Behind the Scenes with Matthew J. Shea
Matthew J. Shea is Vice President of Atlas PyroVision Productions, which is responsible for the special effects that fire from the Hatch Shell during the Fourth of July concert. In addition to the Fourth of July event, he has produced pyrotechnic shows for several well-known Boston events, such as opening day at Fenway Park and New Year’s Eve.
Q: What are you doing the day before the event?
A: I’m working on the fireworks for the third of July! Whatever we’re going to do on the Fourth, we do on the third so that the people who are there can see the dress rehearsal that includes the pyro around the Hatch Shell.
Q: What are you doing the day of the event?
A: The Fourth of July event is made for TV, so me and my crew work on setting up the fireworks around the Hatch and making them look great.
Q: When you hear “Fourth of July,” what do you think of?
A: I think of fireworks, and then I think about the Fifth of July. All year round, all I hear is Fourth of July. At least once per day.
Q: What is your favorite part of the Fourth of July celebration?
A: The fact that every year is a different part of history. It’s a very historic event in its own right. People throughout the entire country know about it and have heard about it, and sometimes they’ve seen it. Every year there’s a different act and the whole event is different from the year before. It is fun to be a part of that difference and the excitement that goes on with celebrating the Fourth of July.
Q: If you could meet anyone in history, who would you meet?
A: Ben Franklin, because I’ve always had a keen fondness for the revolutionary period, especially because I’m in the fireworks business. I’d want to meet all the people in Boston who were involved with the Revolution. I’ve always found it amazing what went on in Boston, but Ben was from Philadelphia. Still, he was not only a great person in the Revolution, but he, like myself, also liked to play with science and experiment with things. If he were alive today, I’m pretty sure that he would be an amateur pyrotechnician, and that’s why I would like to meet him.
Q: What are the three objects you can’t live without on the Fourth?
A: The computer that fires the fireworks, the pyrotechnics that are involved, and my crew.
Q: How did you get involved with the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular?
A: A number of years ago, we started working with Boston 4 Productions on various events. The first event we worked on with them was the Boston Common fireworks display on New Year’s Eve.. Last year, after I produced the Opening Day fireworks for Fenway Park, they approached me and said, “Hey, that sounds like a great idea for the Hatch Shell.” Last year was the first year we produced the pyro on the Hatch Shell.
Q: How has the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular changed since you started?
A: For one, the pyro on the Hatch Shell is really the biggest difference as far as we’re concerned. There also seems to be more and more people coming to the event, and of course it has continued multimedia following on TV and on the internet. I think overall the event is really just matured to a point where it is now one of the most important events that takes place on the Fourth of July.
Q: What effect has working on the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular had on you?
A: Like anything, when you take on a project that is challenging, it is rewarding when that challenging project comes to fruition. The effect of the event is that it has been rewarding.
Q: What are you thinking/feeling on the day of the show, after all of your preparation is done?
A: Can we start? After it is all set up, you’re literally sitting there going, “Ok, we’re ready to go. Hurry up,” but it is that way for any production. Then we just wait for our crews to shoot the pyro.