A Day in the Life of Media Renaissance Man, Ralph McCloud
In the late 1970s a teenaged Ralph McCloud would be exposed to the world of broadcasting while still a Huntington, West Virginia, middle school student, when he was chosen to be an anchor for Action News for Kids, a regional program airing on an ABC affiliate. Though he was originally the talent in front of the camera, as opposed to his later career choices behind the camera as producer, director, and screenwriter, he caught the broadcasting bug and never looked back.
“A bit later when I was in high school our state funded and installed a state-of-the-art television studio,” recalls the now 60-year-old McCloud, who is still immersed in television, but has added drone videography, feature films and app development to the mix.
“Back in high school I was the only one who knew how to run the gear,” he laughed. We met recently at McCloud’s home editing studio in Myrtle Beach, just two blocks from the oceanfront in the “Avenues” region of the city. McCloud is one of those lucky few who found the seed of a calling early in life and stuck with it, blooming where planted. “I fell in love with the medium in middle school and high school, and even to this day
I love what I do.”
Just exactly what does McCloud do? It would take a book to cover it all, but after moving to Myrtle Beach in the early-1980s and after a stint as a lifeguard, McCloud was enrolled at the University of South Carolina at Coastal, now Coastal Carolina University. After college he returned to the broadcast arena and spent 10 years finding his way among the opportunities that a booming Grand Strand marketplace could offer a young entrepreneur. Some 30 years ago he formed the Carolina Video Group and remains its CEO.
“I started doing weddings after I got a loan to buy two VHS cameras,” he said, “which were each the size of a suitcase.” As he recalls this history, I see just over his shoulder two hi-def GoPro video cameras sitting on the shelf, each barely larger than a matchbox.
“When I first moved to the beach I would shoot a foursome of golfers doing 18-holes for a hundred bucks. I had been doing some work for Mr. Ammons at the Sea Mist resort, and he let me put my flyers in the lobby.” McCloud, a true hustler and self-starter, traded video production services with a local TV affiliate in the late 1980s for two half-hour blocks of time.
“I shot a surfing show and sold ads,” he recalls. “Man, that was a great show. I shot and produced a golf show, too, which I was able to syndicate, and it aired in South Carolina, Georgia, Virginia and all over the Northeast. It was available in well over 10-million homes per week. It did really well.”
More than just a videographer, McCloud has written, directed, edited and produced four feature length films and has been involved, to one degree or another, in a dozen more. Many of McCloud's movies can be seen on various streaming services and most of them were filmed along the Grand Strand and had worldwide distribution. European audiences remain particularly enamored. His most recent film, Broken Halos (2020), enjoyed nationwide DVD distribution in Walmart stores. The film is also available to stream from Amazon Prime and Tubi.
Though film remains his passion, as a videographer, producer, and director his bread and butter for the past 30-some years has been in regional television, first shooting for the local TV affiliates when most of them didn’t have crews or studios at the beach and were headquartered in Florence or elsewhere in the state. He worked for Nashville’s Crook & Chase when they broadcast a daily variety show from Myrtle Beach in the late 1990s. He currently produces automobile dealership commercials, and shoots for a wide variety of commercial entities in need of video, either for TV advertisements or company websites.
The Grand Strand business community has kept McCloud’s lights burning brightly now for decades. And that doesn’t include his app development business, one which gives Amazon’s Alexa users instant tide chart info (Tide Chart) with thousands of daily users, and another Alexa-driven app (NearByEntertainment.com), which is used by musical artists and venues to let people know about live music in their area, recently launched nationwide. With all these established revenue streams and a few new ventures still banging around his creative brain, he’s left only a little time for his favorite hobby, surfing just a couple blocks from his home.
With all that’s packed into his week, we wondered what a typical day might look like for McCloud and found that the busy creator spends nearly as much time at his studio editing as he does fieldwork, and that every day is different.
After a daily walk on the beach (weather permitting) with wife Ramona, a well-known hair stylist in Myrtle Beach, McCloud heads to the home gym in his garage, where he says he works out nearly every day. His free weights and gym equipment are surrounded by props from some of his movies. A realistic Styrofoam tombstone bearing the name Alice Flagg sits against the wall. History buffs and fans of local lore will know the legend and ghost story well. In brief, Flagg was an ill-fated young woman of means and a mid-1800s resident of the Pawleys Island area. She is said to be haunting the graveyard at the All Saints Church, her final resting place, in Pawleys Island. The Anglican church has been serving congregations since 1739. Flagg is an incidental character in the Lifetime original made-for-tv movie, Honeymoon from Hell (2016), a title he’s not fond of but one required by the distributor. A hyper-realistic long handled (non-functional) rubber bolt cutter used as a weapon in another movie, hangs as a relic of that production. McCloud’s fully licensed drone sits with batteries charging nearby as well, the props and cameras all elements of his unusual profession.
“I had the first FAA license to operate a commercial drone in the Myrtle Beach area,” he recalls. He shoots a lot of footage with the hi-tech flying machine and finds it easier to use in many cases than the industry standard JIB, a long telescopic mechanical arm with a camera attached to one end.
McCloud recently spent a good part of one day at Conway Regional Medical Center shooting promotional videos for the hospital. It required him and his staff to wear sterile gowns while in the O.R. The medical team set up a “dummy” patient for the shoot. The finished short will be used as a commercial for the medical center.
The picturesque “downtown” of Market Common was recently captured by McCloud for a series of promotional videos. He often has a crew of up to four or five assistants for every shoot. Though McCloud is adept at nearly every aspect of commercial television and movie making production, he finds that more and more he prefers work in the studio, post production, or even creating original works without ever touching a camera.
“A.I. (artificial intelligence) is just amazing,” he said, “and I’m not talking about Chat GPT. I’m talking about images and animations created by computer based on my input. I believe more and more of my work will include exclusively A.I.-generated images.”
McCloud put together a short video for the local/regional band If Birds Could Fly for their song Talk in a Funny Way, using A.I. animation to create a stunning visual effect. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ntq4e4Cvrt8
“Auto dealerships, insurance companies, restaurants, real estate – that’s the bulk of my work,” he explains. “In addition to keeping a roof over our heads, I like to take some of the proceeds and make movies. I’ve got a new script ready, and I think it’s the best I’ve ever written, but it’s all about finding the rest of the funding.” McCloud’s movie budgets don’t come anywhere near the mega-millions spent by the big Hollywood studios, but they aren’t cheap, either. He's still able to enlist some national talent with recognizable faces for key roles including Catherine Mary Hicks, who co-starred in Honeymoon from Hell. Hicks played the mom on the hit show Seventh Heaven for 11 seasons and starred in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Movie and television actors Harry Van Gorkum, Brad Benedict and Linda Purl co-star in Broken Halos along with star Lexi Giovagnoli, who’s appeared in several Hallmark productions as well. He even enlists local talent. Grant Turner, Alabama Theater’s longtime beloved Ricky Mokel, has a small but important part in Broken Halos. Deacon Dawson (Freakin’ Deacon, a local radio star of the 1980s on WKZQ) plays a tour guide in Honeymoon from Hell.
Back in the studio, McCloud relaxes for a minute and picks up an acoustic guitar and strums whatever comes to mind.
“Ramona and I love live music,” he said. “I wish I was a better guitarist. We like to go see bands and duos or soloists. There’s a lot of great music around here.”
The guitar will have to wait as a client will be looking for a first edit on a new commercial. McCloud sets hand to mouse and makes quick work of the edits as the tides are right and an offshore tropical system has churned up some pretty decent waves.
“On school nights we go to bed pretty early,” he says, “but even in bed I’m checking out YouTube to see some of the latest effects and gain inspiration.”
Still, nothing inspires like mother nature and the adrenaline kick a great wave can stir up.
“I try to surf whenever the tides, the waves and the work will allow,” he said “It’s a pretty good life, I have to admit.”
Samples of McCloud’s work can be viewed at www.carolinavideogroup.com