42 PL & P
By Michael Raine
Though he ’ s still pretty young , Russell Benoit has built up a great career in the touring and lighting industry because of hard work and ingenuity . Now , because of those traits , he ’ s project managing for Christie Lites and working on major events like the Veld and Rolling Loud music festivals , and for bands like Kiss and Dream Theater , as well as countless other massive productions . And funnily enough , at least in part , it ’ s all because there were no volunteer spots left with his middle school ’ s broadcast studio .
“ Way back in grade school I wanted to do broadcast ,” Benoit recalls for PL & P . “ Our middle school actually had a TV channel and I tried to get involved in that but it was all staffed up , so to speak . The volunteer program was full , so they directed me towards technical theatre . And so , I started getting involved in that , I enjoyed it , and just continued on with that in middle school , high school , and so on .”
During those grade school years , growing up in the suburbs of Ottawa , Benoit remembers that his first introduction to his future career was operating lights for the school production of Grease . Then in high school , “ I started a co-op with Christie Lites Ottawa and took calls on the side as a stagehand . I continued by studying theatre at Sheridan College and shortly after graduating , I moved to Toronto to freelance on a variety of projects .”
While co-oping and working with Christie Lites Ottawa , Benoit would fill in during Christmas break and other holidays , doing things like laying the feeder cable for Winterlude . Then , after moving to Toronto , “ I would take calls , servicing lights in the service department and prepping tours . When I first moved to Toronto , as anyone would do , I took all the work that I could and I started prepping tours , just being a stagehand on any call that I could take .” One of the very useful skills that Benoit picked up early on , which led to more work and fruitful relationships with crew chiefs , was doing paperwork . As he explains , “ Throughout my years , I started advancing more and more shows . And so , I would have crew chiefs , earlier in my career , hire me to do the master electrician paperwork . I was handy in Excel and AutoCAD and all that stuff . I started doing stuff like that and began learning from a lot of crew chiefs in the city . I started crew chiefing and then later I started project managing , as well .”
That early relationship with Christie Lites , largely because of Benoit ’ s work ethic and aptitude for the job , blossomed over the years to the point that he signed his first full-time contract with the company in October 2021 to manage technical aspects of various projects .
“ Working with the Kiss crew throughout 2022 , mounting their End of The Road World Tour in different locations around the word , has been a wonderful project to be a part of and provided more than a few technical challenges to overcome ,” he reports when asked about some of the career highlights thus far . “ Working with the Kacey Musgraves production to mount the Star-Crossed : Unveiled Tour was a fun project to be a part of , coordinating with the different vendors to provide the design team with the vision they were looking for .”
In terms of mentors and other folks who have been instrumental in his success , Benoit says there are too many to mention and he ’ s grateful to them all .
“ There ’ s been a lot of account reps at Christie Lites and crew chiefs that have taught me throughout the years . Actually , I was prepping Dream Theater in the U . K . earlier in the year and I ran into someone in the hotel lobby who was my first crew chief at Ottawa Blues Festival . So , it all went full circle . There ’ s been far too many people to name ; there ’ s been a lot of mentors throughout the years . I ’ ve worked with a lot of spectacularly talented people at Christie Lites and inFrame Design and
Project X Productions throughout the years .” As is the common sentiment in the industry , Benoit says the best part of his career is the diversity of jobs and challenges and the people he gets to work with . “ I love that every day will bring new challenges and opportunities to work with different people on a variety of projects . Each project will bring on its own set of unique challenges that need to be overcome and with each new project you have the ability to work with new and talented people that help you grow and finetune your craft over time . In this industry , there is never a dull moment and there is always an opportunity to learn new something new .”
Away from work , these days Benoit is living in the east end of Toronto , but enjoys any opportunity to get out of the city and spend some time by the lake . “ While at home , I enjoy cooking , trying new recipes , and making cocktails with family and friends ,” he says .
As for 2023 and beyond , Benoit simply says , “ I am looking forward to being a part of a few exciting new projects next year , and having the opportunity to meeting new people and travel more .”
Michael Raine is the Editor-in-Chief of Professional Lighting & Production .