Don Dehm: One hell of a good man.
Don A. Dehm was born and raised in Iowa, where he was heavily involved in youth activities such as 4-H. He graduated from Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee with degrees in Computer Science and Environmental Geography. Before becoming a producer Don worked as a software engineer, a restaurant manager, and a naturalist.
He once told me that one day he went to his first fan convention and he knew he was home.
He later became a die hard member of the SCA, an excellent brewer of tasty beverages, and continued to game as often as possible. He visited conventions frequently as a fan.
Being a cereal entrepreneur, however, Don eventually convinced some of his friends that there was something in podcasting and they should try to do it for a living. He wanted to run a podcast about one of his greatest passions, analog gaming (board games, role playing games, LARPING and the like) and the fandom that surrounds it.
Don and friends formed Fantasy Frontiers Inc. and began their ambitious podcast. It was a challenging road and they were learning how to run an effective podcast through a combination of research and learning by doing. Eventually the podcast had over 2 million downloads, hoards of fans and Don was a favorite guest at gaming conventions and a bonafide media personality.
Large game companies started to sponsor his show and eventually, some of them started to ask if he could do video. Don said sure... then learned how to run a video program quickly. So began Pulp Gamer, the original name of the company that became Seelie Studios. Pulp Gamer is still one of our banner brands.
Don moved to Arizona and lived with his dear friend the late Derek Rex for awhile as he mounted his next plan. Derek was a partner in the company until his own untimely passing in 2014.
Eventually, as the operation grew, Don moved the company into a studio space in his home where a ton of productions were made. Later, as the company grew and, simultaneous with when when he and his fantastic, wife wanted to have a child, he and the now full time crew moved the operation into a wonderful brick and mortar studio space in a warehouse district in Tucson, Arizona. In that brick and mortar studio space, many more episodes were made of groundbreaking shows like: the 13 season, nearly 200 Episode "The Bob and Angus Show", and the 100 episode "White Glove Movies" (both for game giant Mayfair Games), and bazillions of other podcasts, audio books, commercials, marketing videos and and narrative fiction projects such as My Stolen Time Machine, simultaneous with a number of productions being made on location. Don, directly produced or directed many of these projects and at that point I was doing a lot of the producing and directing work for the company too.
I met Don years before, when I was cast in a "full cast" audio book he was producing for a well known author. We hit it off immediately and spoke for hours after the production day was completed, long into the night. Don and I started to advise each other on things and eventually we started to work together on things directly. In almost no time he became one of my dearest friends and a brother in arms so to speak.
We "got" each other on a level that few people did and we supported each other through many, many things. Successes and tragedies and joys and frustrations. I loved the guy like a brother. We had a similar sense of humor. Constant puns. We cared about people more then anything else and wanted everyone to be given respect and compassion and to be supported in finding their own success through our work. We loved all things sci fi and fantasy and all other quality media to boot. We wanted to tell great and meaningful stories.
One time I ended up in the hospital after foolishly trying to replace water and sleep for about 6 carafes of coffee a day. I was preparing for a film festival and film market and I just got a little too obsessed with getting it all done. I had absolutely forbade my many other very dear and very concerned friends and colleagues from visiting me, being really embarrassed and really grumpy about the whole thing. I even convinced my very concerned parents not to visit. My wife, who's seen me in lousy shape more then any other person on Earth and still seems to love me for some reason, was the only one I let into the room.
Don, however, completely ignored my wishes and showed up anyway. He couldn't not. It turned out he was a great comfort to me. He cheered me up and reminded me that you don't get to let people not care for you. That was just who the guy was. Much as he loved making multimedia projects and entrepreneuring, the very most important thing to him was community. Loving others as well as he could. Being a damn good friend.
Eventually Don asked me to become a partner in Seelie Studios, which was the new name of the company.
Of course nothing at all was more important to him then his brilliant wife and his brilliant daughter. I was honored to be treated like part of the extended family
After a few difficult and unforeseen business hits that were entirely beyond our control and after Don's parents both passed away form cancer, he was wounded. But, after taking some time to cope while I ran the company in his stead, he picked himself right up again and we started working on a new, ground breaking business plan that we believed would do a lot of good for our fellow creators and for fans alike.
We shared every ounce of knowledge about the industry we could with each other. As we continued to work with clients and on our Seelie Studios original narrative fiction projects, we kept working on the business plan. I functionally continued to run the company in between acting gigs that were also getting better and better and we kept making magic. Don handled the major paper work Etc., and served as an adviser on main company matters for a while while he finished dealing with the aftermath of his parents passing, etc. I remember one day when he stopped me in the middle of a conversation and told me how grateful he was that I was his business partner. Coming from him... well I just about lost it right there. It was the one of the nicest things someone I respected had said to me.
We kept meeting regularly. We had magical times envisioning a bold future, We both had the ability to extrapolate information and come to accurate conclusions few others could about the way things would change in the entertainment industry that would make our plans optimal.
Our partner and Don's longtime friend the extrordinary web guru Ted Lessman would meet with us periodically as the two of them were also programmers. Another business model was emerging between the two of them that I barely understood except theoretically. It was fascinating.
When Don was diagnosed with Cancer, we all thought that the indomitable Don Dehm would be fine. The guy could do anything. Learn his way out of any thing. He went from zero to multi award winning producer in a short period of years and kept innovating. He was a little bit of an icon in the media circles he traveled in, although he never once acted like that.
I have my beliefs about the state of the American health care system. Don't get me wrong, there were a lot of good people at the hospitals and they did what they could, but I feel that it was all too slow. Too little too late. The cancer got worse, a lot worse. I spent a lot of time with him when he was struggling to stay alive. We had even deeper conversations then before and I tried to help in any way I could. He tried to pound knowledge into me, knowing that he may not be with us much longer. I refused to face it for a long time, insisting thathe'd get better. Eventually all I could really do was bring him excellent food from his favorite restaurants and spend time with him and give his wife a break for a night here and there. I was far from the only one. An amazing number of people stepped up and asked to help. The Dehm refrigerator was always brimming over with good food. People were taking Don to doctor visits staying with him while his wife taught high school science classes. It was an impressive mobilization of really great people. People were flying out from all over the country to see him and gifts and aid came from everywhere.
Eventually, Don asked me to take his shares in the company and to carry on the legacy of Seelie Studios. Much as I didn't want to face that he wasn't doing well at all, I agreed.
I couldn't not could I? What we built together was core to who we were to each other.
Then in the afternoon of November 19, 2018 my brilliant friend was gone and the world was a less jovial place, a less wondrous place and a less kind place by his passing. the hospice was brimming over with good friends supporting. there was a lot of crying and hugging.
Its s really weird thing when your spiritual brother asks you if you'd speak at his funeral. I did along with some great friends of his and many of our colleagues were there. Our crew insisted on running video and audio at the memorial. There were a lot of tears between us too.
We're moving ahead with the plans Don and I and Ted created and in short order, some really epic things will happen for the company. I hope it will be even bigger and better then we imagined together. I hope we do a lot of good for a lot of people.
I hope he'll be proud of us.
I love you brother.