What are they Learning?

Here in Australia a lot of high school students undertake studies in drama at yr 12 (final year) . Now there is a percentage of those students that are interested in the technical side of production. Now what is being taught to these students, well it seems at times not very much. I am often working on shows with these students and a lot of them have an incredible lack of knowledge in this area, and they profess that the want to go on in this field. Now this is rather worrying to me. Some of these students have no  idea what a fresnel is or a profile. These students are going to be assessed on this work and it also makes me wonder about the assessors. Surely when learning about lighting you should know about what the various lanterns are and what they can do. This must be one of the basic requirements to learning about lighting and lighting design, well at least I thought so. In fact it the best way a lighting designer (or any other designer, like audio etc) to gain knowledge is to use the tools of trade. without this knowledge you cannot not make informed choices in how the equipment is used to gain the artistic and practical use.

So where does the fault lie. Is it with the curriculum that is taught, or the teaching staff knowledge or lack of knowledge of the technical side of production. If in fact you look at the South Australian SACE Board “Lighting Designer’s Checklist” you will notice one glaring area. It does  ask the lighting designer to make themselves familiar with the lighting equipment and what it can do, mainly by taking pictures etc. Now this could be because they are assuming that the student may already have a keen interest in the topic. This is not necessarily so, some students get into the tech side late in their high school years. So the student may have to rely on the teacher to impart a lot of technical information that they might not be that familiar with. Technical theatre is a specialist area that might be out of the purvey of the teacher. In fact the document talks about collecting images and collages of of ideas for lighting looks, well that seems ok in principal, but not much help when you turn up to a venue and present it to the venue tech. Well at least it does talk about getting a lighting plan, but is it going to make any sense to someone that does not know what the lantern types are and what their function is. Do the have the skills to work ohere lanterns are to go to give the lighting effect that you are after.

so it seems to me that anyone going into any tertiary facility to gain further knowledge is not going to really have an adequate knowledge. But it is surprising that some of these facilties are taking these high school graduates and guess what? There are some that still have not got much better. The basics are what are needed to be taught first, they need to be able to rig and focus. Set up the equipment and see what it can do, get familiar. They cannot step into a design postion without doing the hard yards.

So if you have ever wondered my that new guy seems a bit vague at setting up the lights, it could be due to the fact they have not been that well trained.

What are your thoughts on the training of techsin our industry?

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