Interview With 2011 Student Lighting Design Competition Winner – Colin Chauche

Lat year about this time, students were cramming to get their entries completed for the 2011 Student Lighting Design Competition. Last year’s winner, Colin Chauche sat down with iSquint to talk about his experience and offers some advice to students looking to enter into the 2012 Student Lighting Design Competition.

Let this interview serve as a reminder and offer guidance on how to complete your design well before the deadline. Entries will not be accepted after the deadline which is March 16, 2012! Make sure to review the SLDC rules and requirements. If one piece of the required materials is missing, the entry will automatically be rejected. So double check your work, the requirements. Each student is only allowed one entry.

For the 2011 SLDC, Did you use a realized or none realized show for your entry?

For The Sound of Music the biggest challenges were the tight overhead space and the raked deck.  Because of all of the flown elements and their size it really cut down on my options for where the electrics were placed.  Fortunately the scenic designer brought this up to me in the very early stages of planning.  He was very cooperative and did move a few pieced of scenery around to accommodate me but even with the concession there were some shots I couldn’t make or were just barely making it.  The raked deck brought with it another series of challenges with it.  Most importantly because of the load in schedule it meant we couldn’t use our man lift to focus the lights.  We actually decided to purchase a focus track for the show but it also made me cut back and choose my systems more wisely.  The idea was to use the movers as much as possible and cut out conventional systems to cut down on the focus time.   Because the deck also had tracking scenery on it I lost any ability to use booms for the show.  I was fortunate that our theater has one pipe on both SL and SR that actually runs parallel to the centerline.  I used that as best we could to get some side light shots.  Although for a couple of scene changes it had to get flown out and then flown back in.

What resources did you use to complete your design?

For the design contests I really only used a couple of references, none of which were online.  My main reference would have to be my professors.  I was fortunate enough to have classes that covered the basics of 2d drafting and 3d modeling with Vectorworks as well as how to use Lightwright 5. Going in to the design contest I already had the basics covered but when it came to specific problems or advice I turned first to my professors.  Let me give Todd Proffitt and Greg Kaye thanks and a big shout out for helping me with the SLDC and many other projects. The other resources I used were Light Plot Deconstructed by Gregg Hillmar and A Practical Guide to Stage Lighting, Second Edition by Steven Shelley.  Light Plot deconstructed is a great resource because it really helped focus and expedite my workflow as well as giving me some aesthetic ideas.  For a drafting reference I often looked to Mr. Shelley’s book for samples of drafting because I find his style informative and easy to read.  If I were doing this again I would add a few resources I wasn’t aware of like the Vectorworks Spotlight users email list to help me through difficult problems and also the drafting samples that Live Design has published.

How did the SLDC prepare you for working in the professional world?

The SLDC really did two things for me.  This was the first time I had created really polished lighting renderings using Renderworks.  I had made scenic renderings before but the challenges are very different when you are showing lighting looks.  I think more and more there is a desire to see what the lighting is going to look like before you get in to the space and computers are some of the best ways to do this.  The other thing I learned was how to make a real professional plot.  I had of course made plenty of plots in class and for the shows I’d designed but they had always been tailored to our educational setting or a much more informal setting than the professional world might require.  This was an opportunity to create paperwork that was truly polished and ready for the real world.  (There is lots of pressure when you know people whose books you’ve red on drafting are looking at your drafting.)

 What projects are you working on after school?

I’m currently the lighting design intern at Playhouse on the Square in Memphis TN where I design 8 shows in their 230 seat converted movie theater. (Elvis used to screen movies in this theater back in the day)  I also assist the resident lighting designer with 8 shows in their new theater across the street.  Its a lot of work but not many places will give you your own space to work in and a season of shows that includes Avenue Q, In the Next Room or the Vibrator Play and Spring Awakening.  In the fall I’m planning to move to NYC where I hope to get work as an assistant as well as continuing to design.

Do you have any advice for students entering the 2012 SLDC?

My biggest piece of advice is just do it.  If you are anything like the average college student you probably have some student debt and winning this is going to save you at least a grand.  These are tools that almost everyone in the theater lighting world uses and you will have to get them to work professionally.  This is a great opportunity; don’t let it slip away by making excuses.

I would also say, if you can, use a realized design or something you have done for class.  That means you might already have some of the work started and you just have to update it or tighten up the drafting. For me it’s also a lot easier to go through the processes of designing when you aren’t also burdened by having to make up a world in which your unrealized design has to live in. That means you don’t have to come up with the theater, or the scenic design or the directors concept.  These are all real things that happened and you thought through them and then implemented it.