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DISASTER!

Discussion in 'Safety' started by miriam, Mar 18, 2008.

  1. miriam

    miriam Active Member

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    And this time I took the blame, because the producer hired me specifically to oversee the tech setup and get everything done in time.

    We were supposed to get the hall at 1pm for setup, and begin rehearsal at 4pm with sound and lights for an 8pm show, knowing that we would have to refocus a bit during the rehearsal. I was the only one of the crew who had seen the show being rehearsed.

    Okay, a bit crunched, but not impossible. Well, the hall was being used the morning of the show for another event, and they did not clear out until 2:30pm. The crew came with four technicians for the setup, plus me. The head guy (he was the owner of the sound/light company we had hired) told me he was calling more crew to come help us, and that we could have a rehearsal with sound at 4pm, and with lights at 5pm. I believed him.

    The sound was ready at 4pm, we set levels for everyone, and started rehearsing.

    The lights were not ready until 7:30pm for an 8pm show. Originally we had four crew members, but after hanging the lamps, two of them left to go get the dimmer board that they had forgotten, and no replacements came to fill in for them. The dimmer board was in a different city, and took 1.5 hours to arrive. So two crew members were left for focusing the lights, and one of them was very new to this so needed constant instrution. That left one technician and me. I do not know so much about focusing, and I am female so they did not want to let me up the ladders or lift anything. The amount of time wasted yelling at me to get down, put it down, and leave it to them eventually convinced me to just leave it to them. Plus at this time I was trying to run the sound for the rehearsal also, at the same time.

    There were no sets, backdrops, or props for this show, and no costume changes, so I had asked two people to show up at 4pm to be general stage runners. Only one showed up. I asked her to mark the stage for the performers standing in a special, but that did not happen. Since we had no time to rehearse with lights, I did not know this unil the performers were standing in shadow during the show. They were at the corners of the stage, not covered by the general wash, which wasn't 100% focused anyway.

    Someone started letting the audience in at 7:30pm without consulting us. So here we were with crates, wires, and ladders all over. We quickly taped everything down and cleaned up, but we had not finished focusing and the stage had not been marked.

    The head technician ran the lights, he quickly tried to do a cue to cue at 7:30-8pm with the audience pouring in. We stared at 8:30pm. Once again, there was no stage manager. I did my own cues for sound, and the lighting tech had someone cueing him who knew the show. But she was absorbed with watching the show, so her cues were along the lines of "oh yeah, blackout".

    I had such high hopes. After the show, the lighting technician and I looked at each other, and we both felt like crying. Putting everything away after the show was super depressing.
     
  2. Logos

    Logos Well-Known Member

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    It happens, what you must do is take it as a learning opportunity. It doesn't sound to me that it was all your direct fault but I have to praise you for taking the blame if you were in charge and not trying to fob it off on others.
    As for the female thing, we have recently had a thread about this. You will run into this sort of prejudice. Just get on with the job and show that you can do it. Eventually you will win through.
    Keep on going Miriam, learn from the mistakes and don't let it scare you off.
    The lighting board thing was certainly not your fault.
     
  3. len

    len Well-Known Member

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    Hindsight is always 20/20. But for the future, it might be nice to know what remedies you might have if you're denied access at the agreed upon time. I always specify my load-in time on my contract, and what happens if I can't get in at that time. I wonder if the producer of your event had done that.
     
  4. Spikesgirl

    Spikesgirl Active Member

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    [ I do not know so much about focusing, and I am female so they did not want to let me up the ladders or lift anything. The amount of time wasted yelling at me to get down, put it down, and leave it to them eventually convinced me to just leave it to them.


    Like you, I'm a woman also working in a non-traditional career in tech theater. I profess to not know that much about lighting or sound, but I can hang and focus a show and lay cable, hook up mics and test for sound levels.

    At my school, we were taught to be able to do everything (design, build, hang, cable, etc) just in case we had to. We were given rotating crew assignments until we had completed every tech position and then we could choose where we wanted to be placed. it certainly gave us an over-view of everything - they even made us take a semester of acting, so we would know how the actors felt -

    You will always face the stigma of being a female in a non-traditonal role as long as you are in tech. The only advice I can give you is to be twice as good as your male counterparts. Get yourself some additional training and don't let anyone tell you that you can't do something just because you're a woman.

    Charlie (short for Charlene)
     
  5. miriam

    miriam Active Member

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    I did learn a lot from that show, but I realize I have a ton more to learn.

    What kind of thing should we put in the contract? Like if we are late entering the hall they get less money, that type of thing? Or that they need to reimburse us for hiring more workers? If they had ever shown up...

    Which leads me to the next thing. If I ask the head tech "where is the crew" and he says they are on their way, but they never show up, what do I do? I do not think yelling would be that productive, but asking repeatedly did not help either.

    Should we specify in the contract how many crew members? Is that usual? We specified the time of setup, the time of rehearsal, and the time of cue to cue. Should we specify anything else? And anyway the timing got messed up from the start, so does that even help?

    And if I ask someone to clear equipment from the wings and they give me a blank look and go outside for a cigarette, can I knock their head against the wall?
     
  6. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    For those of you who don't remember Miriam is in Israel so the cultural issues she faces being a woman technician are much different than here. I find this a particularly fascinating topic Miriam. Here, even though women have come a LONG way toward being considered equals to men (female police, fire fighters, in the military etc), there are still not a lot of women in tech theater. As Charlie and others have said, women are still looked at funny (or worse) here, even though we have come so far. It seems to me you live in a culture that is more restrictive of traditional womens roles than ours. I wonder how many women work in tech theater as a career in your country. It may be that you have a much larger struggle ahead of you educating men that you are capable of the work than the other ladies of the Booth face here in the U.S. Not trying to discourage you... on the contrary you may be breaking new ground so that other young women can follow their dreams too.

    As for the Disaster. Here your rental contract would clearly say what happens if the space isn't available on time and your agreements with the crew should also say what happens if someone has to leave for any reason
    Lot's of questions to be answered. Who manages the hall and allows someone to stay an hour and a half past their contract time with another event the same day? Bad management. Why did TWO people have to go get the missing equipment? Couldn't one have stayed to help with the work needed? Why didn't they have someone who is already in the other city bring the equipment to you rather then sending two people over and back to get it?

    Hang in their Miriam it isn't always this bad.
     
  7. len

    len Well-Known Member

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    Being that you're in a different country the laws may differ. But my contract is typically with the producer of the event, and we work a lot in hotel ballrooms, etc. So if we can't get access to the room, it's because of the hotel, not my client. Basically, my contract reads that the client agrees to indemnify me, my company, my employees, contractors, assigns, and basically everyone I have any supervision over, if the venue does not provide sufficient ingress, egress, storage, access to electricity, and a bunch of other stuff, as specified and agreed to previously. Depending on the size and complexity of the rig we bring in, we will do a site inspection prior to the event, with both my client and someone from the venue. They will BOTH sign my contract agreeing to load in time, dock access, elevator access, electricity, etc.

    A contract should specify what will do, what you WON'T do, and what your client and/or the venue will do. It should also specify what happens in the event that one party does not live up to its end of the agreement. For me, since I can't control the venue and since I'm not paying the venue to do anything, I have no leverage with them. But in the U.S., it is possible for a client of mine to sue me should I not be able to live up to my end of the contract, even though it's not my fault (such as delays in load-in time). Therefore, the only thing I can do to protect myself is to say that it is incumbent on my client, and that if they don't ensure I have the logistics I need to do my job, they can't come after me.

    But your contract should be drawn up by a lawyer in your country.

    Again, this is a contract issue. If you hired them, then you can specify what happens if they don't live up to their end of the deal. But if your name isn't on the contract, you have no say whatsoever.

    You can put anything you want into a contract. And yes, crew counts are typical. I charge my client for a number of people to do a show. I make sure to have them there because even if the job goes off without a hitch a client may think you are trying to rip them off. And you can specify you need a certain number of hours for set up, focus, etc., so that even if you start late, you can later point to the client and say "we needed X hours and didn't get it. You didn't live up to the contract."

    It depends. If the person who hired the crew told everyone "Miriam is in charge" and they did that, you could send them home if you wanted. A good crack in the head is always fun, too, but can lead to problems down the road.

    And as I read your follow-up, I'm beginning to think that you were hired to do a job, but the person who hired you also did all the other pre-event hiring (of personnel and equipment). Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but I'm guessing this person never said "Miriam is in charge. What she says goes" to anyone. Therefore, you were in the worst position - all the responsibility but none of the authority. As mentioned by others it could also be a cultural thing, I'm just talking hypothetically.
     
  8. Van

    Van CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    After reading your description of hwo the show ran I can only say, "Well at least it wasn't raining."
    I think it's fantastic that you step up and take responsibility, but as len said you were in a terrible posistion, All the responsibility and none of the authority, that is a lousy place to be. Actually, it doesn't sound as if things went too badly. I mean hey they opened the house on time. you ran the show, there were a few dark spots, but you made it through. It's not like they had to cancel or stop the show half way through because "Miriam didn't do her job." To me it sounds as if you worked very hard to make the best of a really lousy situation. Remeber that when an Actor goes on stage and gets through the show, even though they are fighting the Flu, or Pnuemonia even if they completely blow their performance, they are a hero. Technicians, on the other hand tend to be harder on themselves than almost anyone I know. We make one small mistake, we miss one cue by half a second and it's glaringly obvious, at least it is to us. Perhaps Folks in the audience were able to see mistakes that you saw during the show, perhaps not, but the truth is you will be harder on yourself because of those "mistakes", and push your self harder and harder it's the nature of technical theatre.
    So I guess what I'm trying to say is, look at this as a learning expirience. Getting answers from folks on here is a great way to learn that ins and outs of those contractual obligations that you need to get sorted out. Don't worry, as your reputation grows as a technician, and as a lead, those folks are going to quit blowing you off and start snapping to, and toeing the line.
     
  9. miriam

    miriam Active Member

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    The stage, even with everything on, had shadows. But that would have been sort of bearable.

    However, there were specials at the two downstage corners, where each performer went for their Moment of Dramatic Introspection. Only two performers were completely in the light. The rest were cut off at the head or half their bodies, or both. Speaking parts, songs, sometimes both specials at once, with both performers out of the light, or a backup singer with bright light and the lead almost completely obscure.

    I think one of the issues I need to work on is accepting that I have the authority, and wielding it. It is a brand new experience for me to be "in command" with other professionals, and everyone probably picked up on it.
     
  10. Spikesgirl

    Spikesgirl Active Member

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    [
    I think one of the issues I need to work on is accepting that I have the authority, and wielding it. It is a brand new experience for me to be "in command" with other professionals, and everyone probably picked up on it.[/QUOTE]

    That is one of the hardest lessons that we have to learn. That and learning the magic word 'no' - I'm still struggling with that one. I tend to take on more than I should. Just remember - you are a trained and responsible person. You have worked hard and paid your dues to get to where you are. Be proud of your accomplishments and know that you are just as good as all those other professionals.

    Use this as a learning experience, make sure your next contract reflects your new found information and (if possible) get some lighting experience, so you know whether or not someone is handing you a line.

    My crew once gave me a shirt that reads, "Don't make me hurt you." and I wear it proudly. I never would hurt anyone, but they don't need to know that. Be firm, be positive and be successful!

    Charlie
     
  11. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    I've always had a hard time with accepting authority. I know that I'm the one in charge but it seems like it should be someone else. I've always been a lead by example sort of person... which works well on your own crew but doesn't work well with outsiders. When I went through "teacher school", it was really hard for me to develop that ability to stand up and say, I'm in charge here this is my room, and I make the rules. For other's it's easy. The best advice I can offer you is to just jump in 100% and claim authority. You can't go half way. You have to say this is my show and I'm in charge and I'm not looking back.
     
  12. miriam

    miriam Active Member

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    So I need to:

    excercise authority, when I have it
    be specific in the contracts about crews, times, and penalties
    learn more about lighting
    follow up to make sure people do their assigned task
    let the venue know to be in touch before they start letting people in
    and the whole gender roles thing--the more I am around, the more they will get used to it, I guess.

    I'm sure there's more to take from this situation.

    The most difficult for me will be excercising authority and following up. I do not like to hover, and sometimes I overcompensate in the other direction.
     
  13. Spikesgirl

    Spikesgirl Active Member

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    I think we all overcompensate. These folks (supposedly) know what they are doing and how to do it, so you should have to watch them - that's the trap I always fall into. Give them an inch, and they take a yard. Force yourself to hover and let them know when they are slacking. Once you build a 'no nonsense' reputation, it will be much easier. We were all in your shoes once and it does get easier -please, please keep at it and know that you are breaking important ground for the women of your country!

    Charlie
     
  14. len

    len Well-Known Member

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    One thing I learned early on is you need to read people pretty quickly and know how to deal with them individually and as a group at the same time. It only comes with experience and I'm still not very good at it.

    The way I deal with crews is to put teams of 2 together and keep them together. I then give them assignments and try and keep them doing the same thing. Then I wander around and check their work.

    Usually, it's 2 guys on truss assembly and rigging, 1 - 2 guys on cable management, and 1 - 2 guys on positioning and hanging fixtures. So they stay out of each other's way and I just keep them moving. And check their work. And check it again.

    I also find that if I explain how the rig is supposed to look, show them the plot if I have it, and how everything is sorted (the way cases are labeled, color coding, etc.) before we do anything I get a lot more respect.

    And the most important thing to remember is that they won't do anything more/work any harder than you're willing to do.
     

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