• We all have a better way of doing something, but only one person has the responsibility of making that decision. There are countless situations where we’d do it differently if it were up to us, but it wasn’t up to us, so we do as we’re told. On the upside, if it doesn’t work out or something goes wrong, we’re off the hook.
• Always treat stagehands and riggers with respect, and never talk down to them. You don’t want to find out why.
• Speaking of riggers – everyone should inadvertently disconnect the rigging power on a truss once. I guarantee that you’ll never do it again!
• Always coil cables using the over/under method. It’s industry standard. If you don’t know what that means or how to do it, leave the cables alone and review Stagehand 101 lessons. You’ll also be wondering why there’s an overhand knot about every 12 inches when you’re trying to lay cable.
• Every engineer, stagehand, rigger, and sailor should know basic knots – bowline, clove hitch, slip knot, and trucker’s hitch. YouTube is your friend for learning or if a refresher course is needed.
• Never upload photos to social media during an event. We all like to take photos to document and show our work, but I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen techs and hands escorted off the property and banned from the show for violating this one. Companies guard their trade secrets and confidential information zealously, and they do watch social media closely during an event. This includes selfies and photos of you with your pals. Don’t do it.
• Stay hydrated by drinking water, sports drinks, and/or juices. (I personally use sodas for cleaning battery cables on my car, but I don’t drink ‘em.) This is particularly true in locations like central Florida, where summers are brutal and the trucks become ovens. If you become dizzy or weak, or you’ve stopped sweating, you’re in an emergency situation. Stop whatever you’re doing and cool down immediately. Heat stroke is often fatal. But even if you’re working in an air-conditioned ballroom, you’re losing moisture with every breath. Yes, you’ll find yourself having to adjourn to the restroom a bit more often, but it sure beats the alternative.
In closing, an anecdote: I received a stagehand call a couple of years ago to work with an audiovisual company from out of town. It didn’t take long to see that these folks hated “locals” – and they made no secret of it. To them, we’re necessary evils.
One fellow was having some technical difficulties, so I offered a suggestion, after which he lit into me with words I haven’t heard since I was in the military some four decades ago. I didn’t respond to his tirade except to apologize because I hold myself to higher standards. It did serve to remind me why I don’t give suggestions or advice unless and until I’m asked. “No, boss, you’re right – I don’t know nuthin’!”
Crew leads and producers are usually pleasantly surprised by the breadth of the knowledge, experience, and work ethic of the pool of local freelancers in Orlando with whom I’ve developed a great working relationship over the years. We see each other on the job frequently and work well together. I hear some complaining, of course, but I can’t remember the last time I actually witnessed a full-blown conflict. We all seem to do well and stay busy because we always remember the basics.