Younger Season 7 at Bowery Ballroom
We’ve made it! I cannot believe I am writing this, but here we are, exactly one year from the last ticketed concert at The Bowery Ballroom. What a wild ride. We have been keeping moderately busy with important structural and safety upgrades, new video and lighting install, NIVA involvement and the good graces of Save Our Stages, and event rentals. What I plan to take you through today is how a venue, typically very adept in a specific industry, can transform into something new and different, while still staying safe, and authentic.
TV production is a new world for some independent concert producers. There is extensive union presence, budgets I could only dream of, and precious time to get it all right. If you still cannot manage to get it right, edit it in post.
During the advance process I spoke with Lighting Designers, Rigging Gaffers, Set Decorators, Assistant Unit Production Managers, Production Managers, and last and most relevant, a Covid Compliance Officer. It all makes my head spin, but I was also a little envious of clear, defined manageable job roles.
Contrary to what you might think, a larger staff and bigger funding do not always mean increased preparedness. In fact, it tends to isolate departments from each other and can make advancing a bit difficult, having to tackle each component of the advance with a different person. I was aware supplemental lighting would be brought in and the room would be decorated. We had sorted out power needs, and I was given a rough art direction and light plot, and that is all.
The event contract and a certificate of insurance are the biggest differences on paper. The renter takes out insurance for the space occupied, the people in charge of their care, and any incidents that will occur. During a concert, that is my responsibility and it helps to know there are multiple sets of eyes ensuring a safe work environment. Other striking differences include time, labor, and money. A shoot day began at 9 am and wrapped at 5 am (yes, 20 hours). We had two days of build and one full strike day. This schedule, coupled with our dark stage, made our normal house policies flex a bit. The lighting designers asked that our fixtures be removed from the stage ceiling, so others could be used. The stage curtains would be changed to a deep red fabric, and our PA system would be partially removed. I felt confident approving these alterations knowing the necessary equipment was brought in, (genie lifts, ladders, span sets, etc) the structural weight distribution did not significantly change, and on a personal note, it had been a very long time since our lights were cleaned. This afforded the perfect opportunity. Additional changes included wallpapering or draping our walls, adding furniture, and extending our stage 4 feet. (My dream!)
I had to remain confident that the show hires would effectively make this all happen, and trust our contract agreement that our venue goes back to normal at the end of the rental. Other than that, I took some educated guesses on the production staff needed and hired an A2, and LD for shoot day, and an L2 for prep and strike days. Security was kept to 3-4 on shoot day and 2 on prep and wrap days. I acted as PM and compliance officer for the venue and had relief and support from our incredible manager Amanda, and owner Michael.
My first time working with a Covid Compliance Officer was a great experience. It is my goal to ensure the house staff comes to work healthy and stays that way. The CCO on-site ensures all working personnel are healthy, provided with adequate PPE, and can safely and securely provide testing and store health records. She and I were the only two staff members on-site from load-in through load-out each day. We discussed which areas of the venue would be deep cleaned prior to entry, which areas would be spot cleaned throughout the day, records for active house staff, Covid testing procedures, meal and rest break areas, and what to do in the event of an outbreak. I cannot stress how important this job is for the future of our industry. Lean on them for PPE, and make sure you feel safe to complete your workday. I would highly recommend taking any of the free/low-cost covid compliance classes and list that as a valuable skillset on your resume.
Some important takeaways from this shoot at Bowery were feelings of gratitude and pride for my staff that can so easily adapt, assist the TV crew with their needs, and ensure everyone enjoys what they are doing. It was a feeling I sorely missed. Another note is that the CDC guidelines really do work! Masks are effective when worn correctly, and even more so when you double mask. Regular Hand washing and sanitizing works, and avoid touching your face in between washing. Socially distance where you can as much as you can, and test regularly when that is not possible.
It can be safe for us to return back to work, but we need to trust each other to be responsible, and those in power to provide adequate PPE, testing, and transparency. If you were to ask me five years ago, as a freelance touring engineer, when I would be returning to work, I would have already changed careers by now. I would not have wanted to be the first to work a concert event. Drunk sweaty crowds, long hours, dirty clubs, are you kidding?!? Years later, and with more agency, I feel optimistic that Bowery can and will do it right. We are investing in equipment and education to keep people safe, and live music is not something to fear.
There was very little that could be called music during this film shoot. In fact, the first audio through the PA in the past six months was a click track. Talk about my worst nightmare! I do hope that my next blog, and our next event, have a little more music involved.
Look out for the last season of Younger, out on Paramount + later this year.