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Rob Halliday: Working 10 to 2 (am), what a way to make a living

It feels like we could do with a break from the UK and lighting this month – although because of your support, and the efforts of all involved, a very productive meeting was held between the entertainment lighting community [1] and the EU energy people.

Theatres could be exempt from ‘devastating’ EU lighting rules as campaign makes breakthrough [2]

A plan was hatched, we submitted a formal proposal for dealing with show lighting and we are hopeful of a positive outcome. But while we wait, let’s talk about something else for a bit.

Well, about the existence of something that has been reconfirmed after working on the lighting campaign for the past few months: what I call the ‘10pm to 2am’ slot.

That is the time of day when the world finally quietens down enough – after getting home from the job you’re on, with the kids asleep, and having conversed with your significant other – for you to pop open the laptop and try to get ahead by cramming in a little more undistracted work. Just quickly, just before bed.

That’s 10pm. The next thing you know, it’s 2am. I know it’s not just me, because sometimes I’ve sent an email to grab a person’s attention first thing in the morning, only to see a reply come pinging straight back. It’s comforting to know others are out there – maybe it’s what showbiz people, used to working late in production, just can’t help themselves doing when between shows.

At first, I thought it was just freelances. It’s just part of the lifestyle we lead: the never-ending deadlines, the desperate need to fit in just one more thing, no boss to tell us to go home, no one switching off the office lights around us.

I did once assume that if I ever took a ‘real’ job, this would be one of the things that would change. But in talking to someone about one of those ‘real’ jobs (I am tempted, every now and again), I realised that the conversations were happening largely by email in that 10pm-2am lot, usually the latter half of it. And this with the boss of the company. I didn’t take the job.

I try really hard not to do it all the time, but that ‘bonus time’ (particularly if you have kids) is just so tempting. Confession: I’m doing it now. Writing after a day of the International Theatre Engineering and Architecture Conference, of focusing, of attending a rehearsal, of looking at drawings for a show in the autumn. And at the same time messaging tech support for a friend and swapping greetings with some people in the US who are still in normal working hours – if there is, in fact, such a thing in our business or, indeed, in any business at all any more.

Does this get included in the studies of how people in the entertainment industry actually work, I wonder? It’s probably not good for us: as a night owl you may work fine in the late-night session, but the next day will likely be less productive.

I do love the idea that you’re all here with me, though and it’s comforting to know we’re all up against it together. But really, shouldn’t we all be in bed?