school, had become something of an expert on the horror genre.
That itself makes Daniel a great fit here at AtmosFX but, engaging the AtmosFX community is where he really excels.
"It was a better fit for me than even I expected," he says with a laugh. Daniel has great empathy towards his customers, terrific attention to detail, and a desire to help people get the most out of their displays.
When Daniel joined the customer service team during the busy Halloween season of 2016, he fit right in. In less than two years, he was leading the team.
How busy can Halloween season get? During most of the year, the customer service team will get a handful of questions each day. However, once the Fall holidays hit, it is not unusual for Daniel’s department to receive more than 200 support messages a day. Just in terms of Halloween, Daniel jokes that his holiday lasts three months. He compares staying on top of all the customer emails to running a marathon. "You need to stay at a healthy pace that’s manageable," he says.
During the remainder of the year, he and the rest of his team are busy writing explanatory articles, bolstering the "Knowledge Base" on the AtmosFX.com website, and improving the site’s search capabilities. The work has been effective. Daniel says AtmosFX's customer base expanded by 250% since 2016, yet the number emails to the support team remained roughly the same. Daniel believes customers are finding solutions through online Help & Support resources.
"I like to make people happy," Daniel says. "It is so rewarding to hear from people, and to hear how much enjoyment they get from creating really impressive displays and experiences."
Q: You studied film when you were a university student at UNCSA, particularly video editing and sound recording. Is there anything from your schooling that informs your current work here at AtmosFX?
Daniel Kelleher: My background in audio/video has been a huge resource helping me help out decorators with issues like how to use different types of video formats, how to troubleshoot computer issues, and how to connect their devices. Also, a basic education in lighting and set design helped me understand how to think about the digital decorating process.
Q: You are famously cheerful and even-tempered here in the office, even during the busiest times. Any tips on keeping your cool when you are getting hundreds of customer support questions a day?
DK: My first job out of college was dishwashing – not many options for film school students in 2009, and you gotta pay the bills. Remarkably, it was a huge boost to my work ethic and attitude when it comes down to high-pressure scenarios and seemingly endless tasks. In this regard, there's a lot in common with dishwashing and customer support. The big lesson is to just take every moment one step at a time with an equal balance of efficiency and attention to detail.
Q: You must get a lot of suggestions for future digital decorations. Does anything come to mind?
DK: Scary clowns, aliens, and ghost pirates are the most popular. So far, no one asked for scary pirate alien ghosts dressed as clowns. In my opinion, that is the ultimate terror.
Q: Any questions you recall that made you laugh – perhaps because the question was something you never expected?
DK: I once spoke with a decorator who had an idea to use digital decorating to scare owls away from her home with giant Hollusions. This decorator has pet cats who were in danger of the owls when they went outside. I'm not sure if she ended up trying it out, but it was one of the most creative ideas I've heard yet – and she was very friendly.
Q: Not including Halloween, what is your favorite holiday?
DK: At the risk of sounding selfish, my birthday. Other people's birthdays are great too! I like birthdays because you can do whatever you want – it's up to the individual. Birthdays celebrate life, death, family, friends, the passage of time – all the most important stuff. Plus you might get presents.
Q: What is your favorite movie genre – and what are your top 5 favorite movies within that genre?
DK: I grew up as a horror junkie, and I still love horror movies, but more recently I mostly watch documentaries. My taste is still pretty macabre though, so I especially like true crime documentaries. I couldn't give you a top 5 exactly, but some of my favorites include:
- Mommy Dead and Dearest
- Beware the Slenderman
- Author: The JT LeRoy Story