Lighting Director: Job Description and Training Requirements

Oct 20, 2021

Whether the director wants a stage flooded with light or dimly lit with one small lamp, the lighting director is in charge. They consider the demands of the story, the budget, and coordinate the lighting arrangements for every scene in a production.

Essential Information

Lighting directors design lighting setups for theater productions. They must create plans and budgets, determine what lights are needed, direct lighting cues and work with other members of the production team to carry out the vision of the director. Training for this career can be attained through formal education programs; bachelor's and master's degrees in lighting design are available.

Required Education Bachelor's degree in theater production or lighting design
Additional Requirements May require construction, electrical or safety training or experience
Projected Job Growth (2019-2029)* 1% for set and exhibit designers
Average Salary (2020)* $64,610 annually for set and exhibit designers

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description

Lighting directors, also known as lighting designers, work on theater productions including dances and plays. They create and manage all aspects of lighting for a production. Lighting directors work with the artistic and production staff to support the director's plans for the production.

Lighting directors begin by designing a lighting plan for the production. They use set designs, theater plans, storyboards, photos, computer software and scripts to create lighting cues and devise a layout. Throughout the rehearsal and design process, the lighting director must edit and develop this plan. Safety concerns and special effects must be considered. A complete light plot must be approved. The plot must include the locations, colors and dimmers for all lights that are to be included in the production, along with lighting cues. The lighting director must also work within a lighting budget. They must inventory equipment and order any additional items needed for their lighting plan.

Salary and Employment Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) includes lighting directors within the larger category of set and exhibit designers, a group that had an average salary of $64,610 as of May 2020. Employment for this group was expected to increase by 1% between 2019 and 2029, per the BLS.

Training Requirements

Formal education for lighting directors is available in the theater departments of many colleges and universities. Prospective lighting directors may major in theater production or lighting design.

A Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degree program includes both technical and design components. Students study drafting, machinery, tools, electronics, management and technology related to theater lighting. They must be able to demonstrate organizational skills, aesthetic aptitude and the ability to collaborate with others to meet their design goals by the end of their program. They also study makeup, costumes and sound. Practical skills are demonstrated through lab work.

Prospective lighting designers may choose to continue their education and attain a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in lighting design. Programs are selective and applicants may be required to attend an interview in addition to completing a detailed application. Lighting design master's programs include classroom training and hands-on instruction. Students study art and architectural history, rendering and lighting technology. Participation in student productions or completion of a portfolio may be required.

Lighting directors may also need to attend construction and safety training. Some electrical or construction background or experience may be beneficial for lighting designers.

While a college degree in theater production is an ideal way to prepare for a career as a lighting director, lighting directors also need training in construction and safety. They must work closely with the director and production staff as they balance the needs of the story, the director's vision and the budget to utilize the lighting effectively in the production.

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