Tag Archives: entertainment

!nsp!re: Read These Books

I get asked, pretty frequently, to recommend reading resources for my line of work (entertainment live show design). Here you will find a constantly updated list of the books and I have found useful, across a variety of related subjects. They are grouped by category.  Enjoy!

Creativity

The Accidental Creative – Todd Henry

Art Before Breakfast – Danny Gregory

The Artist Within: A Guide to Becoming Creatively Fit – Whitney Ferre

Brain Storm: Unleashing Your Creative Self – Don Hahn

The Collaborative Habit: Life lessons for Working Together – Twyla Tharp

The Creative Fight – Chris Orwig

The Creative Habit – Twyla Tharp

Drive – Daniel H. Pink

The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything – Sir Ken Robinson

One Little Spark – Marty Sklar

Start With Why – Simon Sinek

Steal Like An Artist – Austin Kleon

Taking The Leap – Cay Lang

 

General

Backstage Handbook – Paul Carter

The Business of Theatrical Design – James L. Moody

Careers in Technical Theatre – Mike Lawler

Digital Technical Theater Simplified – Drew Campbell

Stagecraft Fundamentals – Rita Kogler Carver

Starting Your Career as a Theatrical Designer – Michael J. Riha

 

Audio

Live Sound Mixing – Duncan R. Fry

Sound Check: The Basics of Sound and Sound Systems – Tony Moscal

Sound Systems: Design and Optimization – Bob McCarthy

 

Automation

Automation in the Entertainment Industry – Mark Ager & John Hastie

Mechanical Design for the Stage – Alan Hendrickson

Theatre Engineering and Stage Machinery – Toshiro Ogawa

 

Concert/Touring/Event

Access All Areas: A Real World Guide to Gigging and Touring – Trev Wilkins

Concert Lighting: Techniques, Art, and Business (third edition) – James L. Moody

Freelancer’s Guide to Corporate Event Design – Troy Halsey

 

Control/Data

Control Freak: A Real World Guide to DMX512 and Remote Device Management – Wayne Howell

Lighting Control: Technology and Applications – Robert S. Simpson

Practical DMX – Nick Mobsby

Show Networks and Control Systems – John Huntington

Rock Solid Ethernet – Wayne Howell

 

Costuming

Costume Design – Barbara Anderson & Cletus R. Anderson

Costume Design: Techniques of Modern Masters – Lynn Pecktal

Costume Designer’s Handbook – Rosemary Ingham & Liz Covey

Costume Craftwork On A Budget – Tan Huaixiang

Character Costume Figure Drawing – Tan Huaixiang

 

Design/Drafting

Autocad: A Handbook for Theatre Users – David Ripley

Computer Visualization for the Theatre – Gavin Carver & Christine White

Designer Drafting for the Entertainment World – Patricia Woodbridge & Hal Tine

Drawing and Rendering for the Theatre – Clare P. Rowe

From Page to Stage: How Theatre Designers Make Connections Between Scripts and Images – Rosemary Ingham

Fundamentals of Theatrical Design – Karen Brewster & Melissa Shafer

Scenic Design and Lighting Techniques: A Basic Guide For Theatre – Chuck Gloman and Rob Napoli

Showcase: Developing, Maintaining, & Presenting A Design-Tech Portfolio for Theatre and Allied Fields – Rafael Jaen

The Handbook of Techniques for Theatre Designers – Colin Winslow

Scene Painting Projects for Theatre – Stephen Shirwin

 

Electricity

Electricity for the Entertainment Electrician and Technician – Richard Cadena

Ugly’s Electrical References – George V. Hart

Wiring Simplified – HP Richter and WC Shawn

 

Lighting

Automated Lighting: The Art and Science of Moving Light – Richard Cadena

The Automated Lighting Programmers Handbook – Brad Schiller

Basics: A Beginner’s Guide to Stage Lighting – Peter Coleman

A Practical Guide to Stage Lighting (Second Edition) – Steven Louis Shelley

Stage Lighting Design: The Art, The Craft, The Life – Richard Pilbrow

Media Servers for Lighting Programmers – Vickie Claiborne

The Assistant Lighting Designer’s Toolkit – Anne McMills

 

Makeup

The Makeup Artist Handbook – Gretchen Davis & Mindy Hall

Special Makeup Effects for Stage and Screen – Todd Debreceni

Wig Making and Styling – Martha Ruskai & Allison Lowery

 

Rigging

Entertainment Rigging: A Practical Guide for Riggers and Designers – Harry Donovan

An Introduction to Rigging in the Entertainment Industry – Chris Higgs

Stage Rigging Handbook – Jay O. Glerum

 

Scenery

Stock Scenery Construction Handbook – Bill Raoul

Scenic Art for the Theatre – Susan Crabtree & Peter Beudert

Structural Design for the Stage – Alys Holden & Ben Sammler

 

Special Effects

Basics: A Beginners Guide to Special Effects – Peter Coleman

!nsp!re – Guillermo del Toro: At Home With Monsters @ LACMA

001

Several weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend the member preview for a new exhibit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) – GUILLERMO DEL TORO: AT HOME WITH MONSTERS. The exhibit focuses on the artistic life and influences of filmmaker Guillermo del Toro (Crimson Peak, Pan’s Labyrinth).

002

Costume detail from "Crimson Peak"
Costume detail from “Crimson Peak”

For those who have read his book, “Cabinet of Curiosities“, this exhibit is especially thrilling. In the book, readers get a view inside Del Toro’s suburban Los Angeles home (named “Bleak House”). The home is packed with all manner of unusual oddities, props, artwork, and collections.

Satan and Death with Sin Intervening by Henry Fuseli
Satan and Death with Sin Intervening by Henry Fuseli

 

Arm of Hosts by Dave Cooper
Arm of Hosts by Dave Cooper
Illustration from "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark"
Illustration from “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark”

In this exhibit, those collections have been placed on view for the public; and it is horribly magnificent. The show is not a retrospective of Del Toro’s work; but a look at his influences and inspirations. In keeping with that idea, the exhibit is laid out thematically. Paintings, drawings, maquettes, full size sculptures, and more bring Del Toro’s unique visions into full relief in this exhibit that surrounds and immerses you into one mans fever dream.

A Life-sized sculpture of Schlitzie and Johnny Eck, both by Thomas Kuebler.
A Life-sized sculpture of Schlitzie and Johnny Eck, both by Thomas Kuebler.
Life-size sculpture of Ray Harryhausen by Mike Hill.
Life-size sculpture of Ray Harryhausen by Mike Hill.

The work of many artists is on display, and its easy to see where Del Toro derives his inspiration.

015

Sculptures by Mike Hill
Sculptures by Mike Hill

Taking its inspiration from the tone and architecture of Bleak House, the exhibit is housed in an architectural shell, with long hallways that twist and turn, opening into room after room. The walls and other elements are in muted tones of black, gray, and blood red. The use of rafters overhead is enhanced by lighting that casts shadows onto the ceiling and surrounding walls.

One room in particular is modeled after Del Toro’s writing room, in which a perpetual rainstorm falls outside the “windows” of the room.

007The exhibit is truly wondrous. It’s a through and detailed examination of artistic inspiration and process. A good example is that there are several of his notebooks on display. Since they could easily be damaged by the public, all the pages have been scanned and patrons can flip through them virtually on a touch-screen adjacent to the actual notebook. It’s a great way of revealing the artist while preserving the work.

El Velo Negro by Pedro Meyer
El Velo Negro by Pedro Meyer

I have only two small quibbles with the overall exhibit. The first is that it appears to have been put together quickly. The finishes on the display vitrines are somewhat slap-dash, with visible paint brush marks and drips. One would think that an exhibit with this sort of “draw” in the marketplace would have warranted a greater attention to detail. My other minor negative comment is that I would have loved to seen LACMA embrace a greater degree of theatricality through lighting and video. The black costume from “Crimson Peak” is especially poorly lit, diminishing its detail and beauty.

016

003Finally, there’s also a great book/catalogue that has been published in conjunction with the exhibit (Guillermo Del Toro: At Home With Monsters: Inside His Films, Notebooks, and Collections). The book goes into even more detail about Del Toro’s process, journals, and inspirations.

The exhibit is on view through November 27, 2016. Admission is free to members (which I highly recommend by joining here) or with regular admission ($15) to the museum.

!nsp!re – A Creative Evening at Meeting of the Masters

I recently had the opportunity to be involved in a panel discussion on the current state of special events, produced by the Las Vegas chapter of the International Special Event Society.

Joining me on the panel were Eddie Zaratsian, creative director for Tic-Tock Couture Florals; Chad Hudson, president of Chad Hudson Events; Doug Miller, president of Zen Arts; and Pauline Parry, president of Good Gracious Events.

I arrived and began to enjoy the open bar and delectable goodies laid out for the attendees at LAVO Italian Restaurant & Lounge at The Palazzo. LAVO has changed quite a bit since the last time I was there a couple years ago for the launch of the Martin RUSH line of lighting fixtures. The space has been transformed from a raucous nightclub into a sumptuously decorated lounge. Leather sofas and chairs, pillows, books, and beautiful art abound, giving the space a luxurious club vibe. After a brief welcome and raffle drawing, the panel took the stage.

LAVO Lounge
LAVO Lounge

Moderator Michael Brown (with Hello! Las Vegas) introduced us and then began asking questions on topics that ranged from new and emerging  trends to the costs of doing business. We discussed the international market, how to educate clients on the costs of their events, and how to diplomatically say “no”. We fielded several questions from the attendees and had a wide-ranging discussion on client/vendor relationships. From lighting and projection-mapping, to costumes and choreography, we covered a lot of ground in our time together. What I found interesting is that, even though the panelists all have different backgrounds and varying areas of expertise, we were all in unanimous agreement that our business is driven by passion, dedication, and a tireless attention to detail; and that we all play an integral part in creating an unforgettable experience.

L to R: Chad Hudson, KC Wilkerson, Eddie Zaratsian, Doug Miller, Pauline Perry
L to R: Chad Hudson, KC Wilkerson, Eddie Zaratsian, Doug Miller, Pauline Perry

In all, it was an evening of great fun with like-minded creatives. Getting out and meeting new people is an important part of creative life; and Vegas always inspires with its unique blend of highbrow and lowbrow. I’m grateful to have been invited to participate in this incredible opportunity!

future cre8tors – Should I Go To College?

university_2325478b

Over the past few weeks, I’ve conducted six different workshops for high school arts students. At the end of each workshop, there is time for Q&A. Invariably, no matter what workshop I’m doing, one of the questions I always get is, “Should I go to college for an arts degree?”.

Well,  that depends.

There are a variety of factors that can influence this momentous decision; among the many are location, financial feasibility, desire, and expectation. Making the choice to engage in higher learning is a deeply personal one and, sadly, it is one that few high school students are equipped to make.

My real answer is that it all depends on what you want to be when you grow up and what you want from life. What are your long-term goals; and I do mean long term (30-40 years from now)? If you desire to be a Broadway designer or a professor at a University; it helps considerably to be packing at least an MFA. If you want to teach at a junior college, you may just need a teaching certificate along with the appropriate coursework. If you want to be a roadie, traveling the world on concert tours, then an MFA might be superfluous. Again, though, if you look at the career of a roadie, it’s important to look past the 25 good years of your youth (when the job is physically easier) and into your 50’s. What does life look like then?

When you’re a junior in high school, projecting that far into the future is difficult. It’s too abstract; but I encourage students to try nonetheless. What is the future? City or suburbs? Buy or rent?  Spouse? Kids? Travel for work? Vacations?  The inklings of answers to those questions can point you in the right direction.

Perhaps more importantly than “Should I go to college?”, is “Which college should I attend?” There are a plethora of exceptional schools out there; and it’s important to remember that YOU are hiring them and paying them; not the other way round. It’s perfectly fine to demand the most for your money. The key thing to remember is that this is YOUR decision. Picking the school that fits your learning style, that offers you connections to your industry, and that excels in teaching what you want to learn will take time. Talk to the professors, recruiters, and administrators. Interview THEM; not the other way around.

That sounds like a lot of work; and it is. But I will tell you that I know a number of people who blame their school or college for not preparing them adequately, or who feel their degree was a waste of time. The work you put in is directly related to what you’ll get out of it in the end. YOU have to do the work.

Another way to think about college is to do what my buddy Mike did. He always wanted to work in lighting. He had a lot of experience and was quite good even at a young age. He looked at his industry and realized that most people were free-lancers; and that in order to be very successful, he would want to run his career as a business. He also realized that he didn’t know the first thing about being in business, or free-lancing, or entrepreneurship. He paid his way through college doing lighting gigs, and graduated with a business degree. He’s now incredibly successful. I tell this story because its a great example of someone willing to engage in tough self-examination of their strengths and weaknesses, resolving to do something about it, and then following through with the hard work.

Finally, if you decide not to go to college, that’s okay. Don’t feel like you need to bend to societal norms or your parents expectations. Also, take a look at this story from Mashable, offering 6 ways to succeed without going to college.

!nsp!re – THE ASSISTANT LIGHTING DESIGNER’S TOOLKIT by Anne E. McMills

The Assistant Lighting Designer's Toolkit
The Assistant Lighting Designer’s Toolkit

I just finished reading Anne E. McMills new book, THE ASSISTANT LIGHTING DESIGNER’S TOOLKIT, and I found it to be a comprehensive guide to a profession that is often, sadly, overlooked in the entertainment industry.

The book is set into four main parts: The Profession, The Process, The Paperwork, and The Industry. Within each area, Anne dives deeper, proffering concrete information about her subject. Calling this book a toolkit is a perfect description. Peppered throughout are tips, tricks, and insight, drawing not only from Anne’s extensive experience across a broad spectrum of entertainment, but from other design professionals as well.

Her detailed descriptions of the expectations of an assistant and their role in each of the four areas is comprehensive and thoughtful; especially during “The Process”, where she steps through, in great detail, design prep, loading in, and tech rehearsals. Also included are descriptions of each of the “players”  in addition to advice on how to work with some of the different personalities one might encounter.

In Part 4, “The Industry”, she does a great service to her readers by touching on areas of employment for lighting personnel. From the obvious, like Broadway and the West End to other areas that might not typically be considered; like architectural, industrials, and themed entertainment. Many people in this field are driven to work only in the theater, so its great to see someone discussing the many areas of employment open to those who are interested.

Anne features all manner of charts, photos, and diagrams to illustrate her points; with examples from notable designers like Ken Billington, Don Holder, Andrew Bridge and many, many others.

Notably, in the final part, she doesn’t shy away from discussing the challenges in making a living in this predominantly free-lance industry. Here again, she offers advice and practical tips on how to make things work for you, while pursuing your passion.

The book wraps up with a comprehensive appendix, full of checklists and samples that are invaluable.

Whether you’re looking to be an assistant or a designer or both; there is a wealth of pertinent information provided for you in this book. Anne’s writing style is easy and personable, and she lays out her information so that its accessible and easy to digest.

From Focal Press, the book can be purchased through numerous outlets like Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

You can also checkout ALDToolkit to learn more about the book and the author.