Christmas 2012: Start Preparing Now

Am I crazy? Start preparing for Christmas? It’s only January 2! What could you possibly prepare for Christmas—which isn’t for almost 12 full months! I know, it seems nuts to think about, but there really is a method to my madness. And I will now explain it. 

Christmas is one of those times that tend to stress our technical systems and processes. The bands are bigger, the sets grander and the technical needs greater. It is usually about two weeks out that you figure out what you can and can’t do; and what you wish you had the capability to do. Somehow, you pulled it off, though I can bet there was probably a good bit of bailing wire and duct tape holding it all together.

So it is now, in January, that we should take stock of those systems, figure out where our weaknesses are and start making plans to correct them. Case in point; last year after our huge production of Gunch!, Isaiah and I spent almost six months building additional custom snakes, cables and harnesses, running conduit, cable and plates. We added even more remote controls and networking and we vastly cleaned up our lighting grid.

That all looked like a lot of hard work at the time, but it payed off in spades this December. Since Isaiah flew the coop to be a TD at another church, it was just me and my lighting super-volunteer, Thomas. I had to be set designer, set constructor, TD, A1, and A2. Thankfully, we had put in a ton of time getting our systems up to speed, which made my job a whole lot easier. 

Rather than run cables all over the place, we dropped in our snakes and custom cables to create an incredibly neat, efficient stage. Everything worked pretty much as planned. The only exception was one snake that I really wanted to get new ends put on before Isaiah left, but we ran out of time. And that was the one thing that failed. So, guess what I’m doing in January!

January is also a great time to look at your systems because the pain of their weaknesses is still fresh in your mind. All of the custom stuff we built last year came directly out of needs we discovered during the Christmas production. 

Christmas will also bring out the areas you need to work on for training your volunteers. For example, even though I’ve been working with my A2s for a few months, they are still not nearly prepared enough to help out on a big show like that. Sure, they can help do basic set ups and things like that, but they’re not up to speed on a lot of the more specialized things we do on a big event. I need to make sure I spend some time going over that so the can be more help.

We didn’t get to utilize our other lighting volunteers that much because most of them are not comfortable hanging fixtures and running cable in the truss. Again, that’s an area we can train on. 

Trying to do big events like Christmas and Easter by yourself, with sub-par systems can be exhausting. Our systems are pretty good right now, but it was still exhausting. I’m not sure how many more of those I can do like that. However, by next year, I hope to have a few more things in place, plus some better-trained volunteers to help out. And maybe, just maybe I won’t end up sleeping my entire week off this year.

What weaknesses did you notice this year during Christmas, and how are you going to fix them?