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Everything Assistant Lighting Designer (ALD)

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by Wolf, Jan 15, 2009.

  1. Wolf

    Wolf Active Member

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    Hello,

    So im about to be the lighting designer for are spring ballet (Jungle Book, Written and music collected by our chor.). I have have been LD for other shows but I have never had a ALD. I am not sure what I should have him do / expect him to do.

    I know its nice to have someone to bounce ideas off of, and also I know that each LD has there own way of utilizing there ALD.

    So here's my question. How do you like to use your ALD. What do you have them do? (nothing is to minor, I would like to know)

    Thanks in advance for all your great help
     
  2. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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  3. soundlight

    soundlight Well-Known Member

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    When I was the ALD for our production of Twelfth Night this past semester, I was the one who did the original physical plot (the LD picked colors, gobos, and angles and then I sat down and worked up a plot, and he changed a few little things that weren't quite right). I updated the plot throughout the show, keeping up with added specials, new focus areas, etc. I did all of the programming for the show and helped design some of the cues, as well as did a lot of focusing which the LD then checked and OK'd (no changes necessary).
     
  4. Wolf

    Wolf Active Member

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    Oh yes...
    I got to the venue a few weeks ago and looked at the board. It was a ETC Vision. I could have lost it. I have no idea how my friend got Inspire out of Vision ugh.
     
  5. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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    In that case:
    The ALD's primary job is to support the LD, in any way necessary. That may involve fetching coffee, drafting the plot/paperwork, running a focus, taking notes during rehearsals, arguing with the director, or simply lending a sympathetic ear when needed. Essentially anything that needs to be done that does not involve actually touching equipment.
     
  6. Esoteric

    Esoteric Well-Known Member

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    My ALD drafts the plot and does all the paperwork, fetches coffee/breakfast/lunch/dinner/whatever, takes notes at rehearsal for me, goes to hang, fills in for the board op while he goes to pee, updates plots and paperwork, fetches anything I need, can be a model during focus, runs notes sessions, does notes during intermission, holds the clipboard and calls channels during focus, the list goes on and on.

    In short, whatever I tell him to do.

    Mike
     
  7. theatretechguy

    theatretechguy Member

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    To echo what others have said, they are there to make your life easier and less stressful. They usually have aspirations of designing themselves one day, so they can have some pretty strong opinions about things. Make sure YOU are the one in charge because its ultimately your name on the program.
     
  8. soundman

    soundman Well-Known Member

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    Paperwork, paperwork, and more paperwork. When I was ALD for a musical I met with the designer a few times before hang to get an idea of where he was coming from. At focus I focused all the front light and other odd positions. During tech I put together the follow spot cue sheets from his cue synopsis and with his approval my own ideas. I also updated the plot and corresponding paperwork. Once spots were locked in there cues I left the show to design something else.
     
  9. Esoteric

    Esoteric Well-Known Member

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    Just be sure to hold tight the reigns.

    Mike
     
  10. Juhnks

    Juhnks Member

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    ALD position?

    What Does it take to get a good Assistant Lighting Designer position? Is it just a matter of finding a Lighting Designer you can work well with and likes you?
     
  11. rochem

    rochem Well-Known Member

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    Re: ALD position?

    First of all, welcome to CB! Stop by the New Members Forum and introduce yourself. As for your question, that really depends on where you want to work. Where are you looking to work? Do you want to be an Assistant in New York, on or off Broadway? Assist the LD in your home town? If it's the second one, you just need to make friends with them and ask them, although don't expect to get paid except on their largest shows. Many summerstocks also have a Design Assistant internship, where a designer is hired for the whole summer to act as the assistant to all the incoming LDs. Those are great for making connections and getting lots of experience in a small amount of time, but it's way too late to apply for this summer.

    If you want to be a full-time assistant to a major designer in New York, it's a much more involved process. The first step is just to get to know the designers. People like Ken Billington and Don Holder will often speak at conferences and events, and these are great places to meet them and start a dialogue. Paul Gallo graduated from my school a long time ago, and I was able to use my alumni contacts to meet him and open a dialogue about working for him in the future, so if you have any well-known alumni, that's another way in the door. Under a USA contract, Assistants and Associates can make a great deal of money, so they're understandably reluctant to hire just anyone with a college degree and a swatch book.
     
  12. rochem

    rochem Well-Known Member

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    Re: True Role of an ALD

    Hi [user]hslighting[/user],

    As you seem to have figured out, professional LDs almost never do many of those things on your list, and in many cases they're actually not allowed by union contracts to do so. This thread seems to have it pretty well - generally, when a designer gets a show, he'll make up a systems list ("Front L202, Side N/C, Top G850 and R16, etc.) and it'll be your responsibility to decide where to hang the lights and how many you need in each system and make all the paperwork and everything like that. Usually the LD will decide roughly where he wants cues, but it's often just a copy of the script that he's scribbled in, and then you take it and turn it into a digital cue list. As an Associate LD, which is a step above Assistant, the designer might not even read the play before submitting a plot. As an Associate, you've worked with the designer enough to know what he wants - two zones of frontlight, 45 high sides with scrollers, low sides in a deep toning color, head-highs and scrollers, and so on.

    But whether Assistant or Associate, the job is really about supporting the designer. You'll usually do a significant amount of focusing, as well as all focus notes, you'll work with the ML programmer to build looks the LD will want for tomorrow, you'll fetch coffee, and so on. Hanging/focusing, changing lamps, and running the show is definitely NOT the job of the ALD. Those would be jobs done by the programmer, the Head Electrician, and the electricians on the show. Not saying that you should stop doing these, because it's probably the most efficient way to work in your particular situation, but since you asked.
     
    hslighting and (deleted member) like this.
  13. hslighting

    hslighting Member

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    Re: True Role of an ALD

    thank you for the quick response rochem. so the difference between the assistant and associate is that the associate has worked with the designer before?
     
  14. SteveB

    SteveB Well-Known Member

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    Re: True Role of an ALD

    I also thought an associate could provide design input, where as an assistant generally would not.

    I'd be curious if anyone knows the USA829 definitions, as there are different rates of pay for an associate vs. assistant.
     
  15. shiben

    shiben Well-Known Member

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    Re: True Role of an ALD

    I always thought the Associate was more of a sub in type guy, if the LD cant be there or has another project or wants to sleep in, the Associate is there to make art notes and the like, wheras the Assistant just gets coffee and writes the notes on their macbook pro.
     
  16. rochem

    rochem Well-Known Member

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    Re: True Role of an ALD

    While a little oversimplified, I think that's a pretty accurate interpretation. I know that there is a very large difference in pay scale between Assistant and Associate. However, I'm not sure if this is a USA-stipulated pay increase, or if designers just pay their associate somewhat of a 'retainer fee' or 'salary' in addition to the USA fee, or a combination of the two. Also, being a repeat assistant does not automatically make you an associate. I am friends with and have worked with a few broadway LDs, Associates, and Assistants, and my information comes from having observed them and talked to them - but by no means does it apply to all LDs. In the rest of the world, designers will spend time training a new assistant and talking him through the show. But on Broadway, the Associate takes on many of the duties of the Assistant in the regional world, and the Assistant is quite a bit less important. In one particular instance, I stopped in to tech for a broadway show recently where a friend was the LD, and he introduced the Assistant to me as "This is Jeff - oh wait, Derek - oh, sorry, it's James - the assistant for the show. He's responsible for tracking spotlights." So clearly not a long-standing relationship, and I'd hate to think what would happen if the assistant had walked over (from his far end of the table) and said "maybe you should try this."

    On the other hand, 90% of the work that gets done before tech was done by the Associate. An associate who I know pretty well has been working for the same LD for 5 years, and he's been an associate for other designers for a longer time than that. Many broadway LD's have their own associates who do every one of their shows, and these people are as crucial to the success of a show as the designer themselves. Yael Lubetzky works for Natasha all the time, Craig Stelzenmuller for Paul Gallo, Joel Silver for Kevin Adams, Vivien Leone for Don Holder, Paul Toben, Aaron Spivey, just to name a few. Many of these people move on to become successful broadway designers on their own, and others remain happy as associates for their entire careers.

    Because of the sheer volume of shows the LDs are doing, and the availability of large rental budgets, most LDs have a pretty rigid recipe for a standard light plot, in terms of the way they want frontlight channeled, what colors to use, where to put scrollers, how many areas of 45 sidelight, and lots of stuff like that. A great associate will learn this system, and then he can put it into a show without ever talking to the designer about it. He also has the freedom to add specials and other particulars as he sees fit. But you can walk into nearly any show designed by Natasha and turn on Channel 103, and every time, the two units she has two-fered together for her DSC scroller backlight will come on. There are some broadway designers who literally walk into a show and have no idea what model of Moving Light they have in the air, or sometimes even how many or where they're hung. They just tell the programmer what to make it do, and it happens. It's not that they're stupid or ignorant, they just have no need to know - the associate has already decided what quantity and features they will need for this particular show and drafted the plot accordingly, and that's all they need to know.

    In the theatre, the associate is constantly talking to the designer, giving suggestions on what to try next or reminding him of what color is in a light or anything like that. Lots of designers don't even show up to focus before tech starts, just leaving it all for the Associate (with the assistant recording focus charts), and it's not uncommon for the Associate to be doing minor cue notes with the programmers in the morning before the designer shows up throughout tech. As one associate described it to me, the goal of the Associate is to never force the designer to think about anything other than how the stage looks in front of him.

    Obviously, every LD will operate very differently. I have mostly worked with more relaxed, hands-off designers at that level, but I'm sure there are others who are much more involved than I described here. Sorry for the long post.
     
  17. DuckJordan

    DuckJordan Well-Known Member

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    Re: True Role of an ALD

    Rochem i have to disagree with you on the ALD never runs shows. Every single show that has come through the ALD is the board op for the show (if they bring their own console) This is in a professional house, which has seen everything from IA to equity, to Broadway tours. I'm not sure where you are getting that info most of it is fairly accurate and it may be academia but I have notice a lot of what i learned in academia turned out to be completely wrong in how you get a show going.
     
  18. rochem

    rochem Well-Known Member

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    Re: True Role of an ALD

    When I say "professional," I'm specifically referring to USA/IATSE-contracted theatrical productions (hence the "not allowed by union contracts" phrase), although there are certainly many who rightly consider themselves to be professional LDs/ALDs who do shows not under these categories. It sounds like you're talking about tours here - is that accurate? While yes, we did have a Cirque Dreams show come through where the touring Head Elec was also the lighting designer, this kind of thing is far from standard and usually only exists on smaller, lower-budget tours. If you're referring to the person calling focus on tour as the ALD, this is often done by the Stage Manager for the tour, or even just the electricians. It's even somewhat common that the Head Electrician will make small, general changes to the cueing of the show to change the relative intensity of the frontlight (for example) for the specific venue.

    I've only been working as a local IATSE stagehand for about 2.5 years, but in the 20-ish major national tours I've worked of shows like Wicked and Mamma Mia and Legally Blonde and the like, I've never heard of the ALD traveling with the show. Generally the 1st Natl Tours are designed by the same design team that designed it on broadway, so obviously these Assistants aren't going to pack up and go on tour with the show. Even when a show has been around for longer and they're using a new design team, the designer or the producer is looking for someone who can support the LD during tech, not someone who has road experience and can leave home for 9 months. Again, there could definitely be exceptions, but I'd say that in my experience, having the ALD travel with the show is definitely a pretty rare exception rather than the rule.
     
  19. shiben

    shiben Well-Known Member

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    Re: True Role of an ALD

    They could have an ALD for the tech and an ALD for the road, I might imagine?
     
  20. DuckJordan

    DuckJordan Well-Known Member

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    Re: True Role of an ALD

    Mamma Mia, was actually just in, Their ALD was the board op...
     

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