Wait For Me
‘Wait For Me’ is a good project to focus on for this study as it was designed for camera, which means my work can be reflected on fairly and accurately, as the final product encapsulates the lighting in its intended form – something that is incredibly difficult to do for works that are made for live audiences – allowing the detail of the work to be assessed at face value.
The role of lighting here was to aid the production, by being layered on top of a pre-made piece. My design intention was to communicate the narrative of the story, embody the emotion, and guide the audience through the shifts in location that occur throughout the piece between two worlds that exist in parallel.
The premise for ‘Wait For Me’ is as follows:
“Angels dance away the millennia in the realm of Heaven, two ethereal beings, entwined for all eternity and wrapped up in euphoric bliss until the moment they are split. Separated, they are sent to Earth with half a mortal soul wrapped in their arms. To fulfil a sacred vow, each must now act as the guardian of a mortal, destined to find their soul mate. Yet an angel’s journey is so much more than fulfilment of an ancient duty: for not only must these unseen guardians guide their mortals toward their destined other halves, it is only at the very moment that mortal soul mates touch that angels are free to resume their everlasting dance.
And so begins the story of Jack and Emma: two halves destined to be made whole; and the ebb and flow of the lives they lived and danced as one…”
The following video is the
production of 'Wait For Me'
This is ultimately the downfall of this approach to lighting. While is allows for quick working, quality can suffer and there isn’t an opportunity to try ideas in the space, so if an idea doesn’t look good, there typically isn’t time for it to be resolved. In ‘Wait For Me’, this is exemplified by continuity errors.
One of the main intentions for the production was to make it feel like one continuous ‘live’ performance. Because of not having time adjust lighting before shooting, between takes I would try to fix some major issues, such as performers being completely out of the light. However, in the edit, they cut between different takes, which resulted in some jarring continuity errors which, ultimately, broke the illusion of it being one long shot, and hindered the intention of the piece. This, is an example of the issue of working with lighting in this way, as while this aiding approach makes lighting a small part in constructing a production, it is still possible for it to damaging very easily.
Despite some flaws, my work on ‘Wait For Me’ can exemplify lights ability to communicate story and emotion, considering the context of it being made in an isolate process allows it to serve as a base level to be elevated from through different practices.
The production time for ‘Wait For Me’ was very short. This imposed a significant number of limitations, in addition to navigating the COVID-19 lockdown rules that were in place at the time of filming. The production period (including setting up, plotting, filming, and loading out) happened over three days. This tight timeframe and the filmed format had a very significant impact on the role of light, and the extent of what the lighting could provide to the production, as it meant there was no time to refine or rehearse it as there would be in a normal technical rehearsal period. Therefore, the context of the production dictated the role of light to simply be another layer of storytelling placed on top of the production, as it wasn’t feasible to integrate it into the piece to work as one theatre machine. I was also brought on as the lighting designer quite late on in the creation period, so a lot of elements were already fixed without my input.
Another reason for using this approach, was that the choreographer was also performing, directing the cinematography, and designing the costumes and makeup. Therefore, he had very little time to think about the lighting in any detail or have artistic conversations with me on shoot days. Going into the shoot, a voice note that outlined the choreographer’s very broad ideas, such as ‘heavenly’ or ‘pedestrian’, formed the basis for my design brief. I had to work independently to layer lighting on top of what he had created, in order to aid the production, through lifting the production value by disguising the industrial feel of the venue to help maintain audiences' suspension of disbelief, in a way that communicated the story and emotional shifts of the piece.
This approach to lighting was possible as the camera plot and its movements had been integrated into the performance. Therefore, all the rehearsal recordings included the planned camerawork, and so had an indication of the framing that I could plan the lighting around when making my cue list. These rehearsal recordings epitomise the role of light for the show – being another layer on an existing production. The choreography, cinematography, and music all worked together to tell the story of the piece. I could then layer in light as another production element communicating the story to the audience. Therefore, these before and after videos exemplify light’s contribution to the production.
The following is a breakdown of my design, its execution and the limitations the design faced due to it being layered on top of the performance to aid it.
As discussed, the story telling ability of light is clearly showcased in ‘Wait For Me’, despite some weaker moments that were ultimately caused by the aiding style of approach and timescale hindering the ability to develop the design in the space. Therefore, it provides a good benchmark for this research process as it, at times, showcases the ability of light to communicate story and emotion when executed well. The weaker moments however, exemplify the limitations it faced due to using the aiding process and show how it would have benefitted from more time and attention. It can be compared to productions that use approaches that place lighting in a more involved position, rather than ‘Wait For Me’ which just involved adding light to an existing product. This allows for comparison between this approach, and approaches that involve working on a production that is still in development by consciously trying to push the lighting further to see how effectively it can communicate a story visually, as well as trying to integrate it in with other production elements in a collaborative practice.
While other processes may result in stronger lighting design, there is clearly a skill in being able to deliver a consistently strong design throughout a piece. My work on ‘Wait For Me’ could have been improved with more preparation such as pre-programming with a visualiser before the shoot. While these processes are only as accurate as the technical information available, they mean that more time in venue can be spent improving the design as there is already a structure to work from and help the lighting move quicker. A common reason for the issue of time constraints is that other departments have the ability to execute their creative work before the production is staged, whereas due to technical and financial limitations, lighting is almost always only executed in the final stage of production in the space. Strong preparation helps to mitigate this, and help facilitate the aiding process.
During this production period for ‘Wait For Me’ I discovered the potential for light to influence performance. During a break there was music being played through the sound system and my programmer (who has a background in lighting design for live music) was playing with the rig and responding to the music. At the same time one of the performers was keeping warm by continuing to move. However, she didn’t seem to respond to the music until the lighting started to become dynamic. Her movement then seemed to start reacting to the lighting that my programmer was creating, and subsequently my programmer manipulated the lighting in response. Bizarrely, neither of them were aware that they were being responsive to each other. This seemingly unconscious instinctive connection led me to develop an interest in how light can be a tool for collaborative development in a creation process and formed the basis of another research project, leading me to develop the third piece in this project, after further exploring the role light can play as an independent production element.