Inspired by: “Take Me to the Alley” by Gregory Porter
When I was a young Stagehand and Camera Utility just starting in this industry, I was constantly looking for guidance. I was constantly looking for someone to show me the way. I was searching for someone who could see my strengths and weaknesses and show me where I could make improvements. I was looking for a mentor. A mentor to help adjust the grayscale of my projected image.
Grayscaling a projector is the process of analyzing lines of white, black, and variations of gray to achieve a true representation of those colors. Similar to white balancing and black balancing a camera, grayscaling is removing or adding steps of Red, Blue, or Green to an image to make it ideal.
When dealing with multiple projectors and screens, this process is repeated several times until all of the images are balanced and matching. However, before the process can begin, one image has to be adjusted and identified as “good”. Then, that image can be used as a role model, and thus becomes the overall guide.
I recall working on a 20 projector blend and tirelessly color matching each image. This is a tedious process, but as one trains their eyes to see the variations in color, it becomes easier to identify the discrepancies. Two of my mentors, Phil Licari and Melvin LeGrand taught me this process. They were able to see the patterns and isolate the colors. They helped me to realize that with time and repetition, I too would one day see the colors.
In an industry where so much of what we do is a collaborative effort and teamwork-based, having a role model or mentor to teach and guide you is key. Throughout my career, I have viewed myself as an apprentice or mentee to some of the industry’s leaders. Many of them may not have even noticed, but I have studied their moves, their work ethic, and made them my own. I have noticed how they pre-produced a show, aligned their projectors, interacted with the clients, and carried themselves on show site. I have seen both the good and the bad. I have seen technicians bully their way into getting a desired result, and I have seen technicians pour so much honey onto a situation, there was no room left for any vinegar. We all have different approaches. I have come to realize that when working in environments with so many different personalities, one needs to understand which approach will yield the best result.
There are so many things about this industry that aren’t taught, but they can be learned. They can be observed. You can see the people who are successful. You can see the ones who are standing out, and you can see the ones who are making their mark. Those are the people who are making it better, not only for the ones currently in the industry, but also for the next generation.
Throughout the many years working with Jay Richardson of Nautic Sound Technologies, LLC, I have come to realize he is someone who is always willing to share his knowledge. He is constantly working to improve his personal bandwidth and is also willing to add value to the people with whom he interacts. From A1s and A2s to Stagehands and members of other departments, Jay shares information because he understands the value of a good mentor. He understands how Master Audio Engineers Steve Griffen, Billy Walsh, and Shane Smith helped him to get to where he is today. Those are the people that made a difference in his life. Now, he has the same opportunity to pay it forward.
One thing I am sure we can all agree upon is that this is extremely demanding industry, and you can easily burn yourself out. However, I believe the key to “making it” and enduring the test of time is by giving back to others and helping them to improve. Helping people to stand out.
Leizl Bala is an Assistant Stage Manager who has been in the industry for over 25 years. As she begins to take on more Stage Manager roles, Leizl has been mentoring and training fellow ASMs. Her desire is to help them understand how they can be successful too. “I tell people that I help open the door for them. It’s up to them to not wear out their welcome and be a good contributor/team member.”
As I have spoken to and interviewed several people throughout this industry, there has been one common theme: Mentorship. Time and time again, technicians are brought into this industry after another technician has either seen their work or heard how great of a person the are. I am sure you have your own story that involves a mentor. I am sure someone took a risk on you because they knew you could make a difference. They knew you could handle the pressures of this industry, and you would one day become a benchmark and model image.
Now, see yourself as that role model. Take some of the Reds, Greens, and Blues out of your image and refine your process. Allow others to see the changes they can make in themselves, and hopefully, one day, they too will be a model image.
Understanding what changes you can make in yourself to be a light for others, in my opinion, is the key to life…
Clem Harrod is the Owner and Chief Projection Officer of CLEMCO.AV. He has over 20 Years in Live Event Production, including 15 Years in Corporate Events, 15 Years with the Orlando Magic, and 4 Years with Florida State University and Seminole Productions. Clem is a proud husband and father who resides in Tampa, Florida.