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Liars, Cheat and Thieves

Chris Lose • LD at LargeMay 2020 • May 6, 2020

Illustration by Andy Au

The entertainment industry is a feral bunch of pirates running amok in the civilized world crushing decorum, degrading societal norms and promoting debauchery. But it’s not all fun and games. We also have a job to do. We have to pretend that our passion for all that glitters deserves a paycheck. Even while pillaging city after city from onboard our pirate bus, we have to at least attempt to treat one another with mutual respect and dignity. I feel this is a good time to talk about the unspoken honor amongst thieves. Even while looting the audiences of their hard-earned paychecks, we have to take a moment to talk about some lines that even marauders won’t cross. We don’t poach, we don’t rob from one another and we don’t stab each other in the back without a smile. I hope you will be willing to put down your bottle of rum, step back from the plank and discuss the ethics of the lighting game with me.

‡‡         Poachers Beware

Lighting directors and some operators often have the skills and the abilities to do everything that a reputable lighting designer does. They can often provide similar services at a fraction of the price, because they don’t require offices or carry many overhead costs. That does not mean that they should seek to rob the hand that feeds them. Designers are required to put their full trust into their directors. Designers need directors to represent them for weeks and months without supervision. This allows ample time for gray areas to materialize. If the production needs to drop two trusses to fit into a smaller venue, then the director needs to make that call without disturbing the designer. But if the artists decide to change half the songs and rework the entire stage show, then the director has a moral obligation to alert the designer. This is where our ethical framework comes into play. If the designer feels that her design is no longer a part of the equation, then she has to decide if her services are still required. If she gives her blessing to the director to take the reins, then all is permissible. If not, the director must adhere to the designer’s wishes. Transparency is the key to avoiding a full-on gig poach. If the director disrespects the designer without full knowledge, then a gig poach has taken place and retribution is justifiable.

‡‡         Cheaters Never Prosper

I am not one who deletes my show file from a desk after a show. I leave them on there with full knowledge that the next person to power up the console could take my file and reverse-engineer my show. I have to rely on my faith in humanity that they will not use my file for nefarious reasons. I hope that they will use it to advance their own learning and see how a seasoned vet builds a show file. What I hope they won’t do is reverse-engineer my system and sell it on YouTube as a tutorial. I really hope that they don’t take my file and proposition my clients. Having my file gives any random person with proper motivation the necessary tools to steal my gig with very little repercussion. I like to think that even with my show file, they can’t replace me. I like to think that my experience and execution are what set me apart from other professionals. Eventually, a lack of integrity and rectitude will expose the cheater, and karma will have its way with them. I like to think that, but I am an optimist by nature.

‡‡         Liars Never Win

Padding your resume seems like a great way to get your foot in the door. It seems enticing because it is so easy in the digital world. We can all take photos and upload them to our websites and claim them as our own. We can do a load-in as a stagehand for Buns & Hoses and expand the truth to say that we worked with Buns & Hoses on their 2018 tour. Lying is easy on the internet. It is not as easy in the real world. It will catch up with you eventually.

This happened to me. I’d like to share my experience so that you can avoid the same pitfall. When I started my website, it lacked pizazz. One way of spicing it up was to put the logos of the companies that I had worked for. I had been lighting designer for several large companies that year, and it only seemed fitting that I include them on my website. The problem was that I was not working for them directly. I was working as a freelancer for a production company for all of these major events. Jason Newman, former project manager for NMR Staging & Events, stumbled upon my website and politely called me out on it. He sent me an email explaining that those were not my clients, they were his. He was absolutely correct, and I updated my website immediately. I still listed them as projects, but I changed the citations around to give credit where credit was due. Instead of saying “Chris Lose, Lighting Designer for MegaGlobalNet,” my website reads “Chris Lose, Lighting Designer for NMR, with clients such as: MegaGlobalNet.”

‡‡         Honor Amongst Thieves

We are an open share community now. We can learn consoles without even leaving our bedroom or opening our pocketbook. We are all eager to share our tips and tricks that we have perfected from days or years behind the console. Some people go as far as uploading their own plots, macros, effects and complete show files to the web. The amount of information available to us is dizzying. With the good, comes the bad — there are sharks in the water. Recently, I have heard two stories from well-respected programmers who have found their show files being monetized on the internet by scallywags. It’s a risk that we all take by being pirates, but always give a pirate his due, or walk the plank.

‡‡         Property Rights

Copyright is considered a basic human right because intellectual property is property. We all have a right to own property that is tangible or intangible. That means that our art is ours. However, most of us are corporate artists. We are mostly selling our skills, our talents and our artistic opinion to the highest bidder. If they have paid our fee, then our work and our efforts belong to our client. If they don’t pay up, then they have no claim to our efforts. If Jack finishes two weeks of programming and a paycheck does not show up in a timely manner, Jack is justified in clearing the console and holding his USB stick in a locked chest until a booty of doubloons arrives. His services were not compensated. However, Jack is only entitled to withhold his efforts. If he were to climb above this level, he would be out of his justification. If Jack wrote a macro that cleared the console, deleted the media and cleared all settings, he would be a hornswoggle and deserves to spend a day in the brig.

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