We often are asked the question “What’s a normal day in your life in this industry?” Well, that’s a difficult question to answer because every day is so vastly different, and hardly anything goes as initially planned. As an example of this, I’ve taken the opportunity to write about my recent trip to France for work and the five days spanning that trip. Everything from getting up and going to the airport for the travel day, to a rather unexpectedly long day, and everything in between. It should be stated that I wrote about this trip specifically because it gives insight into how the industry, in general, can be, as well as what it is like being new to an established crew and the only woman on that crew.
Day 1: Wednesday
The alarm goes off but you’re already up and getting dressed. You could barely sleep the night before because you know how travel days are and what is to be expected: Everything will go wrong. Teeth brushed and you double-checked everything to make sure nothing is left behind (something is always left behind). The bag that you’ve already packed the night before is grabbed right before you head off. The cab meets you on the street and drives you the 25 minutes that it takes to get to the airport. Normally this would have taken longer, but there’s no traffic at this time in the morning. Thank the driver as the door closes, rush through security checks at a snail’s pace, check your watch to see if you have time to grab a coffee or something on your way to the gate (you don’t), do the awkward half-run/half-speed-walk straight to your gate, board the plane, get the announcement that the plane will be delayed in taking off by at least an hour and no one is allowed to leave the plane. It’s not even 7 am yet. You finally arrive an hour and a half later than you needed to be. Go through the security checks again and find your ride. Try to memorise all the names of the performers and their specialties that your new colleague is throwing at you, drive an hour and a half to the studio where the orchestra recorded what they’ll be performing this weekend, and spend about three hours in the studio listening and re-listening over and over again. Back in the car to drive another hour down the road to the warehouse where the orchestra has mock setups so everything can be perfectly presented on an actual stage. After a quick tour of the place, you spend the rest of your day going through the setup and asking questions (always ask copious amounts of questions). Dinner out is a quick pizza with the guys on the tech crew. Back to the warehouse around midnight and finally to bed where you see the guys were kind enough to make it for you with bunny sheets and a pillow. Thanks, guys.
Day 2: Thursday
Up at 7 AM. Shower in a bathroom full of men giving you a hard time because you’re the only girl, but eventually they leave and you finally have some privacy.
Breakfast is whatever you can scrounge and a cup of tea. Time for setup and powering everything on for the 9 AM first sound check and rehearsal at 11 AM. Your lunch break rolls around 1 o’clock and it’s family style. Everyone sits around the large table and luckily there’s wine (viva la France!). Back to another rehearsal at 2 o’clock sharp. Dinner is suggested around 8 that night after we’re practically at each other’s throats and had enough. We go out for dinner and more banter at 9 PM. The usual debrief over food helps ease everyone’s minds and stomachs. It is back to the bunker beds close to midnight.
Day 3: Friday
You’re up at 6:30 this time to get some alone time in the shower. One of the guys comes in at 7 on the dot but you are already dressed and about to head out of the bathroom. You’ve found some bread and cheese for breakfast and sit at the communal table to go over yesterday’s notes. It’s raining outside. There is so much to prepare for the show tomorrow to make sure everything goes smoothly and tensions are a little high between techies and performers. Everyone got up and joined the table by 8 AM and the first sound check was at 9 with the first rehearsal at 10 this morning. You’re going to try recording today’s rehearsal.
Mother Nature has other plans for your day…
At exactly 11:30, the power goes out due to the storm and you haven’t hit the save button in the last hour… FUCK! Your coworker thinks that because of the cover of the dark, this is a great time to slap your ass, and you repay him with a harder slap across his face. By 12:30, everyone (mainly the boss) has finally agreed that the power isn’t coming back on anytime soon. The remaining people come in from their extended smoke break and lunch is served around 1 in the afternoon. Power still isn’t restored after everyone is done with lunch, so the tech crew decides now is a great time for another extended smoke break and to show you the town in the pouring rain. At least there’s a castle nearby.
You get a call around 3:30-4 that power was restored so you head back and see how bad the damage was. You spend the rest of the rehearsal doing damage control before the first truck needs to be loaded. Shut down and final loading of the second truck before everyone goes out for dinner that night around 9. The usual debrief over food and drinks. Back at the warehouse and the performers leave on the tour bus at midnight sharp. You head up to bed and pass out immediately.
Day 4: Saturday
The screaming alarm goes off at 5 am. In the shower, dressed and tea in hand by 5:45. You go to the communal table where a new friend is waiting for you. At some point, the guys bought you a small stuffed animal. Final check to make sure you are not forgetting anything in the bunker room. You and the rest of the tech crew are in the van and leave at 6:30. The Head of Audio plays the show over Bluetooth so you and he can go over notes and highlights of the show. An hour and a half up the road to the venue the show is at today. Arrive at the concert hall at 8. Breakfast is provided by your hosting venue: muffins, coffee, tea, etc. Set up and the push for getting gear from the truck begins at 8:30. Someone’s foot gets run over by a flight case at 8:35. Lighting, video, and sound attempt to work together as best as possible. Risers are raised, then lights are flown, and then hard patching begins. But you notice the audio snake isn’t long enough for the venue. Why did no one check this? You compromise and have the FOH mixing console in a slightly awkward area and decide to mix the show from the tablet. Everyone has worked up an appetite and lunch is served around 1, a type of gumbo-style dish with stewed beef, rice, potatoes, and wine. It helps you prepare for the first sound check at 2. The dancers and performers finally decide to join the fun and come to rehearsal after making it just in time for the lunch break. The show somehow starts magically on time and it goes really well. Then, it happens. The audience won’t stop demanding an encore, and the company boss gives in (at the protest of the entire crew) and runs the whole show again, with intermission. The second unexpected show ends at 2 am and you still have to load out. The dancers and performers disappear sometime around 3:30ish in the morning (no one saw them after they took a second smoke break), and it’s just the tech crew left to break down the set and load trucks. You finally finish the load out at 6:30 in the morning. You have a plane to catch in four hours, and the airport is an hour’s drive away. Do you opt for a little sleep, or act like a zombie for the rest of your extended day?
Day 5: Sunday
You opted to stay awake and one of the guys agreed to give you a ride to the airport since it’s on his way back home. You’re in the car and on the way to the airport at 7 am. After traffic and getting petrol, you arrive a little later than intended but still with plenty of time to get through security and the boarding process. You rush through security checks at a snail’s pace, check your watch to see if you have time to grab a coffee or something on your way to the gate (you don’t), do the awkward half-run/half-speed-walk straight to your gate, board the plane, get the announcement that the plane will be delayed upon arrival due to weather in the local area and that no one will be allowed to leave the plane. The travel day begins, and the circle of techies touring life continues…