A career in entertainment technology or design can be fun and rewarding, but the biggest challenge can be discovering new opportunities. Whether you’re taking your first foray into a career as a theatre tech or have found yourself in a rut and are looking for a fresh start, here are some tips for getting a fresh start in the industry.
Use Your Resources
When looking for a new position, it’s always good to tap into your personal and professional resources. Talk to technical directors you have worked with to see if they have any recommendations for you based on your strengths, or if they can serve as references when you apply for jobs. These connections may know of a theatre that’s hiring or have contacts at other theatres.
When job hunting, it’s also important to ensure your résumé or CV is professional and up-to-date. Applying for jobs with a strong portfolio gives you a competitive edge over your peers, so make sure it is error-free and capable of wowing any company you apply to.
Attend Cattle Calls
When you’re first getting started in theatre, one way to get a job is at a theatre tech cattle call. You’ll be able to pass your credentials to numerous theatres and performance venues in the area and briefly chat with representatives from participating companies. Keep an eye out for those nearby so you can register early, prepare your talking points, print your résumés (you’ll need dozens of paper copies!), and begin building relationships with important connections.
When a theatre needs extra bodies to help with the turnover from one show to another, they bring in crew members to work as overhire stagehands and carpenters. Some of these overhire positions are physically demanding, as stagehands will be tasked with striking one set and constructing another, while others are technical. If you prove that you can work hard and think on your feet as an overhire, you might be hired for permanent roles.
Try Audio Installation
Lighting and scenic designers often have the knowledge and skills that make them in-demand in other theatre tech domains. Theatres need people who are familiar with various equipment and know how to carefully coordinate it with other systems. Audio technicians apply complex wiring schemes that must be documented, assembled, and installed. Signal and power diagrams must be coordinated with the other designers in order to make the technical operations of a production flow. Your knowledge of lighting can help make that coordination happen.
Become an Assistant
Having a hard time breaking into the industry? Your first step might be to get a position as an assistant designer or an assistant technical director. This position involves supporting the lead scene designer or lighting designer with a myriad of tasks, including scheduling, managing construction, operating equipment, and even clerical or managerial duties. This position will provide you with hands-on experiences and will allow you to build relationships with other theatre professionals and companies that can lead to more permanent positions.
Work in Film
If you’re interested in working on movies or TV, get in touch with a local union or look online for jobs doing pickup work for commercials or short films. In some cities, there are open calls for crew on video or film projects to work for a short term. These experiences, however brief, can be very beneficial for growing a career. For starters, you can see how productions of various sizes operate. For example, some films enjoy larger budgets than many theatres’ annual budgets. And enjoy craft services while you can — film is perhaps the best gig around for food!
Rock Concert Gigs
Connect with local venues or touring festivals to try to get a job. Touch base with your local union, or even check in with concert venues or equipment rental companies to see if they need extra hands. Make the right connections or impress enough people, and you might even be invited to go on tour with a group. You can find job postings for concert techs on crewspace and find yourself on the road in no time.
Short-term work can also lead to other opportunities if you know how to network and talk yourself up. An easy way to make an impression while networking is to have business cards ready. Help to build a positive reputation for yourself with inexpensive but impressive business cards using services like Vistaprint and a website to showcase your design profile with a service like Weebly,WordPress, or Squarespace.
Don't Get Discouraged
Most importantly, remember that, as with many other fields, when you’re first getting started in design, chances are you have to work your way up the ladder into the job of your dreams, and that’s okay! Keep meeting people, taking on new jobs, and growing your skills. There are plenty of short-term positions that will get you a look inside the industry while helping you build experience and providing networking opportunities that might open you up to longer-term jobs in fields you didn’t consider.
You can use theatre-centric career sites like StageJobsPro, OffStageJobs, BroadwayWorld, and Playbill, or even traditional job search sites like Indeed or Glassdoor to land short-term work or even longer-term internships and full-time jobs.