Inspired in self-isolation (13)

Inspired in self-isolation (13)

With Covid-19 lockdowns worldwide and health authorities urging people to self-isolate and practice social distancing on a massive scale as part of an enormous effort to #FlattenTheCurve of this global pandemic … we are reaching out to industry friends, colleagues, associates, partners, etc., and asking them to share their #StayHome and #QuarantineandChill activities with us during this extraordinary time.

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A Heads Up with Dave Whitehouse

Dave is the ‘theatre products manager’ for Robe and talks to A LOT of customers and designers worldwide about theatre, technology, future developments and what can be designed and manufactured to make their theatrical lighting experience easier, better and more dynamic.

Since the pandemic and the UK lockdown, Dave has become an internet star as the anchor of Robe’s highly successful and informative “The Shed” series of videos.

Robe: Where are you right now?

Dave: In my home office in the Buckinghamshire countryside, UK.

Robe: What are you doing to fill the time whilst isolating?

Dave: Designing presentations for our sales and distribution networks. These highlight what makes Robe products unique and what real benefits they give to potential customers.

Robe: What’s the most creative thing you’re able to do in isolation?

Dave: Well, I can’t play with lights, and I make model tanks and figures! I’ve done it for years. It takes my mind off things!

Robe: Are you looking after anyone else during the crisis?

Dave: Directly no, as my family is far away. However, I do voluntary work for Age UK, and constantly stay in touch with residents at the local care home via technology. Please do not forget them!

Robe: Has anyone inspired you since this started?

Dave: I live in a small village where we are lucky to have a fantastic community spirit. Everyone is really looking out for everyone else, collecting food, checking on the vulnerable and making sure everyone is informed and helped if required. So, in short, my village has inspired me!

Dave Whitehouse

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Robe: Favourite book / movie / Netflix series / viral video

Dave: It’s BBC iPlayer for me!

I have been watching classic comedy series like “Porridge” (Iconic 1970’s British sitcom set in a prison starring Ronnie Barker and Richard Beckinsale, written by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais); “Open All Hours” (set in a small grocers shop, created and written by Roy Clarke for the BBC, it ran across four series’, premiering in 1976 with the final one in 1985) and “The Vicar of Dibley” (which started in the 1990s starring Dawn French, and is among the most successful British programmes of the digital era!)

I know they reflect different times, but they are side-splittingly funny!

Robe: What’s the first thing you’d like to do when we are through this?

Dave: I am under strict orders to get my postponed wedding sorted out!

Robe: Own question / answer / message of solidarity or something you’d want to say?

Dave: Our industry is in this together. Please, please follow the government guidelines, protect the vulnerable and we will all come out of this stronger and more united than ever.

A Heads Up with Faith Boucher

Faith is originally from the US, but works as a freelance technician in Dublin, Ireland and is just completing her final year of the Stage Management and Technical Theatre course at The Lir Academy, albeit from home in upstate New York! She’s looking forward to flying back to Dublin as well as returning to her work as a lighting technician!

Robe: Where are you right now?

Faith: Currently I am back in Upstate New York with my family, specifically sitting with our dogs avoiding the heat!

Robe: How are things emerging from the lockdown in your region / country?

Faith: Needless to say, things aren’t going very well in the US. While things in New York are getting a bit better, much of the rest of the country is in turmoil, both from Covid-19 and the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement.

There is a desperate need for change in the United States.

Re-education of law enforcement and reform for many branches and long-standing organisations of our government are necessary. I am not claiming to be the source of the solutions, but I do urge readers to continue to educate themselves and remain aware, because all too often these

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Robe: How did you spend your time during lockdown?

Faith: I’ve been baking a huge amount! I’ve discovered a new love of baked goods and am using the time to work on my cake decorating as well as master some more basic recipes!

I’ve also recently completed my final year dissertation, which was previously occupying a lot of my time, so that has been a huge relief. I investigated future uses of electrically conductive paint in set, lighting, costume, and sound on stage. The paint is still relatively unused in theatre, so it was a fascinating project!

I have also been participating in talks with AIST (Association of Irish Stage Technicians) with other technicians to try and plan re-opening procedures and future problem solving. I continue to look into virtual lighting programmes and considering the various options.

Robe: What are your biggest concerns / considerations as lockdowns ease worldwide?

Faith: I’m not really sure.

As with many others, I’m worried about things moving too quickly. Covid will of course be a worry for years to come, but if people don’t respect the guidelines, I fear we could lose the progress we have made.

The US is a perfect example.  With many establishments opening too early, the second wave has been drastically worse than the first. Other countries are managing to perform much better than the US, but it is certainly something which concerns me.

Robe: Do you have any thoughts / predictions about how and when live events and the industry will re-start?

Faith: I imagine things will move very slowly. Generally, I think there will be a push for designers and technicians to do much more significant work before tech to minimise the actual time spent in the theatre.

Programmes like Augment3d have already risen in popularity so I think this trend will continue. Virtual programming and designing will start to take on a much greater role, and designers may have more pressure on them to create and stick to their original plots.

Faith Boucher

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Robe: Going forward, how do you think live events and the entertainment technology industry will change in a post-Covid 19 world before there is a vaccine widely available?

Faith: I can only speak for the atmosphere in Dublin and even then, I haven’t had the ability to work full time due to college commitments and being overseas.

While many changes are being talked about for contracted technicians, I’m afraid these leave freelance technicians with little representation. At present, I’m unaware of concrete changes that are being made to aid the protection of freelance and contracted technicians alike.

Intelligent fixtures may be used more in larger-scale venues to reduce the need for technicians to touch different lamps repeatedly, lowering the contamination rate.

The addition of a “Covid officer” has also been mooted. It is a great start, but I know technicians who are being told that if there is no officer, then they must simply step up and take charge themselves. This significantly increases the risk for someone who wasn’t in a position to take this role on as part of their initial contract.

Smaller working groups have also been discussed with one or two technicians working closely in a ‘pod’ to limit contact with others. Many changes that are being reviewed are impossible for Dublin’s smaller spaces. There are many conversations still to be had that are aimed specifically at less prominent / large scale theatres.

The Art’s Council has recently gained more funding and while I think this is a wonderful sign, I’m not sure how viable it is for these safety measures to be implemented across Dublin’s creative scene.

Robe: How sustainable do you think these changes will be?

Faith: Some changes will be permanent (as happens after any catastrophic global event), others I don’t think will last as long. Many people often take the stance of safety being secondary, I believe this attitude will continue even with the heightened risks we now have post-Covid.

Robe: Has anyone / anything particularly inspired you since this crisis started?

Faith: My brother who has started learning French during lockdown, as well as taking his finals at London School of Economics, whilst sticking to a new exercise regime AND starting a new job as a writing consultant! I struggle with motivation frequently so seeing his determination and seemingly endless energy has become admirable (while sometimes enviable!)

Robe: Own question / answer / message of solidarity or something you’d like to say?

Faith: Our industry is at great risk; nobody can predict what the future will bring. However, I think this is a valuable opportunity to bring attention to the perceived norm of overwork, burn out, and poor mental health in the theatre sector.

We have each chosen to do long hours with strenuous work in very stressful conditions, however this should not exclude us from taking breaks for ourselves. I have often heard people recommend any technician take every job sent their way, but I disagree. While you may lose some future jobs by turning down one now, the benefit of self-preservation is immeasurable.

Unfortunately, most of us will not be able to work in this industry for the rest of our lives, and we should start keeping this in mind. Taking care of yourself should always come first.  Whilst I still intend to be fully committed to theatre, this quarantine has allowed me a moment to fully slow down.

I have realised how detrimental certain times in my life have been to my mental and physical health due to over-working. Some may say this is a personal problem I should manage myself, however I have seen it hundreds of times in my co-workers, mentors, and bosses. We should take this time to make valuable changes.

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A Heads Up with Francisco Olivares – AKA Pacolop

Pacolop is a Spanish lighting designer, programmer and operator and until now, has been busy working on theatre, rock & roll and orchestral shows as well as corporate presentations where he has shared his love of light with his other passion … marketing.

Francisco Olivares – AKA Pacolop

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Robe: Where are you right now?

Pacolop: In Alicante, where I was born, on the shores of the Mediterranean, a source of inspiration for its incredible shades and textures of light.

Robe: How are things emerging from the lockdown in your region / country?

Pacolop: As in the rest of Spain, in March everything happened very quickly, the industry stopped and we were locked down at home … until now, where we are entering ‘the new normal’.

The only thing that seems normal here is that all the labour sectors are starting up again except ours, in which we continue to see as jobs suspended / lost one after another.

Robe: How did you spend your time during lockdown?

Pacolop: This situation affected me like others; a barrage of project cancellations, suspension of dates that were already confirmed etc.

Initially, I used the unexpected time to finish some books that I had pending for a long time.

After this, I thought that we could take advantage of the fact that all our colleagues were locked down as well and do some work-related activities that we simply could not do in ‘normal’ work times.

Thinking hard I found a discussion group on a Facebook group that I had previously seen elsewhere. Three high-level technicians were discussing in reference to which console was better.

This made me think that many technicians face other colleagues in ‘defending’ their consoles, as if instead of it being their work tool, it was an "entity" on which their lives depended.

Taking advantage of that discussion forum, it occurred to me to unite the best technicians from around the Spanish-speaking world and continue the dialogue about their consoles, so that this discussion would go on forever.

It was time-consuming and expensive, since we had to gather everyone virtually, put together some base references and record everything so that we could then show data to the other colleagues and thus share the knowledge.

That in the end, it was what that original tech wanted, to spread knowledge, enable us to learn from each other and make sure that our colleagues at home were entertained and did not go crazy too much!

This is how Fast & Show Start was born!

The Spanish-speaking Facebook group has shared a lot of educational content already and, being totally independent from brands and manufacturers, embraces the spirit of being without profit… or budget!

The reception was so good that in a few days we had more than 1500 technicians, designers and programmers from all over the world join the group.

And they surprised us, by asking us to create new challenges for them, because they needed to continue learning.

And so, we got down to business! We contacted brands in the sector to somehow reward the effort of the participants, and thus, the most followed multi-platform lighting design contests were born.

I don't want to forget to send a big hug to my colleagues from Fast & Show Start - Antonio Luis Sanjorge, Juan Contreras, Joel Lozano and Guillermo Castro, without whom this adventure would never have been so exciting and effective!

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Robe: What are your biggest concerns / considerations as lockdowns ease worldwide?

Pacolop: What worries me most ... is seeing outbreaks reappear and that the new situation is ‘normalized’ without our sector finding a safe space where we can carry on our activities.

Robe: Do you have any thoughts / predictions about how and when live events and the industry will re-start?

Pacolop: In my country, only events produced by private companies are taking place, and with very limited capacity, everything that has to happen to public bodies is suspended or paralyzed.

I think that until a vaccine arrives, ‘show business’ as we knew it will not return.

Robe: Going forward, how do you think live events and the entertainment technology industry will change in a post-Covid 19 world before there is a vaccine widely available?

Pacolop: Unfortunately, our industry has already changed, there are many small companies and professionals who will not work in our sector again, and that will be a very big loss.

As for the events, we will see smaller capacities and with other advantages and skills, more intimate concerts … and if not, we will not see anything.

Robe: How sustainable do you think these changes will be?

Pacolop: Of course, the losses are notable, but we will have to reinvent ourselves because we have no alternative. So far here, the little that has been done has been to reduce capacity to 70% and reduce payrolls to 70% more or less.

Robe: Has anyone / anything particularly inspired you since this crisis started?

Pacolop: If I will remember something positive and much during this time, it is the union of professional colleagues from all over the world around the Fast & Show Start group, and how they have shared knowledge, skills and experiences during all this time.

Robe: Own question / answer / message of solidarity or something you’d like to say?

Pacolop: Not everything is lost! Let's continue showing that we love our profession and together we will get through this.

A Heads Up with Dennis Feichtner

In 1998 Dennis Feichtner started working in theatre event technology and since 2005 has been a self-employed lighting designer and operator. With his company Feichtner Veranstaltungstechnik, he is involved in a diverse range of events from TV shows and rock 'n' roll tours to industrial and corporate events. Right now, he would have been involved in the final planning of a project commemorating the founding of the Hungarian state.

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Dennis Feichtner

Robe: Where are you right now?

Dennis: At the moment I am at home most of the time, in Ratingen near Düsseldorf.

Robe: How are things emerging from the lockdown in your region / country?

Dennis: A return to normality as known before the Coronavirus pandemic is of course not possible at the moment, while we do not have a vaccine. But with well thought-out hygiene concepts and sufficient distancing, more and more possibilities are slowly emerging. Some venues are venturing forward and taking the first small steps with limited audience numbers.

Robe: How did you spend your time during lockdown?

Dennis: During the break-up of the live sector, I was fortunately able to supervise a few TV shows without audience participation and dedicate myself to my writing work at a musicians' portal, where I publish product tests and workshops in the field of lighting technology. In my private life, I spend a lot of time on lighting concepts for interior design. In general, I am very fond of architectural lighting.

Robe: What are your biggest concerns / considerations as lockdowns ease worldwide?

Dennis: Even if it is a tempting thought for many people to ignore the daily case numbers, we should not lull ourselves into a false sense of security.

The understandable need for ‘normality’ should not lead us to underestimate the dangers.

Robe: Do you have any thoughts / predictions about how and when live events and the industry will re-start?

Dennis: Although eagerly anticipated, concrete dates or deadlines are left to speculation. Also, I don't give up hope for the one or other smaller club tour, which is still in the calendar for this year with pencil. But we can only wait and see.

Robe: Going forward, how do you think live events and the entertainment technology industry will change in a post-Covid 19 world before there is a vaccine widely available?

Dennis: I think well thought-out safety and hygiene concepts have the highest priority for us at the moment because we can only start with a very limited number of participants. Hybrid event concepts with participants on site and a simultaneous online audience also offer exciting possibilities. Drive-in cinema events, for example, will not, in my opinion, become established as a long-term alternative.

Robe: How sustainable do you think these changes will be?

Dennis: Maybe we will realize that – especially in corporate events some elements can also be realized digitally so that, for e.g., executives do not have to travel halfway around the world to be there ‘live’ when new figures are communicated.

Through the progressive integration of streaming solutions, an online ticketing market can generally emerge, also for live events, and represent an expansion of the distribution circle.

Robe: Has anyone / anything particularly inspired you since this crisis started?

Dennis: I find all those who can adapt and adjust to changing situations with caution particularly inspiring. People who adapt and see opportunities in difficult times, always remaining resilient and not losing their nerve.

Robe: Own question / answer / message of solidarity or something you’d like to say?

Dennis: Even this difficult time will pass at some point. Culture will not die out. And if we show solidarity now, it will only be to our advantage later on. Everything will be fine!

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