In 2003 this post appeared:
What followed were some fabulous but harsh reality check posts from Ship, Wolf825, and JoJo-TheSoundDog. I've edited it down a bit as there was some rambling, off topic chatter, and a little arguing. If you are thinking about a career in tech theater, I know it's long but you need to read this. While the original post was about lighting for concert tours, the follow up posts contain a lot of great principles that are true no matter where you want to work in the industry.
This might seem harsh, but I hope it will give you a strong reality check and not only help you get a job somewhere, but possibly make a career of it. I write it for your benefit as I could be cooking dinner right now. Very harsh at points, but this is business, real business not just "take a chance on me - I had fun working on a few shows."
Where are you, where are you looking to work in basing your operations out of, what other similar type companies have you worked for before, etc? Working for Pro Advantage, Fourth Phase, Upstaging etc. as a project manager/crew chief much less even a similar position that could be verified with your perspective employers at smaller companies would speak a lot more of you than just being on the local crew in hanging a few lights on a few shows - thus working under a designer defacto. Even working in the cable aisle for such companies and going out on an occasional show will speak highly of you past beyond being on the crew at your college when the occasional show came to town.
If you live out in Alabama, you probably wouldn't want to be commuting to New York, Chicago of LA given I in Chicago even had a job for you. This is a national or even international forum much less job you request - you might want to refine your pooling area some. We have a crew chief that gets flown in from England, and a designer that lives out west and can afford two houses. Much less when Sting does a tour of Russia the crew follows on with him, but you have to establish yourself before it's worth while to bring you on. Advertising your services here, I'm about guessing you are not well known enough in the industry to be one of those types that are flown to the job yet. Im also probably the only tech person on this website that works for one of the companies you would seek to work for so Im attempting to set your wish into a bit or reality. I think even if this were the place to apply, you are still asking in the wrong place and manner. I'm, sure a few others here have been out and about or find their careers with places that house or do similar gigs, but none I expect are currently working for a touring lighting company. As I will say, it's a nice experience, but not one that you will be able to retire from unless part of a small percentage.
Do you seriously believe that by a resume alone you get hired and go out on the next stage of the Peter Gabriel tour? We have guys out on Metallica that had to put up with me and others for six months in just becoming qualified to possibly go out on tour with them. One was kicked off the tour by the time it left rehearsals and the rest of the kids at the top of the list of kids wouldnt have any key positions - just running the spots at best given a lot of practice. You know that guy at the dimmer packs and doing nothing during the show really does have a function, what is it?
During the install and with lots of supervision, such crew people would be in charged of ensuring the local crew when installing the truss can count the stripes of colored electrical tape and match up like pieces of truss to each other. Only way such people make it on tour is by spending months in the shop learning, prepping gear and installing that tape on the truss only after they cleaned off the tape from the last tour properly. Structural integrity of truss, whats that? If they do it well as shop labor, get some training from the master follow spot tech person in how it works and how to operate it up to our standards, much less how to change the lamps in it properly, than can get through me in wanting a new HMI 1200 lamp for it but needing to know and understand what exact lamp amongst at least 12 HMI 1200 lamps on the market that only one of which would work with they were looking for, do they if they are at least decently competent, do they get to go on tour.
Hmm, have a road box full of spare lamps and you are hanging upside down in your repelling gear that you provide have to ask some local roadie for a spare lamp to the Mac 2K, which HMI 1200 do you ask for unless you know and understand specifically that its a HMI1200w/S or a DI-12s or MSI 1200w/S, as opposed to a HMI 1200/GS or HMI1200w/SE, UMI 1200GS, DMI1200GS or many other lamps that are just as likely to be in the road box amongst other 1200w HMI or similar lamps for the local crew person to be choosing from minutes before the show. The more experience you bring with you as a local crew member or better yet having worked for a smaller but quality shops, the more steps and months you can skip given knowledge and ability. You dont just start by going out on tour. Even kids that go to Full Sail (A very highly recommended training school) and can take apart a moving light blind folded have to spend months proving themselves and learning both proper techniques and our way. Granted all touring companies dont have the same standards, but the tech people working for them eventually will have to at least figure it out as a professional if they want to become one. Yea, you know what you are doing, just wait until you ask for a ETC lamp and get a 150CL/DC lamp to install in the S-4 fixture. Whats that, its an ANSI coded Clear 150w halogen lamp of BA-15d lamp base commonly used on 3" Fresnels or Inkies for a lamp. Its what you asked for isnt it? Know what a ANSI code is in respect to lamps? How about a L21-30P plug? Very common if not L21-20P. L14-20, Whats that? Its pro talk and a standard chain hoist 4-pin power plug.
Had a Master Carpenter or two I worked under over the years that gave an awesome resume and interview but was fired before the production was done because in reality they just were not all there both in leadership and knowing what the heck they were doing professionally. They couldnt even hold a staff carpenter job subsequently at a real scene shop. At least for the one hapless person, I dont know what ever happened to him but he certainly isnt making much of a living if as a crew chief once the people that hired him and its a small world, caught on to the fact that you can have a really cool sounding resume or interview and even embellish it, but in reality, it doesnt mean anything what so ever about you as a tech person. On the other hand, I worked under one or two that started their own businesses and became successful because they were both training wise and leadership wise able to do what they wrote. Even kids ten years my junior and with out the college degree saying I can do this. They didnt necessarily know more much less know how many watts equal 15 amps, but they had the ability to lead and get stuff done. Heck, I even know of a tech person that has a new Humvee based only upon his own earnings much less respect in the industry as a reality. Wouldnt trust him to re-wire a CamLoc plug, though he might have learned even better than I have in the years back, but he has people for that literally now such as me given heaps of experience, or others while out on tour to do it for him. Guaranteed, this person started sweeping floors just as we all have, but he doesnt need to have a resume much less offer heaps of experience, he has a name for himself in reality that upon first contact for a real job will get him in the door.
You could be an exception, but this is big business. We are talking about a tour paying many hundreds of thousands of dollars for our services, the crew provided had better be worth it or the next tour will go to someone else. Who would take the risk on an interview much less just a resume. Tour Production Manager sees just one AC distro blowing up during the tour and its game over! You get some idiot thats out smoking cigs with the security while he is supposed to be doing his job on the pyro much less putting out the fire he started and not only does it cause a major tragedy but effectively runs you out of business as the company that hired you after the lawsuits. No, thats not you? Just drop your crack pipe from your follow spot position onto the head of someone in the audience and see what happens to the company you used to work for. This is big business, big lawsuits, and liability and total professionalism. I spend on average $1,000.00 per day just on lamps and similar supplies. We buy a half a million dollars a year on moving lights and a million plus on trucking. Based upon Heaps of Experience would you hire you for the next tour??? (Yea its writing is making you feel small and not up to your build up or self esteem, but this is not meant to hurt, its posted to help you find your way before you have to resort to becoming a gas station attendant roadie has been because you just didnt make it or others didnt recognize or respect your talent. Sorry, but I have to bow to you later after Im done building the next set of 37pin DMX data distro truss cable for the moving light on X show - who cares which beyond the fact they need it and it keeps me employed and I get to go home at night as opposed to going back to the hotel. You wrote a very short in comparison request for employment, and this isnt a very nice reply, but I at least hope that it helps you get beyond the curtain of coolness of being a roadie lighting tech. Its glamor being a road tech person, but believe me when I say with very few exceptions, that the people on the real tours and making a living at it especially between the tours and especially as free lance are there for a reason besides just knowing which end of the C-Wrench is the right one to turn the bolt towards. Or do you trash bolts with Robo Grips or Channel Locks, because they are so universal?)
Never say you have Heaps of Experience, unless you do, in which case you shouldn't be needing to look for work. Would you say you have more experience than I do? I'm a Master Electrician for a very major rock and roll lighting company and even I just Friday had to sit back and draw out a 208v phase distribution diagram for four strobe lights when teamed up with some sound equipment and a fog machine on a 3-phase thirty amp service. While at the same time a crew chief in charged of the project was just doing it in his head. While he had me on doing a simple 208v patch in why I had to have one duplex L6-15 receptacle with breakable links and another that could be non-splittable and cheaper in being closer to a balanced load than my initial thoughts of just two sets of duplex non-bridge broken. I had him on NEC regulations for how to install the service distro to the fixtures, but he understood distro better than I did because he has to do such things every day. How would you rate in distributing the load on 4 Martin 3K strobes, one HES F-150 fog machine and an estimated 10 amps worth of sound speakers that would be providing at least in theory enough energy to force out that smoke from the machine as opposed to a fan? Come on, Im just a roadie, I dont have to understand VxA=W yet as it relates to how many amps a 5Kw Fresnel will be drawing with and with out the safety factor and thus what gauge of wire you need to feed it with, much less other things. Send me out on tour, If I get a 5K Fresnel that has melted wiring, its someone elses problem. This other heaps of experience person that can preform 208v power in addition to fog machine power distro can program a Hog on the fly and even has rock stars over for dinner - they are his buddies. (No fair, Im not some tech person god, Im able to hang a fixture on a truss, and like to travel, thats all thats needed.) On the other hand, this crew chief I example, had to have me come over to wire his house much less fix or build stuff for his shows that's beyond his own abilities in the detail or time. In other words, experience and knowledge is very specific and what you might think is heaps might be nothing much to others. What is the size of screw holding together the body of a S-4 Leko? Better know when you come up and ask me for one or you are going back to figure it out. I already know, but it's learning for your benefit. On the road, if you loose a screw in said Leko, what are you going to do call ETC and ask them? Current head of Leko Land Im working on power formulas and getting him over calling stuff like 1/4" as one fourth. He isnt yet ready for touring. What do you phrase a 1/4-20 screw as, and as opposed to a 1/4-28 or 1/4-32 screw? Ah, whats the difference anyway? Wait a minute, this fixture was made in Denmark and its thus using Metric screws. Whats the difference in overall look of a metric screw verses a standard screw? Given it looks like a 1/4" in size, it has to be a M6x1mm pitch screw. Or was that Korea or some other Orient based light thats either using metric, standard or old English standard such as a screw with a ½-12 pitch screw as opposed to a ½-13 screw or M12-1.75mm screw? Might not know the difference, but you had at best know what to expect and how to figure it out.
Those some LD's you have worked for would be another source for work. Contact them if they remember you and have them pull you onto their next crew if they trust and can vouch for your abilities and need. Happens all the time that really good LDs will bring their core of people with them on a tour. Usually, people with "heaps of experience" don't have trouble finding work because they already have established both a name for themselves and networking contacts in the industry, if not at least sources to ask directly for work or if they have projects coming up and can use help. They don't have to ask for work in general in places like this. This is not mocking you. You have to do what you can to get into the biz, but you might be better focusing your message directly to production companies rather than a high school based theater advice website. (Below will be a few to start with)
There are hundreds of companies out there doing gigs. Could be as simple as getting a copy of PLSN or Live Design than sending out a cover letter to the companies you feel you would like to work for in asking for an interview and if they would like you to send them a resume. Even a dialog of being rejected at this moment is a start. Could start at a local company or union house and gain contacts with larger or touring companies they work with for later work given those people you work with remember you and are suitably impressed with your ability to vouch for you in being hired. Hired someone from a smaller but national lighting company for tent type events after he applied. Having done a few rental deliveries to us, the person that hired him at least knew of him. Just a question of getting known in starting small or starting out in the shop at a touring company and moving up the ranks if you are within the area of one. That person was long gone, had his chance but he didnt have the ability to make it. Seems he didnt expect to have to know anything about what he was doing, he expected like so many just to go out on tour and drink all night with the band.
I have a college degree, what the heck am I doing slinging feeder cable day after day and earning pennies? Loose any attitudes you might start with if you get a job. Not a tour job mind you if you want a real tour job, just slinging cable and painting truss. If you know what you are doing such tasks wont be long in lasting but you have to start at the bottom unless you are known and have done such things elsewhere at an equal company. Even than, until you make it where you currently are, you will still be expected to come to an everybody to the dock to unload the truck call until you reach a status with the company you shout be at - given you get to bypass the cable aisle since you are above it. We have someone that immigrated from Europe with an electrical engineering degree and was a higher up at one of the largest lighting companies there. He still loads trucks for now at least, as opposed to his boss in moving lights that worked for Diversitronics but just as a manufacturing person, but like me has become recognized as having more important things to do with his time than loading trucks. Put your time in at least so that when you tell people to un-load a truck or sling some cable you have the authority behind you or respect of your status that you dont have to do that anymore.
Thats not even getting into your future in the business. Going back to the has been gas station attendant. What happens when you hit 40 and your joints just wont allow you to be sitting atop a ladder all day long during a focus, much less living on a tour buss most of your days while your family at home misses you? Given you make enough money to support the family and house, and have people to climb ladders for you, what if you dont make it, or get injured and cant do it anymore? Whats your back up plan when you hit 40 or 50 and dont get a cushy job requiring less physical effort and more brain work? I can count on one finger how many tech people I know of thats over 50 but still just a tech person and not even supervisor. Say both hands plus some digets for those in their late 30s or better for management, and in the many dozens for those in their 20s and 30s as just tech people. Consider the math. What happens to those general tech people that just dont make it to management? Do you have a fall back plan or is this just a kind of selling your wild oats for a while type of concept? I could retire at this, its fun to sit atop a ladder all day long and pull feeder cable.
Even if a company isn't hiring - sorry but you missed touring season by about three months so it's probably getting slow about now - (next month when all the college kids go back to school there might be more work, but not tours - too cold for outdoor events) an interview if you can get one, or at least a resume sent might get you a call back later or at least for underhire work. Check with your local union also, instead it might be the way to go and gain retirement with. Could also go to the website of the touring companies you choose and E-Mail your cover letter and resume to the person listed on the website who takes such things. Could send out a CD Rom of your work, resume etc., post cards with some great work you did and can take credit for in saying, Hi - I'm out here and I do great work. Can you use any help?
Go to the book store and pick up a recent title called "The Business of Theatrical Design" by James L. Moody ISBN #1-58115-248-5. I'm somewhere in chapter 7 now having just finished a chapter on how to get jobs and network. Not very useful for me any more but still interesting. Very good read and advice to any tech person much less designer, especially those that are just starting out.
How I got my job with a major rock and roll lighting company. I hit up both the phone book and the regional business to business directory and sent out 50 resumes and cover letters to all production companies in the area after having called each of them to find out who to address it to. I had about 3 cover letters and resumes going that refined the skills I was showing to that of the company I was sending my info to. Got back about 10 to 25% of the resumes sent either saying sorry, we will keep you in mind but are not hiring, or sure come in for an interview in about the 5% ratio. The place I finally decided upon I had never heard of, kind of fell ass backwards into my position because it sounded good during the interview and there was room for growth. I brought some stuff to the interview that I had created beyond the portfolio such as fluorescent starter random flicker effect control gear that wowed the interviewer even if not quite up to their million dollar a year budget for gear. This was something I had developed into a working model and one that was very presentable and professional that was just theory otherwise and a good example of not only my abilities as a tech person, but what even if not quite up to their level, what I would bring to the table once I did get up to their level. I was a proven quality even if small in comparison. What I could do, bring to an interview as very special and memorable made me unique in addition to the resume that the interviewer had to re-read during the interview.
Still my first advice when I got there was just to shut up, and listen to what I was told for at least the first two weeks, and only than and after I followed the chain of command was I to raise my voice in changing things. Lots of changes since than in how I do stuff thus the company does stuff but the main concept was, learn their way even if I had other ideas or I did differently elsewhere, than improve upon it only after I understood it and consulted others for approval. Just improved some rack mount distro panels I have been building for about two years now for the company last week. Seems in the field, when a tech person trips over the wire feeding it, the panels I have been building get all pulled and warped in the rack and they can use a center support. Even as the designer of the rack mount panels, there is room for improvement by those that have been around the block in using them. I can tell you the gauge of steel Im using, but the crew chiefs with years of experience that could get a job anywhere with out much effort are still the kings in advising how I modify my products. But you have to get up to that level first, much less earn your way to get out on tour.
Off my soap box, hope it guided you an others some (not to make you stand out or ridicule your posting but to help you and others with similar dreams.) First, your school if giving a college theater degree should have subscriptions to places like ARTS Link or something like that which is about the most main posting source for jobs. A few other sites on the Web too that would post tours on.
After that, there is: (And this is only the most minimum of starts both touring and basic production company)
4Wall Entertainment (Production/Rental/Resale Company) http://www.4wall.com/about-careers.php
ALPS Advanced Lighting and Production Services (Production Company) Welcome to ALPS Online
Bandit Lights (Production Company) Bandit Lites Inc. - Illumination Worldwide
Big Production Services - Wisconsin (Production Company) hollywood film production tv services at bigproductionservices.com
Clearwing (Production Company) Welcome to Clearwing Productions
Entertainment Lighting Service, ELS (Production Co/Lighting Dist.) Entertainment Lighting | Stage Lighting | Theatrical Stage Lighting | Film Television
Full Circle (Production Company) fcli.com: The Best Search Links on the Net
Fourth Phase/Bash Theatrical Lighting (Production/Rental/Resale Company) Fourth Phase [now PRG (Production Resource Group)]
Frost Lighting (Production Company) Frost Lighting
Grand Stage/Art Drapery (Theatrical Supplier/Rigging Production Company) Grand Stage Company
High Output (Production Company) High Output, Inc. - Homepage
ILC/Intelligent Lighting Creations (Production Company/Theatrical Supplier) Intelligent Lighting Creations
Jauchem & Meeh Inc. (Production Company & Special Effects Mfr..) Welcome to JMFX | J&M Special Effects
Main Light Industries (Fiber Optic Drape & Production Company) Main Light Industries
The Show Dept, Inc. (Production Company) http://www.theshowdept.com/
Star/Lite Productions (Production Co/Dist.) Starlite Productions Web site
Upstaging, Inc. (Production Company/Lighting Dist.) Upstaging, Inc. | Theatrical Lighting | Transport Trucking | Mobile Marketing | Production Services | Chicago, Illinois
Vari-Lite (Fixture Mfg [-]/Production Company[/-] [now solely a manufacturer, no longer does production] ...) Vari-Lite - Express Yourself. Vari-Lite - Express Yourself.
Don't sugar coat it...say what you REALLY mean on this subject and don't hold anything back.
On a serious note--hats off to ya, WOW that was great (and very long) well said word or two on the subject, and you drove the many many points home. Tho a bit rough sounding, I agree..but I also understand that, since I've had my fill of interviewing folks who think they are gonna go out for the ultimate party, or hang with their favorite rock star or whatever, and such is not the case. They get on a concert crew and they stare all awe-struck and suddenly they are run over by a road case. Road work and production in general is a serious biz where professionalism is the only way to work. You have to be dedicated, knowledgeable, skilled and then some. Being a mind-reader helps too. Being on the road is VERY hard and very demanding and is not a fun vacation it looks like...plus there are a lot of things to consider about a future and career that being a "roadie" doesn't amount to much when you are 50 or get hurt and have no other career skills in entertainment or production or design work. There's a lot more to it then focusing a light or two.. Very well put sir.
To the original poster,
Ship gave you some VERY direct, correct & straightforward advice and things to consider. Do not take it as harsh or personal...take it as fact. I see and hear from about a dozen "I'm available--take me" folks every week for the past 10 or so years. I saw it every week as a freelancer, 20 times every week when I was out on tours in different city's from folks I never even met til load in, and still see it now from a manager / TD POV, and it never seems to end. I get a ton of "I have a BA in Theater & lighting design--I don't load trucks", and my response is "you don't work here then". My big gripe with theater schools is they don't teach reality...in a production company you don't have 4 weeks to tech in a show, you have 4 hours to load it in, gel & cue it, run it and then tear it all down and go to the next one. IF you get a meal break, bonus. So don't take Ship's comments as a personal attack, they are not--as he said. They are facts to this industry about what is expected and it goes beyond knowing how to focus a light or ME a show. Its a lot more. Ships comments are designed to make you THINK about your career and the market you are trying to get into and just how difficult & demanding and professional / cut-to-the-chase it can be. If you have tons of experience in your area, you need to expand on that area or expand on your expertise and polish it til you are the shiniest marble in your area. Networking & meeting people is the biggest key to getting a foot in the door in this industry. Recommendations & personal networking go a longer way then a resume does. Making an impression to those folks you meet can say volumes that will get your remembered. Sure--you can have a ton of credits, but that doesn't show your work ethic or your attitude working in high pressure environments, or your ability to think with 60 things happening around you and two toes on the ground. That stuff cannot be written down, it can only be proven in a work environment. Its good that you got a lot of stuff under your belt, and if you met some great designers--even better. Start with them and work with them and get to meet people in their circle, because a reference from an established industry person is worth 10 perfect sounding resumes.
I wanted to ask--WHY do you want to do concert work? Concert work is very difficult to break into and some of the most demanding, but not impossible to get into. If you have only done local-crew calls, you have only gotten a small taste of things. I hope you understand that Time frames on a concert show run LONG--not like theater. Average is 16-22 hours long, from the time the first tractor trailer opens the door til the time the last door on one of 8 or more tractor trailers is closed down. Then, if you're lucky, you get some sleep on a bus til you have to get up in 5 hours and do it all again. But that may not be so--you may have to fix a light or board, or do paperwork or itemize a parts order, and only get 3 hours sleep...or NONE that night. This goes on every day for weeks, and those weeks get to be months. Breaks are here and there, but in a nutshell you will work harder then you can imagine. It has its perks and benefits, but they have nothing to do with the band or whoever you're out on the road with. It has nothing to do with drugs or drinking or party's...those are very over-hyped up by the way, as being so often--they aren't and its not all that people believe--this is a JOB. And most company's will fire you on the spot if you're unfit on the job or show, or cause them ANY legal problems. When I am out on the road--my personal benefit and perk for road work is in "meeting the challenge". I get so jazzed over meeting the challenge and odds set against you. Think about it--you have 15,000 people arriving in less then 24 hours. You have a whole sound & lighting & FX, Video + + + rig that needs to go into a place it has never been in before. It has to get done, get done SAFELY and CORRECT 100% of the time, for a show that happens ONCE--so everything has to happen perfectly. You have time restraints, working with people you have never met before and probably never will again, and you have to mesh with them and work together. You have to think blindingly fast to read people & the types they are and how they will work (going by "feeling"), you have to assess situations and problems and head them off before it becomes an issue. And you have to do this, and a 100 other things, correctly and professionally, in such a short time frame in a pressure cooker. There can be no "oops, we'll get it right next time". To me a tour is like the eco-challenge....and when you work with the best folks you can, and folks who know what they are doing and do it fast and furious and professionally--its incredible and it drives you from inside to push yourself and your skills to be perfect and razor sharp all the time, every time. Its like honing your self, as you would a knife. Its like lifting weights for me...a challenge to push myself to be the best, and use every ounce of skill and experience I have all at once. But that's just me...that's my only reason for doing tours...work with the best and learn from the best and strive to become the best...and after 15 years in the biz, I'm still learning and glad to do it. The lack of sleep, travel headaches, cramped buses, smelly co-workers and overall hard work that tries on your sanity sometimes--thats icing... If you like pressure and sane insanity, then I can understand why you would wanna tour. If you just wanna look cool to your friends, or brag and show off or drop names about "who you went out with"--you'll be eaten alive 3 hours into a tour. That kind of BS..you'll easily be replaced.
Well back to what I was saying (gee Ship--I see how its easy to drift off on tangents<g>) Also keep in mind what Ship said--you are not going to start out on a tour your first job out...you have to work your way up and prove yourself able to handle that kind of responsibility and pressure and work load of expectations & professionalism and knowledge. A company won't hire you to go out on the road without knowing who you are or if that resume can be backed up with work and knowledge when you're tossed into the fire (tho I know a few company's who do occasionally hire like that, when they get screwed--and get screwed they do<g>). Reality says to expect to spend anywhere from 6 months to 3 years in a shop building your experience, getting well known and trusted, and being evaluated for growth & better positions within that company. I know a few friends at Vari-lite who were very good at their job of tech & production...and they worked for 2 years in the shop before a tour slot was offered.
You should be looking for a entry level job--perhaps for a touring company...but overall a shop job with a reputable regional company. Ship gave you some GREAT leads of company's. You want a company you can grow with...a company who will teach you the way THEY want things done and see that you can do just that without a problem. If you have a problem being open to other rules about procedure and how things get done (no matter HOW stupid it may seem to you) or have a problem doing things different than YOUR way--you may as well be an accountant. They don't want folks who are there to walk in and change their world as the new shop-tech-guru guy, they want folks who will keep things going as it has been going, and FAST. They don't want to teach you from scratch or take someone who has no experience in anything they do, but they will take your knowledge and make ya better and expand on that. Seek out a company in your area...if you are not near a place then you may consider applying to several and moving. It takes a good long while til you're at the level of being known and reputable to where a company will fly you out to a gig...and when they do, the peanuts in First Class are very nice. Its nice to finally get in that position, but to get there takes a ton of blood sweat and tears and a long time of dedication to being the best and knowing your crafts inside and out and backwards too, and that never ends (learning). Reality would indicate several several years til that happens..no way around that..voice of experience here. 8)
IF you don't want to wait that long, your only other option is simple. Find the next great band out there with the hottest new sound everyone will rave over, and become their lighting guru. Then hopefully when they sign their record & tour deal you will be remembered to be taken along.
sorry if this isn't the kind of response you want to hear. But Ship is right on. Your best option, and to anyone else reading, is to start locally and aim high and accept and KNOW that it will take YEARS to get there if that is where you want to go. You MUST know more then a few gigs will teach ya...and you must have a plan for when you no longer can handle 3am load outs. Look beyond that "tour" and look at what the industry offers and needs in the way of people and skilled managers...and make THAT your end goal.
Hope you take Ships, and my, advice to heart and learn...
cheers & good luck.
Wolf, I hope those reading our replies will take it all in as gritty but real sage advice as it was meant to be. There is exceptions, but not many in the industry. Even after you get a job, for at least the first 5 to 10 years, it's going to be hard to make a real living in any of the entertainment industries no matter how skilled you are or if you get tours. Three months out on the road, than waiting for the next tour and surviving on inadequate pay at best in the mean time. Such things are not for me.
After college, I think I started out at $9.00 per hour and moved my way up in the next couple of years up to $11.00 per hour. In time I made it up to 26 grand per year. Compare that to them office types that buy houses and Beemers soon after college. Every year, my goal was to stack on a dollar to my wage up to $15.00 per hour. My life would be easy at $15.00 per hour until the realization of the more money you make the more you have to spend cut in. Didn't always hit the pay goal but it was a more realistic goal to shoot for. Not how many shows - I was at the center of just about everything that went down in town for a while or how high profile such gigs were, but instead how good a living I was making at very least and how much work there was for me day to day.
Benefits, at that level such as retirement and dental were but a dream and probably will be for most. If you just put away or invest just a quarter a day, by 65 you will have a million dollars. Yea, like I have an extra quarter to invest in those first 10 years. Now, after 10 years, and at least some competency, I make a respectable living with full benefits. Not enough or as much as many, but enough to live on. Thats 10 years in the field, you will be lucky to get it even than because not many people in this business can attest to really making enough money following such a goal. The entertainment business is such that you are normally going to waste 10 years in chasing that goal of money and position. If you don't make it, you had at best start looking elsewhere especially if you get yourself a family and a mortgage. Community theater on the weekends might have an air of stigma to it, but at least those taking part in it can provide for themselves with real jobs, than have fun in their off time while driving their only 3 year old car to rehearsal. Sure, I can attest to cutting all the steel for Opera's TV set, and going on site to install it. I was making $9.00 per hour without benefits, plus paying 6% to the union for the privilege of working for a union shop in between layoffs. What's more important, saying that I have walked on the same floor as Oprah, or that you can provide for yourself and don't need to go to Mom for a loan far too often? At least, be ready in the industry if you follow a dream that you wont make much at it for a long time. Good jobs, but just beware.
It's a hard business and everyone doesn't have the same experience. To become a success in it you have to become not just an artist, but a business person. Had I been working where I'm at now by chance ten years ago, I would probably be making double what I do now, but that's fate. The arts are fun to be in and every day a new thing, but expect such problems with it as a living going into it. Don't go wild on the credit card or it's going to haunt you for the rest of your life.
Wolf has done a lot more than I have, I expect with touring and gigs and his advice beyond mine is golden. Thanks for the backup and further points offered, because had I been forced to go out on tour today, while I wouldn't be a deer in the headlights, my skills lie elsewhere than doing shows and I as I expect he has other work than touring to depend upon - touring is more a vacation in moonlighting for him. I can retire off my current job or status as tour support, not many touring tech types can really say that. Gets to be a little more important the older you get in either getting off the road, or at least becoming the boss while on the road. But there is a lot to learn before you can even dream of becoming the boss.
One of my good friends just retired from the road for the most part. He runs the hoist and rigging section now at a fairly decent pay to make up for the per diem lost. He is very liable for what he does and has to know what the heck he is doing in addition to being very anal about it. Inspect a ventricle fall arrestor, you leave yourself and the company you work for up to a large liability if you screw up. But companies don't want to pay plus $150.00 per fall arrest to keep them in inspection tags every year even if required. Finding a competent person to inspect such things that you can trust is the real way of the business. Occasionally, for the larger shows and venues he will be sent out to crew chief the rigging for it, even drive a truck down to it with the extra gear, but for the most part, management and finding a home shop to work out of much less take days off from in the "Entertainment Industry" when your kid wants to visit the museum is the goal to seek and constantly compare in where you are after years in the business, to where you eventually want to be with your career.
Goal one, learning enough that you are needed for a tour in it's various positions. Goal two, getting to the designer position or shop staff management that is able to become a career beyond just being a professional, and that pays a respectable amount. You will note Wolf didnt mention his pay nor did I my exact pay. Even specifically mentioning such things is against the standard way of doing things and is out of the norm. What you eventually get is unique to you and very difficult to see your ranking where its considered. That master rigger that works with me makes less than I do, and both of us make less than his wife working in the real business world.
If Goal two doesn't seem like it's going to work out for you, what's your back up plan? Steady Union gig, house work, shop staff, teacher or another field of employment. Nothing wrong with stage carpenters finding real work with the housing industry much less becoming a computer consultant than with their spare time doing a few non-for profit shows on the weekend. You only get one turn around the carousel of life, if that brass ring doesn't eventually get caught, you had best have some idea of how to get off the horse before it's too late. The 50+ year old guy I know that's just a stage hand can't even advise the younger people in how to prep gear. His +30 years in the business still means that when he wants to do something not ordinary that he comes to see me - someone thats only been professional and primarily as a carpenter +10 years for approval when he gets a very infrequent inspiration. Just doesn't have it in him. Lazy in the efficiency, stupid with his years of experience in not grasping concepts perhaps a bit more and he has to work three steady jobs plus some to earn an income at at least 12 hours a day. What kind of life he has in 10 more years isn't my business, but working that many hours per week even for me just to make a living isn't worth it. At some point, if you dont make it, you really need to step back and look at what you are doing in life. I did it when I left carpentry, beyond just making a living, others will also. Be aware and realistic of it while you try to gain position and status.
Plus understanding my harsh sounding reply in not being spite, more remembrance of where I was 10 years ago in thinking, "I'm here and ready - why can't I make this car payment?" I have been sitting at a drill press for two weeks straight now. I have a college degree, what the heck am I doing with my life. Lucky this recession isn't as bad as the one I hit after getting out of college, because I had almost as much down time for the first three years as time with a paycheck.. The posting I reply to is very useful to others and similar to what many would post about your goal or any in the industry. Sorry, I can't offer you work, but at least, I might offer some help. This isn't a posting to scare anyone out of a career, more just to caution you as to what you are looking to do and what's going to become necessary. How do you get to sitting around running the WYSIWYG and programming the show to a HOG II or other more advanced systems - given the HOG III is a still born flop. Hog school, and Full Sail are some sources to learn such things in becoming truly useful to the industry you want to work. Putting your time in pushing a broom is another given any of them needs ability not all have.
To the original poster, really, we did expand and assume many things from your posting. Hope it didn't scare you away and helps. I didn't start out trying to bite your head off, just give you a bit of low down and focus. If it's your wish, you will get out on the top tours eventually. For a few years, given ability, you will become the key guy to go to and have the time of your life good and bad. Might even make a real good living at it if you can become a manager. But remember those percentages of who makes it. I don't know what happens to tech people after they hit their mid to late thirties. I expect most of them settle down with a union house or find other jobs.
You can do all that to a lesser extent getting trained at a smaller company and doing shows, going to school to get that step up if you have not already, or work for a large company in the shop for a good long time. But there is no substitute for on the job training.
Once again a lot of great comments and advice you offered and put out there. My experience in touring, sound, lighting, theater and corporate work in no way should discount your most valuable experienced and knowledgeable advice in how it all goes together and gets working in perfect order. In fact I find your posts on here most incredibly informative and I live to learn new things daily. The key point in all this is that no matter whether you are in the shop or if you are on the road , the process relies on every person in the production chain equally to apply their expertise, skill and professional dedication to doing the best possible job every time. I know a lot of guys who don't wanna sit in a shop and learn the incredibly valuable skills and backgrounds that are heavy base foundation to every other production position out there that someone could work up to hold--they are over eager and blatantly not ready for the road, but its impossible to tell them that. They don't realize that the services & expertise handled & needed in a shop for prepping a show, fixing gear and keeping all the T's crossed are equally if not more valuable then the guys who take it out on the road. Those guys on that tour you mentioned who are getting their parts shipped would be in a pickle without you knowing your gear inside and out, your professionalism in handling the situation so well informed and knowing exactly to the letter what they needed, and your priceless background and years of experience that allows you to know that. Same for the fabrication skills in creating and knowing the blood & guts of how things work. I'd love to see that device you built and brought with you to your interview, cause I share the passions and interest in knowing and being able to create and build every little thing electronic. I have no doubt that if I was going out on the road anytime soon, I know I would feel so much better knowing you had my back and you went thru the gear and built the panels.
You've mentioned Full Sail a few times...was wondering if you had any of those grads in your shop? I was just curious...as I have mixed feelings about the place and some of the grads I know (especially since I was briefly as on-call staff there..but that experience is not ideal for board discussion). Between theater programs and places like Full Sail, the expectations of many in the job market seem to be to jump right into the deep end knowing only a few swimming strokes. High expectations of here & now, not wait & learn and grow. Whenever I freelance for a new company the first thing I grab after unloading the truck is the feeder cable...until I have done so many gigs doing just that that the company see's that my time could be better spent at FOH or on truss that the other crew guys pull feeder. Even folks who have been doing this for quite some time need to prove themselves to new company's they meet up with, and I'm never hesitant to do that and get dirty or break a sweat. In fact I hesitate working for a company that calls me out of the blue without a reference and wants me to engineer a show...they don't know me and I don't know them. They would get professional quality work from me always, but for any company to cold call a name on a list and put them in a drivers seat is crazy and makes me wonder if they even care about the show. Unless the company knows me or got a referral, I find that kind of cold call a bad business practice. Dunno if that's stupid or if that's cautious on my part to feel that way (its work after all)...but so far its been a tried and true method that works for me and that employers like to see me hesitant and wanting to build a relationship and them know me, and visa versa. Perhaps that's all that is needed.. I laugh so much at the guys who show up to a gig and won't pull a single cable, stack a single speaker or hang a single light cause "they are here to program or mix". I've seen so many guys take that attitude with a new company only to be let go right then and there. I don't know what it is...maybe something in the water. <g>
well I am not going to write much this time...my chinese food is getting cold and I still have 8 MAC 500's/600's to clean out and diagnose for probs, and fix, plus a Hog 2 to set up clean for programming before it all gets used again this weekend. =)
Always a pleasure Ship, Cheers! =)
Okay I have got to jump in here for just a quick post. While everything Ship and Wolf talked about is very valid and should be taken to heart not just by those who want to do the concert thing, but by everyone getting into any form of tech. I just have to disagree with Ship's way of delivering the message...
Quick couple of rules:
1. It's not what you know it's who you know.
2. You can never send out too many resumes
3. Never burn any bridges in the arts.
4. Money is good, security is better.
5. Do every job you're given to the best of your abilities
6. If you don't know, ask
Last but not least...
7. Sweeping backstage sure beats the hell out of sweeping behind a bar.
Just my $.02
See also this thread: I want to be a Lighting Designer.
See also the thread Move to NYC specifically about relocating to new and foreign territory.
"If you can imagine yourself being happy doing anything other than live entertainment, do that instead."
The phrase is used around here enough to be a cliche, but it really is true, and any young person contemplating a career in the entertainment industry needs to give serious this thought. Having a stable income, a spouse, kids, house with white picket fence, two cars in the garage, retirement fund, health insurance, and so on, are much more difficult for those in the arts.
"If you really want to hurt your parents, and you don't have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts. I'm not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way to make life more bearable."
Kurt Vonnegut (A Man Without a Country)
If you haven't yet been discouraged/dissuaded, have a look at these industry job-posting sites:
http://artjobs.artsearch.us/ (Different from the above)
Backstage Employment Network
Theatre Communications Group - ARTSEARCH
ESTA - Job Board - Search Jobs, Post a Job, About the Job Board
Theatre Resources from Artslynx
Stage Jobs Pro