Getting the Most Out of Production Companies

In Uncategorizedby tfwm

Often, having a new lighting system installed or completely revamping the old one isn’t always financially feasible at the outset. Consider using a lighting rental / production company as a responsible and effective stopgap solution.

In the ongoing effort to attract larger congregations and expand their outreach potential, churches across the country have been moving toward more and more sophisticated technological enhancements to their services and special programs. As worship directors have tried to react to and anticipate where this trend will take their church, more and more are finding that their current facilities often cannot provide the equipment or expertise needed to make the worship presentation as effective as it might be. Either there are holes in the existing lighting systems that prevent the right effect from being achieved, or the church lacks any kind of lighting system altogether, greatly diminishing the overall desired effect.

The obvious solution is to wait until funds have been raised to purchase and install a new system or overhaul and expand an existing one. A feasible temporary solution might be to find out what lighting companies are in your area and what services they can provide your church. Most will, at minimum, place small ads in your local yellow pages (try headings like “Theatrical Lighting” or “Theatrical Equipment / Supplies”).

When you’re beginning the planning stages of your Christmas program, special Sunday service or any other out-of-the-ordinary event and you realize that you want to take your program to the next level, there are a few things to consider when opening a conversation with a production company.

1. Who will design the show?
Some churches have resident lighting designers who know the ins-and-outs of lighting technology and can simply call up a rental company and order what’s necessary. Many, however, have someone with the vision of what the event should look like, but may not have the expertise to achieve it. Many rental and production companies have lighting designers on staff who have years upon years of experience working in a wide variety of spaces.

2. Begin the planning for your event well in advance.
Typically, lighting companies get booked for major holidays two months or more in advance. If you anticipate needing them, it’s best to let them know early so you’re on their radar screen.

3. Have a clear sense of what your budget will be.
Be prepared to speak, at least in general terms, of what your budget is with the lighting company. Part of the design process for these companies is the ability to get the most bang for the buck, so they won’t waste time and budget designing a show with dozens of computer-controlled moving lights (à la Millionaire) if all you really need are a few fixtures that occasionally change the color of scenes or backdrops.

4. Consider your use of laborers
Labor cost is a considerable portion of the expense of having an outside company come in and direct the technical side of the event and to reduce costs, the temptation is to have members of your congregation volunteer to help the lighting company. However, many times you’ll find that lighting companies won’t allow the use of labor other than their own for scheduling and insurance reasons. When scheduling their labor calls, they depend on their crew to get a job done in a certain, limited amount of time, and those crew people often have dozens of shows under their belt with that company, so they know what’s expected with a minimum amount of instruction. Unless the people you would provide are known to the company or already have extensive experience in the industry, most lighting companies will insist on using their own crew. If the production company does allow you to provide your own crew to assist in the set-up and tear-down of the show, it’s very important to make absolutely certain that the crew you provide are dependable and can unequivocally commit to the call times.

If for some reason your people are not available when they are needed after they’ve said they would be, the lighting company will have to call in its own resources at the last minute, something that would cost the church more in the end. Also, make certain that the crew you provide have the skills set for the job. The term electrician in the lighting industry means something very different from an electrician from a power or wiring contractor. Generally speaking, an electrician from your local power company won’t have the first notion of what to do with theatrical lighting instruments.

5. Renting Equipment for your production
If you do find out that you do have a member in your congregation who just happens to have been the Technical Director for the 1987 Carmen world tour, and all you really need is some additional equipment, many productions companies will be happy to rent their equipment to you. In most cases, though, rental terms differ from those of a full production. For instance, with a rental most companies will not assume liability for the way an event turns out, artistically or otherwise, and generally has no responsibility for how the equipment is used once it leaves their shop. The effects of their design and planning experience ends when you leave their office.

The most important thing to remember about the lighting company you contract to do an event is that you’re hiring a group of professionals who ­ more often than not ­ are masters of the trade. Use their experience and expertise as a tool to get the most out of your service.