John McKernon     

Made with EverWeb

Copyright © 2009-2021 John McKernon Software. All rights reserved.


Some thoughts to help lighting designers get through life in the theater


You'll regret more the things you didn't do than the things you did.

Speak and listen instead of texting and reading. Intonation is everything.

Ambition is good.

Get used to speaking to large groups.

You need a Red Cue to get a Tony for best lighting design of a musical.

To afford a country house you need either a smash hit Broadway musical or a TV career.

Having a hit means you're the "best" designer.


It's all about telling the story, be sure you know why you're telling it.

Support the actors, don't drown them.


Always say thank you.

If you can't be charming and brilliant, then be charming and mediocre rather than nasty & brilliant.

One night out with the crew is enough - but there are never too many nights out with the director and scenic designer.

Pick your fights very carefully. No tantrums, ever.

Work the room, keep meeting new people.


Either light the scenery or don't.

Masking is the scene designer's responsibility, but the lighting designer's the one who fixes it.

Footlights light scenery.

Scrim is a collection of holes held together by thread.

"More is not enough" might be true, but that doesn't mean it's always good lighting.


Always remember who hired you.

Always remember whose career you're promoting.

Designers want assistants they can have dinner with.

Let your designer talk to the director. Talking to the director is not your job.


If the crew isn't on your side, you're doing something wrong.

If you know the crew is going to be terrible, keep your goals modest.


Resumes rarely get you work - friends and colleagues do.

Directors & scenic designers get lighting designers work.

Don't take a job "for the art" and then complain about not getting paid enough.

Don't take a job "for the money" and then complain that nobody on the show has any taste.

Designers get typecast, too.

Never turn down work because you're too busy, just hire more assistants.

The second time you turn down a producer or director will be the last time they ask you.

Don't take work you don't want and then get all grumpy about it.

It's your career - tend it every day, but take vacations.

Everyone gets the career they really want, whether they know it or not.

Careers never go where you think they will.


It's your career - take charge of it, don't just sit around.

Anybody can say they're a lighting designer.