Production Futures: Joel Luther-Braun

With webinars, online tutorials and smaller in-person academic sessions filling the education-shaped void of the COVID-19 pandemic, academic institutions are now in the process of opening their doors, on a university by university basis, to students across UK. One such student lookingto return to the University of Wales in September to complete the final year of a (BSC) Lighting Design and Technology is Freelance LightingTechnician, Joel Luther-Braun. Since completing an internship at Jason Bruges Studio as a Creative Technologist in July – he was responsible for coding installations as well as assisting with lighting design ideas – Luther-Braun has been spending his reluctant, government-mandated downtime developing to improve his workflow and test out new ideas.

“These tools include a GDTF system for Unity3D and Project Response software, which will allow me to receive and monitor live feedback from installed projects, which I hope to someday release,” he began. “University has helped me fill in gaps in my knowledge and raise my awareness about new areas of the industry.” He continued: “The most valuable education is being able to put the skills that you’ve learned from class into practice, either in a practical element or by working.” He added that freelance work and internships have also been critical to his career progression. “Working in a live environment brings challenges that you didn’t expect and learning from others on the job has been invaluable to my knowledge. No matter how much theory you are taught and how prepared you think you are for site, there will always be something that you don’t expect.” He shared some tricks of the trade he has become accustomed to employing while on site. “I’ve found that it’s always best to pack as if you’re expecting something to break or go wrong.

For example, laptop for troubleshooting network issues, or pack a portable soldering iron in case you need to make a last-minute repair.” He added: “Always have a backup show file. It’s always good to have the latest show file saved on another device in the case that your show corrupts, or someone deletes it. I’ve also found that it’s especially helpful when you need to offer technical support to the production crew when you’re not there. For instance, when you’re six hours into a plane journey – and yes... this did happen.” The aspiring technician highlighted the importance of staying calm in stressful situations. “Doing a show where people around you don’t speak your language can be terrifying – you can’t understand if they are ready or if something has gone massively wrong, which can be extremely stressful.”

He said ensuring that you are clear-minded allows you to be in the best position for any eventuality. “It can also help calm other people before an event, as seeing that you are in control of what you are working on can be quite reassuring for others.” On 23 March 2020, the UK Government declared a national lockdown, with live events greatly affected. “I was extremely lucky in relation to my work over the lockdown period,” Luther-Braun reported. “I’d been interning at JBS and had been working closely with the technical production team there to help code some of their installations. Unfortunately, due to lockdown, all scheduled installations were put on hold and instead we switched to working on coding our other upcoming projects.”

Although lockdown didn’t affect Luther-Braun greatly, since a lot of his work during March involved coding, which he discovered was easily transferable from a studio environment to a home office environment, he found the inability to easily bounce ideas off colleagues incredibly difficult. “Although I was fortunate during the lockdown period, my heart went out to all of the employees and freelancers within the live events industry who lost their jobs or came into hardships during this time.” At the start of the year, Luther-Braun was fortunate enough to travel to Xi’an, China, where he was tasked with operating a New Year’s Eve light show for a high-end shopping complex. As well as Shadow Wall – an installation for Quintain, outside of Wembley Arena, London. Five years from now, Luther-Braun said he’d like to either be part of a studio or a collective of designers who are constantly experimenting with technologies and mediums to create installations for live events and permanent installs. “Being part of a creative team who engineers projects to bring a sense of amazement and magic to the audience would make me extremely happy,” he concluded. “I look forward to what the next five years bring and hopefully I can contribute to some amazing projects.”

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Production Futures Online

Taking place from 9 to 13 November, Production Futures Online is a brand-new platform for students, freelancers and young people all over the world to access training sessions, workshops, webinars, product demonstrations, panel discussions and interviews with live event experts and TPi Award winners.

Production Futures will provide the tools, knowledge, advice and contacts needed for anyone to broaden their skills or start their career in live events. It will offer access to people who work in all areas across the live events industry – from production and tour managers, to hands-on engineers across all aspects of sound, lighting, video, rigging, special effects, staging and set design.

In these uncertain times, there is a real need to reassure students, freelancers and young people that the live events industry is still alive and kicking – it just looks very different right now. There is a genuine concern that highly skilled professionals will leave the industry and TPi wants to support their future as well as new talent starting their career in live event production.

The event will also host the TPi Breakthrough Talent Awards 2020, where students, freelancers and young people can win a free seat at the TPi Awards 2021 dinner.

For more details about Production Futures Online and to find out how you can support the event, please contact Hannah Eakins at: h.eakins@mondiale.co.uk

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Production Futures: City, University of London

With the next generation of events professionals adjusting to the ‘new normal’, introducing new talent to the industry and how live event students are completing their studies without live events has become a topic of paramount importance among university course leaders and prospective students. For the past 16 years, Lecturer, Liam Devine has taught a 10-week evening course in Major Event Management at City, University of London and, despite the plight of events calendars given the current pandemic landscape, six students joined forces to organise a real – albeit virtual – event to mark the end of the course.

“We discussed how we would do it and when term finished, six students decided to take it upon themselves to produce it for real,” Devine told TPi. “They’ve worked pretty much flat out on it in their spare time ever since.”

The end result was a discussion between leading event professionals from a range of fields about how COVID-19 has affected their events to date, what comes next as the country cranks back into action again over the next few months, and what they think the long-term effects will be on the industry.

Held on Zoom, the meeting was livestreamed to the Uni’s Short Courses Facebook page. The speakers comprised an “eclectic bunch”, in Devine’s words, of familiar industry insiders including: Music Venues Trust’s Niall Forde; National Museum of Wales Event Manager, Mared Maggs; Tour Music Live MD, Trevor Williams; Ginger Owl Productions’ Helena King; Tickets.com Australia’s Brendan Carroll; COP26’s Mark Malone and Nikoo Sadr of Rum Shack, part of Glastonbury’s online events.

“When COVID-19 hit, it was hard to adjust to the change from in-person contact, to building working relationships online, however, the weekly online lectures ended up being a great, productive escape,” said student, Cristina Barone.

During the webinar, Barone assessed the comments that were sent in by the viewers and communicated them to the panel ahead of the Q&A section, near the end of the event. “Professionals in the industry are very happy to give their time to helping others who may be at the beginning of their career, or not as far along in their career as they are,” Barone reported.

“We had such a great panel of professionals who are at the top of their game, and it was a real privilege to have them take part on a panel that was arranged by a group of short course students.”

Fellow student, Priyanka Gundecha, was tasked with the role of booker for the webinar, which involved sending out invitations and liaising with the guest speakers during the planning process. “We were very fortunate to have a panel of highly experienced event professionals and it was incredibly beneficial for us to hear their thoughts and how their sector of the industry is currently coping,” Gundecha said. “A key takeaway from the webinar was the panellists’ reassurance that the industry will overcome hardships and that events will be back.”

Despite the uncertainty surrounding events in a post COVID-19 world, Gundecha believed that gaining as much experience as possible is vital to not only expand and develop transferrable skills but to also set yourself apart from other prospective job applicants in the future. “Whether it is completing courses or volunteering at events, I believe that every experience is valuable and can make a difference,” she said. “As you gain more experience, you also continue to network and build relationships with other industry professionals. It can be very disheartening when dealing with job rejections, but I would advise to keep persevering and sending out applications, as someone will eventually say ‘yes’.”

Equally, Barone believes the biggest barrier to breaking into the fiercely competitive events sector is experience, as with most creative industries. “A lot of companies want to hire people with experience, but how can you get experience when people won’t give you the opportunity to gain it?” she hypothesised. “More companies should be giving a living wage and paid opportunities for people to start their career and gain experience.”

Despite the lockdown of live events, learning resources are at a premium. Gundecha has spent lockdown completing online courses in order to develop her skillset and knowledge. “I am constantly inspired by my colleagues, mentors and friends in the industry, who motivate me to keep learning and improving. I am continuing to complete online courses and am exploring new job opportunities now. In five years’ time, I hope to still be working in film and entertainment PR, and contributing to the delivery of creative, memorable and effective publicity campaigns.”

Asked where she saw herself five years from now, Barone said: “I would love to be working in events still, and my dream would be to work on music festivals or tours.” At the time of writing, the webinar has over 3,500 views and is still available to watch on the City, University of London, Short Courses Facebook page.

“The event was a big success,” Devine enthused. “Event Management students across the UK, including students from Plymouth University and Leeds Beckett University, tuned in to ask questions.”

The Major Event Management course starts again on 29 September and is now open for bookings. “Completing this course at City Uni was a great experience, during which I enhanced my knowledge about the key elements within the planning and implementation process of major events, such as budgeting, risk management and sales,” Gundecha concluded. The webinar is available to view on the Facebook link below.

 

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