Tech crew invests time in preparation

As the second annual The Next Big Thing approaches, students and staff alike are working hard to set everything in place to make this year’s event bigger and better than last year.

Matthias Roberts, director of Bringing Live Unedited Entertainment, began putting this event together last May by starting the search for a celebrity judge.

“That is a really long process,” he said. “Then I had more detailed scheduling, like setting the date and putting together auditions.”

Auditions were held in mid November, and then BLUE began focusing on the video promotion, photography shoot and providing mentoring sessions for the contestants.

Last Saturday was a technical rehearsal, and tomorrow night is dress rehearsal. On Saturday BLUE volunteers will brief the judges on the event and contestants.

A rough estimate of 80 to 100 people have been working to make Saturday night’s performance amazing, Roberts said.

“It’s going to be awesome,” Roberts added.

Event Technology, the technical crew that puts everything together, has been preparing mentally for this event for the past two months, said Graham Harrell, assistant coordinator of events. As the event has drawn nearer, the six core teams of the tech crew meet to discuss logistics. There are lighting designers, cameramen, stage workers and others working on the show.

Including Harrell, 22 people will work The Next Big Thing. Nineteen of these are students with workstudy jobs.

“These students work their tails off,” Harrell said. “Most of them are out of workstudy hours before the semester is over because they put in so many late nights before events like The Next Big Thing.”

If The Next Big Thing was outsourced to an actual production company, Harrell said, the event would cost “upwards of $40,000.” That includes the lights, audio systems, video cameras, radio systems, manpower and wages of the crew, among other things.

The night of the event includes “a lot of remembering to breathe,” Harrell said. “It’s ordered chaos.”

Everyone on the technical crew is there two hours before The Next Big Thing starts, and some are there even earlier to make sure everything is in order. They often splice cables together, check the microphones and make sure all systems are working.

Senior Nathan Gustafson, the stage manager for The Next Big Thing, delegates bringing equipment on and off the stage between acts. “We show up hours early to space things out, to not stress so much,” he said.

“Anything that can go wrong probably will, so lots of preparation is put into this, and we really have to trust our crewmembers,” said senior Lauren Kirkpatrick, who will work in front of house for the event.

“We eat dinner together before the event to calm our nerves,” Harrell said. Before everything starts, he said, they pray together.

In meetings before the show, the teams get together to run through what the event will actually look like.

The team leaders that work the front of house met to discuss, among other things, what equipment would work best with which acts and instruments. They filled out stage layouts and spreadsheets, deciding where instruments will be set up and the best place to run cables and plug in microphones.

Behind the scenes work continues after the event, specifically during take down.

“Taking down [all our equipment] is a contest,” Harrell said. “The goal is to do better and faster than last year. The stage has to be clean, everything back in the cases and stored in our closet in Walker. We took down really fast at Talent Show—it only took us one hour and 15 minutes.”

“We get to be really creative in big events like this, and we really bond with one another through these experiences,” Gustafson said.

Despite the high-stress job the technical crew faces in putting on such a large production as The Next Big Thing, there is a “unique energy” to the atmosphere and the “great team environment” makes the crew “really excited to put on events like this,” Harrell said.