In this magazine feature, Access takes a look at some of 2018’s best production jobs, and speaks to the people behind the magic.

PRG: Five of the Best

It’s been another action-packed year for full-service technical production specialist PRG, with some epic events taking place across the UK and beyond. 

Fast and Furious Live Tour

Universal Brand Development and Fast Live Productions, a joint venture between Epsilon Partners and Brand Events, called upon PRG to create the ground-breaking projection mapping used in the Fast and Furious Live Tour (pictured above). This event pushed the boundaries of live event production. The action-packed live arena show celebrates the Fast and Furious film franchise and features fast cars, record-breaking LED, precision driving and industry leading 3D projection mapping. The event was the brainchild of Rowland French, creative director and executive producer of Fast and Furious Live, who drafted in the expertise of Simon Aldridge, production director, Tom Rees, project manager, Ala Lloyd, set designer and Bruno Poet, lighting designer, to produce this stand-out arena show. 

U2’s eXPERIENCE + iNNOCENCE Tour

This year saw U2 return to arenas worldwide with the band’s eXPERIENCE + iNNOCENCE Tour. PRG technology was used throughout the tour, bringing sets to life with the addition of PRG’s eye catching Pure 10. The Pure 10 technology used in U2’s tour is 10 times lighter than a regular screen, with an unprecedented 70% transparency. Jake Berry, production director U2, stated that without the PURE10, the setting for U2’s eXPERIENCE + iNNOCENCE Tour would not have been possible: “After the Joshua Tree Tour, we wanted to raise the bar even higher. We wanted a wider screen, in combination with a flying catwalk.” Thanks to the Pure 10, Berry’s vision came to life. 

Eric Prydz Presents HOLO at Creamfields (pictured top)

In August, 20,000 dance music fans flocked to Creamfields’ Steel Yard, an impressive super structure, to watch Swedish DJ Eric Prydz perform the headlining set. Complete with “astronauts”, lasers and holographic heads, the mind-blowing “HOLO” live show debuted at Glasgow’s Braehead Arena in June, before heading to Creamfields for a UK festival exclusive.  Prydz promised fans mesmerising production and impressive visuals, and he certainly delivered. Technical production specialist PRG played a vital role in Prydz’s extensive set, bringing together larger than life event production, state-of-the-art technology and a record number of Kinesys points.

The company worked extensively with Ian Greenway, director of LarMac Live, who managed the festival’s production – Steel Yard was one of nine arenas that PRG provided a staggering amount of kit to.

One Big Night at the O2 

A luxury automotive brand took over the O2 for an epic event with 1,200 attendees. The brand wanted to create one big event that would celebrate its achievements, and those of its retailers, and so it turned to PRG and The Appointment Group to deliver a memorable evening of celebration at The O2 for more than 1,200 guests. One Big Night was designed to celebrate a record-breaking year in the UK for the luxury car brand, in particular, new car sales across the country reaching an all-time high. The Appointment Group’s Nicole Unsworth project managed the event, creating a celebratory evening by merging two separate, smaller events. 

Pride in London 

April saw London celebrate all things Pride. Pride in London, organiser of the UK’s largest Pride celebration, appointed Innovision as production partner for the 2018 event. The live event production specialist was selected by the not-for-profit organisation as a production partner and was chosen by Pride in London to move the event forward. Innovision, which has experience of large-scale events such as the London 2012 Athletes Parade, turned to PRG for its specific requirements.

It was a task that would require skill, precision and planning; three things that filtered through to the contractors that had been chosen to supply considerable amounts of infrastructure in what were at times, restricted sites and short load in windows. Cameron Bannister, senior account manager at PRG  said “There was certainly a fantastic energy in the team. It was great to be a part of such a positive event. All of the people – client side and supplier side – had masses of enthusiasm that resonated through every aspect of the delivery.”

Hawthorn on event production

Access talks to Hawthorn’s Scott Rooney-Ashby (pictured above) about how event production is panning out this year.

 

What have you noticed changing in the event production landscape over the last year?

There has been a lot more emphasis on experiential activity. We’re living in an age that is all about the experience, and attendees are demanding more from the events they attend, whether it’s a festival or a more corporate conference style event, they’re not satisfied to simply be told about a brand, they want to be completely immersed in it. The pressure is on for organisers to go the extra mile and create extraordinary, unforgettable experiences.

Is the demand for innovative production increasing? 

We’re definitely seeing an increased demand for more innovative ideas within production. Event organisers are always asking for something completely bespoke that will really capture imaginations. With social media playing such an important role in how we communicate now, brands understand the importance of creating an off-line experience that attendees want to share online. By utilising this, brands can vastly improve the reach of their events and create more connections. At Hawthorn, we like to get involved with the client at the concept stage to help develop and shape a bespoke solution.

How much does cost come into the equation? 

Costs are always at the forefront when working with a client. On the whole, budgets are similar to what they were last season although with clients pitching production companies against each other in order to get the best price, production companies do tend to feel the pinch.

Is there a demand for all elements of the production process to invest into more training, learning, development?

With technology becoming more and more advanced, training is vital to make sure you’re getting the most out of each and every piece of kit. We work closely with equipment manufacturers and industry bodies to ensure our staff are fully clued up.

How is the relationship between organiser, promoter and production service working? 

Working with an organiser or promoter has always been based on trust and relationships. Here at Hawthorn, we’re very proud to have an excellent client retention rate. Playing testament to this is key accounts such as Walk The Walk using us for 18 years and BBC Worldwide, who returned to Hawthorn for the 12th year to help deliver it’s world-renowned Showcase. 

Are you outsourcing staff more now than before?

We’ve seen an excellent level of growth over the past 12 months and the number of events we’re working on has increased. 

This has meant that we’re employing more freelance staff on-site. It’s not just about the workload though. With technology becoming more advanced, we often employ freelance specialists when an event calls for a certain piece of equipment such as disguise media servers or particularly advanced projection techniques. We strongly believe in collaborating with industry experts to create the very best solutions.

Has the process of winning business changed for you? Are you more proactive or reactive in this competitive market?

There are a lot of production companies that will always use the traditional sales process, offering cheaper rates and larger discounts, but for me this devalues the market. Our process has evolved and we believe that developing relationships, trust and credibility with organisers is key to winning new business, not price.

Most organisers or agencies have a preferred supplier who they will have worked with for many years so when you do get an opportunity, you have to go about it in a proactive way. Gone are the days of cold calling and trying to make an appointment as the key decision makers are generally out of the office working on events. 

What will event production look like in 10 years’ time?

I was once told that production companies in 5 years would be dead in the water and that the only way forward would be to provide a complete agency type service. 

Over time, I think we’ve seen that hasn’t been the case!! Instead we’ve seen production companies go from strength-to-strength, providing organisers and agencies with technical expertise in a collaborative way, becoming a production partner rather than just a supplier. 

I can only see this becoming more important as demand increases over the next 10 years.

What have you noticed changing in the event production landscape? 

The main change is the volume of events have increased whilst budgets have decreased or remained the same. Technical innovation has also slowed down (which is a good thing) and the market is consolidating and honing its skills.   

Is the demand for innovative production increasing? What sort of demands are organisers requiring? 

Organisers have been consistent in their demands for bespoke solutions, creative styling and for production that is slick, beautiful and perfect. There are infinite variations that can be done and there is no reason why two well-styled events of any substance should be the same.

How much does cost come into the equation? 

Pressure on budgets continues to be relentless. More and “never seen before” is always demanded and budgets are held or reduced.  this is the world of event production and requires the production companies to innovate to be able to deliver.

Brexit is on the horizon. Production needs highly skilled crew and rigging staff. Is there a problem with finding the right type of person? Is this going to cause a problem? 

There is always a difficulty finding skilled crew and rigging staff. Same as any industry.  Brexit may temporarily an effect although we remain not knowing what Brexit really looks like yet.

Training – is there a demand for all elements of the production process to invest into more training, learning, development?

Yes.  This is always the case.

How is the relationship between organiser, promoter and production service working? 

We have always enjoyed great relationships with great organisers. Experienced organisers make the life of a production company more effective.

Apprenticeships – Are you, as a production company, investing into this format of recruitment and development? 

There are many skills that lend themselves to apprenticeships in event production. We expect this area to be increasing and increasingly be part of the future landscape

Freelance work – with the market growing rapidly, are you outsourcing more now than before?  

The balance between freelance and full time crew is always tricky. Increased volumes or events always result in the need for more crew. The challenge is whether the budgets can support the increasing need for crew.

Has the process of winning business changed for you? Are you more proactive or reactive in this competitive market? 

We have always been proactive and reactive. Client response times are critical and with new entrants to the market will always continue to be so.

What does event production look like in 10 years time? 

In the coming years, there will be a reduction in the number of businesses over 5 years old as they merge, buy and sell each other. Newer and more agile businesses will continue to appear although the ability to enter the market will become increasingly costly. In ten years event production will be simplified in terms of innovation in equipment and the ability to create something new and different will rely on styling and creativity. Clients will have to be excited in a different way as they become more familiar with event production. 

Poll

Which major UK festivals are you planning on attending this year?