Atlantic Illumination Entertainment Lighting

Lighting Essays


Experienced Crew?

Have you been offered a crew to set
up and cable one of your shows?

by Richard Bonner

    From time to time a client will ask for ways that I can reduce my price to light an event. He or she will sometimes offer to provide a crew as one way I might reduce expenses, and thus, my fee. Some exceptions aside, past experiences have lead me to rarely permit this any more.

    Now, of course I do allow pickup crews to assist my tech crew, but I don't generally allow substitutions of my crew by a promoter or producer. The most common situation where I will deviate from my own rule regards student crews when I am involved with grade school or university productions. I am always happy to have student techs who are anxious to learn. I still provide almost a full crew, but I try to allow schools some leeway so as to lessen their costs and have their students become trained in the bargain.

    However, there are those bad past experiences I mentioned that have made me tighten such concessions for other events. They have all fallen outside of educational institutions, with the worst occurring when an entire crew has been provided for my usage. These bad incidents include, but are not limited to:

    This last one saw two "experienced" crew members at one of my jobs that did not know a flat washer from a lock washer, nor clockwise from counter-clockwise!

    The worst case occurred many years ago when I had an electrician fail to appear for a 2 AM tear-down. It was in an older arena that did not have shows often, so electrical connections had to be made directly using lugs to splice our power cable together with the building's. Each connection was wrapped many, many times with electrical tape so as to insulate the connection. It was crude but plenty safe -- safe that is until after the show when I went to cut the tape off to get at the lug screws.

    Earlier, the electrician had shown me the disconnect breaker switch, but for some reason, our power tap ended up getting moved to another breaker after this and he failed to notify me! At a very tired 5 AM, and realising the electrician was never going to show, I shut off the breaker I had been shown and began to cut into the tape with a metal box-cutter knife. YEEOOW!! ...did I get a wicked shock. I was livid, and I firmly chewed out the promoter for not assuring that the proper personnel were there for us. Fortunately, I was unharmed; I found and shut off the correct breaker and disconnected our power cable. It was a violent, but necessary lesson. I have never accepted another job at that venue or for that promoter. I also now never trust that others have my safety in their interests.

    Even if a crew turns out to actually be experienced with stage lighting, they are still not experienced with our setup, organisational style, or methods. They slow down the setup, the strike, and the pack & load. They are unfamiliar with where our items are stored, how our kits(*) are organised, or how we wrap our cables -- even though they are coiled in the industry standard of clockwise. Good crews know the latter, but are still not versed in the coil sizes we use for various types. Yes, they can learn all of that faster than an inexperienced crew, but it still delays us.

So unless I personally know the workers being provided, it is
always best for me to supply my own, actually experienced crew.

(*) See The Kits article under Tech Tips.

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