Tag Archives: production

!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!

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!nsp!re – Mark Fisher 1947-2013

The intersection of art and architecture is a bit dimmer today as the concert design world mourns the loss of Mark Fisher. Among Mark’s prolific work are twelve of the most complex stadium shows ever toured. His work was highly aspirational, demonstrating what could be done at the bleeding edge of art and technology.

Mark Fisher, Architect and Artist
Mark Fisher, Architect and Artist

Mark was born in 1947 in Warwickshire, England. After graduating from the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London (1971), he began his work in earnest as an architect. In 1984, he formed Fisher Park Partnership with Jonathan Park.

He found his way into the world of concert design and quickly became known for his ability to work on a huge scale. His early designs include Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” (1980) and The Rolling Stones “Steel Wheels” Tour (1989). These sets incorporated large scenic pieces and props that mimiced the scale of their venues in stadiums all over the world. In 1994, he left Fisher Park Partnership to form his own design firm, Stufish.

Pink Floyd's "The Wall"
Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”
The Rolling Stones "Steel Wheels"
The Rolling Stones “Steel Wheels”

He began working with U2 in 1992 on their “Zoo TV” tour, which traveled an enormous set, trabant cars, and a tv station around the world. In 1997, he gained a tremendous amount of notoriety in his field when, with lighting designer Willie Williams, he introduced the first massive LED video wall to the touring industry on U2’s “Popmart”. One wonders what the reactions were in the production meeting where Mark proposed that the band enter for their encore in a giant, spinning, lemon mirror ball. “Popmart” perfectly illustrated the ridiculous excesses the band wanted to make fun of at the time.

Popmart by Day
Popmart by Day
Popmart by Night
Popmart by Night

“Popmart” set the bar very high in the concert industry. Many wondered how he would top it. After two relatively stripped down arena tours (“Elevation” and “Vertigo”) Mark’s work with U2 culminated in the “360 Tour” which is the largest touring production on record. The scale of 360 was unprecented and required a massive structure to support it, which he designed.¬† I had the opportunity to hear Willie Williams (Mark’s design partner for that tour) discuss the genesis of the structure. He said that the band wanted the space to feel intimate, which is obviously a huge challenge in a stadium. What eventually became obvious after much discussion and drawing was that the only way to make the stadium intimate was to create a structure that appeared at home within it. This led to the development of the mammoth superstructure known as “The Claw”. And it turns out they were right. In the middle of these massive stadiums sat this enormous structure, which then appeared to cradle the band, offering them up to their fans. It was an astounding feat of art, architecture, and engineering.

Mark Fisher with The Claw
Mark Fisher with The Claw
u2's "360 Tour"
U2’s “360 Tour”

He has also worked recently with Madonna and Lady Gaga, designing their touring spectacles.

Madonna's "MDNA" Tour
Madonna’s “MDNA” Tour
Lady Gaga's "Born This Way Ball" Tour
Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way Ball” Tour

He is represented in Las Vegas currently by “Million Dollar Piano” and the stunning “KA”. Again, with “KA,” which I’ve been able to see twice and to tour backstage, it wasn’t just about the scale, which is overwhelming, but what the set could do; how it morphed through the show and how it provided this entirely immersive environment for the story to unfold.

Elton John's "Million Dollar Piano"
Elton John’s “Million Dollar Piano”
Cirque du Soleil's "KA"
Cirque du Soleil’s “KA”

Within just the past few years, he has been responsible for the design of the Queens Diamond Jubilee in 2012, the 2010 Asian Games, the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, as well as the Big O Multimedia Lagoon in South Korea, Aquamatrix in Lisbon, and the Millennium Show in London, among many, many others.

The Millennium Dome Show
The Millennium Dome Show
Beijing Olympics 2008
Beijing Olympics 2008

Mark and his associates at Stufish, his company, took on these gigantic projects and managed to make it look easy. While the scale was huge, it was always approachable, refined, and elegantly executed, which is quite an accomplishment. Mark has inspired countless production designers; his influence on the concert industry is profound and will echo through the business for years.

At the time of his death, Mark was working on numerous projects around the world. There was still so much more he wanted us to see. I’m deeply saddened that I never got to meet him. To shake his hand. To say thank you for creating work that astounded. Delighted. Surprised. Amazed. Overwhelmed. Inspired awe. Made me think differently. Made we want to be a better designer.

Perhaps more than anything else, I will always think of him as someone who was open to the power of wonder.

Rest in Peace, Mark.

U2's "360"
U2’s “360”

!nsp!re – BY DESIGN DAY

Today, Wednesday, April 24th, marks BY DESIGN DAY, an annual fundraising day for Behind The Scenes (in the U.S.) and Light Relief (in the U.K.).

These two organizations are dedicated solely to assisting entertainment technology professionals in need. Fundraising can be through a personal donation or through an organized collection. Many designers choose to support the cause by giving a days royalties or pay to one or both of these charities. BY DESIGN DAY is supported internationally with donations from designers with productions all over the world. To date, Light Relief has awarded more than 50,000 pounds in grants to help lighting professionals and their families, while Behind The Scenes has issued over $325,000 in grants to professionals working in all disciplines.

You can read more here.

If you’d like to give, you can make a donation, however small, here.

Every amount helps production professionals in need.