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tour bk
Yep, Girls Tour

In the past, I did do a few short tours across Europe, so I got a taste of what it is like, but nothing compared to these girls, who can spend months and months on a world tour!  Personally I was petrified, I heard not so encouraging things about being one of the few or only female roadie, which put me off for years. However I had a great time, felt at ‘home’, safe and overall everyone was fantastic!

If only I knew that sooner I would of pushed for those opportunities more, so my advice, go for it! 

We hear from Jennifer Bass, Lighting Director for Earth Wind and Fire and Lighting Designer for the Avalanches in LA:

As a technician, my job role varied from one production to the next. I was part of PRG’s internship program where they train you to go on the road. I did the load in for the Reba residency and then went almost straight out on tour after it.

My first job was working as a lighting technician on Nicki Minaj. I was also offered the opportunity to run the lights for two of the opening acts. Which was my favorite part of the whole experience. That and working with stagehands.

I was told by my crew chief I was in charge of any lighting fixtures and truss in the air and on the ground. Only half of the truss was pre-rigged truss so I had to hang half the rig every day. I would have ten stage hands on average. I also was one of two climbers that would go into the truss to change out fixtures and fix cable extra. I also helped to repair broken fixtures.

The other members of the team included a working crew chief who lifted the truss, did all of the paperwork, and tested the lights and changed them out on the ground before the truss flew to trim. There was a dimmer tech who set up dimmers, ran cables to the trusses, worked with all of the power distribution, and did everything with the coms and spots. The final member of the crew ran cable for the motors and floated them. He was also the other climber.

My typical day included 8-11 putting together truss, hanging lights, and making sure everything worked. By noon everything would be to trim. Then as the set would go up I would set out all of the floor lights. If there were any fixtures that went out when it was at trim me or my coworker would climb and change out the fixture. Me or one of the other lighting techs would then fix them with the spare parts we brought with us if they could be fixed. The lights just got off of Coachella so there was a lot of problems with the fixtures. I then used whatever free time I could to program on the lighting desk. I started with the goal of getting on the desk. So just being able to work on an MA2 with a lighting rig was the highlight of my day.

My tour after that was the Scorpions. I started as a lighting tech and was promoted to Cyber Hoist Operator. I flew the drummer during the performance and did the set up. I also helped out the lighting team when my set up and programming was done. I was called back to do it the year after that as well. I operated for the opener for both of these tours as well.

I also did the second half of the Madonna world tour. I was a spot light operator. I did the set up of the spot lights and then I ran them during the show. We were on a team of four. During load in I would also help do the set up of the rig. I ran the lights for the opening act as well which was a DJ.

Since parting with PRG I have become a Lighting Director for Earth Wind and Fire and a Lighting Designer for the Avalanches.

I would like to go beyond gender for this question and add ethnicity. This industry at least on the tech side has an appallingly low percentage of different ethnicity as well as women. There should be a 50% ratio of women.

I think that every industry with a few exceptions should have a proportionate representation of the society. If you have diversity you are getting the best from the whole work place. If you are only hiring white men then you are only looking at less than a third of the workforce. The benefit of inclusion here is obvious just in a broadening of skills sets and experience.

Some gender specific examples of why having more females on the road is that it will make the stage hands be treated with more respect. As a local stage hand, I was passed aside for lifting gig after gig and told to go stand somewhere instead of helping. Despite being one of the strongest stage hands. Females are only have 1/3 less strength in proportion to size. It doesn’t take that much work for a female physically on par with her male peers. My main job at the time was a high rigger, so I was there in view. Just seeing their female co-workers doing the same work they were doing on a daily bases would mean more female locals to be treated with more respect. It would also harness better utilization of their teams.

There is some improvement for the culture and attitudes of some, as we hear some of the negatives sadly still experienced;

To have more women, it would also make a better network for other women and stop the harassment that has become common place. At a well known international lighting provider company there is a very strong culture geared towards getting rid of women. The first thing almost every representative I met would say to me is a story about how the last woman they worked with got fired. They were all different stories. I didn’t work with a single other female lighting tech on the road my entire time working there.

When I went back to the shop to prep as a freelancer. I got a big hug from one of the shop people that worked there because I was the only woman she had seen last as long as I had. It had only been a couple years since I left.

When I was climbing I had a member of the crew say, ” Wow she is so impressive.” To which my crew chief said, “ you only think she is impressive because she is a girl.”

I had a crew chief unplug my cables. When I saw him do it I went to my set up to check it. Found he had unplugged a taped cable connection. So I plugged it back in tested the system and then stood over the connection. I told my crew chief I was ready for the truss to fly out. He checked that precise connection looked surprised that it wasn’t undone and then flew the truss out. When I complained about this happening I was never called back to the company for work.

All of the above examples where different crew chiefs. The problem is only slightly at the top. The gigs are given to women but they are forced out of them. They are either sabotaged or not supported to be successful from the other people on the crew. It is particularly sad to see because of the talent that has left the company because of this harassment. There is more than one audio company that has a great support system for woman and it would be nice to see this in the lighting world.

* We at Reel Angels hope we can help and work with these companies.

Next, we hear from Debora Collins, Video Director:

The responsibilities of the Video Director are mainly to capture the best moments on stage as captured by the camera operators, and to convey that to the audience.  Sometimes the Video director is guided by the show designer for how certain elements or songs of the show should look, so that there is a uniformity of vision across the departments.  The video director may or may not also be responsible for other, non-IMAG images being sent to screens to enhance the viewers’ experience.

The video team is decided by how intensely the artist has incorporated video into the whole show.  Sometimes there is a large crew, sometimes not.  Sometimes it’s just the director.  Usually though, there is the engineer, who is the person the director most closely works with, to oversee how everything operates, and who makes the cameras look so sharp and matching during the show.  Then there are various numbers of LED techs, server operators, as well as projectionists.  Camera operators are very often a part of either LED or PJ departments.  It’s not a role that is regularly hired to just do camera any longer, unfortunately.

My first tour was Tina Turner’s 24/7 Tour in 2000.  I had been working at a young TV station in the San Francisco, and a woman who had formerly been on the touring circuit asked if I could join her as her assistant.  I barely hesitated, especially when I heard we’d be going to Europe—I had not been at that point in my life!  If I recall, the tour was about 9 months, and we often joked that it was a 24/7 endeavor.  It was a very big tour, and for experienced roadies, I am sure it was very tiring.  Not knowing much better, it was a whirlwind.  We had excellent show openers who I list as amongst some of the best artists I have worked with, and visited many places, but rarely was there much time to digest what was happening, or where we were.  At the time, the system was all analog, so setting up and running the show were inherently different than they are today.  Technology has zoomed ahead since 2000!

I have learned that you should never assume that one tour is an outline for them all.  Tours operate very differently than any other, and there is no set number of crew, no rules that are absolute.  I have learned that attitude and work ethic are perhaps more important than anything else, unless you have absolutely no skills.  Skills are important, but if you are dedicated to the craft, willing to learn, and not egotistical about learning, you can go very far, sometimes quickly.  Bringing a bad attitude or an outsized ego can diminish your chances of succeeding in the touring world.  Also, it is not for the faint of heart! Touring is a tough world!

Women should definitely be more strongly represented on the road.  You do have to be physically strong, mentally tough, and willing to work beyond your job description, but if you’ve go the drive, there is a place for you on the road! 

 

Finally, we hear from UK Based Sara Janebrink, a Lighting Technician

-Describe your job role and what your responsibilities are?

I am a touring LX technician. My responsibilities/job role vary and change depending on the project I happen to be working on at the moment, and includes tasks such as making up cable lists, balancing distros, rigging trusses, managing local crew on site, rigging LX fixtures, setting up follow spots, maintaining LX equipment, occasionally patching LX desks etc. It depends on the gig!

-Explain the make up of your team?

Completely depends on the size of the project. Generally a crew boss, dimmer man, moving light technician, various lampies. Maybe a metal works/rigging guy in the team for the bigger complicated rigs.

-What was your first tour, how did that job come about?

My first tour was the Watch The Throne Tour (collaboration between Jay Z and Kanye West) in 2011. I had been working local crew for a lighting company called Solotech for a lot of productions, and we started to chat about me eventually working in their warehouse in Montreal. Before that could happen, all of a sudden they were in urgent need of an extra technician to join the WTT tour, and off I went! 
Going straight from local crew to touring technician was hell of a challenge but I came out alright in the end. My experience as a stagehand gave me a great start in the industry.

-What have you learnt since then?

I mainly freelance for the larger LX companies in the UK, and I’ve been lucky enough to work with extremely skilled people that share their expertise, experience and knowledge with me. Part of why I love my job is that there is so much information to be shared, and so many different techniques and ways to be applied. Everyone has done different gigs, in different ages, of various difficulties and cultures. There is always more to learn from other people, and I like to think that I now, 6 years later, can share my own experience with fellow lampies.

-Should more female technicians tour? Do you think we bring any benefits?

I believe in equality. There are no reasons why women shouldn’t tour. Do you enjoy it? Go for it. It’s all in the attitude, there is nothing that would make us worse at this job than men. I believe the reason why there aren’t more than there are, would be because it’s traditionally still a very blokey job and shouty environment – I think that can be off putting for someone who isn’t used to it.

But, I believe there is generally a strength women can bring to the table; empathy, optimism, multitasking and a generally calmer approach to problems. 

Then again, we aren’t defined by our genders. People have different personality traits and skills, regardless of the gender.  I’ve been told by many guys I’ve worked with that having women on the crew, can bring the mood up a bit and breaks the ‘macho blokey vibe’, who many are now bored of.  So I suppose there is a difference and a true meaning behind having balanced gender workforce’s.

 

Thank you for sharing and we hope to see more women on the road, touring the world!


T : +44 797 212 9854
E : creative@reelangels.tv