82
A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO STAGE LIGHTING
•Donotsignacontractthatcontainslanguage
that you don’t fully understand. If you don’t
understand a clause, ask for an explanation. If
you’re not satisfied with the explanation, ask
someone else.
•Keepacopyofyourcontractandknowwhereitis.
Once the contract is signed and delivered, many
designers keep a copy of it close at hand, in a pri-
vate place in their bag or briefcase. They believe that
if there’s a need to review the contract, it should be
immediately available. Other designers leave it at the
home office, believing that once signed, the contract
won’t need to be referred to again. In any event, all
designers with an eye towards business agree that all
design contracts should be stored together in a sin-
gle folder or binder. Having all of the contracts in
one place, rather than separated by tax year, makes
searching for or comparing old contracts a snap,
rather than an extended parade through one’s tax
receipts in order to find the right one.
Shelley’s Contracts for Hokey
Figure 4.1 is an imaginary non-union agreement
between Steve Shelley and the Template Enterprises
Company for the lighting design of Hokey: A Musical
Myth. The show is currently being booked into
The Hybrid Theatre for an open-ended run. This is
the first time that the show will be fully mounted.
The producer and the general manager are top-tier,
and on the surface appear to have been hired with
the purpose to get this show up on it’s feet and move
it to Broadway, or at least to a subsequent life. All
of the clauses included in this contract have a basis
in the United Scenic Artist 829 Standard Design
Agreement Contract, so none of them should be
perceived as odd or unique. At the present time,
any thought of filming or video-taping the show
has been vigorously denied. So while there’s no spe-
cific filming or taping clauses, all of those “what if”
clauses have been combined into a single “if any-
thing happens, renegotiation will need to occur” in
the preamble. While royalties were brought up in
contract negotiations, they were abandoned; check-
ing with the rest of the other designers, they weren’t
successful negotiating any AWC either. On a posi-
tive note, however, the company has agreed to pay
for an assistant, albeit only for five weeks. If the
technical rehearsal period, or the preview period,
get extended, then either the assistant will be forced
to start later in the process, the designer will have
to pay for additional weeks out of his pocket, or
renegotiation will have to take place.
Figure 4.2 is Shelley’s Union Cover Sheet Contract
for Hokey: A Musical Myth. It’s a much simpler form
to fill out. Under the designer’s name are the relevant
dates to be filled in. Under that is the area to fill in
for the compensation thirds. It also includes a space
for the AWC, and below that, a space to fill in the
Pension and Welfare payment.
Below the regional offices are the two vital
clauses, the insurance clause, and the dispute clause.
The dates show that the representative of the com-
pany, Dr. George Spelvin, signed the contract the day
before the designer. This is standard operating pro-
cedure; the designer should always sign the contract
after the producer, before it’s sent into the union office.
That sequence should be true for every contract; the
employee signs after the employer. And when that
can’t happen, for your own protection, photocopy the
contract with your signature before you send it back.
DEFINE THE PRODUCTION SCHEDULE
The production schedule is the calendar constrained
to show-related activities for a single production,
or the monthly flow of a multi-show season. In gen-
eral, the document’s scope ranges from listing spe-
cific technical events, to activities that impact the
production department. As the production meetings
in Chapter 3 showed, while the production sched-
ule may list task names for time periods or work
calls, it starts by highlighting the dates for a pro-
duction’s load-in and opening night. The production
schedule and the budget are often viewed as two of
the most important parameters of any production.
And in a way they are: time and money. So much so
that, when many union lighting design contracts are
submitted for approval, the budget and production
schedule are included as support documents.
By the time the lighting designer is hired, a pro-
duction schedule may range from being completely
frozen to being completely liquid. At one end of the
spectrum is the job where, once the lighting designer’s
been hired, he or she is provided with a rigid produc-
tion schedule and advised to adapt to that established
structure: “Nope, you only get 6 hours for focus.
That’s the way we’ve always done it.” At the other
extreme are “not yet decided” contracts, when the
lighting designer arrives on the scene, and the sched-
ule hasn’t been touched. The only “times of knowl-
edge” listed on the schedule may be the first day of
the load-in, and the date of the opening. After getting
the job, the lighting designer’s first order of business
may be to quickly help create a production schedule
on the fly in a hastily-called production meeting: “Hi,
you’re hired. What do we do?”

Get A Practical Guide to Stage Lighting, 2nd Edition now with O’Reilly online learning.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from 200+ publishers.