It's a long way from the chilly environs of Aberdeen, Scotland, to sun-baked Agoura Hills, CA, but that's the overall itinerary of Mike Falconer's career. Part of the team that handles technical sales and support at AC Lighting Inc. since early March, Falconer is easily learning to love the California lifestyle as he spreads the gospel of AC's product lines to designers and technicians all over the US. It's his job to make people aware of, and comfortable with, such consoles as the Fat Frog from Zero 88 and the GrandMA from MA Lighting (not to mention the Jands Event 4 and other products from Selecon and Reel EFX). As such, he's poised to have a real effect on the American entertainment lighting market.
Born in Aberdeen, Falconer was first drawn to lighting at the age of 13 when, convalescing from a long illness, he saw a BBC documentary about television camera operators. After recovering, he was introduced to the stage by his mother, who was involved in community theatre. After leaving school, he says wryly, “It was off to London to find the streets paved with gold.” In London, he worked backstage at the Shaftesbury Theatre in the West End. “The Shaftesbury had Anthony Hopkins in M. Butterfly, which was the first major show with Rainbow color scrollers,” he recalls. A stint selling CAD software followed, as well as a job at the distributor Lighting Technology.
In 1994, Falconer joined AC Lighting Ltd, in the UK. “I went there to look after the Wholehog® II,” he says, referring to the Flying Pig Systems console that was then the jewel in the crown of the AC product line. “Of course, WYSIWYG was part of that, too. I spent my first year there going around with a Wholehog II and WYSIWYG in my car.”
Times change, and so do product lines. Flying Pig Systems was acquired by High End Systems, and AC Lighting Inc. responded by picking up a number of interesting new products. To help with them, Bob Gordon, president and CEO of AC Inc., lured Falconer to California. “I was interested in making a change in location,” says Falconer, “and the opportunity here with Bob was fantastic. I wanted to work in a slightly smaller company — to develop new products with Bob and the manufacturers. At AC Inc., we're very concentrated on our exclusive products, which we handle, market, and support. That's one aspect of business at AC Ltd., but here it's very much the core.”
As a result, Falconer's job includes seminars and training sessions, held at the offices of various dealers and rental houses. In addition, he's part of AC's 24/7 technical support team. And, he says, he works with MA Lighting and Zero 88 on developing new products. He's also had a hand in AC's marketing efforts and in the update of the company's website.
Much of his time is spent on two of AC's newest products, the Fat Frog and GrandMA consoles, each of which, he notes, has its unique identity. “The Frog is ideal for someone making the transition from conventional to moving lighting,” he says. “It ties the simplicity of a conventional console to a board with moving lights. It's perfect for a rental company to send out to dry hires. A user can read the manual, or get a brief explanation, then get on and program the show.” He notes that the GrandMA has been especially popular with the church market, then adds, “I see a future for it in several markets — certainly theatre. It's a real operator's console; it's all about setting it up and customizing it the way you want it to be.”
Not that he has that much free time, but Falconer does admit that he harbors another ambition: “I'd love to be in on the ground floor of creating a lighting console. We got involved with the GrandMA project after the parameters had been set. I've had a reasonable amount of input with the Frog. But what I'd like to do is go from a piece of paper to a console.”
In addition to his busy schedule at AC, Falconer, who is 30 and single, pursues plenty of other interests, including theatre, film, music, and reading about American history. (He's also rather proud of the fact that his WYSIWYG rendering graces the cover of the new edition of the Stage Lighting Handbook, by Francis Reid.) Also, he adds, “I love climbing — and I've got the weather for it now.” Indeed, he does; when asked how he's finding California, he says, “I'm from Aberdeen, one of the coldest places in Scotland!” He adds, laughing, “I absolutely hate it out here. I just lie by my swimming pool, with the windows open, looking at my convertible, saying, ‘Isn't this awful.’” Don't expect a return trip to Scotland any time soon.