Showing all posts tagged #consulting:


Unconscious competency and the gift of sharing in relationship

Posted on March 21st, 2014

A couple years ago I was introduced to a talented young man at a conference. Like a lot of us in this community, Don wears many hats in his responsibilities preparing for and supporting weekend services at his church. He’s a bit of a jack-of-all-trades and has a particular aptitude and curiosity for creating beauty and helping communicate through the discipline of scenic design. This I’m sure is a big part of why we were connected. Anyway, it has been great to get to know him as we get together for coffee a few times per year. In spite of being in significantly different life stages, our conversation always flows beautifully and is rich in mutual encouragement. Not only does neither of us like to settle for a mediocre cup of coffee; but we segue that thought into dialogue of our passion for preparing a quality storytelling environment for our guests.

During one of our meetings, we were discussing everything that goes into a stage design. The next day, Don emailed to ask me if I wouldn’t mind typing some of the things out so he could chew on them further. I sent him a stream of thoughts that covered what I remembered us musing about along with a few other ideas to consider... The next time we got together, he shared the document that his leadership team uses as a guide every time they plan an event. He had reworked my thoughts into a list and he was excited to share with me stories of the fruit of our coffee meetings.

I was humbled and honored to have been useful. I hadn’t really thought about it since sending the email. For him to have taken the time to separate them into bullet points and create a document from them that was used as it was really struck me. We all want to be helpful. I think that is perhaps the most common trait of production artists. Yes, we’re all a bit geeky, but mostly we want to help people. It was a real gift to me for him to thank me in the way he did.

When I started writing this post, I thought the story about my coffee with Don was simply setting up the list that I’m including. Perhaps the list is a helpful tool. If so, cool; here's the link: egwolfe.com/post/thoughts-to-remember-when-creating-a-space-for-worship
However, I realize the greater challenge comes in at least one of the following:

Realize the genius you have to offer someone else and share it. I think that far too often, we fail to realize the unconscious competency we have in our unique areas of expertise. Especially those among us who have been working in our craft for a long time have wisdom to share in how to we make the most of our situations. It is a crime to not share the ideas we have. These "simple" ideas will likely be a profound blessing.

I encourage you to seek out (or at least seize the opportunity when it presents itself) the person you can meet with to either pour into or draw insight from. We all have busy schedules; and the thought of taking an afternoon to do something that doesn't directly accomplish a task on our todo list is difficult to justify. In the short term, perhaps so; but in the bigger picture, the mutual sharpening from the new friendship will pay off in unseen dividends.

Ask the Lord to show you who you should meet with. Commit to the building the relationship. Share with a posture of open hands and receive with an open mind.



Live Production and Landscape Photography Similarities to Study and Apply

Posted on March 10th, 2014

Last night, I watched a video presentation* about landscape photography. There were many great thoughts that I certainly consider beneficial for me to consider as a photographer. Some is a little boring with how basic it is - but always good to remind myself of the fundamentals. Some I knew (and can actually say that I've been attempting to apply) intuitively and is encouraging to me that I've been on the right track. Other ideas totally make sense as I think about them; and leave me itching to test them out...

One of the greatest takeaways is something that I can't help but doing in any field of my artistry: Never settle for a good shot; a great shot is there if you look for it. I know I often can drive my friends and colleagues nuts with my constant unrest as I search for the greatest degree of beauty. It's inherent to my personality and strength mix I think - an "unconscious competency" is a term that may be applied. Well, the presenter spent some time in the middle of the presentation discussing shot composition and I couldn't help but hear brilliant articulation of what I strive for in every artistic discipline I am involved in. Never settle for a good [mix or lighting look, or typeface, or whatever] but keep experimenting through rehearsal and find the great.

I'm often asked (actually more and more, I am blessed to be hired as a consultant for) my thoughts for how I approach production design. If you have been around me for a while, you have probably heard me talk about the "2° and the 2%". I am most concerned with the beginning of an idea - where there's the opportunity to point the concept in the exact direction where I see it having the greatest opportunity of becoming something amazing. This is the vision and the design stage. If you start the project in the right direction, you'll succeed more often than not. 2° of difference in compass bearing may not seem like much in the short term, but it can be miles away from the ideal finish line when it's time to open doors...

I also am charged up by the opportunity to finesse the final tweaks that give the magical touch. This is the 2%. It's the difference between good enough and inspiring; the difference between bland and profound. I'm often cited as having the eye for it. Perhaps I do have a special aptitude for the artistry of seeing what works and where an improvement could be made. However, I believe most of it is my work ethic. I hate settling for less than excellent. Excellence is making the most of our resources. If we have more time to give, we should use it to make the product better.

The analogys of "taking in the scene" and "seeing the light" are so great. We all have the potential to create something amazing. What resources do we have? How can they be focused on to help tell the story that is there? See the potential and figure out the best strategy for highlighting it. Then, never settle for a good [mix or lighting look, or typeface, or whatever] but keep experimenting through rehearsal and find the great.

I was actually running sound last night and one of my students asked me during run-through, "it sounds amazing, why are you continuing to make adjustments?" Two reasons: First, it's live audio; therefore the variables are always changing. The mix engineer has to constantly stay focused on how to best reinforce what's coming from stage. Second, if I'm going to be in the chair during a rehearsal regardless, why settle for a B+ when I could find the tweak that takes it to an A- or perhaps even an A? To me, the idea of settling for mediocrity is detestable. If you're going to be involved, be all there... Anyway, the difference between some of the really good photos and their amazing counterparts are the patience and persistence exhibited by the photographer who is disciplined enough to pursue capturing the epic image that we want to hang on our walls.


*The entire video was really good:
http://www.picturecorrect.com/tips/how-to-take-dynamic-landscape-photographs/
40-45min is the location that inspired this post.

A Response to Questions About Design Materials and Our Stage Turn Process

Posted on May 1st, 2013

I often get asked questions about my thoughts on design materials and/or our production process. These are my responses to an email that I sent out yesterday:

What do you think of the trend to have a big video or LED wall as the main set feature?

I think big screens are fine so long as 1, you have the budget; 2, you have the stage space, 3, and most importantly if you produce content worthy of the space. I personally think they’re cliché and typically only put a screen in the set for events where we have a click-tracked music video that goes along with a live song. Regarding LED walls, the time has come when they’re legitimately worth considering: If you’re living in sets for a length of time, if you have a shallow stage, if you don’t already have a good projector, etc.

Do you still create a new set every week?

We still do at least two sets every week - changing our stage to uniquely support every event. I’m not sure it’s the way for everyone, but it continues to work for our context. If nothing else, it lets me exercise my own mind ;) However, doing a turn after every service is what maintains our volunteer team. Our typical turn lasts 75-90min to change from one stage to the next. A big reason why we can succeed at this is that it has become our regular workflow. Our volunteers don’t know that it’s not normal, so they just do… #process

What are you currently using the most for sets- fabric/lighting? set pieces?

We have a “tinker toy set" of go-to materials that I use to design from. Truss, fabrics, hard-goods, lights, etc. In addition to our inventory, I’m always on the lookout for materials that could catch light well. I file away photos and ideas in Evernote (and too often honestly, just the back of my mind #GTDfail) to recal later when I hear the idea that a material could be perfect for feel.

For the past few years, I’ve been creating stages form the “box" I determine for myself at the beginning of each series: I choose 2-4 materials that I will use as through-lines for each series. Then I use these in a different way to support the art and tell the story specific to each day.

Example is that for our current Midweek series (5 weeks talking about women from Scripture) I’m using a silver sheer fabric and our moving head profiles. We just finished a Weekend series titled “Walking Dead" where I wanted to riff on a post-apocalyptic, industrial vibe. I found about a dozen unused 4’x10’ cage pieces (used for storage in our basement) and set these up on stage with some rusty (or painted to look so) 55gal drums and some pallets - throw some gobo breakups at these, and you have a look. Then just change up the placement and it feels new each week.

The soft goods are an example of something we have in our inventory. I purchased a roll of this fabric for an event this past fall; now we can use it whenever we want. The cage pieces are an example of something I’ve been waiting to use for years, honestly. I just needed the right series, where they’d make for the perfect visual.

We are thinking about limiting our design to 4 really good sets and tweaking them on a per series basis, at least until we get into our new campus late next year. What do you think of that plan?

A majority of my church clients seem to like the idea of 3-5 really good sets over the course of a year - per season, rather than per series and perhaps with something special for Christmas and Easter. I think this strategy can be a good one. The main thing to consider is how they can be adapted to any special events that might need the space. Is it possible to close the main traveler? If living in an industrial, production based design, is it possible to create a look that can be tender and beautiful? There are ways to think through this and plan for such occasions. My main caution when living in a set for such a length of time is the potential “rats nest" of cable that can build up. Also, when a team is not regularly doing stage turns, it tends to take a much longer time; therefore plan on a day or two instead of a couple hours.

Also, make sure to consider your lighting inventory/plot. Poor lighting will negate even the best set; for that matter, good lighting will make an ok set look fantastic.

Eric Wolfe

Visual Artist. Production Designer and Consultant. Developer of Ideas. Maximizer of Resources. Strategic Thinker. Creative Innovator. Husband. Father. Philosopher. Photographer. Backpacker. Athlete. Cook. Artisan. Catch Eric’s sporadic musings at egwolfe.com or follow him on social media platforms as @egwolfe