Bruce Rodgers discusses his process and production design for the Super Bowl XLVII Halftime Show.
LD: You’ve designed quite a few Super Bowl Halftime Shows to date. How did this year’s involvement come about?
Bruce Rodgers: This is my seventh consecutive Halftime Show design, my first being the Prince design and last year's Madonna show being the sixth. After Madonna’s process last year, with 1,000 gladiators, a massive drum line and choir, many dancers, and a huge video, lighting, and staging installation, we felt we were ready for anything this year, or so we thought!
Given the massive audience at the Super Bowl event, every chosen band or artist wants to make the Halftime Show the best and biggest of their careers. It's a risky roll of the dice, one of the biggest known production challenges, and a huge adrenalin rush: over 1,000 show people working together to pull off a 12-minute, world class musical performance, with about eight minutes to install, power, and connect perfectly to be ready for a superstar musician or performer to do his or her thing for a massive live and televised audience. It's not for the faint of heart. It's stressful and dangerous, but if it's successful it can be completely satisfying. If anything is below par or if we experience a technical glitch, it tends to be remembered more often than great performances.
In a nutshell, no other type or performance installation matches the intensity or scale of a Super Bowl Halftime Show. I say all of this to help paint the picture of the type of show people it takes to pull it off.
From our executive producer Ricky Kirshner, director Hamish Hamilton, producer Rob Paine, lighting designer Al Gurdon, and all our amazing teams, to the stage managers, staging supervisors, and crews, talent and field audience choreographers and wranglers, camera people, utility people, special effects, tech managers, and over 600 volunteers, to the production and catering and runner teams--too many to name--these are hard working personalities, hell-bent on achieving and presenting the greatest 12 minutes possible for the audience.
I find myself both excited and concerned during the design process, working with our entire team to help find the perfect balance of spectacle and do-ability. Each process is a high tech, mechanical, and artistic challenge--a puzzle--and every venue offers challenges, gifts, limits.
The wild card is always the artist and her/his desires. Early on we, knew Beyoncé was our artist for the New Orleans show, which made for high anticipation for a massive performance, not only for her adoring fans, but for our production team. We knew Beyoncé was a driven, talented, fearless, and competitive artist with many huge productions under her belt. And similar to Madonna, Beyoncé had a talented production team with an "anything is possible" DNA coded identically into all of their minds.
Our Halftime team has our own code, as well, and an understanding of the tasks ahead, so the combination of the two teams made for several months of chaotic design steps and, ultimately, the most intense January and early February days leading up to Super Bowl Sunday that many of us can remember. Ultimately, the raw real and amazing performance of Beyoncé came through and made for an unforgettable Halftime Show.
BR: After meeting with Beyoncé, we knew early on that the vibe was about being real, raw, dangerous, massive and memorable. The goal was to achieve the connection that Prince made when he was alone on stage but with a production scale that matched or bettered Madonna's epic show. So I'd say the design philosophy was "less and more is more." With Beyoncé, we tried to find moments to let her shine alone on stage, balanced with moments when she was joined by over 100 dancers, her band, huge pyro cues, and epic cinematic lighting and camera work.
LD: How involved does Beyoncé and her own team get in the actual design?
BR: Beyoncé means to be completely involved. Her busy schedule causes a lot of starts and stops, and the gaps are filled in and interpreted by her personal team of managers, designers, etc. It was often frustrating but always fruitful. Usually moments in the process would come to a dramatic crescendo, and then we would gather for a quick catch up meeting with her, and she would bring us back to the basics of her goals and help simplify to find the essence of the show again. Somehow the simple powerful goals were all achieved.
Stay tuned for Part 2 or our discussion with Bruce Rodgers, and check out all of his renderings here.