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Would you sign your work?

I heard a comment the other day - if everyone were to sign their name on what they did, the quality would be better. There is a large amount of apathy when it comes to work. Many people only want to do the bare minimum to get by. Phrases like , "It looks good from my house" or "Good enough for government work" abound. Why is that? The past few days I was building the sets for a theater in Coral Gables called the Area Stage Company. They are doing a production of Snoopy. It was my first time working for them, and it was a lovely experience. Very cool people, which makes for a great working environment!

When I had finished building everything (which really was only a few items - cubes, a dog house, some funky pyramid shapes) they told me that they had never had someone who had put as much care into their work. I really appreciated that comment. I love what I do, and take a lot of pride in what I build. I just don't understand why that is so unusual. Isn't a job well done a really great feeling? Standing back and looking at what you did with pride, there is something really wonderful about that. So, would you sign your work? I would, every time.

 

 

 

 

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Would you sign your work?

I heard a comment the other day - if everyone were to sign their name on what they did, the quality would be better.  There is a large amount of apathy when it comes to work.  Many people only want to do the bare minimum to get by.  Phrases like , "It looks good from my house" or "Good enough for government work" abound.  Why is that?  The past few days I was building the sets for a theater in Coral Gables called the Area Stage Company.  They are doing a production of Snoopy.  It was my first time working for them, and it was a lovely experience.  Very cool people, which makes for a great working environment!  

When I had finished building everything (which really was only a few items - cubes, a dog house, some funky pyramid  shapes) they told me that they had never had someone who had put as much care into their work.  I really appreciated that comment.  I love what I do, and take a lot of pride in what I build.  I just don't understand why that is so unusual.  Isn't a job well done a really great feeling?  Standing back and looking at what you did with pride, there is something really wonderful about that.  So, would you sign your work?  I would, every time.

 

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The Guild

A new company has sprung up in Miami - the Miami Guild. They are a design / build company, with offices in Brooklyn, NY and Los Angeles. You can see more about them at www.guildisgood.com. Recently, we did two large builds. One was for Christian Dior, which was a pop-up store during Art Basel. The second, was a special event for Maybach Motors, wherein we took a $500,000 car, and put it in a pool. Not just any pool, but the legendary pool at the Raleigh Hotel in Miami Beach where the famous Esther Williams made her movies. Here are a few shots from those events... What a cool experience!

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Merry Christmas!

The past few days I spent loading in and running The Nutcracker, a prennial holiday favorite. It was a great crew to work with, and overall a great production. Now that I have a few days off before the next round of insanity begins, I wanted to extend a warm holiday wish to everyone, and a Happy New Year to all! 2012 promises to be a year full of new adventures, and I look forward to them all. Merry Christmas!

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Rock of Ages Movie Trailer

The summer of 2011 was spent on the streets of Miami, building and installing the sets for the film, Rock of Ages. A great experience, a wonderful crew, and it's gonna be a great movie!  Here's the trailer...

This, along with every other film that is produced, brings millions of dollars to local communities.  Please help support the film industry by seeing these movies in the theater, through legal streaming, or on disk.  By watching pirated movies, you are in the long run taking money away from hard working people, both on the films themselves, but also all the people around the film.  When a production comes to town, many businesses feel the benefit - from restaurants and hardware stores to cleaning companies and dog groomers.  And when you steal the end product by downloading it from some random torrent, or buying it off the street from a guy selling it for $5.00, you end up taking away from all those people who depend on the income they see from this industry.  So please, enjoy the movies, but do it legally.  On behalf of all of us in the industry, thank you!

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Opening night for Lost in Yonkers - Olympic Heights Community High School

Tonight is opening night.  The young men and women of the Olympic Heights Community High School have worked very hard, and have put together their production of Neil Simon's Lost in Yonkers.  I have had the privilege of working with these fine folks, helping them out where I can.  I've written about it before, and now we are finished.

I am so incredibly proud of the students in the Olympic Heights theater department. Several weeks ago, I got involved with thier program.  They had suffered some cutbacks, and were seeking donations to help them out. Rather than giving them money to rent scenery (as they have done for the past ten years), I offered to help them design and build their own set, paint it, and improve the quality of their tech.

At our first meeting, we sat down and discussed set design - what works on stage and basic design principles. After going through the script, we found what was required by the text, and sketched out the set overview. I took that sketch, and drafted it into AutoCAD.  Then we set about building.

Deerfield Builders Supply generously donated much of the material we needed.  (Thank you, Mr. Ed Dietrich!) Of the 30 or so students involved with the construction, only four had ever built anything before, and even then not much.  I taught the kids how to use miter saws, routers, table saws, screw guns, nail guns, grinders and more.  They built the set.  They cut the wood.  I made sure they used the tools safely, wore proper eye protection, and cut accurately.  Once built, the components were assembled, painted, and decorated.  Here, you can see the fruits of their labor.

 Lost in Yonkers - Olympic Heights Community High School
 

 

The set was designed to be able to tour.  They are hoping to be able to compete in the Florida State Thespian Festival in Tampa, and will need to take their set and assemble it themselves.  It all breaks down into small, manageable components, which are easliy carried and reassembled.  

I am very proud of these students.  Some of them aspire to be medical examiners, lawyers, or doctors, but others hope to have a career in the entertainment industry.  All of them learned that they can create what they imagine; that they can do it for themselves.  This is why I became involved - to help these students realize their own potential.  An encouraging word goes a long way in the mind of a young adult.  Sometimes all a person needs is someone to tell them that they can do something, that they are able to achieve their goals.  This production is living proof of that.  I especially want to credit their teacher, Ms. Kimberly Polewski, whose passion for educating her students is as evident as her love of theater.  She goes above and beyond, day after day, giving of her time, money, and talent, to broaden the minds of her students.  They are lucky to have her, and I am blessed to have gotten to know and work with her.  I also want to credit Mr. Reed Brown, the venue's facility manager.  He was also instrumental in helping this production come to be.  He has done a great job over the years of maintaining the space and its gear, assuring that there is a place for everything and it is well cared for.  This was truly a team effort, and the winners are the students.  

Tickets for this production are available at $12 each at the door as well as in the box office.  For more information, call (561)-852-6680.


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Having a "real" job.

As I mentioned before, I am volunteering for a high school here in south Florida. I was chatting with one of the students the other day, her name is Sara, about what she wanted to do when she got out of school. She said, "I'd love to go into theater, but I don't think that it is a really good decision." "Why?" I asked. "Because it's so unstable. You never know when you are going to work, so I think I will need to get a 'real' job instead."

I love that phrase, "a real job". The implication that theater, or anything in the arts, is not something that you can support yourself with.  I think the idea stems from the thought that doing something that seems fun cannot be work, and therefore not real. 

What makes a job a "real" job?  Taking an informal poll, the responses were as varied as the responders.  I have heard people say that anything that does not offer a set salary, health care, paid vacation, or retirement is not real.  By that estimation, anyone who owns a small startup business, does any sort of construction, service industry job, hairstylist, garbage men, police patrol officer, etc, doesn't have a real job.  Or, perhaps you are of the mindset that unless it is a 9 - 5, it is not real.  In that camp falls doctors, nurses, politicians, lawyers, pilots, research scientists and chefs.  Maybe it is that you need to earn a certain amount of money to have a real job.  The average American Salary (according to the US Census 2009)  is $53,651.  So where is the line?  $30,000?  $20,000?  Bye teachers, you don't have a real job.  Nor do you firemen.  Or cops.  Perhaps the defining factor how hard you work?  Physical labor is hard.  Does that make it a real job?  So accounting is not real.  Or perhaps the inverse - a real job means you don't have to do physical labor.  Yeah, right.  Or perhaps a real job means you have to go there five days a week, forever.  Give me a break.  

The dictionary defines a job as follows - 

 

1) a piece of work, especially a specific task done as part ofthe routine of one's occupation or for an agreed price: 
She gave him the job of mowing the lawn.
2) a post of employment; full-time or part-time position: She was seeking a job as an editor.
3) anything a person is expected or obliged to do; duty; responsibility: It is your job to be on time.

 

 

What makes a job real cannot be defined in terms of time worked, money earned, or days employed.  What should be considered when deciding on your career is does what you are doing satisfy what it needs to for you?  Do you need to support yourself and your family with your job?  Does your job need to make an impact on the world around you?  Do you need to love what you do?  Roughly a third of your entire life will be spent working.  Seems to me you had better be doing something you like, or at least like the results of what you do.  If you are lucky enough to have a career where you love what you do, and are able to make a good living doing it, that's great!  But a job you love where you make $18,000 a year teaching children is no less valid than being CEO of a company.

There are decisions in life every day.  Some may seem so trivial that you never realize that your entire life may be altered forever.  It is up to you to make your life what you want it to be.  If you want a career in theater, it is possible.  Thousands of people do so, and count their blessings every day that they get to do something they love.  Following your dreams is hard.  Anything worth doing should be hard.  That is what makes it rewarding for you.  

In my life in entertainment, I have had some amazing jobs, and some pretty crappy ones.  Some paid me ridiculous amounts of money, and some were not enough to cover my bills.  There are no guarantees in life, anywhere.  Because you have a job with a salary does not mean that you won't be downsized, and laid off.  Companies go under, people lose their jobs.  As the saying goes, "The only thing constant, is change."  So, why not do exactly what you want?  If you want to be an actress, then go for it!  If your passion is painting, do it!  If your only desire is to be a doctor, then by all means!  Follow your bliss.  Decide for yourself.  Don't let other people tell you what you should do with your life.  It's YOUR life.

As far as practical advice on how to have a career in entertainment, there are a thousand paths to get there.  Some folks go to college, some don't.  The key is NOT if you go to school, but if you learn.  If learning in an academic setting is best for you, then by all means.  But it does not guarantee you a job.  I would recommend that you surround yourself with people who like doing what you want to do, and watch, listen, and ask questions.  Somewhere in the mix, you will find a path that will make sense to you, and take you where you want to go.  But learn everything you can.  Work hard.  Show up on time.  Speak the truth.  And at the end of the day, whether you are an actress on Broadway, or a chef in a diner, you can be proud of what you do.  And THAT makes it a real job.

 

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ETCP Certified!

I had decided it was time to put my knowledge to an actual test, and take the examination for Rigger Certification.  ETCP (Entertainment Technician Certification Program) was established in 2005 to bring some standardization to the industry.  And now, I am a Certified Rigger, for both Theater and Arena Rigging!  Following is some information about ETCP from their website.

What is ETCP?
The Entertainment Technician Certification Program (ETCP), focuses on disciplines that directly affect the health and safety of crews, performers, and audiences. There are two areas of certification - electrical skills and rigging skills, and an entertainment technician may take exams to hold one or more of the following certifications: Rigger–Arena, Rigger–Theatre, and Entertainment Electrician.

Who created ETCP and what is the ETCP Council?
In March of 2003, the ESTA Board of Directors made plans to establish a personnel certification program for entertainment technology technicians. That same year, ESTA was joined by IATSE, USITT, IAAM, TEA and CITT, and in 2004, AMPTP, InfoComm International, Live Nation, and PRG, also came aboard to assist in the development of the program. Since then, the ETCP Council has added to its impressive list of members with The League of American Theatres and Producers, BASE Entertainment, Cirque du Soleil / MGM MIRAGE, Disney Theatrical Productions, and NBC Universal..

The Council, which is the governing body for ETCP, marks an unprecedented alliance of leaders representing all facets of the entertainment technology industry. At the core of the Council are the industry organizations whose presence ensures their members ' voices will be heard during the development process. Representing potential candidates, those who employ them, and those in whose facilities they work, these organizations have embraced the benefits that personnel certification can bring to our industry.

Why should I become certified?
Obtaining an ETCP certification gives an entertainment technician a stamp that says, “ I am confident in my abilities, and you can trust that I know what I am doing.” ETCP certification helps employers immediately identify riggers and electricians with proven capabilities. Companies that hire ETCP Certified Riggers and Entertainment Electricians, are saying that they want to further an industry-wide standard that ensures the safest possible workplace and a highly efficient workforce.

Major employers and unions have devoted many hours and dollars to the development of the program with the intention to integrate these certifications for lead positions into job bids and contracts. In fact, a few months ago, two major industry employers, Live Nation and Global Spectrum, announced the signing of collective bargaining agreements with IATSE which phase in a requirement for ETCP certified technicians in a variety of venues operated by the two companies. The new agreements call for IATSE to provide the venues with an ETCP Certified Rigger at any rigging call and an ETCP Certified head Electrician where a lead position is required. Most contracts call for a one to three year phase-in of the requirement.

Will being certified expose me to lawsuits, even if I'm not the crew chief?
Certification under the ETCP Certification Program establishes that a certified person possesses a certain level of knowledge and skill in the industry. It does not, however, increase liability for persons who are certified under the Program and there is simply no legal basis on which to make that claim." -David M. Saltiel at Bell, Boyd & Lloyd LLC

There is no legal basis for the belief that being ETCP Certified increases a technician's potential exposure to claims for injuries and damages. IATSE's Associate General Counsel, John B. Shepherd, Attorney at Law, Short, Shepherd & Stanton, wrote a memo to IATSE members that comments further on the issue.

Will this certification prove me to be a "qualified person" as defined by OSHA and NEC? 
The goal of ETCP is for technicians to use ETCP Certification as a support in claiming oneself "qualified personnel." The ETCP Council is in the beginning stages making this objective (authorities having jurisdiction use this certification) a reality.

Which ETCP certification is right for me? 
The rigging certifications are designed for highly experienced riggers (rigging supervisors, high steel riggers, fly-persons, etc.). The Arena certification encompasses rigging that employs chain hoists and truss systems to temporarily suspend objects from overhead structures in any environment. The Theatre certification encompasses rigging that employs the use of counterweighted systems, mechanical systems and hydraulic systems, usually, but not always, permanently installed in facilities for the use of theatre technicians in the execution of their rigging responsibilities.

What is the difference between the two rigging examinations?
There are currently two divisions of the main ETCP Certified Rigger credential: "ETCP Certified Rigger – Arena" and "ETCP Certified Rigger – Theatre." The Arena certification encompasses rigging that employs chain hoists and truss systems to temporarily suspend objects from overhead structures in any environment.

ETCP recognizes that these methods and hardware are used throughout the entertainment industry in arenas, convention and trade show spaces and in theatrical venues. However, the principles, practices, and components are consistent and similar in all applications and are different from those used in traditional theatrical spaces.

The Theatre certification encompasses rigging that employs the use of counterweighted systems, mechanical systems and hydraulic systems, usually, but not always, permanently installed in facilities for the use of theatre technicians in the execution of their rigging responsibilities. An applicant may seek certification in either or both of these divisions. Each division has its own Handbook separate examination covering the specific knowledge, skills and abilities needed.

 

It is a great honor to be included in the ranks of all the other certified professionals in the industry.  I am proud to have passed these tests, and look forward to many more years of adventure in this business I'm in.  Wahoo!

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Taking pride in your work

A friend of mine recently asked me to help her out.  She is remodeling her house on a budget, and wanted to change a few details to make her home more fun, and reflect her personality.  She had some recycled materials, and wanted to use them to make a butcher block countertop for her kitchen, among other things.  

This project is the kind of thing I have seen other "carpenters" slap together in an afternoon, with tragic results.  There are so many people who just do the bare minimum to get by, with no motivation to get things done right.  For example, at a prominent theater in downtown Miami, the Operations Manager asked his in-house carpenter to build a bar for the lobby.  Simple design, with a laminate overlay.  Easy enough.  However, when he built it he had a few problems.  He made the bar too large to get into the door, so he cut it in half to bring it in, and once assembled left the seams unfinished.  Also, this carpenter did not trim back and sand the laminate seams, leaving sharp edges which actually cut people after he had left.  Seriously?  Where is the attention to detail?  The desire to do a job as well as it can be done?  Regardless if you are bagging groceries or heading up a multi-million dollar company, the attitude should be the same.  The people I admire most do both the big fancy jobs and the simple little projects with the same professionalism.  

A new wooden countertop built on existing cabinets below.

So no matter what job you are doing, do it as best as it can be done.  See what a difference it makes in your life!  Even the small, simple jobs deserve all the skill you can bring to it.

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Knowing what you are worth

Yesterday I received a call from someone, wanting to hire me to do some carpentry for them.  Aside from being an entertainment carp, I also build furniture, cabinets, kitchens, etc.  

Surround and tile work by me

I find that knowing how to build things "for real" helps me to build them for a film or play, when it only needs to "look" right.  So I take classes, read a lot, and even watch tv shows that can help me learn new things.  Any chance I get to grow as a carpenter, I jump at the opportunity.

The gig was down in Key Largo, which for me is about 90 miles one way, and I made sure he knew that.  "I've got lots of work," he said.  "I'm looking for some really good carpenters, who know what they are doing.  I won't pay gas money, but I am paying a really good rate."  Which he told me.  ::choke::  After paying for gas, tolls and meals, I'd end up making about $250 a week.  Let alone the three to four hours a day spent commuting.

I am not in entertainment to be rich.  I do it because I love it.  There was a time, like most anyone in the industry, when I took jobs for the experience.  My first national tour, I made a whopping $215 a week.  No per diem (they did supply us hotel rooms) and no hospitality at the gigs.  So all the money we earned went to buying food on the road.  But what an amazing experience!  As a young kid with no expenses, to tour the country with a group of very cool people and put on shows was an amazing experience.  It was awesome!!!  But that was a long time ago.  My passion has not diminished, but my experience and and skill level has increased.

All too often, people are more concerned about saving money than paying for good workmanship or a good product.  Times are tough, and money can be tight.  However, selling yourself short just to make a buck doesn't help anyone.  As an employer, you are not just paying me for my time to put in a bookshelf.  You are investing in a complete package - the tools, the classes I have taken to learn speciality skills, the time researching ways to improve on what I've learned, and the professionalism I bring to every project.  It is the same with every other skilled craftsman, regardless of what their field is.  Sure, there are people who will take work for that rate, but you get what you pay for.

Now, there are places in this world where $250 a week is good money.  I have a friend in Ecuador where $5 an hour is a really great rate.  But, the cost of living is also ridiculously cheap.  In South Florida, it's a little different.  

I would encourage anyone who works (isn't that most of us?) to be the best you can be.  Take pride in your work.  Learn as much as you can.  Listen to people around you - they always have something to teach you (even if it is how NOT to do something!).   Study new technologies and equipment.  This holds true if you work in an office or in a theater.  New software, new tools, new techniques - things are always changing.  And we owe it to ourselves and those we work for, both clients and bosses as well as ourselves, to do the absolute best we can.  Nothing feels as good as a job well done.  And for goodness sake, know what you are worth, and why.  When you take pride in your work, people will see that, and appreciate it.  

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Giving back, a little at a time.

I began my theatrical career as a young child.  I remember plays from when I was six years old, being on stage was very exciting!  As a twelve year-old, I did my first "real" musical, Bye Bye Birdie.  I had several really great influences during that time, from the musical director who taught me how to project (speak and sing loud enough for the back rows to hear, without a microphone) to the technical director who showed me how to build flats.  All of these lessons have stayed with me, through my 25 year career.  Now, I find myself in a position where I can give back, to help future generations.

 

Olympic Heights Community High School in Boca Raton, FL recently sent out an email.  In part, they said "... I am sure you are already aware of the rough economic times we are all facing and that it is, unfortunately, taking away from the advances of the school system. School funding has been cut drastically and it saddens me to say that the arts programs are suffering. As students, we try to make the best of it but we can’t do it without your help. I am proud to say that we have the talent to perform this year at the Florida State Thespian Festival but we lack the funds for set and costumes – a necessity of any tremendous production."

 

I have worked with teens before.  Some of my favorite theater memories come from productions performed and staffed by kids.  So I contacted the group, and offered my assistance - not with money, but with time.  I believe in supporting the arts in schools.  I feel very strongly that by empowering students to produce their own production, from scenery to performance, they will learn that they can accomplish anything.  These kids don't need someone to swoop in and do it for them - or for someone to just give them everything they need.  That rarely happens in life.  I feel that giving them the tools to accomplish their own goals, with some experienced guidance, is the best thing that can be done for our youth.  We will be building Neil Simon's Lost in Yonkers.  When it is all said and done, everything from the lights to the scenery will have been done by these students.  I look forward to seeing the end result, and then seeing how far these kids go!  Stay tuned...

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Strike, teardown, whatever it's called, it's fun!

After all the performance is done, be it for film, stage, or television, the time comes when everything you built gets taken down - destined for either the warehouse or the trash heap.  The trash heap is much more fun, as you get to break stuff!  We just finished the production phase of the New Line Cinema release of "Rock of Ages", due to come out June 2012.  While our non-disclosure agreement keeps us from sharing any details from the production that was done in private, I can share this...

We had built a version of LA's famed Sunset Boulevard in here in Miami (circa 1987), complete with the Venus Club, the Bourbon Room, and the Rainbow Bar and Grill.  In the following video, you see me (up in the lift), knocking down the Rainbow Bar facade from the shoot.  Just a great big flat, after all.  While most things we took down nicely to be saved, this one just got trashed.  Fun!

 

 

The music for the clip is a portion of Demolition Man from the Police.  

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Welcome to my online CV and blog!

The entertainment industry is one which requires a lot of meetings, business cards being handed out, and resume perusal. Here you will find my CV, as well as a portfolio of some of my work. Thank you very much for your interest!

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