April 28 to May 2 brings the third annual DIG SOUTH tech and creative industry fest, and this year, there’s an intriguing new local involved: Dan Lehrich, who’s participating in panels on gaming. This industry pro’s the former senior producer of mobile for the Disney Infinity gaming franchise. There, he helped develop and launch the hugely successful Disney Infinity video game, which made it possible to play the Toy Box mode on an iPad (and quickly became the number one most downloaded app in 47 countries). He fills us in on why he moved to the Holy City last year and what he’s up to now.
CM: Your work in gaming started with music, correct?
DL: Yes, I studied classical music all my young life, then went to a classical conservatory. My goal was to be an orchestral bass player. But I got into making music with computers and decided to get a degree in music synthesis from Berklee College of Music in Boston.
CM: How did that translate into gaming?
DL: At Berklee, I was programming computers to make music. It turned out to be a unique skill-set that was becoming needed as the gaming industry matured.
CM: Then what?
DL: I moved to L.A. as an audio intern for Electronic Arts, then spent a few years doing sound for licensed games like The Sopranos and Shrek. While I was doing that, the first Guitar Hero came out and changed my entire perspective on gaming. I started designing and pitching original music games that ended up getting my company acquired by Activision, where I worked as a creative director, developing the next generation of music games. After that I spent some time freelancing before landing at Disney.
CM: What drew you to Charleston?
DL: My fiancée grew up on Sullivan’s Island, and her mom still lives there. We wanted to move here but couldn’t figure out how to make it viable. Then I met a neighbor on Sullivan’s who’s a successful entrepreneur, and we formulated ideas for a business to launch.
CM: What did your L.A. colleagues think?
DL: There were two kinds of reactions. Some people were like, “What the hell are you thinking?” But everyone who’d been to Charleston said, “That’s so awesome; what an amazing place.”
CM: Can you talk about your venture?
DL: We’re still keeping things pretty quiet, but we’re building a mobile technology platform focusing on the intersection of content and commerce.
Born: In Princeton Junction, New Jersey
Lives: Downtown with his fiancée, Kayla Morrisey, and rescue pup, Yogi
Cool hobby: Subbing as a bassist with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra
Getting married: “Next New Year’s. We met at a New Year’s party five years ago, and I proposed last New Year’s Eve on her dock on Sullivan’s.”