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TheatreCraft 2016: James Simpson, Lighting Visualiser

First Published 26 October 2016, Last Updated 28 October 2016

TheatreCraft, London’s largest free event for 16-25 year olds seeking non-performance careers in theatre returns on Monday 14 November.

The annual careers fair has a new home for 2016 at the Waldorf Hilton Hotel, and offers attendees the opportunity to participate in numerous workshops led by theatre professionals, explore a vibrant marketplace of exhibiting theatres and organisations, seek one-to-one advice in the Ask The Experts zone, and interact with peers in networking hubs.

This week we spoke to James Simpson, Lighting Visualiser at the Royal Opera House. James will be hosting a workshop at this year’s event alongside many other industry experts. Booking for workshops is now open, register for the event at theatrecraft.org

An average day for me involves:

I will often have a lighting designer working in my visualisation studio for a part of the day. They will be working with the lighting programmer to light the show on the virtual model, whilst I’m trying to build 3D models of the next show!

The people I work with mostly are:

Lighting Programmers, Lighting Managers, Lighting Designers and the Model Room. My job is quite unique because I need to understand all the technical elements of the production in order to be able to re-create it virtually, and I work on every show we do so I have to work with everyone involved in creating a production at some point!

The best part of my day is usually:

When I sit down at my desk at the beginning of the day and (because I work by myself) and think “what would I like to do today?” and then chose the job I most feel like doing at that time. I love that feeling that I have a whole day ahead of me to indulge my love of lighting and technology. I do wake up in the morning excited to get to work!

I usually finish work at:

My working day is 9-6 but my brain doesn’t switch off until I eventually fall asleep. I enjoy my job so much I carry on when I get home and pretend it’s my hobby, so I might teach myself new software or create a fictional project to develop my skills, but even when I’m doing normal things like cooking dinner or putting my children to bed, I find my mind wandering back to something about work that’s exciting me at that time.

The most glamorous part of my job is:

I don’t know if this counts, but I have a wonderful collection of images of visualisation from all of the productions I have worked on over the years. They look very glamorous and I love to show off the work to anyone I can. Sometimes I get some nice perks doing this; I got to go to Sydney once to talk at a conference; that was quite exciting although I didn’t feel very glamorous after the long flight!

The least showbiz part of my job is:

I could never be convinced that any part of my day doesn’t benefit our shows, so to me everything is showbiz. If I had to pick something that wasn’t showbiz then it is probably my train journey every day! But I even try to make that useful by using it to read trade magazines or software manuals. I suppose that also because visualisation is before the main stage technical time, everyone forgets about it once the production moves forward, and I never get that “first night” feeling when a show opens because I’ve already moved onto the next project.

The advice I’d give to anyone wanting to do my job would be:

You have to love what you do so much that you are willing to put more in than you get back, and that is advice for any job but even more so mine because there is so much to learn and keep up with. When I talk to students about visualisation I tell them they should try to learn as many 3D skills as possible, try to get experience anywhere you can and be brave enough to try out your new skills. I do a lot of amateur dramatics because it is a safe environment to try out new ideas and develop technology and then bring it back to my professional job. You also need to be flexible about where your career goes, I always thought I would be a West End lighting designer but I let the opportunities that come my way guide me and I ended up in my dream job!

To find out more information and to register for TheatreCraft 2016 visit theatrecraft.org


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