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Advice For New Technicians

Discussion in 'Collaborative Articles' started by gafftaper, Sep 17, 2008.

  1. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    Theater Manager & T.D.
    Seattle, Washington
    A few years back Ship posted a message that struck me as pure gold. It contained the heart of what follows however I have edited and tweaked it a bit for my own purposes and now use it in my class with permission. Please add your thoughts as well below...

    -Never do anything without full instruction.

    -Never touch anything - even lean against anything without being told it’s ok or to do so

    -Ask all questions that come to mind no matter what it is or simple it might seem of your understanding. However, ask at the proper time. Safety questions (“Is that cord supposed to have wires sticking out of the plug?”) are show or work stoppers and important to ask immediately. Use your judgment on importance and trust in that gut feeling about stuff you don’t know or question.

    -Always have your work… all of it… inspected by the supervisor who told you to perform the task or those other supervisor that person approved of inspecting it. Continue having your work inspected until told that you no longer need it inspected.

    -Don’t climb anything without proper instruction, approval and supervision in doing so. This includes climbing a ladder and or grabbing a crate to stand upon. According to OSHA the majority of falls from about 6 feet are fatal.

    -Watch for things you think you “know” that does not seem right or correct. Question all you don’t understand, never be afraid to learn, but do so tactfully. At times there is not time to answer fully - don’t be afraid of the brush off, ask again later. The point is for you to learn but learn correctly and everything you might assume is in question. Never assume.

    -Buy and read lots of books. Start with a book on general stage tech that has a chapter or three on lighting, some on carpentry, some on sound etc. The basic concepts will be taught in such a book without getting overly complex or detailed about stuff that you might not need to know yet thus might get overloaded in learning. Finish it and than go for the stage lighting text book or ten.

    -Don’t give up. You will in this first show probably be given the lest of glamorous jobs and at best be only on a crew of people and often the “go-fer.” In going for the gear it’s time to learn what the gear is. Once you learn what the gear is, than you learn how to use it... etc. You start small, short of this you miss a lot of the steps between. Patience and perseverance, stick with it even if it is not so much fun on the first show. It’s Gonna take time. Have fun, socialize with like interest people who are serious about their craft- don’t screw around- learn.

    -On tools, always bring a Crescent Wrench, some work gloves, and if possible a Leatherman. Don’t loan out your tools, and if you have to borrow any no matter if from the shop or from someone else, as soon as that tool you use you are done with, it goes back into the hand of the person you borrowed it from. Damage it, tell that person. Damage any gear - even ding it, tell a supervisor. Keeping gear fully functional is the priority. You probably won’t get fired for damaging something you will get fired if they don’t find out until 10 minutes into a show.

    -Stay busy. When not busy, ask for stuff to do. You are never too good to sweep a floor. Never too good to do anything on stage - being on stage is the pleasure of it - other stuff will follow. Your intent is not to be entertained by being there, that will be a part of what you are doing and most often follow hard work. Instead your intent is to help in the production. Sitting around, playing with stuff doesn’t get that task done.

    -Work hard, learn lots. Have goals in mind and known of where you wish to get or what you will want to get to the level of doing. Want to run the follow mention it. You may have to run the light board for a while but have patience and remember that there are only so many people that get the chance per year.

    -Politics back stage. Stay away from them as much as possible. All political parties as it were when new are your friends or should become - this includes actors etc. Take no sides, be friendly but neutral to all forms of dislike and or alignment. Often the bad seeds of the group will be most active initially in seeking membership. Be nice, find friends in all but do not yet commit to any one group’s politics. You are not there for politics and new friends abound in places you don’t know yet. Don’t be aloof but also don’t give your life history as it were either.

    -Most importantly, it doesn’t matter what gear you have or what type of theater or anything else at this point. With time you will learn such things. It’s more the concepts learned, the fun had with friends and the magic made. Have fun in seeing something you plugged in and focused, than gelled in now lighting an actor on stage. Have fun in being part of a crew that kicked butt.

    The following moved here from the deleted Glossary entry: Stuff to Tell New Crew.
    :Lighting and bump-in tips:
    When Hanging a Light remember to hang it the right way up, it's upside down if you have to go under it to put the Gel frame in
    Remember the Safety Cable, electrical is there for a reason, make sure it is around the bar and with the least amount of slack.
    Never stand on a road case.
    When using a ladder, check that the ladder is secure before climbing onto it. You may want to find a friend to hold it steady if you are not sure, just in case. Maintain THREE points of contact with the ladder at all times.
    When you are using a ramp from a truck to the ground, make sure you have extra hands to help you.

    The following is based on an old post in the forums by ship.
    "It doesn’t matter what gear you have or what type of theater or anything else at this point. With time you will learn such things. It’s not baseball cards in stating the RBI’s of some player, it’s more the concepts learned, the fun had with friends and the magic made. Don’t worry about how many Lekos and what brand of them there is, don’t worry about what light board is in use or how many dimmers you have. Just have fun in learning say the color code in designating one length of Cable, electrical over another and all other little details like that. Have fun in seeing something you plugged in and focused, than Gelled in now lighting an actor on stage. That kind of thing. Have fun in being part of a crew that kicked butt. As it were.

    (See above for the remainder.)

    A few things you should know:

    Before beginning actually starting to do a show, a few things need to happen. Firstly everything must be planned out (location of desk, mic’s used, radio mic plot and speaker or foldback plot.) After all this a process of submit and assess must take place between the sound designer and the client. an example of this interaction would be a show that was recently done where a sound design was revised four times as the demands of the show were changed, each change was a major change and required time and meetings between the both parties to ascertain what needed to be done and what problems needed to be resolved. The moral of that story is to do paperwork as early as possible so that when you walk in for the Bump-in/Load-in you know exactly what needs to be done and the order it all needs to take place in.


    • No one likes a smart-arse, tailor your information to the client (if they have no technical background don't start using technical words, KISS*)
    • During a bump-in have a goal, ask crew that aren't doing anything to help (explain to them clearly what they need to do)
    • Listen to the client's instructions, then analyze (think about what they're saying and how to do it after, if you don't understand seek help)
    • Try and keep everyone happy, but working (if they stop ask nicely why not, also if crew seem troubled help them out)
    • Expanding on the previous point, Safety is important for all crew, doesn't matter if their young or old some people have phobias. If they don't like working at height don't pressure them into climbing ladders.
    Have Fun
    *KISS (keep it simple stupid)

    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 1, 2009
    Patch29 likes this.

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