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Do you need a degree from a theatre program to be a concert LD/technician?

Discussion in 'Education and Career Development' started by echosierra08, May 26, 2009.

  1. echosierra08

    echosierra08 Member

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    I am currently in my first year in a theatre program but I am thinking about changing my major. I have come across a few people who have degrees in something else and are LD's. I really don't like theatre and want to focus more on live music lighting design and moving light design in general. If I were to change my major what would be a good major to switch to? What should I do to get experience with lighting? IATSE? Clubs? High schools? Any advice would be appreciated!
     
  2. avkid

    avkid Not a New User Fight Leukemia

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    As much as I hate to say this, it's more about who you know than what pieces of paper you have.

    There is much to be said for being in the right place at the right time.

    The theatre design classes are going to teach you the science and art behind lighting that you might not learn "in the trenches".

    Work calls at a local roadhouse or arena will give you a taste of how things work on the road.
     
  3. echosierra08

    echosierra08 Member

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    I have thought of the same thing. Where I am at now, I have to run shows, spend alot of time doing stuff I don't do pertaining to what I REALLY want to do and overall once I am a Jr. I then spend 5 hours a day in the theatre/shop. So I run out of time for GE's. I just want a piece of paper and get the heck out of college.
     
  4. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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  5. jerekb

    jerekb Member

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    Hey Derek.... or some one.
    In regards to that thread you have a link to. Would it be better to say something like: I am young and have an extreme love for the industry focusing mainly on lighting. I feel like a know what I'm doing, though I have tons to learn. I'm content with simply taking out the trash as I am competent in my skills and will learn what I need to to work my way up. I will do any job assigned to me. Whatever I need to know I can learn." Would something like that be for effective you think?
     
  6. Pie4Weebl

    Pie4Weebl Well-Known Member Fight Leukemia

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    Here is a nod towards just going to college for the "college experiencing". College can teach you a way to think, which you will never really learn in the trenches or at least not as quickly. It also gives you time to grow up and really find yourself as a person before really going into the real world.
     
  7. Esoteric

    Esoteric Well-Known Member

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    Depends on what exactly you want to do....

    Be a Lighting Director or technician on tours? Then getting out on the road and getting real world experience will be more important. You can learn what you need to learn hanging out with the LDs. Although a good handle on basics will serve you well (I have seen a lot of guys doing local gigs that had no clue what they were doing). You have to be in the right place at the right time, but you have to know what to do once you are there.

    If you want to go into the theater (regional or national) then an undergraduate eduction will serve you well.

    Mike
     
  8. waynehoskins

    waynehoskins Active Member

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    College is a good thing, yes. Merely having a piece of paper that says "BFA Theatre Design" doesn't do you much. However, in the process you will hopefully (as noted already) learn a lot. Much of that you can get in the trenches; some you can't. There's also a lot of learning you get in the Real World that you don't get in classes or even doing theatre in college.

    A mixture of both -- lecture, college shows, and road house (or production co) -- will give you a very good broad skillset. Theatre, especially university, is likely to be heavily conventionals-based. Tours are heavily movers-based. If you learn both, you can light shows with both. If you only learn movers, it's hard to light a show with only conventionals, especially only minimal conventionals.

    Learn stuff, and learn outside of your major too. I got my theatre degree, and then got a real job as a database administrator and web programmer and such. If I had it to do over again, I would have taken more CS classes.

    Oh yes, and enjoy college. It's not all about the work, you know.
     
  9. jmac

    jmac Active Member

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    As Pie4 intimated, college is valuable as a place where you learn how to learn. In that regard, it serves you well no matter where you go.

    Yes, there are other things you learn only in the real world trenches. But you'll pick them up faster with the college experience.

    No matter what you do, work at being a good writer. Don't skip the English classes! In the end, that will put you ahead of most the others, regardless of your field.

    My two-cent digression...
     
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  10. ruinexplorer

    ruinexplorer Minion CB Mods Premium Member Fight Leukemia

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    Yes, there are successful people who skip college and go right into the industry. Something that many of them do not learn is how to determine what is good and bad information. Since there are many people in our industry who have not had a formal education, there are many of them who are practicing improper and sometimes dangerous techniques. Even if you go to work for a reputable employer that provides you with good training, as mentioned above, you will not get some additional training that is essential to success, such as technical writing skills and higher math (both for electric and rigging calculations). I recommend that when you go to college, instead of getting a job at a coffee shop or retail store, work for a company in the industry such as a rental company, road house, or theatrical distributor/manufacturer. If you don't want to go to school for theater, I would recommend computer information systems. You want to be able to understand the complexities of the information exchange of the media servers as well as the lighting systems. Don't neglect your lighting courses so that you can understand that there is purpose for many different instruments, not just Lekos and Par Cans. Also, by getting a college education, you are putting yourself in a better position to one day be ETCP certified.

    <rant> I have met many "big fish in a small pond" type of designers. Problem is, those are the people that you often will get work with when you are trying to work your way up without going to school. Often times, they went straight into designing without ever getting formal education. You can pick out their designs as they are generally unimaginative and repetitive. They can be successful, but they are most often stuck in their own market and on the off chance that they get to try out another market, they usually fail.

    I have also met many technicians who have had no real training. They often take risks that are unnecessary which sometimes results in serious injury or even death. Their unsafe practices also can lead to property damage. </rant>
     
  11. len

    len Well-Known Member

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    If you want to tour with bands, you need to prove yourself. They're not going to give up a bunk on the crew bus to someone who can't pull their weight. So find out the names of all the big lighting production companies, like Upstaging, PRG, Bandit, Christie, etc., and get a job. You'll be doing the grunt work. Like pulling cable, taping, pushing cables, and you'll make very little money at it either. And if you work very hard and prove yourself, and catch a break you'll eventually be able to go on a tour. Which can either be very fun and fairly low stress, or the worst experience ever depending on the tour, the crew, and how much organization and money is behind it.
     
  12. Esoteric

    Esoteric Well-Known Member

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    ruinexplorer - I know what you mean abuot big fish in small ponds!! In one market I worked in, we had a guy who dropped out after having a cup of coffee in the theater program and did tons of shows locally, won all the local awards, etc. But he tried to go to New York and was back in less than a season.

    jen - I would beg to differ. I got on the road by being on a local crew (making VERY good money) when a road show came through and needed a hand. My steward recommended me, and they offered me the contract.

    Mike
     
  13. sk8rsdad

    sk8rsdad Well-Known Member Premium Member Fight Leukemia

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    According to jimonlight.com, pretty soon you will need to be a licensed engineer or architect to be an LD in Texas. I assume it would also apply if you are touring through Texas.
     
  14. echosierra08

    echosierra08 Member

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    I really like all the advice and tips everyone is throwing around. I am thinking about switching to a communications degree. I have talked to a guy who is the rental manager at a shop and it is the only shop in town that does such stuff for productions that roll through town. He said I can come in and hang out in the shop and at times I may be offered temporary work and other times I may get a gig or 2. Its worth it if that's all they can give me instead of a job coiling cable and sweeping floors. I am going to call IATSE soon and see if I can get moved up to at least the "B List"

    How does a communications degree sound for the industry? I want to switch to a degree that gives me a good education on people skills and such.
     
  15. Grog12

    Grog12 CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    If you know that you want to do this, and that you want to work in the industry but not in theatre....why get a degree period?

    Look I've got two degrees and I'll be the first one to tell you that they're worthless pieces of paper. If you have a passion for this and want to go after it through the Local, pursue it with your full heart.

    I am by no means telling you to drop out of college.

    And never would.
     
  16. MSLD

    MSLD Active Member

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    this might not help, but iv been doing concert lighting since i was 5 years old, so if you do need one, im screwed.

    But when you are old enough to get a job, yes, you should have some kind of document under your name.
     
  17. ship

    ship Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

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    Been quite a few years since that post similar to this subject. Been a few other posts on this type of subject also in the past that hopefully also hold up well. Sort of a FAQ type of thing - leave school or how do I become “x”. Stuff about stay in school - the amount of them with degree that work their way to the top these days is much better a percentage than those that mustang their way up from the bottom - art is art but refining is worth pay. Learning curve in getting the basics in concept for lighting in school type of thing over with before having to balance that learning with also learning what color code a cable is in length = in learning stuff, foot candles, acting areas, lumens verses lux, heck when in plastics and metals for the theater class and learning about a weld to steel being 100% the strength in class, stand up and ask how that’s possible given the wire/material for welding is of a different carbon content than that of say the mild steel being welded? How’s that a weld is 100% efficient?

    Many of them mentioned in the above linked post have gone freelance or moved onto other opportunities, others advanced to the extent of their ability including to the extent of being a designer for tours - a few I knew from cable slinger now are designers. Some of them who left for better opportunity, given the economy are now back with us or hoping to come back amongst other tech people recently hired from other shops that are constricting in staff - us expanding instead of contracting as opposed to other places. This hiring is mostly for name brand people with years of experience and not as much for those without a reputation behind their work at this point. Got an entire tour leaving tomorrow I’m building gear for that I know nobody on yet they have say a cable repair kit in fixing our cable in theory up to our standards. That’s problematic - really problematic no matter how many years of experience with other places these tech people have no training or experience with our standards.

    Still main emphases of the above is that it’s not a good time to leave school and hope to find a job, much less one you can grow with in attaining your dream. Board with school, you have probably not taken full advantage of it yet. Get into them computer classes, excel at AutoCadd, take interior design, take art classes or humanties for the arts classes, take history of China and as many other places you can for class while not also taking basics classes and or business classes. While board with school read a must read book “The Business of Theatrical Design”, read other books on automatic lighting and control, read lots of side interest books while sitting on the side in school’s other than real world, heck read some comic books and go on dates, this plus work them theater shows you don’t have a taste for. Get that side job with the DJ lighting company or local production company, work at the local high school or work at the local store front theater lots. Learn, experience and gain more questions to ask while in college of the professors or things to study into while in school and not having to choose between donuts for dinner because cheap and gas to get to work while new to the industry and broke and often laid off.

    Don’t leave school at least for a year or more... Stay where you are and instead learn stuff that even if it don’t seem important enough for your driving intent, might refine it some no matter where it leads. What about those paper lantern thingies, study their concept or effect on oriental culture? Been used on tour before such a prop, what ya know about the history or design elements of such a thing?

    The band you design for says they want this “x” element say even “West Side Story” type of look for that song... point being did you study it in infulence on what made for them the song, did you study as design concept “purple” in art class for what it regesters for what in design it means or are you starting from scratch in deer in the headlights without basis of concept for design in what’s asked for and having to start from scratch in achieving that look?
    Where also do you start that research? Way back when while in school I was designing for “Italian American Resonation, ” Ever listen to an LP’ of the Turnadot opera? (Great opera!!! in broadining one’s horizons.) That’s a link true design links you to eventually in research. Listen to it at least while doing further research on the design concept. That where ever the research takes you to is what school teaches you to in doing proper research and good design hopefully at least. Perhaps if your school don’t inspire you, wrong school or perhaps you have not applied yourself. Once spent a week reading a book something like “Structural Steel Engineering”. Fascinating reading about concepts like dynamic and other loadings etc. that I still understand in reading the basic concepts to. I was reading it for answer to questions I personally had about if my three story set for “West Side Story” was to be corrugated steel decking, how would it work, how does it happen it don’t fail given its small gauge? Cover to cover read the book and did get to understand engineering for steel in many ways - this if only while side line to designing a show that was never realized in school but instead for class. Stupid I didn’t get to design the realized show.... Screw that, you get time to learn and study stuff in detail or as I did take your research where ever it went. Take a “Building Materials for Architecture” class and learn such things like about a terrazzo floor in now knowing it’s elements of how to reproduce it on stage or at least how to clean it properly when slinging cable for a living. Similar classes in lighting for architecture or say electrical engineering or chemistry background you can get in school in say you becoming the person that does the xenon/halogen liquid filled inventor of the HPL lamp. Believe me “what have you heard” causes a sweat on vendors for lamps in the industry - why not be the one that figures it out as long as you add an internal reflector to it so as to further increase the output. Hmm, can’t afford this 1.2K mantle for a show budget you wanted, best figure out how to make it by way of prodiding shop drawings for how it’s made. Hmm... full size 20 degree ellipse curves etc. for the shop to use. This much less for that mantel converting a drawing with dimension given for it to actual.

    Don’t leave school at this point. What you when not having to balance donuts for dinner verses gas for getting to work is important in this economy. Not ready for you yet. Instead if your school don’t inspire, look to either what it offers you have not looked into by way of bettering or organizing your focus better, or another school. Stay at school and learn stuff you can later use in your field from paper lanterns in concept and aesthetics of to say structural steel design in knowing why a shackle say is superior to a quick link. Take the computer and drafting classes, heck even take ethics, psychology and theology classes in having stuff to learn and constant lively debate that will also help later on. Take humanities, a year of art to the extent you can sketch stuff that others can understand your meaning, take drafting, shop say wood shop and metals shop, take lots of theater - gee, no artist has ever had reference or concept to say something Shakespeare wrote. Read all the plays? I have not, and I tend to fall asleep with most of them but important... Yes! Even if not your field, advance your basis of info. Got that above designer MFA asking me about some side contract he has with a interior design enclosed waterfall company he has a side job with working for. Was asking about access to service panels in such a thing and about how to light a waterfall. I lead him beyond somethign ColorKenitics/Philips offers to fiber optic lighting sources for it as an option in not having to access stuff. This as read in “Lighting for Historic Buildings” as book I read, why have you not yet read it type question if doing design and understanding the career you make money from? Well read and for him not having a family to provide for is college time well spent while making the grade but not say making the grade while there as if high school so as to make it out of so as to achieve a piece of paper attesting to that... while in college what did you learn or achieve for yourself beyond what’s required? College is a wealth of books and pools of info to tap from separate from real life, and time not realized beyond due date for a term paper or design project that’s separate and secure from reality.

    Project manager comes up to you at 11PM on a Friday night and says something about needing custom length steel to hang some moving light truss ladders that are needed immediately. Where do you start beyond expected loading on the ladders? Than in knowing the load go from there in already knowing by memory approximate SWL of wire rope sizes. This all needed immediately of course. Start with the SWL of 1/8" wire rope and work from there in say 300# on the ladder but with two legs, but that SWL not persay shock loading. Production manager should have already known all this but he is a conduit between production and tech thus mostly is PR in function. How to safely rig such a thing - this given it was custom truss ladders built, not important enough when having them built so as to consider how to rig them was not considered in giving proper time to build or buy. Still though it was a failing on the designers’s part and those under him or her in a “gee, we got these elements to hang from, perhaps we should ask about how they will be hung also.” Anyway it should be any designer or tech person that could understand what size wire rope to at least use to hang with two points 300# with shock loading.


    Overall, stay in school. Study all you can, find stuff you are interested in. For me, I had a goal in mind for my career in study and with open slots studying from interior design to History of Scotland type classes I took including AutoCadd and architecture type stuff - this given I was going to become a world famous set designer instead of just a ME, lamp guy and fixture designer for a top ten lighting company in a rear backwards type of way ending up in - lighting was my secondary focus in school and you also very possibly might change career before your are done too. Many or most study one thing and end up with a second thing. Also keep that in mind beyond should you get hurt, say not be able to see color so well or see in the dark well, not be able to climb a ladder etc. in the future - and we are talking your lifetime, what will that college degree show for you no matter what it is in earning money for a living verses that of high school degree and leaving college to follow that dream that is with effort, luck and learning much these days in part from college?

    Show up at some place for a job with a college degree, you stand a chance for putting food on the table perhaps for your family as opposed to gas station attendant qualified without college you might compete for. My Step Dad has a degree in communications, he is now a mortgage broker. (By the way, “Interpersonal Communications” is another good class.) Don’t matter the degree in college, unless you years later you get a name for yourself and nothing happens in the mean time that requires you to leave the field, that college degree will both allow you to get a higher paying job outside the field if needed, and if in the field mostly allow you to excell in progressing in it.

    College kids progress faster than mavericks simple and true statement limited than to only them and of course after that who they known and luck. Once during college I was offered perhaps or not to design for Prince.
    Don’t know, guy was working in our school book store in seeing my design and drafting and saying he was production manager for him and wanted me to design his sets. Could be or could be pipe dream for him.
    Still wanted theater design at that point and rejected any concept of rock and roll design. Had goal and lots of classes that might help me - this even if broad in link to that career goal help me towards it. Last time I worked a Prince show, I was in the parking lot watching videos during the show while ensuring a follow spot lamp didn’t go bad in projecting his image. Had to pre-arrange with security any pee calls I might need and it sucked.

    Anyway, years later in working for a rock and roll lighting company in giving up set design and production for the most part, there I was working a follow spot or at least getting paid to read a book while making sure the follow spot projecting the image worked or it’s generator had enough gas. Ah’ that’s art and the biz at times. Pee break... please.. Pee break...

    Off topic but in general concept, that 1:1,000,000 chance you are getting to be a designer worth making your living is only helped by going to school for it and it’s broad concept in what you do say in taking more than just a few lighting classes and avoiding shows say. Dislike shows... I dislike music or dance design - so what learn what you can even still. Really bad market to apply for a job in leaving school. Best spend time honing your art while in school instead.
     
    Last edited: May 28, 2009
  18. Esoteric

    Esoteric Well-Known Member

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    Keep in mind as well, school, unlike the real world is a safe place to fail. You can take risks on shows, try new things, find your style, and no one expects to make money or have critical success with these shows. They are also not paying (probably) union wages for people to come in and do 5 or 6 notes sessions and a rehang.

    You will not find this in the real world. People's money is riding on these shows. You have to get it right the first time every time. Failure is looked down upon. Even success that is too slow means you might have trouble getting work the next time.

    Mike
     
  19. theatre4jc

    theatre4jc Active Member

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    I went to college for 3 years studying theatre lighting design. Did very little work with movers and was by far the worst designer in my class of 12. After 3 years I was offered a touring gig and my teachers urged me to drop out and get the road experience. Toured for 2 years with a small automated rig that was more of a joke than a rig. But once I came back to college my LD teacher (who was a new instructor) told me that he couldn't teach me any more. So I changed my emphasis to technical directing.

    Any way out of that original class of 12 designers I was by far the worst and am now the only one who is still designing. Everyone else tried to make it big and failed. My advice would be done both. Get that piece of paper. The education I got through my theatre design classes made my concert work go SO much easier. But when you start on the road be humble start at the bottom and work your way up. If you try and hold out for a high paying gig then you will miss out on the great education the small paying gigs will bring you. (ghetto rigging)

    Plus some production houses won't hire lead designers without degrees. Most will but I've worked with a few that wouldn't.
     
  20. Esoteric

    Esoteric Well-Known Member

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    Yeah, it also helps to pick a good program. The moving light training I got at UT was invaluable!

    Mike
     

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