Sysadmin contest winner to star in movie

IT pro Mike Mahan is trading his syslogs for a script. Temporarily, anyway.

Mahan is headed to Hollywood to film a YouTube-length movie in which he'll play the role of the sysadmin hero. The movie's sponsor, Qumu, hasn't revealed all the details of the plot, but the IT superhero will save the day. A futuristic dirigible is involved, and there are some communications issues that need to be fixed, hints Ray Hood, president and CEO of Qumu.

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Mahan was tapped for the role after winning a contest Qumu launched in July on System Administrator Appreciation Day. The annual event, now in its 12th year, is designed to elicit thanks for the unsung heroes who keep corporate desktops, servers and networks running. Ted Kekatos, the originator of SysAdmin Day, helped select the winner of Qumu's contest.

The prize package got the attention of Mahan, a senior IT specialist at TPI Composites in Warren, R.I. "Most times in IT-related contests, someone is willing to give you an iPad or a piece of their software. Where else are you offered the chance to be in film that's professionally produced? This type of awards package you can't buy," Mahan says.

Qumu, an enterprise video platform provider, hired video art director and filmmaker Jerry O'Flaherty to make the film. The vendor and filmmaker have worked together before; O'Flaherty made a 90-second film for Qumu titled "Qumu SysAdmin Hero Saves 'The Enterprise,'" in which a quick-thinking sysadmin saves the Enterprise spaceship from destruction.

Qumu's Hood played the role of CEO in the first film in the series, which was shot in an old sewer treatment plant. Hood will likely make an appearance in the second movie as well.

Mahan, meanwhile, is set to experience the behind-the-scenes world of filmmaking, including going through makeup and costuming, running lines with the actors and working with director O'Flaherty. "He's going to learn the ugly secret of Hollywood: Most of the time you're standing around waiting for someone," Hood says.

It's a far cry from Mahan's usual work activities. "I handle all network-related issues, hardware, software, desktop, Internet, phones, ERP -- basically a one-stop shop for our four locations in the U.S.," Mahan says of his role at TPI Composites, which makes wind turbine blades and products for military and public transportation vehicles. "I support around 200 desktop/laptop users and about 300 occasional or shared users on the production floor."

Mahan is making his first trip to Hollywood thanks to the Qumu contest, but it won't be his first acting role. When he was 6 years old, Mahan appeared on "Boomtown," a kids' show hosted by singing cowboy Rex Trailer, in Boston. "I was on 'Boomtown' in the 1960s," Mahan says. "That's the extent of my acting ... though I don't really consider that acting."

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