Friends With Benefits Melzig was technical director for 150th Cinco de Mayo Celebration in Puebla, Mexico in 2012.

Friends With Benefits

Let’s face it: Our industry is way more than just lights, speakers, and music. There’s a major social core that keeps us going, and we all have to admit that we’re not in this for the money. It’s fun, and it’s a lifestyle for many of us, or life “in style,” if you like.

It’s also my comfort zone. This is where I have most of my friends. When I got married back in 2008, we had a little over 90 guests at the wedding, poolside at the Hard Rock Hotel in Vegas after LDI, 80 of them from our industry. I think that says it all. We called in a lot of favors to make it the awesome wedding it became.

And on that note, it’s always worth doing favors for people and not just because you expect something in return. It’s the connections that keep our industry interesting. I’d like to mention some of my favorite examples: Colin Waters from TMB, Steve Warren from Avolites, and Bob Gordon from A.C.T Lighting. These crazy fuckers are some of the most social guys I know, and no coincidence, crazy successful. They know everyone, and they don’t hesitate to introduce Dude A to Dude B, even if there’s no financial gain. They know the two dudes have something cool to share and can maybe do business together. They do it for their passion for this industry, and I see them as true inspiration personally.

I think the stories below will prove just how simple it actually is to carry on the legacy of these fine gentlemen. You just need to keep your eyes open! Here are a few examples:

We had an intern at Spectra in Stockholm, the lighting rental company where I used to work. There was a really funny and cool young guy with long hair and just the right attitude. He started off at step one, in the warehouse, packing orders. A lot of people at Spectra were a bit grumpy when I included him in the crew for Eurovision 2005, just six months after he started. They thought they deserved it more than him. He would prove them very wrong.

Six or seven years prior to that, when I was still managing stagehand rentals in Stockholm, one of my regular crew guys asked if he could bring in his friend who had just moved to Stockholm to try out. I said, “Sure, bring him along on the tent build we’re doing tomorrow, and let’s see what he’s made of.” We’ve had at least 1,000 beers together since that day.

Just after we were done with that Eurovision Song Contest back in 2005, I got a message on Light Network from a Finnish guy who had tons of questions about the whole video setup, pixels this, pixels that, media servers, outputs, resolution and diffusion, and God knows what. I went out of my way to try to answer him as detailed as I could, and then I kind of forgot all about it.

Then, four years ago, at ProLight + Sound, I was sitting at the TMB booth, as usual, drinking a Bloody Mary, as usual, when I came up with the greatest of all great ideas. I went over to Colin and told him to walk over to Hall 2, because the company who was my local partner at Eurovision 2003 had started manufacturing, and they had a very cool gadget that I wanted to show him.

So, what happened with all these situations?

Well, the young long-haired guy with the cool attitude is Tobias G. Rylander, who now works with Leroy Bennett and Cory FitzGerald at Seven Design Works. The stagehand that I hired for the tent build proved to be all right. His name is Stefan Sjöland. He is crazy as a mad bat, and he was the LD for Motörhead for eight or so years and is still working as an LD for a bunch of bands.

The nosy Finnish young man that wanted to learn everything there was to learn about video back in 2005 is Mikki Kunttu. He called me in 2007 and hired me as the technical production manager for Eurovision Song Contest that year. His latest show made it to the cover of last month’s issue of this magazine (Swan Lake in Copenhagen).

Come to think about it, all three of them are as crazy as mad bats, and I love them all to pieces.

So, when you see the chance to push someone in the right direction or introduce a dude to another, take it, and when people reach out to you with questions, don’t take the easy way out and ignore them. It’s totally worth it and very rewarding.

Speaking of rewarding, I’m totally expecting a new Avolites bag, a pile of TMB socks, and an A.C.T vest at PLASA or LDI after the summer. I hope that the old farts this is directed toward are reading digital magazines, or do I need to send faxes?

Oh, and I guess you’re dying to know about the gadget I showed Colin four years ago in Frankfurt! It was the forerunner to the Solaris Strobe from Company NA, winner of the 2013 Live Design Product of the Year and the 2013 PLASA Innovation Sustainability Award. Not too shabby!

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 is currently working as senior technical manager for the closing ceremony for the 2015 European Games in Baku, Azerbaijan.

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