Published: July 28, 2011
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Meet SBF Member Anthony Schutz, a freelance lighting designer from Dawson, Minnesota.
Anthony is currently working for NCL, designing the lights for their in-house productions.
Read his interview and find out about how his career has evolved to be part of the productions of NCL Jade...

Anthony Schutz

NCL Spirit
Elements, opening night
Anthony with Colin Byrne in the booth
  • What's your background?
    Anthony Schutz: I grew up in Dawson, a small dinky town in Minnesota, USA.
    I went to Catholic school up until 5th grade and then I moved into the public system. I became a performer right away. I entered college as a music performance major - I'm a baritone-tenor, but I found that music people were a little too stuck up for my liking.
    After having done a little bit of lighting in high school, I accidentally went to a meeting in college for technical theatre and got hooked. I didn't even know what a moving light was until I went to college.

  • What was your idea when you graduated compared to what actually happened?
    AS: In high school, I had no idea, apart from I was going to be a singer. I wanted to sing or I wanted to do math... I'm random like that, I can be left and right brained at times and so I like to be both artsy and very organized, the latter being the math side.
    Quote ...On the NCL Jade the rig has 76 moving lights. On land you wouldn't find something like that, unless on Broadway or you are doing U2 or Aerosmith....
    With lighting I can use both sides, but I didn't find that out until the second year of college and I found that I really enjoyed it. I hope I'm good at it! At least I'm enjoying myself!
    I ended up becoming a manager for campus lights, and did all the choir concerts and visiting bands. I used my managerial skills for that and then, gradually, I started doing the lights for this band or that choir.

  • Can you recall the first time you became interested in lights?
    AS: As a matter of fact... I can! My grandfather owned a corner store with many items including light bulbs, which came in very handy when he built a house in 1987. However he ran out of regular lights, so he had to use red, green & blue lights in the bathroom to try to make white lights with them. I noticed that if you unscrewed one light or another, it made a different color. When you are five years old, you are interested in the smallest things - I never dreamed that I would end up in lighting as a career. So I guess you could say, that it all started in the bathroom!

  • NCL Jade
Cinema Italiano
2011 What is your role in NCL?
    AS: I used to work on the NCL Jade, in fact I brought the ship out from the dockyard, so I know it very well. NCL asked me to come and design the lights for the new Cinema Italiano number and I've just come on now for this one show. I was also on about a month ago to clean up the Showdown and Shout productions, when we had a cast change. Elements was built just 7 months ago, so that was fine. Generally, I'm involved with all the NCL shows which have been put on specifically with a cast from Miami.

  • Do you work on a freelance basis or are you employed by NCL?
    AS: I used to be employed by NCL, but now I'm freelance. I'm currently part-time electrician in Chicago for Blue Man Group. As I worked for NCL for 5 years and I know their ships really well, they became my first freelance source and this is my third gig with them.

  • What are your biggest challenges when lighting these type of productions?
    NCL Epic
Blueman Group AS: Going back to my mathematical brain, I tend to be too left-brained at times. I see patterns and I apply them in an orderly manner, where they shouldn't necessarily be. On stage, when everyone is moving, it's very fluid and adaptable and the designs that I do, where they might be artsy in their overall look, I mathematically apply them to make them logical, structured and equal, even if sometimes it doesn't call for that. The few times that I've been able to look at my earlier repertoire and really think about it, I've seen that my previous designs are for example: 1-3-5-3-1. No questions asked, it didn't matter if they passed into a shadow and then passed into some light. I had to have them mathematically correct. So that's my biggest challenge to overcome. Another challenge for me, is that once I see something that is really cool, I tend to use it too much. Just because I think it's really cool, it doesn't mean that people want to see it nine times over. I go to 10, way too quick and I have to pull myself back and not go to 10, until the finale.

  • Does the lighting on a cruise ship differ from lighting for a similar type of show on land?
    AS: In theory the lighting is the same for a similar shows on both land and sea. In fact, I've tried to take the same approach, but in practice there is a difference because the equipment is so radically different. On ships, oddly enough, you have really good equipment. On the NCL Jade the rig has 76 moving lights. On land you wouldn't find something like that, unless on Broadway or you are doing U2 or Aerosmith. Otherwise you will only find movers for corporate events. Lighting Rig So when you do a land gig you have to think more 'old school', you have a bank of PARs, you have a 144k rig of watts of light as opposed to a bunch of movers. So it is different, but when I tackle it in terms of lighting design and color design, I think of them the same. Depending on how long a piece is, on a ship I will alternate between 4 or 5 color palettes as opposed to working on land, where you usually use 3 color palettes with a big PAR. So on ships I'm able to go further, above the basic designs, because they've got all the extra equipment. The one disadvantage I've found on most ships, over my career, is that there isn't normally a side light. NCL Jade is an exception. In 2008 we added a whole bunch of lights, including one tower and they used an existing bar to add side lights.

  • How do you think lighting enhances a production, such as the shows onboard NCL Jade?
    AS: I think it varies. If it's a really artsy production, the lighting is very important. It has to be stylistic and you need to set a mood, but the changes have to be subtle. If the lighting gets too wild and flashes in the audience's eyes, you break the mood. Lighting looks more interesting in a rock 'n' roll show, but it's easier. There's an industry term called 'flash & trash' and you just take the effects engine on your board, program a few numbers and it automatically spits out some moving lights, some flashing, changing colors etc. So for a rock 'n' roll show the audience is more aware of the lighting than in an artsy show, but for the person doing the lights, it's the opposite and you have to pay more attention.

  • Catalyst Pro Software User Interface Display Screens Do you have your own style that people in your field would recognize as your trademark?
    AS: I haven't done enough full-length pieces yet, to find my style, but I think I'm starting to. I'm really starting to delve into side lights now and enjoy working with them and sometimes I have to force myself to use front lights, if the client really wants them. I also know that I work really well with pastels. I can manipulate those colors quite easily.

  • Are there any new technologies and shifts in lighting design that you find exciting or interesting? Anything that you're currently experimenting with?
    AS: Working with Blue Man Group in Chicago, we have just loaded in a new show and we've added some new pieces of technology involving video screens. I don't work directly with them, but I work with my video colleagues and the video and lighting are integrated.
    Here on the NCL Jade I was introduced to the Catalyst System, which is a media server and I have two projectors and they project what I want onto the screens or whatever surface I'm using. They are really cool and so versatile and can provide any number of looks.

    What I'm really excited about, past the media thing, is LED lighting fixtures. Right now they are hitting the cusp of: 'can they pull their weight?' LEDs are great, but they create a lot of heat and to pack in a lot of LEDs in a small space, the heat sink has to be 'ginormous'. Martin MAC 101 LED Wash Fixture
    Quote ...for a rock 'n' roll show the audience is more aware of the lighting than in an artsy show, but for the person doing the lights, it's the opposite and you have to pay more attention...
    So now they are figuring out how to make enough power out of these LEDs, that the light isn't either giant or not usable in the situation.
    A company called Martin have just started creating LED wash units and those I'm really excited about. You can do picture designs on the head itself, it's about 12" x 12" and then you have red, blue, green, amber and white to play with. So between the media servers, which keep getting better and better and the new LED technologies, I'm really excited to work with them. Just give me a new toy and let me play with it!

  • As far as the lighting design process - do you draft by hand, or on the computer when designing? What tools or software do you prefer?
    Vectorworks Spotlight software AS: I've just bought Vectorworks and I'm starting to use that software for the drafting. On the ships, because I know them so well, I tend to build everything in my head. I worked on the NCL Jade rig for three years, so I know it like the back of my hand. I don't really do plotting or drafting for the ships, but I do cue sheets. I write out all my cues in advance. Very often I have to change them because there is always something in the music that's different. I always create a general number system for those cues. Like this is a 2, this is a 10, this is a 7 to try to make sure that I don't hit 10 right away. For straight theatre, I definitely build the plot though, as there is no way that I could keep all that in my head.

  • What's the biggest mistake people seem to make when running a light board?
    AS: One thing I've learned and I still have a bad habit of doing, is that I like to blind an audience, because I don't always pay attention to the demographics of an audience. With a rock 'n' roll show, you can blind the audience until you are blue in the face and you feel like you are drawing an audience in and they love it, but that doesn't work for other types of shows. So use sparingly and don't use the same tricks twice. They are probably the two biggest mistakes that I do and I hope that other people can learn from them.

  • NCL Jade
Shout, Goldfinger
2011 What has been the proudest moment in your career?
    AS: Of my own work there's two really proud moments that I've had: in September we remounted Legends on NCL Epic and we didn't have enough time to complete the design - we had only 20 hours programming for a 60-minute show, which was no way enough time. I was the associate designer on that show and over the next two weeks I was given total control to complete it and it became my baby. So I took the 'Michael Jackson' number from bare bones to turn it into a really good show. The person who plays Michael (William Hall) is very, very involved in the show and knows the lights and at the end of the show he came up to me and said that he was dancing harder because the lights were great. I feel like I've done my first design that people really love. So in a small way, those standing ovations that he gets, are also for me.
    Quote ...between the media servers, which keep getting better and better and the new LED technologies, I'm really excited to work with them. Just give me a new toy and let me play with it!...

    My second proudest moment is when my college mentor called me back and asked me to master electrician a Christmas concert, which runs every 5 years at my college for public broadcasting in America.

  • Ten years down the road...where do you want to be?
    AS: Costa Maya in a mansion, after I've won the lottery!!! (lol)
    Seriously, I really don't know. I like to take life as it comes, but the only thing that I'm preparing for in the future is to make sure that I take 10% of my income and put it away. Especially the way the economy is, I want to be prepared.
    If I had my way, I would love to be a programmer for whatever the band of the moment is. I love designing, but I have to be almost all right-brained. Instead with programming, I get to combine my left side with my right side.

    Thank you Anthony for this great interview and best of luck with your career!

    Edwin Romano
Lighting Technician onboard NCL Jade

    Edwin Romano
    Lighting Technician onboard NCL Jade

    Edwin is responsible for programming lights for the guest entertainers that are on board for a short time and for the operation of the lighting control.

    Emerito Nieves
Automation Technician onboard NCL Jade

    Emerito Nieves
    Automation Technician onboard NCL Jade

    Emerito is in his sixth contract with NCL and is responsible for the moving and revolving parts of the stage, such as a 360 clockwise and anti-clockwise rotating platform and six lifts and also lights, scenery, four curtains - main, mid, back and fiber optic with lights.

    Arnel Cabuyao
Lounge Technician onboard NCL Jade

    Arnel Cabuyao
    Lounge Technician onboard NCL Jade

    Arnel has been working for NCL for ten years and is responsible for setting up the equipment for the bands onboard.