Published in Lighting & Sound International - October 2017
Name, age, place of study & course?
Jake Langham, 19, Peterborough Regional College, BTEC Level 3 Production Arts
What attracted you to this business?
I lived two doors down from a freelance LD who was mates with my Dad, Dad would occasionally get roped in as a 'box pusher' for an event and I would go along to the venue, sit in the corner and watch in awe! When I was about 12, the LD asked me to run the desk for him while he focussed the kit, and eventually he got me helping out with lighting amateur shows for a local venue. With that bit of knowledge and the confidence I gained, I was hooked on this business and decided to apply for a part-time job at the Key Theatre, Peterborough. It was here that I got some broader experience in lighting, sound and stage management. At the end of the day, nothing beats the feeling of setting up an event from an empty room or field and making something magical happen.
What do you think of the course you've studied?
The natural progression from my ad hoc introduction to the industry was to achieve some formal qualifications to improve my knowledge and fill in the gaps I'd missed while learning-by-doing. The Theatre Production course at Peterborough Regional College (PRC) has been incredibly helpful with this; it guided me into what aspect of live events I wanted to focus on and was most sidled at. The two-year course is based on a mix of hands-on experience, case studies and practical assignments with reflective essays. The more formal parts of the coursework covers areas such as show design, prop design, health & safety and general business/budgeting skills to help us be successful if we chose to become freelance.
What work experience have you had so far?
Since I was at school I have worked at the Key Theatre - initially as a spot op before progressing to stage management; I was working there pretty much full-time before starting my course at PRC. I then continued on a freelance basis at the theatre whilst studying, As part of the coursework, there was an optional opportunity to apply for work in the industry. I wasn't going to turn that down, and I was lucky enough to be offered an internship at Pearce Hire. I must have done something right, because at the end of my course, Pearce Hlre offered me a job as 'Lighting and Rigging Trainee'. That was a year ago, and since then I've been all over the country working on a huge variety of festivals and events. The company has a wide range of clients so I've been on the streets of many cities at 4am (completely sober!) setting up power and PA systems for large-scale events. I've operated lights for a motorcycle festival and loaded in lighting rigs in various venues and festivals around the UK. Since Pearce Hire provide temporary power dstribution to a lot of festivals, I've pulled in a lot of power cabling across many greenfield sites. When I'm not out on-site, I'm prepping and maintaining the lighting stock under the watchful eye of lighting supervisor Gareth Seal.
Who have been your biggest mentors?
Jim Brown - Warehouse Manager for Pearce Hire, and my boss - has taught me so much about working in the industry and has always been more than happy to answer the hundreds of questions I ask him. He really is my mentor and has ensured I consistently achieve the highest production standards. Also, Gareth Seal has patiently and methodically taught me about attention to detail.
What's the best career advice you've received so far?
More haste, less speed. Although you still need to be open in time for doors!
What's the most valuable lesson you've learned so far?
Check it. Double check it. Then check it again.
Who would you most like to emulate?
Oli Metcalfe - Muse's Drones tour was phenomenal.
What would be your dream project to work on?
I'd like to be designing lighting rigs for large festival stages and tours.
What's the toughest thing about entering this business?
In the early stages, it was finding the right place to develop your confidence and feel comfortable learning from those around you. And definitely remembering to keep your sense of humour when you're up against it. What's your experience of the industry's attitudes towards students? Everyone I've worked with has been very helpful, supportive and encouraging, and seems to enjoy giving me their advice „ , which is normally swiftly followed by a story about that one time they didn't follow their own advice!
What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?
Do it and never pass up an opportunity to learn something new. Also, I'm 6ft 4" so you might want some stilts to keep up.
What do you want your job title to be in 10 years' time?