Create the Preliminaries and Send out the Shop Order
Likewise, everything that is scheduled to arrive has
shown up. In some studios, the person who origi-
nally receives the delivery signs his or her initials,
in order to keep track of who got what. While each
of the documents is important to the process, con-
firming that each of the documents has arrived or
departed is just as important. Not only does it reduce
the amount of potential information that can fall
through the cracks, it insures that responsibility is
left at the proper location.
While the Internet and email have accelerated
information exchange in every aspect of modern life,
there are still times when delivered hard copies have
their place. For example, to reduce costs, contracts
are often made between productions and theatres to
use the house equipment either as part of the theatre
rental agreement, or at a lower fee. The preliminary
light plot then often shows the distribution of house
instruments. In order to prevent any misunderstand-
ings, lighting designers often include a copy of the
house lighting inventory in the preliminary drawings
packet sent to all appropriate representatives of the
house, not to mention the management office. If the
actual house lighting equipment totals are less than
what is shown on the inventory, discussions regard-
ing who pays for the additional rental will be much
more quickly resolved, and out of the lighting design-
er’s hands. In those situations, some lighting design-
ers send hard copies that require a signature to prove
acceptance. In case of misunderstanding, this docu-
ment can then be used to show that the drawings
were sent and arrived in good faith.
In the case of Hokey, that situation won’t come
up, since the production isn’t using any house gear. It
will all be part of the rental package that will come
from the lighting rental shop. Once the preliminary
lighting documents have been distributed to the man-
agement office, the creative team, and the production
team, work can immediately begin to tabulate the
equipment in order to send it out to the lighting rental
shops as a shop order.
For the purposes of this text, the shop order refers
to a set of documents that detail lighting equipment
that is rented from a vendor. It usually consists of
two documents, the cover letter, and the actual list of
requested gear, the equipment list.
are generically known as lighting rental shops, or
rental houses. Once equipment rented from a lighting
rental shop is loaded into the venue and combined
with the existing house gear, the complete lighting
package is created. When the theatre is a four-wall
rental (i.e., the only thing the theatre provides in
the rental agreement is the four walls), most light-
ing designers first carefully check the tech specs to
see exactly what, if anything, may be useful or avail-
able for the show. In many commercial theatre rent-
als, the amount of house gear is limited, which in a
way makes the job easier. Merely list everything that
might conceivably be needed to install the light plot.
That’s the idea on paper. The reality, of course, is
completely different.
Since the total amount of equipment required
to produce a lighting design is often unknown until
the preliminary lighting design is created on paper,
the shop order is typically one of the last documents
created in the preliminary plotting process. If a the-
atre owns equipment, the combination of the house
inventory and the rental should result in the lighting
package. If it’s a four-wall theatre, the shop order will
list every piece of equipment, gel frame, and piece of
tie line that will be needed to install the light plot.
Once created and checked, the shop order is then
usually sent to at least two lighting rental shops, so
that their prices can be compared. Once each rental
company analyzes the dates, logistics, and their own
gear availability, they respond with a bid (or quote,
or estimate). A typical bid is a sum of three basic
numbers; the rental price for everything associated
with the equipment list, the cost of all perishables,
and the trucking. A fourth price may be added for
any truss rental; many production companies now
break that into a separate figure so it can be charged
to a separate line item associated with carpentry or
rigging costs.
After the quotes have been analyzed, some
amount of negotiation often takes place between
management and the leading candidates. Once a deci-
sion is made, a shop is selected as the vendor to sup-
ply gear for the show, and the public declaration is
made that the shop has been awarded the bid.
Sometimes the light plot’s design isn’t finished
by the deadline required to submit the shop order, in
which case the best guesstimate is made. Once the bid
has been awarded and a rental price is agreed upon,
the shop order becomes a portion of the binding con-
tract that is made between a lighting rental shop and
the production, so anything specific that is needed
should be included in this document. While the rental
package may slightly change while being prepared
and packed, the hope is that no major changes will
occur, which could radically alter the amount of gear
and force the vendor to change the overall price.
If items aren’t included in the shop order, adding
them later may change the rental price. That’s usually
not perceived as a good thing.

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