Follow That Passion (part 3 of 3)

This is the third of three retrospective blogs exploring how honoring passion early in youth creates a rich, satisfying life.
I encourage young adults to read and share these blogs.


Continuing from last week…
Two more questions I often hear: “How does someone get into the live entertainment design industry? How do they get paid the first time?”

With focused intention comes tangible opportunity. The most productive path to enter the live entertainment design industry is to connect with real people in physical places. Social media is fine for learning about individuals, companies, and projects, but you must physically get to know real people in real situations who make real hiring decisions. Building relationships is the Holy Grail in business development – no matter what industry. Social media is merely a part of the process, and in my opinion, a lessening part as time moves forward.

When attending a theatrical performance, hang around after the show to ask questions of the stage manager or lighting/sound board operator. If you’re at a special event, ask to speak with the director or technical supervisor – and compliment them for their efforts. Don’t be shy. Professionals enjoy an honest accolade.

At a sporting event ask for a quick tour of the video production truck, or a glimpse backstage as sets and lights are being positioned at a local telethon. Sketch, draw, doodle your visions on paper, then share those visions online and when you meet industry professionals. Internships offer outstanding pathways and interpersonal connections into the entertainment design industry. Detailed appreciation of someone’s work while showing them yours goes a long way, and may just get you invited backstage to a future event.

Learn by doing; in your parent’s garage, after school in the wood shop, or volunteering at a community theater. Meet other ‘makers’ at a regional Maker Faire. If you have a couple of hundred dollars, divert it from movies and video games toward a TechShop membership where you’ll build dreams and be around other makers bringing their ideas into the dimensional world with you. These are the gateways to live entertainment design; dramatic theater, motion picture & television production, and theme park development.

On the money side (known in the business as ‘compensation’), state what you believe is a fair price for your services. Find information at websites such as,, or, then break out the amount of time you’d expect to work on the project. List your services in a simple, easy-to-understand format. I prefer the ‘one-page’ – a single sheet of paper with a concise services summary paragraph, bullet-itemized highlights with prices assigned to each line, and a grand total below. If you aren’t sure how much to charge, just determine a range with a low and high number, varying no more than 20% from the two. As insurance, provide a 10% contingency for a final line item, based on a subtotal of your services – just in case you or your client forget some details. If all goes according to plan, the contingency is not charged.

Clients often prefer a “not-to-exceed” agreement so they know how much to budget. However, if it’s impossible to predict the general scope or duration of a project, the solution is to work with a “time and materials” agreement. Just be sure to keep a running log reported to your client once a week to avoid misunderstandings. And get paid every week or two so you cover out-of-pocket costs. Regardless of how you move into your first projects, ALWAYS have a written, mutually signed agreement in place before starting any work.

Don’t underestimate your youthful value in the workforce. Young talent is sought after for numerous entry positions so be positive, shake off nervousness, and be honest with your background and beginning experience. Honest interest with dedication, perseverance, follow-through, and a reasonable fee parallels career experience in the beginning. With humbly sincere effort show you are worth it, and soon you will be.

Passion is what sells a person when it comes to most things in life. Show your passion with a confident smile and you’ll be amazed at the opening doors + exciting opportunities which unexpectedly appear out of nowhere.


“If you’re filled with energy and find it annoying to have to sleep, after missing lunch and perhaps dinner, while occasionally overlooking loved ones, friends, and birthdays, along with forgetting to pay the phone bill… you’ve discovered your passion.”

– Geoff Puckett

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