If you Google “power,” the top result comes from Wikipedia and refers to its meaning in physics, defining it as “the rate at which work is performed or energy is converted. It is an energy per unit of time.” (You also get Real Ultimate Power: The Official Ninja Webpage, but that’s an entirely different article.)
We happen to think the 50 people on this list expend quite a bit of energy per unit of time in the world of entertainment technology. They get the job done, whether it’s creating genuinely original designs, building those innovative sets, developing truly groundbreaking products, or getting the shows on the road without hiccups.
Sure, you may ask, but why a list of powerful people? Power might seem like a bit of an odd concept, especially in an industry like ours, where at the end of the day, everyone is beholden to producers or directors or rock stars or some other higher (but not necessarily smarter) authority.
But there is a precedent for this: We actually did the same thing in the pages of Entertainment Design about, oh, five or six years ago, and it generated a lot of interest back then. And sometime last year, we said to ourselves, why not revisit it? It might be interesting to see who’s still on the list and who didn’t make the cut. It might also be a lot of fun.
So, roughly six months of planning, tallying, and consideration led to this highly unscientific, no doubt incomplete, and potentially head-spinning list, compiled from nominations from our readers, our Advisory Board, and the editors of Live Design. This group includes projection, lighting, and sound designers, inventors, top dogs at production and manufacturing companies, and even an agent. Note that it does not include producers, performers, or media types, because, well, that just wouldn’t be as fun. Note also that the first ten on the list represent the biggest vote getters, in alphabetical order, with the rest, also in alphabetical order, following them.
We bet you can think of at least one person who’s not on here who should be, so send your picks to email@example.com, and we’ll post them on our website.
So, without further ado, we present your 50 Powerful People, starting with the top ten. Let the debates begin.1. Bob Dickinson
Principal Lighting Designer, Full Flood
Oscars, Grammys, Kennedy Center Honors—you name it. Tune in, and you’ll see that the real winner of televised awards shows is Dickinson. Everyone glows in his presence, from musicians to politicians, including Michelle and Barack Obama dancing cheek to cheek. In Vancouver, he lit the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympic Games and will head to the Shanghai Pavilion for Expo 2010. Dickinson was an early adopter of digital lighting, packing the pizzazz of the video palette into his toolbox.
2. Mark Fisher
Principal Designer, Stufish
Architect of the world’s largest events, Fisher grabbed the attention of a billion television viewers when he synthesized 5,000 years of Chinese culture into the jaw-dropping opening ceremonies for the Olympic Games in Beijing. Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones, Janet Jackson, AC/DC, and Tina Turner are big fans, not to mention U2 and the how-did-he-do-it scenic claw for the 360° Tour. This man’s only competition is himself, and it’s getting tougher as he continues to raise the stakes every time he heads out of the gate.
3. Fred Foster
Foster has accomplished a few things since last being on this list in 2004. He received a Wally Russell Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007, and today, ETC populates the planet with over 2.5 million Source Four® fixtures in various venues. In addition to launching the Eos® family of consoles, the company also acquired Selador early last year, marking its foray into LEDs. And if that wasn’t enough, ETC Rigging™ was launched at LDI2009, along with new products, Prodigy™ hoists and Quicktouch™ controls, and the company finished construction of a 50,000sq-ft. facility in the Netherlands.
4. Wendall K. Harrington
She may still pine for those old PANI projectors and recall the days when 35mm slides were the only game in town, but this image junkie is sure to turn her talents to whatever technology the projection industry throws her way. Broadway, opera, and concerts are all in her bailiwick, and to help focus the next generation of designers on a sharper image, Harrington heads the new projection major at the Yale School of Drama. How’s that for smart?
5. Jeremiah Harris
Chairman & CEO, PRG
With his 20/20 vision for industry dynamics, Harris has brought countless companies under the PRG umbrella, indelibly reshaping the landscape of our business since the mid-1990s. From product distribution and manufacturing, to systems integration, to the addition of PRG Video, PRG continues to make its mark, creating a strong worldwide presence. With his recent acquisition of Germany’s Procon, who knows what companies he will be scooping up next?
6. Abe Jacob
What is there to say about the reigning Godfather of sound design? We think fellow sound designer Jonathan Deans said it best in our tribute to Jacob in 2008 (“All About Abe,” March 2008): “Without Mr. Abe Jacob, I would be lost and drowned, deep in the art of sound, without having been able to express my creative thoughts and ideas for live entertainment sound.” Jacob is involved with the complete renovation of the New York State Theatre, now the David H. Koch Theatre, and working on an Arizona Theatre Company production. Who else could be the creative consultant for the Live Design Broadway Sound Master Classes but the masters’ master himself?
7. Rudy Provoost
EVP/CEO, Philips Lighting
Provoost spent eight years at Philips from 2000 to 2008 before arriving at his current position as Philips Lighting’s executive vice president/CEO and chairman of the company’s sustainability board. In his newer role, he took on responsibility for a division that includes several of our industry’s “household” brands, including Color Kinetics, Selecon, Strand, and Vari-Lite, the latter three as part of the acquisition of Genlyte. Now, Provoost aims to make Philips the most diversemanufacturer in lighting, encompassing commercial, residential, and entertainment markets, especially looking at LED replacement as a reality in fixtures of all types.
8. David Rockwell
Founder/CEO, Rockwell Group
Architect and scenic designer, this is the man to turn to for the most inviting environments in which to sleep, eat, and be entertained. Rockwell has been honored by his peers with award after award for the panache, style, and verve of his hotels, restaurants, casinos, and Broadway sets. His gilded look for the Academy Awards put the tinsel back in tinsel town at the Kodak Theatre, also a Rockwell design.
9. Willie Williams
Think U2, think Willie Williams. Pop Mart, Vertigo, 360°—he has given this band some of the most eye-popping visual solutions ever to hit the concert circuit. His crowning glory is the expanding video screen on the U2 360° Tour, which may end up reinventing what can be achieved in an arena setting. And he’s so casually brilliant, so nonchalantly inventive. Who else would put spinning cut-glass cake plates under colored light for an art exhibit?
10. Patrick Woodroffe
A senior statesman in rock ‘n’ roll lighting, Woodroffe has lit the who’s who of music since the early 1980s, from AC/DC to The Rolling Stones by way of The Pet Shop Boys, Depeche Mode, Bob Dylan, Genesis, Simon & Garfunkel, Elton John, Rod Stewart, and Tina Turner, to name a few. He’s equally at home shedding light on dance, theatre, opera, classical music, architecture, fashion shows, and industrials. A taste of his lighting for Michael Jackson’s would-have-been concert series at O2 in London can be seen in the film, This Is It.