Now that we live and toil in a world in which convergence dominates the landscape, I thought it was time to find out who exactly is responsible for implementing this notion in a practical way during the staging of live events. Who brings it all together? Who is the straw that stirs the staging drink behind-the-scenes?
Meandering through industry shows, we journalist types routinely suffer technology overdoses. The promise of the tools we see can occasionally distract us from the real people who labor hard to bend those tools to meet the will of ambitious producers and creative designers. Our publication tries hard to fight this impulse by highlighting people from various disciplines each issue — audio wizards, lighting gurus, video mavens, rigging daredevils, and so on. But the person who “converges” them, I have learned, is the technical director.
This issue's SRO Interview puts the spotlight on one member of this fraternity — Marty Goldenberg. The article's opening line makes it clear that a TD must be a jack-of-all-trades and a powerful one at that. Yet, the media, the public, and producers rarely talk about TDs and their contributions. Why?
Mitch Teitelbaum, account executive at AV Concepts, Tempe, Ariz., has been hounding me on this issue for months. “The TD is the most important person on any show,” Teitelbaum insists. “They get taken for granted. They are freelancers. They are behind the scenes, while the producer is out front. The TD is the guy you should talk to,” he suggests.
So we did. After informally surveying dozens of others in the industry — producers, designers, vendors, engineers — it turns out that all of them agree with Teitelbaum on this issue.
He and others have suggested that a key reason the TD is rarely publicly accorded his or her due is because the TD usually doesn't want the attention. Like most of us, they want business. So they faithfully execute the vision of the producer and his designers without pursuing publicity, and in so doing, they earn callbacks.
Along the way, though, without much fanfare, they can often make or break vendors. As Goldenberg says, it's hard for vendors to break in with a TD they have never worked with before. Teitelbaum suggests the best way to make their acquaintance is for vendors to initiate their own intimate relations with top-level engineers and other technical freelancers who may have the TD's ear.
“This is a small industry,” Teitelbaum points out. “There are probably only 1,000 guys in the entire country who can successfully put on a really big, state-of-the-art show. Engineers know the TDs, so we do our best to get to know the engineers. Even with their referral, a TD who has never worked with us before almost always insists on trying us out on a small event before he'll even consider giving us a major job, no matter our reputation. So you see, the TD is a powerful person in our industry, and yet, he's very unsung.”
Thus, our attention turns this issue to the TD profession. Look for regular appearances by TDs in upcoming issues. And for those attending LDI's annual awards banquet, you'll see that SRO has teamed with LDI to shine a spotlight on “the unsung” with the initiation of an annual award exclusively for TDs.