One-stop shopping is the goal of the newly opened Vari-Lite Production Services (VLPS) in Vari-Lite's Las Vegas, Orlando, and Chicago locations. Under the guidance of general manager Mark Fetto, the division became fully operational October 1. Vari-Lite Las Vegas had already been providing conventional gear via subhires, but now the company has devoted an entire staff to this purpose.
"We don't have a huge amount of conventional equipment, but the idea is to give people everything they need to go along with their automated lighting package," Fetto explains. "Our goal is to provide fully integrated lighting systems for our clients, so each office (Chicago, Orlando, and Vegas) will have about 400' (122m) of truss, dimmers, luminaires, DMX consoles, motors, fog machines--we're going to stock ETC Source Four PARs and Source Four ellipsoidals, Genie lifts, Wholehog consoles. We're trying to cover the basics."
VLPS will concentrate on industrials and has already completed projects for charitable events in Las Vegas such as the Inner City Games with Arnold Schwarzenegger, sponsored by the Mirage Hotel, and the Andre Agassi Foundation's Grand Slam for Kids, designed by LD Steve Cohen.
Several key personnel will be helping Fetto manage the workload. Former Vari-Lite employee Zeb Cochran has returned to Vari-Lite in the new position of VLPS technical services manager. Working from the Las Vegas office, he will oversee systems design and logistics. Todd Mertzel, a former shop manager and technical services manager will now support Fetto's efforts in Las Vegas as an account manager.
"We've got Eric Hanson in Chicago, who has many years working for Pete's Lights and Upstaging behind him, and then John Reid in Orlando whose past experience comes from Show Lites, Morpheus, and FM Productions," Fetto says. "Zeb will be traveling to the other offices if there are shows where it's necessary--especially as we're getting started, we want to make sure there are no mistakes. He's heavily involved with that, and sourcing gear that we don't stock. He's also doing the training and bringing our guys up to speed on all the conventional gear, because most road techs don't start out on automation. So he'll be involved with the bigger shows, plus he'll still be doing some programming."
Only a month into it, Fetto remarks that industry reponse has been very positive so far. "A number of clients have said, 'You should have been doing this all along!'" Fetto says. "I want Vari-Lite Production Services to be an unconventional lighting company. It's fun; it's exciting again. Everybody's got a great attitude, and everybody's jazzed up about it, so it will definitely be interesting."
Fetto, Cochran, and Mertzel can be reached by phone at 702/795-4766, or by fax at 702/795-4768, in their new offices at 6231 McLeod Drive, Suite E, Las Vegas, NV 89120. For VLPS in Orlando, contact John Reid at 407/351-9800 (phone) or 407/351-9893 (fax); in Chicago, Eric Hanson can be reached at 847/806-1116 (phone), or 847/806-1188 (fax).