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Making a living as a designer
http://www.ballet-dance.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=8&t=9390
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Author:  salzberg [ Wed Nov 07, 2001 10:18 am ]
Post subject:  Making a living as a designer

This month's <I>American Theatre</I> magazine has an article about the difficulty of making a living as a theatrical designer:<P> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>Some comforting news for worried designers toiling in the fields of the not-for-profit theatre: It is not your fault. You are not supposed to be able to make a living working in the not-for-profit theatre.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P><A HREF="http://www.tcg.org/am_theatre/at_web1101_bottomline.html" TARGET=_blank>More</A><P>------------------<BR>Jeffrey E. Salzberg, Lighting Designer<BR>"Shang-a-lang, feel the <I>sturm und drang</I> in the air!"<BR>Online portfolio: <A HREF="http://www.suncoast.quik.com/salzberg" TARGET=_blank>http://www.suncoast.quik.com/salzberg</A> <P><BR><p>[This message has been edited by salzberg (edited November 07, 2001).]

Author:  Maggie [ Thu Nov 08, 2001 6:14 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Making a living as a designer

Comforting, hmm? I particularly like the part about psychic remuneration. Heard that one before!<p>[This message has been edited by Maggie (edited November 08, 2001).]

Author:  Basheva [ Mon Nov 12, 2001 6:58 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Making a living as a designer

Question.....how does a lighting designer get paid?<P>Before you fall over in shock at the temerity of exhibiting such ignorance, let me expand/expound/explain....<P>A new ballet is being performed. The choreographer is paid for the work. Anytime thereafter the choreographer will (generally speaking) receive payment when the ballet is performed. If another company wishes to perform the work, the choreographer will be paid again. Maybe not as much as for the orginal performance, but the choreographer is paid.<P>The dancers are paid for performing - as per seasonal contract.<P>The lighting designer is paid by the original company. But is the lighting designer paid for subsequent performances, even if he/she is not actually present?<P>And, if another company wishes to perform the work is the original lighting designer paid by that second company? <P>In other words (I probably could have made this entire post a whole lot shorter) is the lighting designer paid residuals - anytime his/her design is used?<P>ok, now you can fall over in shock.<p>[This message has been edited by Basheva (edited November 12, 2001).]

Author:  salzberg [ Tue Nov 13, 2001 1:01 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Making a living as a designer

Good question, Basheva.<P>The answer is. . .it depends. If it's a union* contract, I believe residuals are addressed (I'm not union**, so I'm not sure). For those of us who are non-union, it's a matter of what you can get the company to agree to, which, in turn, is a matter of how much they want you, as opposed to the 55 <I>other</I> lighting designers whose resumes arrived in the mail last month.<P><BR>* Lighting, set, and costume designers are protected by United Scenic Artists Local 829.<P>** I should be; I just never seem to get around to submitting my portfolio.

Author:  salzberg [ Sun Mar 28, 2004 9:15 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Making a living as a designer

I found this on a technical theatre jobs board:

Quote:
LIGHTING DESIGNER/PRODUCTION MANAGER: ********* College seeks full time,
non-tenure track Lighting Designer/Production Manager to coordinate use of the 350 seat main theatre and provide lighting and sound for that venue. The season includes five Theatre/Dance productions, 15 Music concerts and four guest-artist events. The person will be responsible for lighting designs and their implementation, plus sound reinforcement and/or recording for all events, plus lighting a small art gallery for 8 exhibits per year. The supervision of student crews is also required. Teach one design course bi-annually.
My question is:

What is this person supposed to do in her/his spare time?

Seriously, I'd bet almost anything that the acting and directing faculty do not have as many collateral duties.

Author:  Trad Design [ Mon Mar 29, 2004 10:29 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Making a living as a designer

I saw this as well...in fact I see those type of descriptions quite frequently. As a working designer, it is no wonder right now in the educational theatre world, the lighting design situation is so terrible. Using recent college graduates as assistants as of late, their training in design has been pretty terrible (there are a few execeptions). I am finding it is due to the fact that most lighting faculty are spread so thin that there is no way for them to actually help young designers shape their craft.

I have been offered several teaching positions, but why should I leave the freelance world to design 12-15 shows, maintain equipment, deal with sound (I never quite understand why lighting & sound get grouped together), and then teach on top of it....all for a non-tenure track. I am much happier designing 20 shows a season and having time to play with my dog and significant other!

Author:  salzberg [ Mon Mar 29, 2004 1:09 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Making a living as a designer

Welcome to criticaldance, Trad.

Quote:
Using recent college graduates as assistants as of late, their training in design has been pretty terrible
Training in design? I'm lucky if I see one who's had anything more than "tech jock" training. They know ellipsoidals and Fresnels, and the lucky ones have been taught how to compute field widths and intensities, but if you ask them about light as metaphor and about foreshadowing, their eyes glaze over.

Quote:
I am finding it is due to the fact that most lighting faculty are spread so thin that there is no way for them to actually help young designers shape their craft.
Having been a faculty lighting designer, I agree. It's a matter of respect; the acting and directing faculty (and, of course, the dance faculty) are treated as artists, but we're considered "techies" at many colleges.

Quote:
(I never quite understand why lighting & sound get grouped together)
It makes more sense than the other common grouping: Lighting Designer/Technical Director.

Author:  Trad Design [ Mon Mar 29, 2004 2:35 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Making a living as a designer

Quote:
It makes more sense than the other common grouping: Lighting Designer/Technical Director.
Well that is true...I know when I was much younger (and less smart) I had many a design job that included the title Technical Director. Not that I am complaining now, that additional "professional" training has helped me quite a lot in the dance world.

With most dance companies short on staff, my job as Lighting Director almost always includes some Technical Director work...especially when it is time to revive an old war-horse ballet, which was designed scenically 20 years ago.

Quote:
Training in design? I'm lucky if I see one who's had anything more than "tech jock" training. They know ellipsoidals and Fresnels, and the lucky ones have been taught how to compute field widths and intensities, but if you ask them about light as metaphor and about foreshadowing, their eyes glaze over.
Well I have been a bit more lucky about that...mostly because I would rather not have an assistant than somebody who I have to spend most of my time telling them what a Source Four is, or the fact that the guys on the rail won't bite! Fortunately I now have an assistant who understands light on all levels.

Author:  salzberg [ Mon Mar 29, 2004 4:40 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Making a living as a designer

Most of my dance works includes acting as TD, also, and often stage manager as well (although I'm trying to retire from stage management).

What I was referring to was the situation so often found in academic theatre departments, which often have a combined TD/Lighting Designer position, whose responsibiities typically include building the set.

<small>[ 29 March 2004, 05:41 PM: Message edited by: salzberg ]</small>

Author:  BabsLights [ Wed May 19, 2004 6:29 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Making a living as a designer

The company I work has, when scheduling permits, students from a local university join us for the week in the theatre as an ALD....an opportunity to see how things work downtown, as it were.

Although some are helpful (we lucked out on our last one), frequently I find they are more interested in "working" the designer in for the production. I'd suggest a course for them that stresses working hard and doing a good job as a means to impress others - not dropping names (be it of humans or technology), etc.

I had one student this year who overheard the designer and I discussing an issue/difficulty with a political issue, and actually interrupted to say that that's simply not how this certain group works. Both the designer and I had a quiet moment looking at each other and then the student, trying to decide whether to say anything - the designer blinked first and suggested that things vary from house to house, city to city. Many a youngster might drop it then as the designer and I continued talking, but this person did not, continuing, "Well, in my experience, that's not how it goes". Said student later managed to continue the wowing process by falling asleep every time the student and designer sat down at the tech table.

Author:  BabsLights [ Tue May 25, 2004 7:38 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Making a living as a designer

So, there I am innocently going about my business at work, and I get a call - local school has JUST lost their stage manager (he quit) and they load in to the theatre on Wednesday. The person calling wonders if I would be able to help or know of someone.

Some of you can probably guess where this is going...it turns out that the "stage manager" is also the lighting designer, technical director, and chief cook and bottle washer. I'm told that the lighting is "easy" because they have done some of the pieces before and there are videos - no paperwork, but videos. Nine pieces of dance.

So I figure I'll say a number high enough to make it worth my while to lose my holiday weekend and having to take some parts days off and deal with the hassle factor - and hopefully the price will turn them away.

And it didn't.

Lesson learned about making a living as a designer: WHen you want a place to hire you, they won't. When you could care less - BANG - there ya go.

Author:  LMCtech [ Tue Jun 08, 2004 1:03 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Making a living as a designer

Boy that's the truth.

I hope it was a very high price.

I hate gigs like that.

And why are they the ones with all the money that they can throw it at you? But that is another thread entirely.

Author:  salzberg [ Tue Jun 08, 2004 2:52 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Making a living as a designer

First hint that you're in trouble: when the company talks about "getting someone to help you hang lights," rather than about, "hiring electricians".

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