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Dealing with a bad design - help?

Discussion in 'General Advice' started by Sayen, Nov 9, 2008.

  1. Sayen

    Sayen Active Member

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    I met with the choreographer/director for an upcoming dance concert to discuss lighting options and positions for the show. This is an individual who has demonstrated in the past that they understand nothing about lighting, and have botched several plots and forced my student board ops to create what are frankly ugly cues onstage.

    This year, instead of ripping off a plot from the local community college like this guy usually does, he insisted on designing his own plot. The plot is a disaster - no real application of lighting theory, nothing standard from other dance concerts, and it will leave giant holes all over the stage and absolutely no color mixing options. I tried to talk him out of it, tried to draft a different plot, and tried to work what he wanted into the usual ripped-off CC plot. The meeting ended with him telling me he'd bring in professionals to teach me to do dance lighting, and me just agreeing with what he wants and storming out.

    My question is, what do I do at this point? I can give him exactly what he wanted, and while I don't care if he is upset, I do feel bad for the students. I can ignore what happened at the meeting and hang what will work, but he'll pitch a fit if he figures it out. Either way, I get hauled in front of my boss and chewed out - after all, this guy is from New York!

    As a designer/technical director, any suggestions on a course of action? The best I have so far is to sneak some extra lights into the plot, to cover when this blows up.

    Even my students recognize the failure of this plot, and I'm having a hard time explaining it to them. I can't trash another instructor, but I'm definitely not taking credit for this design.
     
  2. cdub260

    cdub260 CBMod CB Mods

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    Give the Director/Choreographer exactly what he wants and make sure he gets full and sole credit for the design. Beyond that, there really isn't that much you can do without crossing a line. Sometimes our jobs as techs require us to hang lights, build sets, and otherwise do things that are absolutely wrong for a given show because that's what someone in charge wants. I have a similar, though somewhat different issue with the light plot in my smaller space. I have been forbidden from removing four R-40 strips from the house plot, despite the fact they cannot punch through the other stage lights and eat up a huge amount of pipe space on my electrics. As for why my TD won't allow me to take them out of the plot, they double as work lights.:evil: Give me a small budget and a few days to work in the space and I could install new, permanent work lights and eliminate the "need" for those albatrosses better known as R-40's. Unfortunately, that decision is his to make, not mine. Your situation is similar in that, ultimately, the decision to have bad lighting is in the hands of your director/choreographer.

    Just make sure that your name is in no way attached to the design.
     
  3. cprted

    cprted Active Member

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    [​IMG]

    1) Ensure that under the director's headshot in the lobby the credit clearly reads "Director, Choreographer, Lighting Designer."

    2) Make sure your name does not appear in the program, anywhere.

    3) Smile, run the show, cash your cheque, and go home.
     
  4. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    I would hang the whole thing exactly as requested. Then, if I had enough inventory, I would hang the fix. But don't let him know you hung the fix. When the idiot comes in show him what he created and let him sweat a little then show him how it's properly done. If you can't do that then hang it exactly like he asked and make sure there's no way you have time to fix it. So his show has to suffer with his stupid design. However, let your boss know ahead of time so you get ahead of the storm that will follow.
     
  5. soundlight

    soundlight Well-Known Member

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    I second the motion.

    Let them screw themselves over, and stay far away from the carnage that will follow. And don't let any blame fall to you.
     
  6. rochem

    rochem Well-Known Member

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    So I'm confused. This guy is the choreographer/director, right? And you're the Lighting Designer? And he insists on designing the plot himself? There's something funky going on there... If he wanted to be the lighting designer, then why were you hired in the first place? Why not just add "Lighting Designer" to his list of titles and be done with it?

    Other than that, I agree with everyone else. Tell him politely that you do not want your name associated with work that was not done by you, and respectfully turn over the LD position to him. Then ensure that you stay as far away as possible from whatever happens after opening.
     
  7. Wolf

    Wolf Active Member

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    I agree let him take credit for it and have your name no where. If you have the inventory to hang what is right do that.

    But also as far as your students go. Make sure they know what is hung, programed, and run is wrong, and try to show and or explain what is correct. I dont know how your school/class is set up but make sure the students dont get yelled at for having it done wrong.
     
  8. Sayen

    Sayen Active Member

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    It's a high school gig, so it's one teacher against another. This guy and I are developing a history, so one way or another this will fall on my head, and since it's his dance show the lighting is his call. Regrettably, I can't explain to my students why we are doing such a poor hang.

    He's a big name dancer from New York, apparently, and the district was happy to snag him.
     
  9. Wolf

    Wolf Active Member

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    Could you not say something to the students like, I would not personally do (such and such) this way but I am not the one making the decision. And explain why you would do it the other way and not saying the way you are doing it is wrong (even though it is) but just how you would do it if it was your choice.

    This would also show the students that sometimes you have to follow someone else even if you think something else should be done.
     
  10. rochem

    rochem Well-Known Member

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    Rather than telling them this, why not let them draw their own conclusions about the design? Its commonly said that you can learn more from a bad design than from a good one. So dont make any comments on it, good or bad, just tell them to watch and forumlate ideas about the design. You might be amazed with the things that your brighter students might come up with. After the show, have an entire class where your students just throw around ideas of things they liked, things they didn't like, ideas they have to make it better, and so on. 20 years from now, they're not gonna remember you telling them "this is how he did it and it's wrong". What they'll remember is what they saw that didn't work, such as learning that pointing an instrument straight into the black masking doesn't make for very good toplight. :) A slight exaggeration I'm sure (I hope), but I think you get my point.
     
  11. cutlunch

    cutlunch Active Member

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    I would hang his plot.
    But like other people say if you have the inventory then just hang some extra's like a colour wash and some general area.

    Then when you start plotting he might realise that he has a few problems. Then you could quietly mention that you have a few lights of a general rig he could use. If he asks why they are still up just tell him that been a school you don't know from day to day when someones going to ask you to do something in a hurry so it's quicker leaving them up.

    As for the students just give it to them as a class project to critque, in a what I liked / didn't like kind of way. Are you the only LD whose work they get to see? If so just tell them different LD's have different styles and his is another way of doing things.

    I just had a thought maybe he want's to have a go at designing because when he was working in New York he didn't get much say on his lighting for his choreography.
    Maybe he is learning and after this one he may listen to you more in the future.
     
  12. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

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    If the choreographer/director wants the lights a certain way, fine. If they think that they can design the show, let them. As others have said, make sure that it isn't your name under the header of Lighting Designer. You voiced your opinion, it was discarded, and thus there is no reason for you to have the title.

    I am not sure that I would go and hang anything extra through. Mostly because if it isn't going to be my name as LD then I would not take it into my hands to design the show, even if I was supposed to be the LD. This stems a lot from the fact that I wouldn't want to do the extra work. Now that could come back and bite me, but there is always a point in tech where you can't change anything anymore. So if the director/choreographer's design fails and you have maid it to the point of no return, you have saved yourself a lot of work, and the director/choreographer gets to deal with his failure.

    If the director/choreographer realizes that the design is failing before the point of no return, you still have bargaining chips. You can only work when there isn't a rehearsal going on or classes in the space (I am assuming this), so you can only get X, Y, and Z done, but maybe not A, B, and C. So you may still save some work. Or, if you only have the inventory to hang the original plot or a "working" plot, rehanging the entire show is probably not an option.

    Here's the thing, as long as the parents can see their kids, they are going to be happy. You could just blast while light on stage and the parents would still be kvelling at their kids. So, if the lighting is lousy, but you can still see the kids, no worries. If you can't see the kids, that is a whole different story. What is my point? Well when i was in college, my professors didn't have a problem letting us fail designing a show (not in the grading sense). Now, they wouldn't let a failed design kill a show, but as long as there was performance quality, they would let a not-so-great lighting design go up, it is a learning experience, you can't succeed every time! So if there is no harm in letting your director/choreographer design the show and fail, there is no reason not to do it.
     
  13. Sayen

    Sayen Active Member

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    I let my crew fail when designing theater shows - nicely, of course, and with support - under the assumption that if you can't screw up and experiment in educational theater, when can you? For other groups I view it more as a professional responsibility to give them a solid show, from audio to lighting and everything backstage.

    Thank you all for the advice, it put my conscience at ease at least. We closed the performance tonight, and rehearsals this week answered the debate - the guy is so ignorant of lighting and wrapped up in his dancers that he didn't realize how bad things looked. I'm talking splotches, mismatched colors, clashes with costumes, and big holes all over the stage. I had my crew gently ask about lighting, and he thought it looked great. While I love my principal, the man has no clue about technical work, and even he was able to come up and ask what was wrong with the lights. Oh well - less work for me in the future I suppose, since we do three or four dance concerts a year using his design.
     
  14. elite1trek

    elite1trek Active Member

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    This makes me laugh a little.

    Anyway, I have worked with outside groups that come into my theatre and tell me how to do things. Dance Groups, Cirque Groups, even Corporate events. You would be surprised how many Corporate event planners think they can design lights better than your designer can.

    It's their show...let them frack it up if they want to.


    Just a funny little side story:
    I had a Corporate Gig come in once and demand that I rehang my entire plot.

    I told her OK, but told her that doing that would require a crew of 12 for 6 hours, and that since it was a weekend, it would be double-time.

    She agreed to use the house hang. ;)
     

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