Lighting technician

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Gaffer

Lighting technicians set up and operate lighting for concerts, conferences and theatre, or in film and TV productions.

Salary range: £15,000 to £40,000

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How to become a lighting technician

You can get into this job through:

  • a university course
  • a college course
  • an apprenticeship
  • working towards this role
  • volunteering
  • broadcasters’ training schemes
  • specialist courses run by private training providers
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University

You could do a foundation degree, higher national diploma or degree in:

  • performing arts (production)
  • lighting design
  • lighting and performance technology
  • technical theatre

Entry requirements

You’ll usually need:

  • 1 or 2 A levels, or equivalent, for a foundation degree or higher national diploma
  • 2 to 3 A levels, or equivalent, for a degree

More information

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College

You could complete a college course like:

  • Level 3 Certificate or Diploma in Production Arts
  • Level 3 Certificate in Technical Theatre: Sound, Light and Stage

Entry requirements

You’ll usually need:

  • 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, for a level 3 course

More information

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Apprenticeship

You may be able to start in this job through a technical theatre sound and lighting advanced apprenticeship.

Entry requirements

You’ll usually need:

  • 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, including English and maths, for an advanced apprenticeship

More information

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Work

You could qualify as an electrician first and then get practical experience in production lighting.

Volunteering and experience

You will need relevant practical experience. You may be able to find a traineeship with a specialist lighting company. You could also look for experience in the following settings:

  • lighting equipment hire companies
  • theatres or concert venues
  • amateur theatre
  • student or community film projects

You can search for film and TV companies to approach for experience through media business listing services like PACT and The Knowledge.

Other routes

You may be able to get training through one of the new entrant training schemes that broadcasters offer. For example:

You could also take short courses in production skills run by film schools, regional screen agencies and private training providers.

More information

Career tips

It’s a good idea to build up a portfolio of your work. This could be a showreel DVD or online profile of productions you’ve worked on, which you can show to potential employers.

Further information

You can find out more about careers in production lighting from ScreenSkills and Creative Choices.

You can get more information on working in creative careers from Discover Creative Careers.

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What it takes

Skills and knowledge

You’ll need:

  • knowledge of building and construction
  • the ability to use, repair and maintain machines and tools
  • maths knowledge
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • analytical thinking skills
  • the ability to use your initiative
  • leadership skills
  • patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
  • to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device
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What you’ll do

Day-to-day tasks

Depending on your role, your day-to-day tasks may include:

  • interpreting a lighting designer’s plan
  • carrying out risk assessments for health and safety purposes
  • planning where to run cables and place lights at film locations
  • helping to rig and check the equipment
  • taking cues from the stage manager in theatre or the floor manager in TV
  • programming and operating manual and computer-controlled lighting systems taking down the equipment after shows or filming

Working environment

You could work at a film studio, on a film set, at events, in a theatre or at a TV studio.

Your working environment may be hot, outdoors some of the time, at height and you may spend nights away from home.

You may need to wear protective clothing.

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Career path and progression

You could work on more complex events, or specialise in areas like electrical safety, inspection and testing, pyrotechnics or rigging.