The Flaming Lips, Brighton Festival 2013

How to be…. A Production Manager

Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival’s Production Manager Andy Furneaux discusses his role for #LoveTheatreDay

What does your role entail? Under the Head of Production and Deputy Head of Production, I lead a team in the pre-production of all events that come to the spaces at Brighton Dome. As well as this I am responsible for the rotating of the technical show staff and the overall maintenance programme for technical equipment and stock.

What does the technical and production team at Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival do? 

We assist touring companies in putting on already created shows, local, community and charity groups in putting on shows to their specification and support the creation of Brighton Dome own promotions. We do everything from lighting and sound to wardrobe and staging to contemporary dance and children’s shows.

How did you get into the technical side of theatre?

By accident. I used to enjoy drama at school and college and often no-one else could be bothered to do the technical side of things so I ended up doing it. When I got into the world of work I spent a few years trying to figure out what I wanted to do and after a short while working for free on short films a mate from another work place joined the crew at what was the Gardner Arts Centre and asked if I was interested in crewing as well. My first show was an amazing Canadian marionette show for Brighton Festival there.

Have you always worked in theatre or on other sites? Are your skills transferable?

 As I said above I have worked as a spark on several short films and a couple of (paid!) full-length films as well as working as crew and lighting operator on some outdoor music festivals. The skills I have in theatre transfer directly to many other areas of Live entertainment and events including festivals, conferences etc.

What kind of work is available to you if you go down the backstage/ technical route? The main disciplines in the technical world are Lighting, Sound, Video, Stage Management and wardrobe/dressing. Obviously if you are any good in one of these disciplines they can lead to creative roles such as Lighting design, set design and costume design etc.

What qualities do you need to be a great technician?

You need to be proactive, especially if you are going to work freelance, always looking for the next job or piece of work. You need to be good at listening, working in a team and definitely problem solving.

What do you need to be a great production manager?   

Good organisational skills, a sense of humour, a thick skin and the ability to see when and where compromise is necessary.

What is the best bit about your job?

 Getting to work across a wide variety of shows and events.

The best ever show you ever worked on was…?

That’s a tricky one as I have done so many shows in my time as a technician. I guess the ones that stick in my mind currently is the Neil Cowley trio which I was lucky enough to do the lights on (design and operate) and the mammoth crazy Russian beast that was Opus 7 in last year’s Brighton Festival - giant puppets, fake guns and flaming pianos!

What is the most rewarding bit about your job? 

As a Production Manager the moment the show starts on opening night is a very satisfying time especially when it has been a very challenging show to fit into a venue.

Are there any challenging moments?

 Yes! Especially the moment when someone tells you all these fantastic ideas that they have for a show or piece of work and then turn around and tell you there is no budget with which to put it on with! We manage a lot of expectations.

Do you need formal qualifications to work in production?

No not at all. A basis in drama at school or Sixth Form help and doing a Theatre course at university will give you a lot of technical knowledge that can otherwise take years to pick up. But hard work and perseverance will eventually get you to the same place.

What would you recommend?

 A Technical Theatre course will give you a good all-round knowledge that will help you to decide what area of the backstage you want to concentrate on but also give you the skills and contacts to get as much work as possible.

Something you might not know about working backstage at Brighton Dome is….?

The riders are sometimes ridiculous!

Have you met lots of famous people/ bands?Yes, but if that is why you are getting in to the business you might be quickly disappointed with who you meet.