Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Calling a Show: Part Two

Yes, calling the actual show can be scary and intimidating. It can also be extremely satisfying when completed. It's not really that hard. Here are some basic guidelines (thanks again to http://www.simply-communicate.com/).

Do exactly what is in the script and what has been rehearsed but watch and listen to what is going on onstage and all around you constantly; don’t relax. The secret is to get a flow established.
  • Be consistent. If you always say it in the same order, then people will get used to it (e.g. SND, LX, VT, etc). 
  • In general terms, three to four words is about a second when spoken out loud. 
  • Cue process one: standby. Remind crew what they are standing by for in general terms at the beginning (e.g. a speaker changeover, the name of the video, etc). Then put everyone on standby together, saying what each is to do as you go (if you have time), particularly if video or music is to be used; (use specific names to be absolutely sure). Standbys are usually given around five to 10 seconds before a go, subject to how many people you have to standby and how long you have between cues. You should also allow time for people to acknowledge their standby and a bit of space before the cue. 
  • Cue process two: go. Allow time to state the item to be cued first, then say “go” (never the other way around or they will all go and that may not be the creative direction). 
  • Performers, presenters, and other individuals who know they must appear onstage during an event program (i.e. are not award winners) should be escorted to the backstage or holding area so they are standing by at that location a minimum of 10 minutes prior to their appearance onstage. This means that the show caller – and especially the stage managers - will have to gauge the time it takes to travel with these individuals (or groups for that matter) from their green room or other location to backstage and be ready to go at the correct time. This is not necessarily as easy as it seems, since the green room may be on another building level, there may be large crowds or long convoluted hallways to navigate, and some groups may take time to assemble themselves. It is always better to err on the side of arriving backstage earlier rather than later. 
  • If there haven’t been cues for a while, then let everyone know there are two minutes to go before the next cue so they wake up, set up a CD or VT, or prepare accordingly. 
  • React to changes that may occur once in show mode (e.g. a speaker is faster or slower than you thought) and immediately adjust your running order as needed.
In the example below, the Production Manager or TD (TD) is “Doug”, who is “calling the show,” the Stage Manager (SM) is “John,” LX is Lighting, and the Video Director is VD.

TD: “Doug for John.”
SM: “Go for John.”
TD: “Standby with Mr. Smith at stage right and put him at stage right lectern after this speaker finishes.”
SM: “10 – 4.”
TD: “Standby lighting with new wash for Mr. Smith.”
LX: “Standing by.”
TD: “John, Mr. Smith onstage. Go.”
SM: “Mr. Smith is onstage.”
TD: “Lighting, change to a blue wash for Mr. Smith. Go.”
LX: “Blue wash is on Mr. Smith.”
TD: “Standby video with the next clip after Mr. Smith. It’s the clip for the new sales program.”
VD: “Standing by with video clip of new program.”
TD: “Video clip of new program. Go.”

And so on as per the show running order and script. To reiterate, there is a standard sequence for giving verbal cues:

"Standby Sound Cue 19" (The word “Standby” first).
"Sound Cue 19 Go" (The word “Go” last).

Repeat this same order for the next series of presenters or stage segment and try to keep it going throughout the event. The key is to anticipate and know exactly what must be done at least four or five steps ahead of where you are in the show running order or script. Give everyone lots of time to get to their assigned positions and complete their tasks. Check off each item on the running order or script as it finishes. Try to keep calm and not get flustered if things go wrong. Think logically. Keep in mind that, like an airplane taking off and landing, the first and last 10 minutes of the show are the most critical and they are the times when something is most likely to go wrong. If you are new to the game, start on a really simple show and work your way up from there.

You can find more about calling shows and the equipment used in my book Special Event Production: The Process.

No comments:

Post a Comment