Set Lighting Technician
Lighting technician is a job with many different titles, but it’s one of the most vital to film production. Set lighting technicians (also known as electricians, lamp operators, or juicers) do more on set than flip a switch. Instead, they operate the hundreds of lights and run the miles of cable necessary to set the look of a scene and illuminate the action.
Working under the supervision of the gaffer and best boy, the set lighting technician is responsible for running electrical cables for set lighting and hanging or mounting fixtures. This includes focusing instruments and changing lamps as necessary. Additional tasks may include cleaning and basic repair of instruments, attaching gels and other accessories, and lugging gear from one setup to the next. Set lighting technicians do most of the heavy lifting in the lighting department.
Skills & Education
A college degree in film and television production is recommended (though not required) for set lighting technician; it is the most comprehensive education toward a career in the lighting department. What is necessary is hands-on experience with theatrical and film lighting equipment and a thorough understanding of electricity. You should know how to operate and maintain the gear, but also understand the theoretical principles behind set lighting and the quality of illumination produced by each instrument or technique. An entire semester of school could be taught just on grip and lighting terminology alone, so study up before you find yourself staring blankly at the best boy your first day on the job.
What to Expect
Set lighting technician is the most entry-level position in the lighting or electrics department, but does require experience. Preparation as a grip, production assistant, set intern, or in an equipment rental house is valuable, as is amateur work on independent or student films. The more time you have on set and with the gear, the better prepared you will be for a professional gig. A typical workday is at least 12 hours long, and the pace of production can be intense. There is little time to adjust or patience for your learning curve: You are expected to arrive on time, do you job quickly and correctly the first time, and do it with a smile. Those who prove themselves skilled and display a strong work ethic will be noticed, and your next gig will almost certainly come from someone you previously worked with. Networking and making a good impression counts—it will keep you employed. At least three to five years of professional experience as a lighting technician will prepare you for advancement to the role of best boy electric, and eventually you can work your way up to gaffer.
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