It's party time at the Tribeca Film Festival in downtown Manhattan. Hundreds of well-heeled film fans are enjoying the fabulous environments created by Tom Lenz of Tom Lenz Design and lighting designer Christien Methot of the New York City firm design one. The two designers collaborated in transforming a pair of unusual spaces for the opening and closing events, produced by Dalzell Productions, for the third annual festival this past May. The opening night party was held at the Winter Garden, a massive ten-story marble and glass atrium at the World Financial Center overlooking the Hudson River (this space was damaged when the World Trade Center towers collapsed; it was restored and reopened one year later).
“We only had one day before the event to load in. We had to focus and cue the same evening,” says Methot. “We would only see the lighting again the next day when the doors were open and the guests were arriving.”
The design challenge was creating a dark, sultry environment in a space flooded with light during the day. As the focus of the lighting could only take place after dark, Methot used primarily automated fixtures so that he was able to scale down to a skeleton crew at night, cutting back from ten union stagehands for the load-in to a smaller crew of four at night. There is also a non-union house crew at Winter Garden, who also worked at night, to focus the conventional fixtures. “Our division of labor worked very nicely. At night, we focused the conventional fixtures with the smaller crew.”
Programmer Estaban Lima worked on both parties. “He came in halfway through the load-in to make sure the console was set up and patched properly and group the fixtures, then programmed late at night,” notes Methot. His rig of 18 Martin MAC 2000 Performance fixtures and 9 MAC 250 Krypton units was set up as an independent system from the in-house lighting system and run on a High End Systems Whole Hog® II console. The gear was rented from Scharff Weisberg Lighting. “I sent someone over there to do a shop prep before the gig,” Methot notes.
Giant palm trees are part of the permanent decor at the Winter Garden, and that motif was enhanced by adding palm leaf gobos (Rosco reverse palms) into the 100+ ETC Source Fours® that hang on a catwalk around the perimeter of the space and are controlled by an ETC Emphasis™ system. “This added ambient light and floor texture in rich amber,” Methot notes. He alternated R20 (medium amber) and R22 (deep amber), overlapping the colors for a layered look.
The automated fixtures, hung on trusses above the palm trees, echoed the medium amber. “This created a nice mix of real palm leaf shadows and the more abstract, romantic texture from the gobos,” says Methot, who placed the trusses just above the trees to contain the height of the space. “The tops of the trees acted as a roof,” he explains. “The MAC 2000s swished through the tree tops as if a tropical breeze.” The MAC 250s, with a rich, amber-like fire effect, were used to light large fabric lanterns. At the bottom of the palm trees, PAR46 spotlights with R20 gel were used as uplights, two per tree to create the same view from both sides, adding to the overall ambiance and the hot and fiery atmosphere of the party, which had performances taking place on a grand staircase and in two places on the floor.
In contrast, the closing night party, held in the atrium of the Embassy Suites hotel that connects to one of the movie theatres used for the festival, was cool. “The idea was to make it a little seedy, like a hip downtown bar,” says Methot, who opted to negate the height of the space as much as possible. “So you didn't feel like you were in a fishbowl,” he says. “Both parties were about intimacy.”
A large circular bar in the center of the room was topped with a tree of life made out of stretched fabric and lit from the bottom using a Selecon PACIFIC 90° fixture with a 10” scroller. In addition, VARI*LITE VL5 arc units and VL6C spots (Methot used a total of 40 VL5s and 24 VL6Cs from VLPS via Scharff Weisberg) were placed along one side of the room and hidden amongst trees and plants. “You couldn't hang fixtures overhead, attach anything to the walls, or take up floor space,” says Methot, who has become a master of transforming such unlikely spaces.
Faced with these constraints, he created a pipe structure in black so it would “disappear.” The VL6Cs projected leaf gobos (with the equivalent color of Lee 116 medium blue green), helping accentuate the feeling of the light coming from behind the trees. The same programming-by-night schedule was used here but took less time as there were no performances to take into account.
“We wanted to morph colors throughout the evening,” says Methot, who even incorporated Budweiser Red (sponsor of the party) by wrapping compact fluorescent fixtures on poles with red gel, and the VL6Cs projected Budweiser logos as well as Tribeca Film Festival logos. Methot's designs were based on concepts presented by Lenz, who made initial drawings for each event. “I was able to look at the drawings and say what could happen in terms of time and budget, then back into the design from there,” says Methot. “There were more logistical constraints at the Embassy Suites, and you never know how long things will take with an unknown crew. But the lack of time is what inspires your most creative solutions.”