Professional Lighting & Production - Winter 2022 | Page 23

Personally , my choice for the best route for anyone is to the climb the ladder by working in a shop , working on productions in various roles , from technician to programmer to assistant to associate LD , to finally becoming a lighting designer . I find that ’ s the best choice . A college education certainly can help that , but more often I see people who go for the college education come out expecting to start as a lighting designer right away . In most cases they find out that they really need to step back and learn those other skills first in order to build themselves up to being a lighting designer .
There ’ s a good example in the Living the Lighting Life book . I tell a story of a young person I know that went to college and earned a lighting design degree , which is great , and he has big aspirations for moving up as a designer in New York . So , he moved to New York , which is very expensive place , and he quickly found that as a young lighting designer , he was earning very little from off , off , off Broadway things that didn ’ t pay the rent . So , he immediately changed his focus and started doing a lot of events and working in the event circle as a technician and programmer . He was earning a good amount of money and doing quite a lot of events to support himself while he built up his design career from those lower-paying gigs . Now , many years later , he has a design firm and they ’ re growing and he ’ s doing quite a lot of design work . Working as a lighting designer is a great goal , but you have to realize that you ’ ve got to pay the bills too . You have to do what you need to do , which also involves gaining more skills as a technician and / or programmer that then lead to improvements as a designer .
PL & P : In terms of that career path , are they trying to work both in tandem ? Essentially , what is the way you transition from that technician-focused path to getting design gigs ?
Schiller : That ’ s a tough one . Generally , most people , especially in the theater world , will do it in tandem , because that ’ s the only way to really do it . You do the tech / programming gigs to pay the bills , and you do the smaller design things to get the experience and hopefully make those connections and move up . In the concert world , it works a little differently , where you ’ re working on the shows and progressing from tech to programmer to designer and maybe get contacts with bands or companies that move you along your career path . So , you ’ re not necessarily designing and being a tech on a tour at the same time — instead you start as a tech for touring or for a local production company , and work your way up . Then , you just look for the opportunities such as when someone mentions a band is going on tour and they need a lighting director , then you take that job . And then after the lighting director job , maybe that band gets a bigger album , and they want you to be their designer . And so , that ’ s how you build a career in the concert world .
PL & P : With lighting , video , and immersive technologies working in tandem much more than ever before across theatre , concerts , and installs , is it tougher than it used to be in terms of getting that technical expertise ? Do you have to be more multifaceted than you did 20 years ago ?
Schiller : I believe so . I mean , as a designer , you need to be aware of all those different things and how they can work together in your show . But as a technician , you want to try to be a specialist on something , either on lighting or on video , because they branch off differently . And so , it used to be where there was lighting and then there was video , but now there is more of that interaction , but you still really need to be a specialist if you want to work in one of those paths . But also you should be a generalist somewhat . For example , a lighting programmer should have some idea of how media servers work . But if they ’ re going to concentrate on the lighting side of the world , they don ’ t need to know how to necessarily build content , put content in , adjust aspect ratios , and count pixels . That ’ s more for the screens producer or the video crew to work with than for the lighting programmer .
Back in the day , though , the lighting programmer needed to know all of it . So , in some ways it ’ s gotten easier , because we now have people who specialize in each of these areas . As a lighting designer or programmer , you ’ re not having to do it all and instead work together with a team of specialized people . I think that ’ s where it ’ s actually helped over
the last 20 years is it hasn ’ t become where lighting designer does it all . The lighting designer works with a team . In fact , we ’ ve seen a lot of career lighting designers now move up to become production designers and
they now design the overall production and lead a team that includes a lighting designer , a sound designer , a video designer , and they all work together for that cohesive look .
PL & P : You have a chapter on selfpromotion and networking . I think that ’ s something a lot of people have a hard time with , especially introverted people , of which there ’ s a lot in the industry . What kind of general tips or insight do you have on how to do that well ?
Schiller : Obviously you should build a website that lists some of your work . That ’ s a really key thing so people have somewhere they can read about you . You should learn to have joy about your past work , and list it . Now , obviously , there might be some things you ’ re not proud of that you don ’ t want to list , but list your accomplishments on your website , and then feel free to share those with people . It ’ s very hard , as introverts who want to be humble , to say , “ Hey , I ’ ve done this gig , I did this gig , and I did this one .” Myself , I find it very difficult to list all shows I ’ ve worked on over the last 30-plus years ; it ’ s very difficult to sit down and name them all because I don ’ t want to feel like I ’ m bragging . There were lots of fun experiences that were important to me , but I also need to realize that is useful information to someone I ’ m looking to work with .
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