Five Questions For Mike Appel

  1. You program lighting for a variety of projects, including most recently The Museum of the Moving Image Tribute to Will Smith, KORN Unplugged for MTV, and the New York City stop of Jay-Z's 7 Cities In 17 Hours promo event, which you also designed. What are the biggest challenges in these types of events?

    The biggest challenges of these events are the time constraints. Short load-in times leave very little time for programming. On a show that has a few signature looks, it is not too difficult, but working on a televised concert that loads in the same day as the shoot can be very challenging. You have to program as the rig is coming online, program blind, and in some cases, rely on a visualizer to create many of your looks and effects.

  2. What is the best career advice you've ever been given?

    The best career advice I was ever given came when I was in my third year of college. It came from Steve Bailey, the lighting director at Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts at Brooklyn College. I was focusing my third or fourth main stage production during the specified “dark time” for focus. The scenery was very complicated, and the load-in was behind schedule. I was complaining to Steve that I couldn't see to focus the stage lights with all the work lights on that other departments needed. He told me to “get over it,” and that if I wanted to work professionally, I needed to realize that we (lighting) aren't the only department that needs to get work done. This simple statement resonated strongly with me and helped me develop a willingness to compromise based on collaboration. I believe very strongly that this quality is necessary to work consistently at a professional level. It is a lesson that I have always remembered.

  3. What has been the proudest moment in your career?

    The proudest moment of my career would have to be the Emmy nomination I received for my work on NBC's 2004 Election Night on Democracy Plaza. I held the position of the automated lighting director and was very happy with the way Rockefeller Plaza was illuminated for the three-week event culminating in the Presidential election night coverage.

  4. How does development of technology affect your work as a freelancer?

    It keeps me on my toes. I need to keep my skill set fairly diverse. I am always learning. With the recent saturation of the entertainment lighting world with media servers, video displays, and LED technology, I find I am always downloading manuals and specs on the latest and greatest gear. I have been fortunate to use many of this stuff on my gigs. I'd like to thank Adobe for the development of the PDF and the downloadable manual!

  5. What piece of equipment can you absolutely not do without?

    I find that, lately, I have been relying on my JBL On Tour portable speakers. I store show-specific music on my laptop, and the tiny laptop speakers just don't cut it. These JBLs sound great, are very compact, and give me the ability to play a track at the lighting desk so that everyone can hear the music without straining. They allow me to do a show and tell of the cueing ideas I may have for a particular song. They are also great after work in a hotel room for DVDs.