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Technical Director

The technical director (TD) is responsible for overseeing everything technical to do with a show. That sounds very daunting, and it is a challenge, but it’s also very rewarding. It’s normal for the TD to be responsible for building the set, and for other crew members to deal with the other aspects (sound, lighting, etc.) - the TD needs to make sure that it is all coordinated though. The TD will also be in charge of running the get-in and get-out. Health and Safety is an important part of the job, to make sure no accidents happen to you, your crew or anyone else – in some venues you will required to fill in a risk assessment.

The best way to get into TDing is probably to help build some sets and turn up to some get-ins to learn from those experienced, then try TDing a small show. If you’d like to learn in a more detailed way, many TDs will be happy to take on an Assistant TD on that basis - contact them if you'd be interested in that.

What does the Technical Director do?

One of the first jobs of the Technical Director is often to help with the selection of the rest of the technical team. Alongside the Director and Producer, it will often be the TD who has a say in the appointment of the Lighting Designer, Sound Designer and Set Designer. As it will be the TD's job to co-ordinate the rest of the technical team, it is important that crew are appointed who the TD will work well with.

For some shows, the TD will have a large say in the production design. For others, the the Technical Director will be presented with a design, either on paper or in the form of a model. This entirely depends on the rest of the production team, whether there has been a designer appointed, or whether the director is designing the set with the TD. At this point, the TD should work out what materials (wood, metal etc for set construction, other hired materials such as decking) will be needed to make the set work. First of all these materials should be budgeted for, and then ordered when given the go-ahead from the show producer or society treasurer.

It is important for the TD to familiarise himself or herself with the rules imposed by the society or venue in dealing with outside suppliers. Often they will require evidence that you have approcached several different companies for the same material, to make sure that you have got a competitive quote. As a general guideline, materials for set construction should be ordered 10-14 days before your show is due to go up, and other hired materials should be ordered about 7 days before. If you've forgotten something and its later than that, don't panic - companies are often very good at despatching goods at short notice if the order is time-sensitive!

It is the TD's job to co-ordinate the get-in schedule, both with the rest of his or her technical team, and the venue. This will almost certainly involve writing a get-in plan (with allocated stage time for lights, set and sound), but may also require him or her to complete a risk assessment or other health and safety document with the theatre. Often the TD will end up building the set, but it is important that they do not lose contact with the rest of the production team in the run up to the get-in weekend. The TD should also be aware of other rules imposed by the venue with regard to get-ins and get-outs. For example, what time is the building open/closed? who is responsible for health and safety? does the crew need any particular training/guidance? Time and people management is crucial at this stage to ensure everyone is ready for what is often a frenetic get-in period. The most important thing at this stage is never to panic, and never be afraid to ask for advice!

TDing a show can be a lot of work - but it can also be incredibly rewarding. It's a great chance to work with directors and designers and see your work (often the result of many hours of blood, sweat and tears) on the stage for everyone to see!

Note: Technical Director while a standard role in Cambridge, is not in general use elsewhere. The Technical Director role as Cambridge uses it combines several elements of other roles. It is closest to Production Manager, but includes responsibilities traditionally associated with the Stage Manager, Master Carpenter etc.. This division of labour works well in the Cambridge theatre environment, and so persists, with (as is appropriate) a dedicated title.

Last edited Wed 28th Mar 2007 by Will Wykeham

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