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Messages - Mac Calder

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The Green Room / The Rut...
« on: May 14, 2019, 05:45 am »
Felt like posting a stream of consciousness/request for advice/mutual commiseration post.

I have had a pretty lucky career - where I have worked with some big names, on some great shows and generally have had a steady salary for most of my career (and generally a pretty decent salary at that) - I started by studying engineering (for all of a year and a bit). I hated it, but found theatre.

I mean I always knew theatre - used to travel to Melbourne once or twice a year to see a show - however locally I grew up in a town where the amdram society performed outdoors on an oval once every 2 years, our schools 'performing arts centre' was the canteen which had an 8m x 4m stage that we could almost squeeze the full band onto and our drama class (which was an elective we could take for up to half a year if enough people wanted it) consisted of the 4 girls who liked to make up dance routines to bad 90's girl/boy band songs (that all looked the same). So I found Theatre at uni and I redirected myself - into the amateur, youth theatre world as a technician and stage manager which eventually became paying gigs.

I did that for a year making little money and skipping uni classes for rehearsals and production meetings before getting a job in corporate AV. I managed to keep my arts going on the side, but corporate paid the bills. Then I got a job on a cruise ship doing lighting. Did that for a couple of years then came back to land. Back to corporate.

24 months in, I got an offer from my company, more $$, more opportunity and paid relocation to the other side of Australia - so I took it. Worked, promoted, worked harder, promoted. Now an operations manager, not really doing theatre because I have no contacts over this side of the country, but my work is interesting and highly creative - and still occasionally extremely theatrical.

We loose a big contract (my venue) - however there is a theatre on site and their operations manager is leaving - mild paycut, no dramas - so I agree to take over for 6 months. 2500 seat theatre as operations manager - there is so much I loved about that job - but a lot I really hated. Opted not to renew my contract after 6 months of rostering 120 casual staff using excel as my rostering tool and where I had to act as a middle man between management and 6 full time staff who had been there >20 years each and believed that overtime was an entitlement not a perk. I found my replacement, trained her up and she is still there. Currently I regret not staying in that job.

Went back to corporate. Promoted to project manager for my employers parent company - they paid to move me back home with the lovely lady I had been living with for a couple of years. Worked as a PM for a 18 months, partner wants to move back - not enjoying Melbourne. Find a 6 month contract on the other side of the country - and at a $15k pay cut - move across the country again with my partner - paying out of pocket this time. Partners parents offer us her grandmothers old home - provided we make it liveable - lack of rent payments make up for the pay cut - although my savings are blown renovating this house. 4 months of heavy renovations later and I have made a liveable house. We are now 9 months into my 6 month contract and my employer and I agree on an end date. Economy is cr@p, and I don't want to work for peanuts. Spend a month out of work before finding a new job at a $10k pay cut from my last job. Can make it work... A day later get an offer for a better job - only a $2k paycut from my last job. I take it. A month later, Partner leaves me - we remain 'friends' (aka she occasionally wants to go to 'things' with me, or do things or catch up and I torture myself by accepting). I move out of the house I renovated. She doesn't want the cat, so the cat comes with me. Have to get a place that will accept cats then - find a 3br unit that accepts cats. Furnish it. Paying rent, and full utilities now, no splitting it. Feeling the $17k reduction in income now.

Now I am here, other side of the country to where my family are, my ex is just down the road and I am hating my job. Last theatre job search turned up 1 job - got down to me and 1 other and apparently the fact that he was born and bred local but lower skillset where I tend to move every 3-5 years and was probably slightly overqualified for a 400 seat theatre, scared them a little. I got the "Sorry, you are over qualified." speech.

So I sit here, ranting, wondering where the hell to go next. My first instinct was "I could move back across the country and find something I like there" - but that is expensive - there are certainly more opportunities there - but I probably couldn't afford it at this point. Next instinct was "Maybe I could sell everything and go back on cruise ships - but maybe as a production manager instead". Next thought was "maybe I could just sell everything and emigrate?" All the while, I rock up to my 9-5, (7-4 actually, but whatever) and I can just feel myself rocking back and forth within the rut. And I know I am in a rut, but at the same time I know I am lucky. I am living in a 3br house, I can pay all my bills, I am not saving money, but I am not going into debt. I get a pay cheque every week. But frankly, I am bored, a tad depressed and just generally in a rut.

Well SM Network - I guess the question part - what would you do? would you be grateful that you were gainfully employed and just work the rut until something comes up? would you make a radical change? Are you in a rut? Been in a rut? Want to blurt it out on a web forum for no real reason other than to put it out there?

I am sorry that things did not work out - however I believe you made the correct decision. When a situation is poisonous, you need to walk away.

I would certainly not bother replying to the email.

As far as "can this occur in the real world?"... Yeah, sure. Happens all the time. It may not be articulated, but generally whoever is senior and bought in early in the process often ends up with a lot of veto power. But if someone is a big d!ck in the real world, that word spreads - and often has a greater negative impact on the employ-ability of the d!ck than of the person on the receiving end.

An example from my younger years - I was a light tech for Royal Caribbean - I joined a ship the same day a charter came on board who booked out the whole ship. Throughout that week long cruise, I never got to see a single production show run or even play with the rig, because every day was spent running conferences or in training. The guy I was replacing left the same day the charter left (typically I should have had a 2 week handover, but for some reason I only got the one). So the FIRST show I did, I messed up the cruise directors introduction - I managed to get the rest of the show visually flawless, but the cruise director (my bosses boss) felt I embarrassed him. From that day forwards he did everything he could to try and get me fired. I didn't DO anything that could be considered wrong - in fact I worked SO hard that cruise. My employee appraisals by my manager came back 5's across the board (outstanding). Professionally, this should not have happened. Drove me to the brink of jumping over the edge of the ship a few times. When I left that ship with a new contract for my next ship (which I ended up declining and going back to land), his contract ended a month later. I found out from a friend that he was not offered a new contract - that a number of staff had mentioned to others how big a w@nker this guy was when they moved to other ships and word had gotten around - none of the other ships wanted him.

I suggest you take solace in the fact that in the end, karma will bite them in the rear end - or perhaps it already has - and start looking for other opportunities - either with other directoral staff or non-school related dramatic societies. Time spent in school is great starter experience - but every show you get outside the school environment is worth so much more in the mind of a future employer - because outside of school, any perceived safety net is removed.

There are a few potential options.

1) You can approach the HoD Director and just tell them your issue. Do not be argumentative - tell them that you have been working really hard and that you and your friend are feeling like your efforts are being constantly belittled. You need to give and take - give them an out for their attitude (no matter how bullsh!t it is) - "I understand tech is high stress from all sides, we have put a lot of effort in, and I know you and your directoral team have an artistic vision that you are invested in, but we would appreciate a bit more courtesy - in some instances we have followed the brief - and then been called out because of reconsidered artistic decisions. We want this show to work and help achieve your vision, so would really appreciate it if instead of calling us out, you could just articulate the changes you wish to have made politely and acknowledge that this is a change to the brief". If that does not appear to work, proceed to #2.

2) Resign. Do it politely. Take the high ground. After the rehearsals, approach the directorial team "It appears that you are not satisfied with our services and it appears we have reached an impass, with regret I am afraid we need to part ways." - This potentially brings you back to point #1 with some negotiation.

3) Everyone has a boss. The HoD has a boss. Perhaps talk to that person. I don't really suggest it, because either they will be bought into line (and then potentially harbour dislike after being talked to by their boss) or they won't.

4) Pull them up. When they say something rude and disrespectful to you, "Can I have a moment over here" and take them over to a private area and call them out; If they start down the "Well this is how it is in the real world" - hit back with "And in the real world I would have called you out in public instead of being respectful and talking to you in private." Could result in reverting to #2.

Unfortunately, as with the real world - when your boss is being a jerk and the relationship has devolved to the point that you cannot work with them any longer, there is little you can do except stick with it or walk away. But never storm off, never shout "I quit!" and storm out. ALWAYS take the high road, always be respectful. Because if you arc up and start shouting and screaming, you will be the one that is painted in a poor light. If you do it respectfully, even if they start to badmouth you in front of the ensemble, it is them that look like the arseholes.

Tools of the Trade / Re: Dressing Room Mirror Lights
« on: Nov 28, 2018, 06:11 am »
Waveformlighting make a 99 CRI LED strip - it won't retrofit into a bulb-style dressing room mirror, but you can mount it in a strip with a diffuser.

Alternatively you can get high-CRI Compact Florescents.

Tools of the Trade / Re: Breaking and reforming a board
« on: Oct 17, 2018, 06:01 pm »
How much handling does the dream board have prior to being broken - is it hung up somewhere the rest of the time and untouched, or does it need to be handled throughout the show?

Velcro will be hugely obvious to the audience. Every night a great big RRRRRIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIPPPPPPPPPP will be heard by everyone in the space. Would not suggest.

One option if it needs to be durable would be to make it out of wood, and then use balsa wood biscuits/dowels between the two pieces. Balsa breaks very easily and it will give an authentic "SNAP".

If it is a quick "Rip off the wall, snap in two" and that is all that happens to the board, I would probably use XPS foam coated with mod podge and magnets with a sound effect if needed.

Tools of the Trade / Re: Painting Marley - is it possible?
« on: Oct 09, 2018, 06:21 pm »
I don't think you could  paint it (if you wanted it to remain flexible enough to roll up). It might be able to take a dye. Perhaps something like this Vinyl dye (sorry it's from an australian site) might work.

In Australia, it is more an events thing than an arts thing. Many gov't departments require a welcome to country or land acknowledgement.

Yes, I have had a cast member perform the welcome. Basically if it is performed by an aboriginal, it would generally be a Welcome to Country which is a bit more grandiose - an acknowledgement of country can be done by anyone - generally we would record a VO if we were doing a cultural performance and just play it at the top of show straight after killing house lx.

The Australian Aboriginals are tribal - so it is a bit sensitive in that the Whadjuk people's traditional lands cover just under 7,000m2, and we were lucky in that this cast member was openly a member, actively supporting the community.  So in this case we were sure that we were not asking someone from the wrong tribe to perform the welcome. After that I contacted the local elders and explained the event and the nature of the performance. Upon getting their go ahead, just asked the question... it went along the lines of

Me: "Hey Johnny, you know how we are doing the special showing on Tuesday, would you open to performing the welcome to country on behalf of yourself and your elders. We thought it would be more meaningful coming from a member of the company - the South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council have given it the go ahead if you are open to it?"
Johnny: "Yeah, sure."
Me: "Cheers."

Out communications with SWALSC generally also involved us ensuring an allowance was paid for the cast member for performing the Welcome to Country as if an elder came to do it we would have to pay the elder for their time - usually around AU$500-AU$1000 - so we would pay a couple of hundred to the cast member (seeing as they were already there so the burden on them was a bit lower) and to "prove" we were not trying to be exploitative. And it generally came as a surprise to the cast member when it showed up in their pay.

Personally I find the whole exercise a little bit sad - especially as the acknowledgement in particular is to tick a box on the event organisers political correctness guideline sheet and is read word for word from a piece of paper with no real meaning behind it.

Talk to the local native council or similar if it exists - where I am, in Perth Australia, the traditional "Acknowledgement of Country" would be along the following lines:

The <Insert Show Name Here> company wish to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land we are meeting on, the Whadjuk people. We wish to acknowledge and respect their continuing culture and the contribution they make to the life of this city and this region.

It is not generally done before performances except where there is some special significance (ie a performance for high level dignitaries as part of a special gathering) or if the performance is of cultural significance. However in these circumstances it is far more common to have a local elder perform a Welcome to Country.

I break the build down into 4 types of items, Tasks, Milestones, Dependencies and Deadlines.

Everything is a task. A task can have other tasks as dependencies. A task with dependencies is a milestone.

Deadlines are things like "sitzprobe 6pm on build day 4" or "stage to be clear ready for truck 2 to unload at beginning of day 2." They have a fixed time assigned as part of the schedule

A milestone might be "Ready to lay floor", "ready to build set" and may have dependencies like "LX bar 4 flown out"

Some tasks are just tasks. They can be done at any point - for example comms might be able to be done 'whenever'.

I write a list out by by myself based on what I can forsee, then I sit down with the various heads of department and we run through it. They then pipe up with things like "I need to run a couple of mic lines across before we put the floor down" or "I need an hour to pre-rig before LX comes in". After we have sorted this list out we start to look at timing. Don't get task specific. Milestones are where it is at:
Lighting, how long will you need to complete everything on LX 4 so that they can start to build the set? 3 hours. Great. Mechs - how long to pre-rig those points? Right. So if we call LX and Mechs at 8am we can start the set build at 11:30? Great. Next milestone is ...

Handling deadlines is the same sort of thing.

Then there is just a matter of juggling a few things around to try and avoid having departments standing around with nothing to do. Again, don't bog yourself down to the task level - don't even note any small little tasks that are not time dependant - as that is up to the relevant HoD to manage. Identify the milestone tasks, their dependent tasks and the deadlines. Stick times on the milestones and the deadlines and list the dependant tasks before the milestones. Add in crew calls and you have a schedule.

If you want something to assist you - have a look at Gannt chart software - there are a bunch of free ones on line - or there are the big players like Microsoft Project.

"Hey x... Please take this as it is intended, but can you please try to avoid calling me on a Monday - unless you need something urgently sorted for Tuesday? I am a bit sensitive about my time off at the moment because life is a bit hectic. I am happy for you to contact performers directly if you need to deal with an issue regarding illnesses and absence and just send me a summary after the fact - that will probably make your life easier as well. Let me know if you need me to provide an updated contact list to you"

Be honest, and just express it. Without knowing your producer, they probably think they are doing the right thing keeping you in the loop.

Tools of the Trade / Re: Asset Tracking
« on: Jan 31, 2018, 01:25 am »
For consumables, you should not need a database. Excel is more than sufficient.

Generally how I have always run a consumables store is with a table set out with the following columns: Description, Order Qty, PAR, then a number of pairs of columns with dates for consumable counts (SOH 07/10/17 for example) and order quantities. You can then do a third and fourth column to auto-calculate a new total and usage in the period if you want to do some analytics

Process goes like this: Write down all of your consumables and the order quantity ("box (24)" if it comes in a box of 24, "ea" if they are individual, "roll (300')" for things like sash) then establish a PAR level. How often do you want to count and re-order - the more often you count, the less stock you need to keep on hand. Monthly tends to work for many places. Work out your average usage a month - then multiply by 2. That would be your PAR level. Each month, count your consumables. Order up to your par level using your order quantity (handily in the second column of your sheet). Basically it always gives you a months consumables in reserve to account for seasonability. Using the data you gather you can also adjust your PAR levels and fine tune things.

There is also option B  which I call the hoarding method. Order a quantity of every item, and place it somewhere where only a limited number of people have access. Any time you take an item out of that place, order another.

And finally there is option C - I know in Australia there is a company that modified food vending machines to dispense consumables - it dials 'home' and this company then comes and tops you up once the level gets low... you could always try something like that if money is no object.

It largely depends on the company -

If I am working for a company where I know everyone will be using Outlook with corporate email, I will generally put reports straight into the email, because I know the formatting will hold up. It means that people can then search etc. It is just convenient.

If I am working for a company where everyone is a contractor, I send the report as a PDF and any key action points in the body.

This is not just rehearsal reports, this is any reporting - even when I had to do profitability or P&L reporting - I give the summary in the body so that those that don't really care about the nitty gritty can go "Okay, cool, we are $1.50 above budget!" or "Oh... we are a bit behind, maybe I will stop stealing boxes of gaffa tape and taking them home this month"

Tools of the Trade / Re: Improvised com system?
« on: Oct 18, 2017, 04:48 pm »
I would certainly not recommend unity to a community theatre (there are some execptions, not many though) - the cost of unity is on par with wired comms - it needs a good wifi infrastructure and someone to administer it. I provided it's link mainly to show that yes, it can be done... but just because it is using commodity hardware there is still a degree of expense there.

That said, it is another tool that some people may have use for.

Tools of the Trade / Re: Improvised com system?
« on: Oct 18, 2017, 03:09 am »
I would be surprised if there are any reliable phone apps- for one, you're going to have cues that are late if someone's service is bad. You can also use cheap walkie talkies, but they are really not well suited for this.

There is actually a really good phone based coms system - Unity. It is IP based - and you can either cloud host or run the server on an apple computer) so you can use wifi and they sell a range of accessories (like propper headsets and a little bluetooth push-to-talk button). We've used the cloud version for multi-site realtime co-ordination and it is really reliable.

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