In the spotlight
Pittsburgh native Michael Frantz has been illuminating Broadway shows like “Titanic,” “Ragtime” and “Fosse” and hundreds of musical artists like Jonny Lang, Rueben Blades and Styx for 10 years around the country. The 28-year-old lighting technician recently moved to Des Moines where he landed a job as technical director at Hoyt Sherman Place. Owner of his own lighting company, Silhouette, Frantz also works for A-Z Enterprises in addition to lending his talents to corporate events to make ends meet. He said he enjoys his work because “it doesn’t have any constraints.” Frantz shed some light on his occupation during a conversation with the Business Record.
Q: What constitutes good lighting? A: When you don’t notice the lights, when they become a part of the show and not a distraction. Too many shows use too many lights, and that can take away from the performance. Lights should complement the performance.
Q: How does lighting bolster a performance? A: In a rock show, for example, lights can affect the mood of the audience. If the lights aren’t moving, the crowd isn’t moving. I’ve had arguments with sound guys who tell me lighting doesn’t play that big a role, and I tell them if it wasn’t for lighting, a show would be nothing but a big stereo you can’t see.
Q: What is most challenging about your work? A: Maintaining your network of customers and staying in touch with people who can keep you working.
Q: Do you work in clubs? A: I do raves and club work because they pay the bills. There’s something to be said about club lighting, and a lot of people don’t want to pay for it because it’s expensive.
Q: How much of your work is out of town? A: About 30 percent, mostly in Midwest.
Q: Who are your competitors? A: The Internet and mail order. They’re hard to compete with because they are the Wal-Marts of the lighting industry. Lighting is expensive, so if a club owner thinks they can get a few more lights for a little less than what I charge, they think they’re getting a better deal. The problem is, they usually end up calling me to help them program them or repair them, which would have been the same amount of money if they bought from me in the first place. So I try to sell them on the pros of buying from me in the first place.
Q: What are your goals for your business? A: Slow and steady growth. I want to build a broad base of accounts, and I would like to increase the amount of rentals I have to other entertainment companies. Hopefully, the more people that see me and my work, the more friendships I can build, which will create more work.