A live production’s technical staff can number dozens or hundreds; to ensure that the lighting designer is not calling focus the same day the deck is being painted, a technical director is in place to coordinate between departments. This person is an artist, a craftsperson, and technician; without a technical director, the production process is more chaos theory than the realization of organic creation.
Much like a general contractor or engineer supervises an architectural project, the technical director oversees the design, management, and execution of all technical elements of a live show. Because all production companies and theaters operate differently, the exact scope of this person’s job varies, but essentially the responsibilities are the same. The TD establishes a production budget and allocates funds to individual departments like sets, costuming, and audio; she or he assesses the equipment needs of the production based on the artistic designs and hires appropriate crew. In conjunction with the prop master, master electrician, and other crew chiefs, the technical director coordinates the show build from the ground up. She or he makes sure the audio array is hung and costumes are fitted in accordance with the production schedule. A certain amount of administrative tasks fall under the TD’s purview, as he or she is the person responsible for securing permits, adhering to OSHA safety standards, and liaising with the fire marshal. The technical director is both a lead technician and a business administrator who must account for payroll, expense reports, and inventory.
Skills & Education
As the senior technician overseeing the many production departments, the technical director must be proficient in lighting, audio, carpentry, and artistic design. A degree in theatrical production is useful, as is specific training in technical drafting, painting, electrical engineering, and mechanics. Educational requirements vary widely; one production company may prefer an MFA and another may put more emphasis on practical experience. In either case, the technical director should have a thorough understanding of all applicable safety regulations and proper operation of shop tools and consoles. As a project manager, this person should be capable of accurately estimating budget and scheduling requirements as well as identifying time- and cost-saving measures.
What to Expect
Freelance and full-time positions exist for technical directors, and both can involve irregular hours; between productions, a 9-to-5 schedule is typical, but this person works well into the night when tech begins. As preparation for this role you should take the opportunity to work in as many technical departments as possible and gain experience as a stagehand, props technician, and monitor engineer; each develops a necessary skill set. Develop both your technical abilities and creative talents, as each will aid you in your career. In preparation to mount a show, you will be required to collaborate with artistic designers, the show director, and the stage manager; it will be your task to interpret their vision and determine the technical requirements to bring it to life. This requires you to be both an abstract thinker and a detailed problem-solver.
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