Breaking into the fiercely competitive and tightly woven live events industry is difficult for young people at the best of times. Add a global pandemic, the subsequent lockdown of live events and the increasing anxiety of a lost generation of skills to the mix and it can seem like an impossible pursuit. However, as has been documented in each print edition of TPi since COVID-19 reared its ugly head, where there is constraint, there is innovation.
Take aspiring show designer, Cedric Duré, for example. Born in Antwerp, Belgium, the 17-year old runs a promising show design agency, Outdream Creative. His passion for the live events industry was sparked at the age of nine. “I have always been very passionate about music, art and technology, and the live events industry merges all of these interests,” he began. “I got into the industry by doing my first shows with a local DJ, DIVS, who I met through my volleyball coach. I started to network with people I met at the venues DIVS played and it took off from there.”
Currently studying for a high school degree in Economics and Modern Languages, Duré believes that a diverse skillset and being open to alternative career paths away from the sector – especially amid a global pandemic – are worth exploring. “I have been studying for a year via home tuition to be more flexible and focus more on my desired career in the live events sector. You never know what is going to come across your path, so it is very important to have a plan B, and even a plan C.”
Having been approached for production design and lighting at a series of music festivals in Belgium, the summer of 2020 was set to be the busiest of Duré’s burgeoning career as a live events professional. “Despite the cancellation of most events in my calendar, COVID-19 has afforded me with a lot of opportunities to develop new projects, improve my skillset, and meet new people – albeit online,” he said, reassuringly.
With most live shows temporarily grounded, Duré has enhanced his knowledge of industry tools such as MA Lighting grandMA2, grandMA3, disguise, Resolume, Unreal Engine and Blender by attending webinar sessions, watching tutorials and networking. “I enjoy experimenting and trying different things,” he noted. “One of the things I am still learning to this day is how to work more efficiently and deal with the time pressure involved with live shows.”
Duré was lucky enough to put his newfound skillset to good use last year, working on livestream VR Stream Marathon events as well as smaller COVID-19 secure projects. “I was able to work on my first show with Unreal Engine, an amazing piece of software that I have been learning during lockdown, using real-time generated content to follow the position and orientation of dancers.”
Unfortunately, the show was postponed due to the pandemic. However, in the same week, Duré was approached to program lighting for the Lost Frequencies’ Ocus Gin DJ set livestream. “I couldn’t believe this at first because it was a huge dream of mine to work for a triple A artist,” he enthused. “I have also worked on a couple of virtual 3D studios for corporate and music livestreams.”
Recalling his experience of TPi’s first foray into digital events, Production Futures Online, Duré said: “I had the chance to meet and connect with some amazing people there that I am still in touch with. I am now part of Next Robe Generation (NRG). With the lockdown of live events, Production Futures Online is the closest thing to a real networking event. I can’t wait for the next one!”
Currently working on a fixed installation which involves programming a custom UI to control lights and video, Duré looked back on what he has learned thus far and how the skills he has developed over the past 12 months will be put to use on site – blurring the line between the physical and virtual world to connect audiences. “I want to keep growing as an artist and doing what I love,” he concluded. “I am so grateful to be in a position to learn. I can’t wait for what the future will bring, notwithstanding COVID-19. I have had this spark for the sector since I was nine years old, and I don’t think that it will fade anytime soon.”
This article originally appeared in issue #258 of TPi, which you can read here.
Photos: Arthur Vermeylen and Gerben Steyaert