Spotlight on Ohlone:
A class for job in entertainment

By Devery Sheffer, Staff writer.

Thursday, February 5, 2009—Reprinted from Monitor.

Man holding a thick cable. Rocky Paulson holds a cable fitting used in rigging work. —Photo by Tomas Ortega.

Death-defying heights, booming music and flashing lights, it is all a part of a job known as rigging. Ohlone’s new rigging teacher has an extensive resume including three years of the Super Bowl’s halftime shows, (including 2004, the year Janet Jackson “accidentally” flashed us.) He went along on a few rock tours including Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” tour in the early ’80s, known for its dramatic staging. His name is Rocky Paulson; he is well known and respected in the industry. He established Stage Rigging Inc. in 1977, setting the industry’s standards. Since he sold his company in 2000, he has spent his time rock climbing and teaching rigging classes and seminars all over the world: Germany, Japan, and Las Vegas Nevada, just to name a few, Ohlone is now the newest addition to that list.

Rigging is a key element to the entertainment world. If you were to look up at a rock concert or any other type of event, you would see large lights and speakers dangling from the ceiling. It is the rigger’s job to safely suspend (or “fly” as it is known in the industry) heavy lighting and sound equipment for events, shows and programs and then bring it back down in the end. They must know where to hang certain equipment according the weight and at what angle for the necessities of the show. Lights and speakers are attached to a truss that is lifted up by chain hoists.

Some of a rigger’s job is done on the ground like the rest of us, but the rest is spent up in the air hooking up equipment.

Riggers are notorious for their death-defying occupation done at great heights. Rigging is important to all parts of the entertainment industry, not just shows for stadiums and arenas. Matt O’Donnell, head of Entertainment Design and Technology of Ohlone’s theater department, “highly encourage[s] anyone to take this course” to see the technical side of the entertainment business, an industry that tends to thrive during economic down turns.

The course teaches Ohlone students the fundamentals and safety techniques of rigging. Students get hands-on experience with equipment like chain hoists. Students will set up the grounds support for a show at Ohlone’s outdoor amphitheater. The class will also be taking a field trip to Paulson’s former company, Stage Rigging Inc. to see what it is like first-hand when a worker falls from great heights and how the protection system catches them,

This exciting course can lead to an even more exciting career, and the fact that it is being taught by Paulson makes it all the better. Paulson described his choice to teach at Ohlone as an “interesting opportunity to teach my craft to future professionals.” In this class you will find a variety of students, including the San Francisco and San Jose union head, along with Ohlone’s own professional staff members, all of whom want to be taught by the best. Unlike other courses offered at Ohlone, this class is not offered every semester. Whether or not Paulson will return to teach again is uncertain. Previous teachers include an Ohlone alumni’s, Doug Cattaneo, who is senior member of IATSE (International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees).

If you are interested in taking this class, it is Monday nights from 6:30 to 9 a.m. in Room SC120, The course is TD178. It is a requirement for the following certificates, Stage Craft, Theatrical and TV Lighting Technician, and Movie Lighting Technician.

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