Profession: Production Designers
Date & place of birth: Louis: 02.08.1987, UK. James: 30.11.1989, UK.
How did you get into the industry – were you formally trained or did you opt for the more DIY route?
L: I fell into the industry. Whilst studying a Music Business degree at university, I took on a part time job at a local lighting company with the aim of making some additional funds. That company was Siyan. After a week, I started taking a real interest in the designers and technicians and their roles on productions. Shortly after, I started going on various introduction courses and learning how to use and operate lighting consoles. This led to me picking up my first and longest standing client, You Me At Six.
J: My Interest in theatre started off at eight years old. I saw a local production and decided I wanted to be involved. After expressing my interest, I expected to be making teas but they offered me the chance to design the lighting and I caught the bug. I chose to undertake a BTEC in Performing Arts Production where I really started to focus on my passion: lighting for live music. I took my tutors’ advice and left education to start work for PRG.
How did you hone your craft?
L: I have very much learnt as I’ve gone along. After a year I began working on the design side and learning to not only get the most out of any rig, but to make sure I had all of the tools for the job. Looking back, I can see that my designs were very much thrown together as I didn’t have the knowledge I have now to make the right technical and design choices.
J: I did it by working with people that I look up to, by absorbing their experience. I have a great deal of thanks and appreciation to the people who have guided me this far. A way to hone any craft is to be thrown in at the deep end – it’s terrifying, but really gives you a backbone!
What was your first ‘big break’ in concert touring?
L: I consider my first big break in the industry to be You Me at Six as without those five lads, I don’t think the work I do would have progressed as quickly as it did. I was indeed thrown in at the deep end and was given the opportunity to design their first production tour. Many years and countless tours later, I have stuck with them and they have kept me along for their very exciting ride.
J: My first big break would have to be operating the lighting for Stevie Wonder. I owe a lot of how I design and present my craft now to working with LD Mark Cunniffe. Even though we don’t work together anymore, I can still hear him in the back on my head saying, Why are you doing that?, This isn’t a circus James… Less colours! or Please tell me that was an accident?
So, how did Okulus come into fruition?
J: I met Louis at Siyan’s offices when I was on the crew for You Me At Six in 2012. He had some programming queries with an MA Lighting desk and the crew who knew him pointed out that I might know the answer. Since then we’ve found a mutual work ethic and become good friends. In early 2014 we decided to give collaborating a shot. So far, it’s working…
In such a creative profession in a competitive environment, how do the dynamics of the company work?
J: The dynamics are very relaxed, we both work on every project that comes through our door – even if one of us doesn’t get to see the end product, you can be sure that both of our minds have been on the project from the start. It’s a great way of working as we don’t really take a lead role – unless it’s called for – and we’re not afraid to tell the other person that their idea or concept is terrible because we’re both working for the same goal. In terms of the dynamics with other design houses and solo designers, we’re friends with most of who we consider to be our competition. It’s a horrible feeling to pitch for work and not be chosen after you’ve invested time and creative emotion into a project, but often the work goes to people we respect.
Can you talk us through a career highlight – either a challenging production or a tour that you’re very proud of?
L: Every production I have worked on had something about it that has made it a highlight. The work we have been producing since forming Okulus is some of the best that either of us has ever put together and we are both very excited to see what’s coming next.
Louis, you’ve been nominated for a Knight Of Illumination award in this year’s ‘Concert Touring and Events’ category. What are your thoughts on that kind of recognition?
L: It really is an honour to have the Chvrches design from their first campaign up for this award. There are some fantastic designs in the awards this year so whether I win or lose, it’s just great to be considered.