Miles Baldwin, duty technician
From school assemblies to the 2012 Olympics, Miles has been working his way up in a backstage career since he was 15. He talked to us about his journey and gave some top tips for working backstage.
If you want a backstage career, applications are open for the new Professional Diploma in Technical and Production at Level 4
I’m from Leigh-on-sea and that’s where I live now. I’ve always lived in Essex.
What job do you do?
I’m the duty technician for The Backstage Centre, so I look after clients and deal with their technical requirements.
For anyone that doesn’t know, The Backstage Centre is a rehearsal venue for live events, tours, TV and film. It doubles up as a space for training and education and will soon host diploma learners as part of the first National College for the Creative and Cultural Industries.
How did you get into it?
When I was at school, I was asked to operate the sound for an assembly. I enjoyed it so much that I decided to set up a school technical team, and from there on it just progressed. I spent more time in the school hall than lessons.
Everyone in this business is still learning.
Studying at South Essex College led me to finding work experience with an events company doing things like festivals and corporate events. Again, I spent more time working outside of my study. Doing work experience soon led to me getting paid contracts, as they put me in different areas and saw that I was quite good at lighting design.
After I finished studying, South Essex College asked me to work as a technician for their shows.
I started my own company called Miles Baldwin Lighting Design and also started freelancing for The Backstage Centre, which was still being built, and it all went from there.
What qualifications do you have?
I have BTEC in Technical Theatre, which is the first course of its kind that South Essex College ran, so I was a bit of a guinea pig.
I haven’t got the world’s best background in terms of qualifications, and left school with a few GCSEs, but I knew what I wanted to do early on. The way I got into college was from self-teaching and gaining experience. I’m severely dyslexic, so anything theory-based alone is hard for me to concentrate on. But as soon as there’s a practical element, I’m focused.
What do you do as duty technician?
My main responsibilities are to assist with clients when they come in to use the main space, manage our technical facilities and help with the day-to-day running of the building. We’ve had all sorts here, from Bastille and Years & Years to Rod Stewart.
Whatever someone asks you to do, you just do it. I think that’s important if you want to work in this industry.
I help with the technical set up, whether that involves lighting, sound or stage. I try to work more in the lighting departments when I can because that’s where my knowledge and interest is, but I willingly stretch into different zones when I need to. That’s my job.
Keeping the building going and looking after clients means I have to be willing to do anything, from moving tables and chairs to unblocking toilets to ferrying people around. Whatever someone asks you to do, you just do it. I think that’s important if you want to work in this industry.
What is the best thing about your job?
Meeting new people from the industry, extracting knowledge from them and learning from their knowledge. Everyone in this business is still learning and it’s great to be able to use the people that you meet to find out more.
And the worst thing?
When an event finishes – you work so hard in the run up and it all comes to an end. At the same time, it’s the exciting thing as you know something new is coming.
How do I get into a backstage career?
1. Always be prepared
A technician will have to work lots of hours and you don’t know what is going to happen. Even with a touring show that has everything organised, something will come out of the blue. The clients we have in the building all have different needs, so you have to be ready for everything.
2. Always be willing
You may be the top-line engineer of the industry, but you’ll still be expected to work hard and do normal, day-to-day tasks.
3. Try your best at everything
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. It’s better to ask than get to a show and that one light you were told to position in a certain way hasn’t been because you don’t know how to. Asking questions is the way to learn.