Backstage Roles: Technical Director, Nick Macfie

  • Career
    Backstage Roles:  Technical Director, Nick Macfie

Source: Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia gallery

There is nothing quite like being part of an audience at a theatre production, corporate event, music concert or fashion runway show. Behind the scenes there are a whole crew of people working hard to bring the entertainment to you.  

Miro Door had the privilege to speak with leaders in the industry to gain insight into how these individuals developed their careers and how they keep ahead of the game. We had the honour of catching up with Nick Macfie of Production Technologies.

Nick Macfie and Miro Kubicek - Source: Daily Telegraph

Based in Sydney, Nick is Director of Production Technologies a company engaged by clients to provide services which includes technical direction and product management to the live event and broadcast industries within Australia and internationally. Following formal training at the Australian Institute of Music, Nick seized every opportunity to gain experience and through his talent, skills and hard work has shaped an inspiring career.  

With your company Production Technologies you have provided technical direction and product management services to some of Australia’s premium events including many of Australia’s premium fashion shows.    What is your primary role within a production team?

In most cases my role is to bring together the team and resources, covering all disciplines, that produce the technical components of an event – this includes professionals who design, build, manage and operate technical systems in audio, video, lighting, rigging, staging, power, IT & communications.

It involves a lot of ‘people management’ whilst at the same time managing timeline of design and construct for all technical elements, which means making sure everything is designed to work together, is built in the right order, and can give the shows or events the outcomes that are required.

What training and experience helped you build your career?

The best training and experience comes from working on the job, from my time in school I was always working in theatres and performing arts spaces, to sporting events, music venues and the like.

I did study at the Australian Institute of Music, which was very beneficial, but very theory based. After school, it was a case of putting my hand up for every opportunity I could get, paid or not. This ranges from working in pubs and clubs, to schools and universities, to radio and television.

In all cases, you are learning about your own craft, and furthermore, that of different clients, producers, directors, sponsors and other stakeholders as you go.

It’s not always the most inspiring process, but you are constantly learning and meeting new people along the way, and it still surprises me how many of those people become invaluable to your career as the years go by.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

It has to be the variety that rarely are two projects ever the same.

Our calendar year ranges from corporate events, to fashion, TV, music and festivals throughout the different seasons, we are never locked into one niche, we really do roll with the seasons of the entertainment industry, and that keeps it fresh.

Sass and Bide Runway Show 2017 - Source: NM

Do you feel yourself and your team need to update your technology knowledge and skills regularly to help provide the best services?

Absolutely! Technology is changing every day, for better and for worse depending on where you’re sitting. Technology in our field gives us the ability to be more creative, have more capability and be more efficient.

Keeping up with it isn’t easy and you have to keep engaging and recruiting people that are specialists in their chosen field. It’s impossible to keep up with it all yourself. At the same time, training and research is easier than it ever has been.

It’s important that I keep on top of what is happening and being developed around the world and educate myself on how we could use this technology in the events we do.

This isn’t necessarily always the exciting stuff that the audience can see, it can be more commonly the back end components that are show critical that nobody sees, like communications, networking etc.

When is your team bought into the planning process for a major Fashion Runway show?  

This can vary greatly, depending on the people involved and the intended creative. Major fashion weeks can have us cover nearly 60+ shows and events in a five day period, so time management is crucial.

Designers and their teams would start a dialogue with myself and our Lighting Director about 8 weeks out from the show.

This would include initial concepts and ambitions, basically a chance to gauge feasibility at the early stages to ensure they are producing a show that is possible given the venue, turnaround times and budget.

That conversation would continue throughout the weeks and then in the fortnight prior to the show, the conversations would become daily with the whole team.

What advice would you give young people trying to enter into the live production industry in Sydney/ Australia?

• Say yes to everything and if you’re not getting asked, go and chase the opportunity.

• Offer your time and assistance (within reason) to anyone in your chosen field.

• You won’t always get the response you want, but you will get responses.

• Keep the approach simple and direct, there’s no need for anything bold.

• There is plenty of work out there!

What production/show have you been proud to be involved with and why?

In recent years, it would have to be the Eurovision Song Contest 2014.

We were engaged by Blink TV & SBS Australia as technical directors to the Australian entry which was the first time in history Australia took part in the broadcast.

We collectively produced the technical components of the show which was seen by 100m+ viewers. That was quite an honour and an exciting project to be involved in.

In conclusion, the expertise required for the event and production industry to improve the live experience is varied and always developing. Thank you Nick for sharing about your role as a Technical Director and for your views on developing a career within technical production.

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