Scott Barnes: making movies one cue at a time

Scott has worked with cowboys, aliens, the Whos down in Whoville, recording stars, and marvelous superheroes of all kinds, and now we're lucky enough to have him on our show.  He's a highly specialized Wholehog programmer, working almost exclusively on big-budget, general release films.  In this episode, we learn how equipment we use on stage and television is adapted and used for everything from interactive scene lighting to stand-ins for supernatural characters, and how his position fits into the lighting team along with the cinematographer and chief lighting technician.

Scott was one of the pioneers in bringing modern computerized lighting control to film sets, and has set the pace for lighting control technology adoption in film.  We got to talk in–depth about the interactive lighting scheme for Guardians Of The Galaxy, how he used Bad Boys to create an alien invasion in Cowboys And Aliens, and what made the Expo in Iron Man 2 work.  We also got to discuss how he sets up control networks, his best practices for staying ahead of things, and how he fits family life into the insanity of a normal filming schedule.

Thanks for joining us for this episode!

 

Chris Landy: experienced TV LD, business owner, cheesemonger

Even before founding Vibrant Design with his wife Ellen Waggett, Chris Landy already had a colorful career as a TV lighting designer.  With a start in theater as a teenager, he moved on to a BFA in theater from Wagner College, an MFA from NYU, and then broke into television at LDG.  The acronyms don't stop there – he's designed lighting for shows on NBC, CBS, MTV, MTV2, VH1, BET, Comedy Central, HBO, Showtime, FX, PBS, Spike, Oxygen, Food Network, LOGO, AMC, FUSE, Style Network, NBATV, MSNBC, CNN, and CMT.

We talked about his style and process, taking a detailed look at his work on Lip Sync Battle, including the show's day–to–day operations.  Chris outlined how Vibrant Design works, his key people, and what he had to do to get it off the ground and grow the business.  We also had a chance to discuss some of his other passions, including Bimi's Cheese Shop, a business he (literally) built in Chatham, NY.

Thanks for downloading and listening!

Pete Borchetta Part 2: a new home at Altman Lighting

We're back for more from Pete Borchetta in the second half of our interview with him.  He's been with Altman Lighting for just over a year, but has over two decades of experience in the business.  On the last episode, we discussed his beginnings, his career up until Altman, his work as an educator, and his experience as a consultant.

This time, we're discussing Altman itself, what Pete does there, and why he chose to move back to the NY Metro.  We discussed color and color control in-depth, touching on many of the challenges that color-changing LED and short arc fixtures both cause and solve.  We also discussed the lab at Altman, and how they capture the immense amount of photometric data required for IES files and documentation.

Thanks for joining us again!

Pete Borchetta Part 1: How to rappel into a life in lighting

Season 3 is here!  Pete Borchetta, who's worked everywhere from the Far East to the far end of Ashburton Ave in Yonkers, is kicking things off in the first part of our interview with him.  He's been in the business for 20 years, and in that time, he's been a lighting consultant, educator, product manager, and manufacturer representative.  He's also worked for some of the industry's critical designers and manufacturers, including the venerable Altman Lighting, where he is now Product Manager.

In this episode, we discuss Pete's origins in theater and lighting, and discover how, in college, he and a friend found themselves rappelling down the face of a building with arms fill of inkie fresnels.  We discussed his distinguished work as a lighting consultant with Robert Lorelli Associates and how that led to him joining Philips several years ago.  We also discussed his career as a professor and program director at Adelphi University.

In our next episode, we'll be talking about Pete's more recent career move to Altman, why Altman is still relevant after over 60 years and what they are up to these days, and Pete's thoughts on the present and future of lighting technology.

Thanks for listening!

Dennis Parichy Part 2: Sharing a legacy, educating the next generation

We are back for part two of an interview with "The best creator of mood, time and place through light in the contemporary theatre," as per the Cambridge Guide to the American Theater.  There was still so much to talk about with Dennis and Mike Baldassari, who joined us once again, including Dennis' work with Athol Fugard, his book Illuminating The Play, and his thoughts and philosophy on teaching lighting design.

We had a chance to take a close look at Athol Fugard's play Playland and discuss how Dennis analyzed the script to determine a course of action, and we also discussed his design for Crimes Of The Heart, where he had to take a radically different approach.  We discussed his work with Penn And Teller, from Westside Arts Center through Broadway and major tours, and his work with People's Light and Theater Company.  We also had a chance to talk about how his book came to be, and why it focuses so heavily on the specifics of why and how each show was designed rather than theory.

Thanks for listening to Season 2 of the Casting Light Podcast, and thanks to Mike for joining us for the final two episodes of the season!  We'll be on hiatus for the rest of the summer, coming back in the fall with more.  Whether you're in the air-conditioned comfort of a studio or trying to stay cool at an outdoor stage, have a good show!

Dennis Parichy Part 1: 50 years of illuminating the play

There are few who know more about lighting plays than Dennis Parichy, whose career has brought him into close collaboration with giants of American playwriting.  His lengthy association with Circle Rep, and its founders Marshall W. Mason and Lanford Wilson, yielded legendary productions like Burn This and Talley's Folly.  His collaboration with Athol Fugard was also quite productive, with productions ranging from Scenes from Soweto in 1978 to Valley Song in 1998.  He has an Obie Award, a Drama Desk Award, a Drama-Logue Award, three Tony nominations, and today is an educator at Puchase College Conservatory of Theater Arts.

Previous podcast guest Mike Baldassari joined your host for the interview; Mike drafted for and assisted Dennis for several years after moving to New York, including working on Burn This.  Dennis is a master of using light to illuminate characters and make statements about their motivations, and he described his process for breaking down and analyzing a script to tell him how to proceed.  We also went into detail about some plays he's lit, what he wanted to convey with lighting, and how it was done.

Dennis has also written an amazing lighting design text titled Illuminating The Play; in it, he goes into far more detail about his method for creating lighting, and investigates the entire process from script to cue.  As always, thanks for downloading and listening – we'll be back with Part 2 of the interview soon!

Kellen McNally: Accuracy in surveys, models, and layouts lead to more successful designs

We all love the massive lighting systems we see at outdoor festivals, but when environmental and safety requirements necessitate accurate placement of dozens of elements, who makes it happen?  As we become increasingly dependent on lighting and video previsualization, where do sufficiently accurate 3D models of venues come from?  After years of adjustments, renovations, and changes, what can venues do to get all their drawings and paperwork back on track?

Our guest Kellen McNally of Productions On Point has the answers.  He specializes in surveying, mapping, drafting, modeling, and layout for venues and sites of all kinds and at every step of the way.  We discuss the technology he uses, applications for the kind of services he provides, and why this kind of extreme accuracy in layout will become ever more critical.  We also had a chance to talk about entrepreneurship in the business – until a few years ago, Productions On Point was simply an idea Kellen got after watching a festival site get laid out inefficiently.

As always, thanks for downloading and listening!

David Arch: here comes the general

We are back, and we want you to join us in the room where it happens with David Arch.  David is a multi-talented lighting director and lighting programmer, and among his credits are 40 Broadway shows including Hamilton and On Your Feet.  Those, however, are only one part of a career that has spanned continents, genres and decades.

David got is start designing lighting for bands in his native Australia.  He made his way to the US while on tour with the band Icehouse, and made connections there that would lead to work on major rock tours.  That led to his first jobs on Broadway in 1996 and his career has built steadily since then; it now encompasses live television, major events, rock tours, and international theatricals.

When we sat down with David, he gave us some incredible insights into how the job of programmer came to be, what he had to do with molding it, and how he prefers to work and interact with lighting designers.  He told us about the early days of programming in New York, and how he and the others who were forging this new path found ways to help each other and grow the business.  He also went into detail about how he prepares shows to tour and some things everyone should know about negotiations.

As always, thanks for downloading and listening, and thanks to David for taking the time to join us!

Steve Lieberman: tripping the light fantastic

A great light show has been an element of the most well-loved and successful nightclubs and music venues since Jules Fisher and Paul Marantz put together the iconic designs for Studio 54 40 years ago.  It took some time for promoters, club owners, and event producers to catch on, though – when Steve Lieberman entered the business 25 years ago, he didn't know he was getting in on the ground floor of an industry that was about to grow into a global powerhouse.  While he started lighting events and parties with 5000 attendees, he now lights massive, multi-day events that see 150,000 attendees per day.

From Electric Daisy Carnival to Ultra to Coachella, Steve and his company SJ Lighting travel the world using lighting, video, and scenery to create environments for festivals, EDM events, and nightclubs.  Steve joined us to discuss all elements of this unique part of the business, how both it and his career blossomed together, and how he assembles, manages, and operates the massive electronic dance music shows he is known for.  We also discussed his work as a nightclub designer, what documentation and paperwork go into making a club design actually work, and what some of the pitfalls are in that end of the business.

Many thanks to Steve for joining us, and many thanks to you for downloading and listening!

Daniel Connell: take us to church

Lighting and production design for houses of worship combines the design needs and skills for theater, concerts, and television in a new segment of the industry.  This market is still evolving as more churches and organizations decide to add production to their services, and our guest Daniel Connell casts a long shadow in it.  Daniel worked in theater, concerts, and live events as a designer and technician before finding a home in church production, and he took some time from his busy schedule to tell us about his career, his thoughts on design, and the business itself.

Daniel discovered the lighting business in high school, and soon found his way to Theatrical Lighting Systems in Huntsville, AL.  He worked and toured with rock, Christian, and country music acts, but it was at Church On The Move in Tulsa that he found his true purpose.  Now, he specializes in live events and house of worship installations as both a lighting and production designer.  He described the rise of church production, told us about his design philosophy and inspirations, and shared some advice for people entering the business as both designers and technicians.

Thanks for downloading and listening!  Visit Daniel's website at www.danielconnell.com

Robert Mokry: on lighting service, guitars, and becoming a businessman

What happens when a fixture is discontinued?  Normally manufacturers will continue support for a given length of time, but no matter how long that is, production/rental shops, venues, and other users don't stop using them.  More importantly, they don't stop needing spare parts for those fixtures – and that's where Robert Mokry and LightParts come in.  A reverse logistics company specializing in lighting equipment, their business may not be the stuff of splashy magazine features, but it is critical for their customers: they can provide new old stock parts, refurbished parts, newly manufactured parts they source, repairs for fixtures and consoles, and many other services.

We had a chance to sit down with Robert and discuss the company, how and why it was founded, and how it became as successful as it is.  We also discussed his career, his start with Blackstone A/V (which later became High End Systems), his work with products including designing the Wybron Nexera system, and how he found his place.  Robert also shared his thoughts on the present and future of the business, how others might find their own niches, and why he thinks that our industry is a solid one in an outsourced, global economy.

Thanks for downloading and listening!  Visit LightParts on the web, and hit this video link to learn more about the company.

Kelly O'Connell: designing, building, and installing educational theaters

How does an educational theater end up with a masterfully designed rigging system, or non-standard lighting equipment that perfectly suits it?  How do school districts maximize what they can provide for their students when renovating or building a space, or adding to their inventory?  Our guest Kelly O'Connell, Lighting Systems Designer for YES Theatrical Service & Supply, has the answers.

In our interview, Kelly explains in depth how she works with architects, general contractors, and electrical contractors to make projects happen and get her clients what they need.  We discussed how she manages everyone in the chain, from drama teachers to administrators to boards to contractors.  Kelly's extensive and varied experience in lighting design, production management, and architecture prepared her well for this job, which can involve anything from a $50 gel package to a $500,000 lighting system.

We also discussed her path into theater, starting with an unexpected turn designing lighting for a production of Aeschylus' Agamemnon at 13, and the company she works for.  YES, or Young Equipment Sales, began 46 years ago as a locker company.  Their relationship–based, customized service gave them opportunities to grow into nearly every part of educational sales and service, finally reaching auditoriums and theaters in 2015.

Thanks for downloading, and thanks for listening!

Norman Coates Part 2: in service to his industry, his city, and his art

Norman Coates' official UNCSA photo

Norman Coates' official UNCSA photo

We're back for more with the Director of Lighting at the UNCSA School Of The Arts Design and Production Department!  This time, we discuss an exciting project that serves the area around UNCSA, as well as the lighting students themselves: the Winston–Salem Light Project.  Students create major architectural lighting installations on landmark buildings and in other spaces, and in the process, are introduced to an entirely different part of the business from performance lighting.

We discussed Norman's professional career: his work on Broadway, in regional theater, on corporate events, and for opera, including his work during the summer at the Princeton Festival.  We also had a chance to discuss his thoughts on the business itself, and where it is headed.  We are immensely thankful that he was able to spend so much time with us, and thankful that you continue to download and listen!

Norman Coates Part 1: the life of a designer, the responsibilities of an educator

Just over 40 years ago, Norman Coates took a trip from Philadelphia to New York to see a production of Waiting For Godot.  Before the show was over, he knew he'd found the art he truly loved.  Norman's passion for lighting has driven him to create stunning designs on Broadway and off, for national tours, in regional theaters and opera houses all over the US, and become the Director of Lighting in the Design and Production Department at UNCSA.  He's held that position for over 25 years.

Join us for the first of two episodes with Norman, where we'll hear about his thoughts and philosophy on teaching lighting design, how the program at UNCSA works, and what responsibilities design schools have to their students and to the business.  How much should design schools tailor their coursework for the current state of the industry when the industry is always changing?  If we strive to teach the fundamentals, what are they exactly?

Be sure to come back for the second half of the interview, when we'll discuss the Winston–Salem Light Project, Norman's professional career, and what advice he has for students and new professionals.  Thanks for downloading and listening!

Haskell Wexler, ASC: Legendary cinematographer, 1922—2015

Haskell Wexler, A.S.C. joined Bryan Hart and Louis Normandin at Cinematic Immunity Studios for their second episode in 2014

Haskell Wexler, A.S.C. joined Bryan Hart and Louis Normandin at Cinematic Immunity Studios for their second episode in 2014

On December 27, 2015, the legendary cinematographer Haskell Wexler, A.S.C. passed away at the age of 93.  He lived an incredible life, including a tour in the US Merchant Marine during World War II, and had an amazing career running from 1953 through his death, including winning two Academy Awards.  With 80 credits as cinematographer, he was judged to be one of film history's ten most influential cinematographers by members of the International Cinematographers' Guild.

Haskell's first big-budget feature as a cinematographer was Elia Kazan's America, America in 1963.  In 1966 he was cinematographer for Mike Nichols' film adaptation of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, for which he won the last ever Academy Award for Best Cinematography (Black & White).  The year after that, he was the cinematographer for the Oscar-winning In the Heat of the Night starring Sidney Poitier.  His work on that was extremely notable because it was the first major Hollywood film shot in color to be lit properly for a person of African descent.

In 2014, our friends at the Cinematic Immunity Podcast released a show featuring their interview with Haskell Wexler.  Both in light of his recent passing and the fact we’ve had so little information from the film world on this show, we’d like to share it with you now.  Cinematic Immunity features the art and craft of movie making and the stories that define it.  They are readying their second season for launch now, with more full-length interview shows like this one, as well as episodes that answer questions through a series of comprehensive interviews.

It is the brainchild of Louis Normandin, a cameraman based in Los Angeles who has worked on feature films and television of all sizes for the last 15 years.  He’s also cast plenty of light himself as a gaffer and electrician.  His co-host and producer is Bryan Hart, a First Assistant Director, Unit Production Manager, and Line Producer in the independent film world, who is the third generation of a filmmaking family and who also happens to have been your host's Best Man.

Thanks for downloading, thanks for listening, and have a happy new year!

Chris Lose: lighting director and programmer on tour, on ships, and in demand

Hailing from Las Vegas, Chris Lose has had a varied and consistently interesting 17-year career in the business.  He found theater in high school, went pro during college, got another education at Vari*Lite, went out on cruise lines as a production manager and lighting director, and went on tour as a dimmer tech.  He worked his way into the Cirque Du Soleil family, became the lighting designer at The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas, then went back out on tour as a lighting director / programmer; first with The Voice, then with Fleetwood Mac.

Through all that time, Chris' skills and positive attitude have seen him get bigger shows, bigger responsibilities, and bigger chances to thrill the audience.  We got to talk about how he built his career, how he got to spend 18 months touring the world with Fleetwood Mac, and what makes a good programmer / lighting director.  We also discussed some of the responsibilities and surprises of his jobs, how a venue like The Joint works, and what he hopes comes next in the world of lighting control.

Thanks for downloading and listening!

Randy Wade: the Morpheus circle is complete

Randy is the Senior Accounts Manager at Morpheus Lights, which is both a major production rental shop as well as the US distributor for Ayrton LED lighting fixtures.  He has been in sales and rentals for 27 years, having gotten his start at Morpheus back in the early 80's and then moving on to work for and with many of the industry's leaders and innovators.  Randy has been back with Morpheus for just over a year, and both he and they are up to some very exciting things!

Randy's career has given him some amazing insight into the business, how it works, and what has changed over time.  We heard about Randy's time as a writer and editor with Performance Magazine, a critical publication at a critical time for our industry, his initial time with Morpheus when he was responsible for handling some of their highest profile clients, and some stories from his time in concert audio rentals, including supplying audio for the main stage at Woodstock '94.  We got to discuss the Ayrton product line that Morpheus distributes, including the MagicPanel, MagicBlade, DreamPanel Twin, and the amazing CosmoPix-R, and also got to hear how designers are using them in creative ways on tour and on camera.

Finally, Randy has become a proponent and part of the Event Safety Alliance, a non-profit trade association created by Jim Digby committed to eliminating unsafe behaviors and conditions throughout our industry.  Safety for performers, technicians, and audience members is something that should come first for every member of the business, so check them out.

Thanks for downloading and listening, and have a wonderful holiday season!

Miriam Nilofa Crowe: creating lighting, creating community, and the business of art

Miriam Crowe has been a lighting designer for nearly 20 years, and has worked at every level of the business, from the Fringe Festival to Broadway.  She is a founding member of Wingspace Theatrical Design, a design collective which promotes collaboration in and fosters larger conversations about design.  She also designs lighting for diverse musical acts, from Rosanne Cash to Lila Downs.  She is based in New York, but has traveled extensively throughout her career for musical and theatrical performances.

Many of the musical acts Miriam designs for do not tour with their own lighting package, so we discussed how she creates a consistent look for her artists while dealing with very different equipment from day to day.  We also discussed her work in theater, including her work on home/sick, an exceptional production from The Assembly.  We discussed her design process, as well as some of her recent work as a venue consultant, and got to talk about the business of design, the business of theater, and where to find inspiration.

Check out Miriam's full profile and info on the Wingspace Theatrical Design site.  Wingspace offers monthly salons at its space in Brooklyn – check their website to learn more, there is one scheduled for 11/16 which your host plans to attend.  Thanks for downloading and thanks for listening!


Chris Conti: managing some of the most exciting developments in the business

Chris on the LDI show floor with the newly launched GroundControl Remote Followspot System

Chris on the LDI show floor with the newly launched GroundControl Remote Followspot System

When Chris Conti became a PRG Product Manager in 2008, he became part of a team responsible for moving the goalposts on the state of the art.  He is now the manager for PRG Bad Boy, PRG Best Boy, Series 400 Power & Data Distribution System, and the newly launched GroundControl Remote Followspot System, which won Best Debuting Product in Staging and Rigging at LDI.  His position is a fascinating amalgamation of specifier, designer, and advocate.

Chris became part of Vari*Lite after college, where he gained extensive experience as a touring crew chief and automated lighting technician.  He soon joined PRG as a lighting crew chief during their merger with VLPS.   That real-world experience helps him and his colleagues as they strive to create proprietary products and solutions that are not only innovative, but also reliable, and which hold up under the abuse tours and major events can dish out.

Join your host Jason Marin and co-host Theresa Unfried as we sit down with Chris to discuss his current job, how he found his way there, and the present and future of the business.  Thanks for downloading and listening!

Vickie Claiborne: control systems expert and educator extraordinaire

New Years Eve at Aria, photo courtesy Kelly McKeon

New Years Eve at Aria, photo courtesy Kelly McKeon

In 2000, Vickie Claiborne was head lighting programmer on the opening and closing ceremonies for the Sydney Olympics – and she was just getting started.  Over the course of her distinguished 25 year career, she has programmed lighting and media for shows and trained lighting & media programmers all over the world.  Join us as we discuss how she went from a small theater in Branson, Missouri to the Rock In Rio festival earlier this year, her thoughts on training & education, and how a lighting programmer can get into media programming.

Vickie was Programmer and Training Manager for High End Systems until 2006, where she handled hundreds of shows and trained thousands of programmers on Wholehog 2 and Hog 3 products.  In 2008, she joined PRG Las Vegas as a Product Specialist, where she is responsible for supporting every control system PRG provides as well as the Series 400 Power & Data Distribution System.  She also continues to program and design shows, including the massive New Years Eve event at the Aria resort in Las Vegas.

Vickie's passion for education and helping others led her to write her first book, Media Servers For Lighting Programmers, published by Focal Press.  In the book, as she does in her many other roles, Vickie calls on her vast experience in lighting and media to explain, clarify, and teach.  Vickie is also is a contributing writer for PLSN magazine, covering digital media topics.

If you're attending LDI this year, you can catch Vickie on the four Art Of Programming panels, all taking place on Thursday, 10/22.  She's also on Twitter at vickieclaiborne.  Thanks for checking out our latest episode!