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What Makes A Good Crew

Welcome to The Roadies of Color United (R.O.C.U.) Touring Professionals International Network Website.

What Makes A Good Crew

By Martin Thomas

I hope my insights and experiences are of assistance to those seeking to achieve success in this industry, and I look forward to working with many eager and dedicated workers in the near future.

As an LD, the qualities that make the various support personnel for the production function range, dependent on the position.

Starting with Local crew, I am looking for a mutual respect level from the moment I step into the building. There is a hierarchy to a production day, and crews that understand that- on all sides- leads to a successful production day if all runs following this. Whereas the touring crew knows (or SHOULD know) their rig, the Local crew should also know the intricacies of their venue/ production space. If there is fault to be found on either side, the production suffers unless both sides work together as a team. 

As someone that was a “box pusher” that had already toured internationally, I was able to sense when a touring crew was intimidated by their Local, and saw that the outcome as being detrimental to the day. So, as a lead on the tour, I look at what everyone contributes to the day; I look for loaders that follow instructions well and work safely and efficiently. Are they properly outfitted for the duties? Work boots, gloves? Do they understand the principal of leverage and lift/lower as a team? Do they understand the value of the equipment coming into the venue in those big cases and carts is great, and some of that gear is only protected by that plywood and metal trimmed roadcase. That most of what they are handling is glass? Electronics/computer systems? A loader that treats my equipment with care is a valuable addition to my crew.

For a Local stagehand, I am still looking for that same care of equipment, as well as someone that is easily moldable to the duties I need them to accomplish for the day- someone that LISTENS to instruction well and executes them with interest in their craft and to the best of their ability. Do they also come outfitted with the proper equipment for the job, and know how to use those tools? Wrenches are key in Electrics; do they have one, and know the proper way to apply that tool? Do they understand that truss is aluminum and clamps are steel bolts? And that there is no reason to continue to wrench on something after it is tight? The value of a safety cable? When running cable, they understand that it is easier to decipher problems on a system that is properly and neatly run, with enough cable slack to focus the fixture? My best Local crew is one that follows my lead’s instructions and has the intent of being the support team necessary for a successful day. A majority of accomplishing that is following the department and touring crew leads.

Moving into my own team, my touring crew is responsible for setting an example of the entire organization, and they are representing me, the company they are working for and the Artist with their demeanor. In addition to the items mentioned above for Local crews, the touring staff has the responsibility of being individual leads as well as teachers for the apprentice crew members on site. Because of that responsibility, I always look for personal leadership skills in all my team members before the tour even starts, as well as a level-headed attitude, problem-solving skills and mechanical aptitude. A background in the creative arts is helpful, as it shows an appreciation for the creativity that is what the performances are about, but it is not a requirement.

Foundation crew members (ME, 1stE, 2ndE) must have an understanding of safe work practices, time management skills and the ability to efficiently put labor to good use. My touring crew is there to supervise the Local crew and make sure that all the “t’s are crossed and the i’s are dotted”; although they are a hands-on position, the intent is to never wear them down to where their exhaustion causes something to be overlooked. I require my crew to be in a mentally competent state during production days, something that has changed radically since the early days of my time in this industry, and to have an understanding of the responsibilities that are assigned with their position. That includes having the proper equipment to accomplish their duties and maintaining those tools so that they are always at the ready. There is never a requirement for traditional formal education as a requirement on any of my teams; I appreciate the discipline that is gleaned from a formal education, but there are may alternate opportunities available to obtain useful skills in this industry outside of a university experience. With the availability of multiple on-line learning experiences, trade schools and of course, on-the-job training, the ability to become an invaluable member of the touring staff is only limited by the desire to obtain the available education. 

Touring personnel should have more than a basic understanding in electrical, mechanical physics (leverage, ballast, dynamic force), time and personnel management, electronics, basic machinery practices- including personnel lifts, forklifts and material lifts, and the use of basic hand tools. Additional skills helpful to success in the industry include welding and fabrication, computer skills, certification licensing for operation of trucks or machinery and rigging skills. 

When approaching the experience necessary for board operator/ assistant LD positions, I am a personal believer that all of the skills listed for the production positions already discussed should be part of your arsenal, as those leadership positions should be such that when a question arises, an informed and competent answer/ recommendation can be provided. Fielding questions on the floor and providing intelligent solutions that resolve the issue without the problem being presented to the LD or PM makes that person invaluable to my team. The BO-ALD positions also require a distinct understanding of working closely with personalities that come with being the Designer; these people carry the weight of working not only with the crews but also with artists, management, creative directors, producers, accountants and venue supervisors to accomplish the production. The BO-ALD must be thought of as the last line of defense before an issue on the floor comes to the desk of the LD. They must also have a clear and concise understanding of computer and control surface programming, document management and in some cases, become a personal assistant to the LD, with all that entails. Again, higher education is not a requirement, but with the rapidly changing technology in this field, having a current understanding of these protocols through education is imperative. There are many offerings inside and out of the industry; taking advantage of all the options available will only improve the opportunity for success.

I hope my insights and experiences are of assistance to those seeking to achieve success in this industry, and I look forward to working with many eager and dedicated workers in the near future.

Martin Thomas

Owner/Principal Designer

Relentless Entertainment Design, LLC

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