Expanding Growth

“The greatest teacher, failure is”… spoken by Yoda in The Last Jedi.

Other than the word scramble that is Yoda speak, that thought couldn’t be truer.

It’s hard to believe when you’re starting out that screwing up on a gig isn’t going to be the end of your career but may be a leap forward. It’s those panic “oh shit!” moments that teach the best lessons. Lessons that you will never forget. Lessons that you will immediately and forever learn how to avoid doing again while expanding your understanding.

Hang around backstage or in the wings of a show during down time and I guarantee you will hear a bunch of entertainment production veterans sharing stories about how they screwed up on a gig or gigs. Most of the time these vets will be out doing each other with bigger and bigger screw up stories.

It goes like this, “I had finally landed the gig of a lifetime and I knew I was ready. Then all of sudden this _____ happened and I panicked and did ________! “Which took us off the air!” Or “I killed the house audio!” Or “I blew half the lights out on stage three minutes before curtain!”

BTW all of those and many more are part of the “Road Case” stories I share during those backstage hangs. The result of those moments is that none of us have repeated those same screw up twice. We all learned, the hard way, what not to do or what to pay attention to next time.

Now, I’m not saying you need to go out of your way to make mistakes.  The point is those mistakes usually happen when you are unware of the consequences of a particular action or when you to stop paying attention to what you need to be paying attention to.

In either case the screw ups act as a wakeup call.

Now the downside of this learning method is you might lose a gig or a client. Which for obvious reasons sucks. But it’s not the end of your career. As I’ve said, many of us have lived through those moments and became the better for it.  Hopefully!

Here are some of the stories I’ve heard about, been present for when they happened, or personally screwed up:

The director didn’t call for record in a small control room during a once in a life time interview, where the guest revealed many personal moments never before spoken on the record.

A studio media manager wiped out the memory on a Digital Audio Workstation that held an entire album’s basic tracks for a band that was about to head out on their US stadium tour.

A camera op, shooting with one of the first digital video cameras for network coverage of the NY subway series, was inside an active NY subway tunnel on small platform.  Not realizing the trains have a small metal handle outside the train doors of the trains, he misjudged the distance between the moving train and his position. The train came through. The handle hit and knocked the then ninety-thousand-dollar camera out of operator’s hand and shattered the camera. Operator was fine.

How about the time the lighting director who on opening night of a Broadway play loaded the wrong show setting into the lighting console? When the show started it started with all the lighting cues for another play.

Or the shipping company that lost several road cases filled with specialty cameras needed for the broadcast of the Grammy award show.

The time while loading data into a synthesizer during a show’s final sound check at Carnegie Hall the tech didn’t check to see if the house sound system was off.  It wasn’t. So, when the sound of digital audio went live through the audio console and into the speakers, a sound the speakers were never designed to reproduce, it blew the entire sound system out an hour before show.

Or the guitar tech on a major metal band mistuned all the guitars and didn’t find out until the band started the show.

Then there was the show producer inside the control room of a live broadcast who for no reason pushed the Grand Master fader on the lighting board and brought all the studio lights to one hundred percent full. Obviously, not cool for the cameras or a live broadcast. 

This list goes on and on.  I have literally heard or been part of thousands of “misfires”.

As funny as these stories are now they were definitely NOT funny at the time. As I said earlier they also caused many to lose their gig or never get a call back from the company that hired them originally.

Most mistakes are just that a mistake or an accident. Then there are the mistakes caused by ignorance of a task, over confidence or arrogance.  These are the most dangerous. Not because they cause more serious issues then the accidents.  It’s usually because the person who created the issue will not own the mistake. Meaning they always find someone or something other than themselves to blame. Not recognizing YOU made a mistake leaves you with no reason to correct your behavior or learn what not to do next time and there is always a next time.

The take home points are:

  1. A mistake usually doesn’t end your career.
  2. The circumstances surrounding the mistake become so ingrained in your DNA that you will likely never make the same mistake twice.
  3. You should learn not to make that mistake again and dig a little deeper to learn a better way.
  4. Take ownership of the screwup and learn how to avoid doing it or anything similar again.
Fast track your entertainment production career