“The first gig of my career was with Showforce, aged 17 from there I was just completely infatuated with the whole industry. Although I was doing music tech at college, I didn’t get on with it. I knew I wanted to do something with music, but I didn’t really consider production to be a ‘thing’ – I still think that’s a problem for the industry – not enough young people really know about the opportunities. It was only when I started working as a member of local crew that I fully realised the scale of the production industry and what it might offer.”
Warner pursued a BSc degree in Live Event Technology at the University of South Wales, whilst at university he continued to work, stepping in at his local theatre on sound and lighting duties, gaining more experience alongside his studies. In the summer of 2019 Rory then began working as a casual employee at leading independent lighting, rigging and control supplier, Neg Earth Lights. “I’d always assumed I was going to do something with sound but when I started at Neg Earth, I was like – ‘wow, this lighting stuff is cool’ as well! I’d never really been that interested in it before, but from there it just snowballed. The early part of my involvement in the industry had been a kind of slow and steady build, but suddenly, this was lift-off,” Warner commented.
Learning his craft with Neg saw him become a full-time employee, Warner explained: “I think my first ‘site’ day with Neg last year was loading in Gorillaz for rehearsals at our studio. I remember them being complimentary about my work. I was still doing my own stuff outside working hours, getting as much experience as I could, and I’d started pushing Neg for more and more work. The first video shoot I ever did was with about 30 lights – the most recent, in Paris with Blackpink, was more like 300 or 400 lights!”
Warner feels that he works in an environment where he is valued: “My managers Joao and Jack have been hugely supportive of my endeavours both inside and outside the company. They take the time to make sure that the team is happy, asking about our personal lives and taking a real interest in what we’re doing outside Neg. That’s really encouraging and creates a great space in which to learn and develop as a person as well as a technician.”
A look at his recent work on a job for Stormzy at Abbey Road Studios illustrates his progress, and just what is possible for young technicians across the production sector. Warner explained: “For the Stormzy gig my role was as a general lighting technician, which covered a host of duties from cleaning and preparing cables and fixtures before load-in, to helping with the building of the truss structure. I witnessed and was involved in some quick thinking and problem solving before all the lights were rigged and flashed and the gaffer was happy. For me it was two days prepping cables and fixtures, and one day to build. It was great to be a part of a gig from start to finish and hugely valuable for me to see the coordinated effort put in by every department at Neg.”
Warner’s aim is to become a freelance lighting technician. He believes that his role at Neg will be instrumental in helping him to fulfil that goal. He concluded: “Working at Neg has developed my skills and understanding, allowed me to meet and talk with big names in the lighting and events world, and shown me a career path that I hadn’t thought possible before. The beauty of this industry is that whatever area of production inspires you, if you’re willing to learn, work hard and adapt, there’s a broad spectrum of roles available.”