Hartwell Digital Media founder Richard Hartwell enjoys balancing an often demanding production schedule of all-day shoots across the state of Michigan and all-nighter edits in the studio with an active lifestyle outdoors. Quality time with friends and family often means leaving the house. Residing in the year-round resort paradise of Traverse City, Michigan, Richard's favorite activities change with the seasons. In summer, he enjoys time spent with his son Gavyn, playing catch at a lakeside park or pick-up basketball at the local college, swimming in the bay and biking trails. In autumn, Hartwell enjoys golfing on the many championship courses around the area or running woodsy paths. Northern Michigan is snow country in the winter and Richard is "cool with that," skiing and snowboarding at Nubs Nob, Boyne or Crystal Mountain and snowshoeing near Sleeping Bear Dunes. In the spring, Richard just lies around and does nothing... except for one rainy day, when Richard and Gavyn turned the camera on themselves. Shooting, acting and directing eachother over the course of a Sunday afternoon, the father and son team made a remake of the Karate Kid. Even the normally tedious editing process proved fun for both, especially when it came time to add the kung-fu sound effects. Long accustomed to serving as an "extra" in his father's TV commercials, Gavyn easily assumed the role of the central character "Gavyn-son" and the warm touch of his Miyagi-like father helped Gavyn overcome a difficult fight in the final tournament. (People cry when they watch it).
Born in San Francisco and raised in Hemingway's boyhood haunt of Horton Bay, Michigan, Hartwell's passion for the visual arts developed early, spurned by his creative mother, Mary Lynne Hartwell, who was herself a painter and calligrapher. Under her prompting, Richard was sponsored by Crayola at age 5 and began selling child-like artwork around the Midwest and East Coast, primarily bookmarks featuring Richard's pen and crayon drawings and creative expressions coined by Mary Lynne. This earned Richard a spot in the scholastic magazine Weekly Reader, where he was billed as "America's youngest working artist." Following a move to Lake Tahoe, Richard began studying under a local watercolorist in Incline Village, Nevada. Several art shows followed at local galleries and casinos. A Christmas card line was developed, with a portion of the proceeds going to help starving children in Ethiopia. Eventually, the story of this charitable endeavor was featured on the West Coast television show PM Magazine. It was Hartwell's first experience with a video production team and it left an indelible impression on his young mind. It was not until Hartwell and his mother returned to Horton Bay in sixth grade, that Richard got to try his own hand at video production with the help of his friend Dale Owen and his parents, who owned the only VHS camcorder in the small village of a 100 or so full-time residents that is Horton Bay. Richard and Dale produced numerous video productions for extra credit in English classes in the years that followed. Their participation in Boyne City High School's televised morning announcements and school plays solidified Hartwell's intent to pursue film and video production at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
Hartwell graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Michigan in Film & Video Studies with additional focus in English. He immediately began working for Pierpont Productions in Petoskey, Michigan, producing ski videos for Boyne USA Resorts. When the season ended, he joined the production team of Charter Media, the local advertising division of Charter Communications. Hartwell eventually took over as production manager, a post he held until the company's video production operations moved to Traverse City, Michigan. Not long after, Hartwell's sole proprietorship was born. Originally named Hartwell Digital Video, commercial clients were few and far between in the early years. Hartwell found it necessary to offer additional services just to stay afloat, including photography, graphic design and web design for clients as far away as Grand Blanc, Michigan, like the Law Firm of Jakeway, Jakeway & Jakeway. With Jakeway, Hartwell learned to create legal videos that highlighted the struggles of his clients in "Day-in-the-life-of" recordings for personal injury cases. Hartwell also began working with nationally-televised documentary filmmaker George Colburn during this time. After donating his time with Colburn in the production of a video to promote Camp Quality, a non-profit organization dedicated to enriching the life experiences of young cancer patients, Hartwell began editing work on Colburn's Tomorrow's America project, a documentary series centering on the Immigration Debate. From Colburn, Hartwell learned the art of editorial storytelling, with high-brow, politically-charged subject matter in interviews by former senators and sub-committee chairmen like Lawrence Fuchs and Norbert Schlei, founding Sierra Club member, David Brower and leading economists like Jorge Borjas. Hartwell also served as editor for Colburn's documentary "Navajo Code Talkers – In Their Own Words," working almost daily for two months. The 1 hour documentary presents the untold story of six elderly Navajo Code Talkers who traveled back to the original battlefields on Iwo Jima, Guam and other Pacific Islands to recount the tale of how their un-cracked native code helped turn the tide in the WWII Pacific Island Campaign. Hartwell remains indebted to Colburn, not only for the opportunity to work on projects of such historical and political importance, but for arranging Hartwell's first internship with Gancie Television in the production of NBC Washington's 50th Anniversary Special, where Hartwell assisted with lighting and sound on interviews with such television luminaries as Willard Scott and David Brinkley.
In 2007, Hartwell Digital Media went hi-def and, with business booming, shed its peripheral offerings in photography, graphic and web design in favor of a narrower focus on video production. Since then, Richard's production schedule has revolved mainly around the production of local and regional broadcast television commercials, with the occasional longer format promotional, corporate and industrial videos thrown in.
In terms of community involvement, Richard Hartwell was once a member of the Petoskey and Traverse City Area Chambers of Commerce, once a member of ski racing, basketball and billiards leagues, as well as a frequent participant in 5k races. He hopes to someday list more resume-friendly instances of community involvement, but you just never know what the future will bring.