Stopgap's Richard Walker
Richard Walker – What does a Production Manager do?
Richard, Stopgap’s new Production Manager, joined us in February 2013 for the creation of Artificial Things.
For the initial greeting Richard met the dancers and the other production members to see who he was working with and have a chat through general design, something that’s called ‘The White Card’ – simply because the set design for the first meeting is made out of white cardboard.
Richard then joined the dancers for a couple of days when they were in Bournemouth at Pavilion Dance to discuss final set ideas before they were ok’ed. As the dancers moved to Essex at Zinc Arts for two weeks, Richard also came. He built a rough vitrine, to size everything up and see if it worked or not. It turned out after making the tester that the dimensions were far too large, taking up a lot of the stage space, so had to be re-sized. While at Zinc Richard also explored ideas for getting Dave Toole in and out of a suit jacket that will be suspended. This was a thoroughly enjoyable time for Richard, as he really got to know all the dancers spending time with them and competing in the regular evening ping-pong matches.
As the dancers finished at Zinc, Richard got the go ahead with the set designs, so the next stage was to get quotes from set companies, costing up the vitrine for a reasonable price. Being production manager, Richard has the job of taking control of the budget, so knows exactly what has been spent and how much there is left over. Having looked locally for set designers, the decision was to go up North and found a company called ‘Splinter’ who have been used for many West End shows. As well as locating the design company, Richard has the job of finding all or any props that the dance may need, in this case stools and paper snow, made from hole punched paper.
Now using Surrey University studios, Richard has delivered the vitrine/box and a wooden boarder or frame for the stage made by ‘Splinter’ to see if any problems occurred while the dancers tested the set out.
So apart from getting all the set design together what other duties does a production manager do?
An understanding of all the relationships between the different components (i.e set, lighting and sound) is vital for Richard’s role. He has to understand the way everyone is thinking, pre-empt problems, use his knowledge to create solutions and provide anything that is needed throughout the process. Richard even suggested which technician Stopgap should use for this specific tour.
When the show goes on tour, Richard also takes the role of company stage manager, which involves writing a method statement – a guide to how the show is put together. When going on tour, you need to give the venue advance notice of what the show needs and a schedule, this is called a technical rider – something Richard has already done 3 months in advance of the piece going abroad. Other jobs include writing a risk assessment, doing a van check to see if all equipment and set fits and basic liaising with all the venues making sure they are happy with and can accommodate our requirements.