For Adrian Goldberg, 1999 started out with a bang--and will end with another, much bigger one. A company he has worked with for a decade, Performance Pyrotechnic Associates (PPA), added its explosives expertise to the City of Toronto, North York's New Year's festivities, as well as the pre- and post-game celebration at this year's Super Bowl. On December 31, the designer will ring in the year 2000 by lighting up the city of Toronto, his home base, while PPA Canada, which he co-founded in 1992, will "blow up" the city's harbor. In between, expect to see him at live events that have run the gamut from Billy Graham Crusades to this year's Sky Power & Beyond in Houston, all while he maintains his other lighting-related business interests.
Born in Britain, Goldberg is well-assimilated into the Canadian lighting community, whose ranks he joined a few years after arriving in the country in 1970. "I'm a certified financial analyst, who got into this by way of amateur theatre," he says, before wryly recalling his first day on the job as a lighting professional. "I had been acting, and one day we needed to change a light. I offered to climb a scaffold to get at it. No one else wanted to do it, and I was scared of heights. However, I had one Scotch too many...." While no longer mixing Scotch and scaffolds, he has seen a few more fixtures since settling into an offstage role.
An early assignment for Goldberg was writing the lighting specifications for The Leah Posluns Theatre, which is affiliated with Toronto's Jewish Community Center. "I didn't know how to do that, but I contacted everyone I could think of in theatre, TV, and manufacturing, and got it done in three weeks." Peter Rogers, now with Strand Lighting, was one source, as was Tom Swartz, former LD at Canada's Global Television and now head of Rosco Canada. Goldberg later worked on some shows for the TV station one summer, which turned into a six-year stint at Global, where he rose through the ranks to become a lighting director.
A superhero propelled him into a new phase of his career in 1986. Brought in by gaffer Maris Jansens, Goldberg helped transform an old bus depot ("a horrendous place") into a full-scale studio for the TV series Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future, one of the biggest productions Toronto had ever seen. He also worked on the lighting of episodes of the 80s take on Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Jansens then tapped Goldberg's financial acumen to help manage Lightsource, a rental facility Jansens co-owned with director of photography Rene Ohashi.
But with encouragement from mentors including Jim Henson and John Rook, with whom he had collaborated on some TV specials, he continues to illuminate projects that interest him. These include the opening ceremonies for the Toronto SkyDome in 1989, his first contact with St. Louis-based PPA and its pyrotechnic designer, Eric Tucker.
In 1992, he struck out on his own and opened The Source Shop, "a one-stop sales company" for Toronto's burgeoning film/TV industry. "A support system hadn't grown up around it, except in rentals. And there was so much LDs, DPs, grips, makeup people, and others wanted, and no time for them to search 14 different stores to buy it. I felt I knew what they wanted and that we could supply it. Now all the rental companies have shops in-house, so I like to feel we pioneered that industry." Besides an array of lighting gear (the firm recently became a Space Cannon dealer), The Source Shop handles products including expendables and apparel, much of it locally designed.
That same year, Goldberg, with Tucker and production manager Syme Jago, opened PPA Canada. Both branches of the operation have contributed to numerous spectacles, including Rolling Stones and AC/DC tours, major sporting events, and the Sky Power Over Houston shows (see The Light Side, page 104). It has also won the premier fireworks competition, Montreal's Benson and Hedges International. Goldberg will be lighting the aforementioned Toronto Millennium show, a mix of lasers, lights, and fireworks. "PPA is a great blend of talent," he says.
His portfolio is rich in live events that are also televised, requiring a distinctive lighting approach to please different audiences. An exchange with an Egyptian interviewer, some years back while lighting a TV show there, sums up his philosophy on the subject. "I was asked, in Arabic, 'What is good lighting for TV?' and I responded, 'Good lighting for TV is lighting you don't notice.' This was translated, and after a lengthy pause I was asked another question, which made the translator laugh: 'How does it feel to work so hard and have nobody notice what you do?' I thought that captured the profession perfectly."
Goldberg is gaining increased visibility with his ventures. Last year he opened The GelStore, an online resource (at www.gelstore.com) where Rosco gels can be sourced from all over the world. He is also seeking international distributors for The Source Shop's self-designed products. Despite his expanding horizons, some of his best ideas come from his interaction with other Canadian lighting designers.
"A group of us in Toronto gets together and bats ideas around. We all have our areas of expertise. Mine could be that I have such a broad range: theatre, rock and roll, and film/TV." In a career that has ranged from finance to followspots, the smart money is on Goldberg to find new niches for himself and the Canadian lighting industry.