Ever wonder what it’s like to be the production designer behind some of the biggest music festivals in the world? Steve Leiberman, owner of SJ Lighting, is the lighting and production designer behind some of the stages at Coachella, EDC, Ultra, and many other internationally acclaimed music festivals. In a short interview with PetersonsPodcast, he too talks about his journey and experiences in this unique job.
It’s not all fun and games:
The first thing Steve warns everyone about is that the backstage of a festival is anything but glamorous. It’s full of stagehands, machinery, and trailers with production office personnel. In other words, it’s a working environment, so don’t expect to be partying if you ever land a job in a festival’s backstage.
Setting up for shows can take a long time:
According to Steve, shows can take anywhere between 2 days to 2 months to set up depending on the scale. A huge festival like EDC Vegas takes over 2 months because of the logistics involved.
So what goes into all those months of work?
For starters, securing the site and then bringing in all the steel needed to build structures. In addition, bringing in personnel and setting up for all the different disciplines, such as audio and video, merchandising campsites, entry portals, and food and beverage vendors. In other words, everything.
For EDC Vegas, Steve mentions that while it’s one of his most unique festivals to be involved with, it’s also the one that requires the most work. What makes EDC Vegas special is the amount of intricacy and details that goes on into the designs. Steve designs his stages so that everything is tied into the existing themes. This way, the audience gets a fully immersive experience even when walking between stages.
So how do you land such a cool job?
Steve mentioned that he had worked in the nightclub scene in the 80s and started doing lighting for the rave scene in the 90s. Although he got a college education and had plans to go to law school, he decided to take a turn and follow his passions into the electronic music industry instead.
What are some of the things that future aspiring festival production designers can do to get there? According to Steve, there are a couple of things that he looks for when hiring a designer: creativity, drafting skills (ie Autocad, Cinema 4D), graphic design, and resource management so that the person knows what’s possible within constraints such as finances and time.
Steve’s closing words for anyone who wants to be involved in the electronic music industry: find the discipline that works for you since there are multiple platforms to get into it. Be diversified and experience the scene through festivals and shows for yourself, since you’ll learn through these experiences. Now, who’s inspired to gain more experience and attend Ultra Miami?!?
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