Working from home? Switch to the DIGITAL edition of Projection, Lights & Staging News. CLICK HERE to signup now!
Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Search in posts
Search in pages

How to Be an Amateur

Chris Lose • April 2019LD at Large • April 6, 2019

Illustration by Andy Au

I remember looking up to so many big-named LDs in our niche industry perceiving them as professionals who stumbled into a killer gig. It wasn’t until I took my own lumps that I realized that we are all amateurs at first. Only a few among us are willing to cast off the neophyte yoke and step towards the wide-open fields of professionalism. The reason is that being a professional is hard work. It requires attention to detail, a determined mindset and self-growth. Professionalism requires a constant stream of well-informed decisions, power of will and a bit of good luck. In this article, I’d like to cover a few things that separate amateurs from professionals. While reading through this list of random phrases and colloquialisms, you can decide if you would like to remain an amateur or take the necessary steps towards the professional grindstone.


‡‡  How to Remain an Amateur

Blame others. When you make a mistake, find the second most relevant person and blame them. If you call your spotlights in late, do not take any responsibility at all. Blame the local follow-spots, the operators and the clear-com. Admitting guilt will only make you look weak and incompetent.

Stop achieving as soon as you are comfortable. You just got promoted to lead mopping guy. You are a great mopping guy. Stop right there. Anything above mopping and sweeping is going to be too hard for you. You worked three full days to get to this position. Putting in extra time and effort would just be a waste of time. You love playing your .mp3s really loud from the mobile phone speakers in your back pocket while you mop. Why would you ever give that up?

Tell everyone how good you are at everything. If people don’t know that you are the best at something, they won’t know to feel bad about themselves. Everyone around you needs to be reminded of your resume and your accomplishments at least weekly. Don’t forget to name drop egregiously. If you see a woman doing a task, show her a better way to do it.

Focus on your weaknesses. If you do not know how to program a ChamSys console, let everyone know how stupid the designers are. You tried to program it once and you weren’t immediately good at. Therefore, you must naturally suck at it. Spending time to improve your skills would be time squandered. You’re just not good at it and anyone who is good at it is lame.

Don’t share your knowledge. If anyone learns what you know, they will take your gig. They will also take that information and use it somewhere else. They will immediately forget that you were the one that taught them that skill. They will never return the favor. Keeping your information to yourself is the only way to maintain job security.

Focus on being right. Being right is the most important thing to anyone and everyone. That will never ever change. Not ever. Nothing else has ever mattered. You must continue to be right no matter what anyone else says. If they persist to prove you wrong, just state your case louder and to more people. Being louder and more obnoxious will only prove your case.

Focus on the short term. You can’t foresee the future, so don’t try. Burn your bridges because nobody cares. If you get fired, the best thing to do is to publicly trash the people at the company that fired you. There is no way that the production manager from your former gig will take up employment at a future tour that is considering you for a job.

Be inconsistent. Don’t always do what people tell you to do. More importantly, don’t do what you tell people you are going to do. Being inconsistent keeps your coworkers on their toes. They never know what you are going to do next, so they have to pay attention to you. That attention will make you feel self-important and superior. You deserve to feel that way most of the time.

Think in absolutes. You have already proven that you are right all the time. Therefore, everything you say is absolutely true all the time. If you hung the rig that way one time, it has to be hung that way every single time. Any other configuration is dead wrong and changing the hang is admitting failure. Never let yourself be invalidated.

Treat disagreements as threats. When people don’t like the way you are doing something, they don’t like you. Take it personally, very personally. People who have a different point of view are conspiring against you. They want to tease you and make an example of your ineptitude. Treat them as enemies and never compromise.


‡‡  How to Become a Professional

If these values above don’t suit you, you might want to become a professional.

Take responsibility. If you do well, own it. If you do bad, own it. Learn from your mistakes.

Break out of your comfort zone and explore new opportunities. Don’t leave good enough alone. You will find the most rewarding projects in the least likely places.

Be comfortable and honest with your strengths and weaknesses. If you are proficient programming lights but not media servers, let people know. If you lie about your knowledge, you will get caught more times than you don’t.

Focus on your strengths and improve them. If you don’t enjoy audio but you do enjoy lighting, then focus on lighting and pursue your interests. If you notice that you excel in content creation, keep learning every little trick that you can. Download the trial versions of new software and keep honing your skills.

Share your knowledge and accept help. Tell people which techniques you prefer to use. Share your macros. Don’t be afraid to spread the wealth. We can all learn from each other responsibly.

Focus on the best outcome. Always being right does not always lead to the best outcome. Putting aside your ego and working towards a common goal will provide much more consistent results.

Focus on the long term. Resist the urge to be impulsive and petty. Proving that you are more willing to maintain long-term relationships will eventually lead to a more prosperous career.

Be consistent. Consistently do what you say you are going to do. Do it when you say you are going to do it. Do it the way you say you are going to do it.

Think in probabilities. Nothing is absolute. People prefer to know the probabilities of certain outcomes. We can always strive for one hundred percent certainty. Most likely, even professionals maintain a ninety percent certainty value. Don’t be afraid to admit that you are ten percent uncertain.

Treat disagreements as an opportunity. You will disagree with many people many times in your career. Treat them with equal respect and engage their opinions with appropriate value.

Amateurs try to bend the ways of the world to their own will. Professionals work within the world and respect the reality and chaos of the world. The chaos can frighten and deter the amateur from venturing into unknown territory while the professional is ready to take on new adventures with confidence.

The Latest News and Gear in Your Inbox - Sign Up Today!