Ceremonies: The DL On The LNG

Ceremonies: The DL On The LNG

Melzig was senior technical manager for the Closing Ceremony of the 2015 European Games in Baku, Azerbaijan. Photo by Harry Engels, Getty Images.

Hey buddy!

Can you swing by the AVL and pick up a VAP before you come to STA? That way you can enter through the VSA and don’t have to bother with the PSA. Also swing by RDR, and pick up your HHD on your way in. Come see me in PAYG when you get here. If I’m not there, go through VOM 1, and you’ll find me on the FOP.

Have no idea what I’m talking about? Welcome to the wonderful world of Ceremonies! It is indeed a wonderful world, once you get the hang of all the acronyms, and there are plenty of things that the rest of our industry could learn from this format when producing shows and events.

Ceremonies’ organizations need to be very corporate; since the project is long, it involves a lot of people, and there is often a huge chunk of money spent on it, so you better get it right. I know, corporate sounds really fucking boring, and sometimes it is, but it’s well needed, and when it’s done right, it’s a very nice environment in which to work. The first European Games was just that: a very nice place.

Besides the obvious departments such as technical, creative, and executive team, we had a casting team, a communications and support team, a mass choreography team, one creative team for opening, and one creative team for closing. We had a creative production team, a props team, an onsite costume department, a technical team, including aerial and capital works, staging and scenic, systems, venues and services, and health and safety.

But why stop there? We had a fully stocked prototype workshop and a show control team, including stage management, volunteer management, and protocol. Furthermore, we had an administration team, including human resources, finance and procurement, IT, travel and transport, catering, cleaning and waste, and accreditation. This all comprised 368 people and more than 30 nationalities, and that is not including the suppliers, wow!

Sure, most productions can’t afford to hire all these people and fly them somewhere to do a production, but wouldn’t it be pretty cool if the IT guy and health and safety officer weren’t the same person?

So, what can we “normal” productions learn from these mega organizations? Well, most things are similar, but just bigger.

Here are a couple of the more important ones, if you happen to do a production that involves more than three people, a couple of PARs, and a stack of speakers:

Always make sure to have an online file sharing platform where you can share information, and your staff can find it easily. And no, Dropbox is not such a platform. Make sure that the platform you use doesn’t cost your crew a fortune to keep up with, and it doesn’t involve your staff keeping a lot of crap on their own hard drives. I’ve used a couple of different ones, but I have to say that Egnyte, which we used on this project, is the best one so far.

If you have a load-in that spans more than a couple of days, a decent scheduling program might need to be in place. Excel covers most needs, but you can’t track your schedule to see if you are ahead or behind. Several of my colleagues on this production are head over heels in love with Project, which is a really nice platform. There is similar software out there for Mac users like myself.

Having a hard time keeping track of who is where during production? Check out Whosoff. It answers all your questions in a heartbeat.

Don’t force your crew to multitask unless it’s absolutely necessary. Let the sound guy do sound! He hates doing lights anyway!

Plan your production days to be a maximum of 12 hours long. Anything you do after hour 13, you most likely have to redo the next day anyway, and staff your crew so you actually have a fair chance to accomplish this.

If you are at a particularly large venue, get golf carts and gators for your crew, and get a Segway for yourself—best money spent all day!

I’m currently spending one of my last days in the office here in Baku, getting ready to fly out in a couple of days for new adventures. The first one will involve sunny beaches in Florida and BBQ in Texas, so God knows what I will write about next time.

But for now, I would like to send a big thank you to every single one of the Five Currents team that made my six-month stay in Baku a very special one, and an extra big thank you to our senior technical director, Nick Eltis, who brought me into this wonderful family. You are my hero, Nick!

Last note: F.U.C.K. is an acronym, too! Google it.

Have a great, lazy summer, y’all.

Ola Melzig has 25 years’ experience working in the entertainment concert industry, working his way up from stagehand through all facets of production. Today his resume includes technical director on large-scale events worldwide, including the Eurovision Song Contest, the Commonwealth Games opening and closing ceremonies in New Delhi, India, Espectáculo Conmemorativo, the Cinco de Mayo 150th anniversary show in Puebla, Mexico, and the 2014 IIFA Awards. He recently worked as senior technical manager for the closing ceremony for the 2015 European Games in Baku, Azerbaijan.

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