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On Being a Lighting Designer

Graham Walne’s latest book chronicles the processes which a lighting designer goes through to deliver a design. The book covers engagement, relationships, discipline, skill, knowledge and deliverables, and includes anecdotes from the author’s own considerable experience as a lighting designer across three continents.

Author: Graham Walne
Publication Date: 17th May 2019
Book Format: Paperback
Kindle Version: Click here to buy from Amazon
Price: £12.95


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“A Sense of Humour”. A sense of humour is what Graham Walne describes as one of the characteristics he looks for when recruiting his crew. This is one of the statements that stuck out for me when reading Graham’s book, On Being a Lighting Designer, it demonstrates that there is so much more to think about, than just the technical side of lighting.

The book gives great insight into what the role of a Lighting Designer entails throughout your career and how to get there. Graham talks about the vast amount of subject knowledge required as well as interpersonal skills needed to fulfil the job.

One of the great things, I think that’s talked about in the book as a reader that is relatively new to the industry is all of the tips and tricks Graham talks about. From processes used, to equipment required, to how to handle a budget. All of this information is extremely valuable and welcome to a reader like myself.

One of the pleasant sides of the book is all of the anecdotes of Graham’s career and history of working in the industry. His varied portfolio makes for enjoyable and interesting reading for anyone interesting in Lighting for Theatre. I found Graham’s story from lighting for the Bolshoi Ballet at the Royal Albert Hall in 1993 particularly intriguing, reading about the challenges faced. It’s very powerful how the story finishes off with the statement “but the process should never become more important than the result”, which I found to be very poignant.

I would say this is a must-read for any new and emerging designers as well as any lighting professionals (or unprofessional). It contains some great advice and wisdom on all aspects of being a lighting designer, from getting to the job on time to how to communicate with your programmers. Above all, it is a fantastic read!

Lastly, I’d like to mention the Ten Commandants of lighting design as described in the book, which makes the book entirely worthwhile reading. This one, in particular, stood out to me; “Thou shalt give thanks for working in some beautiful building with beautiful words and music, much of which was first conceived decades ago, and, for being able to contribute to more valuable work.”

Liam Sayer is a 3rd Year student from Guildhall School, specialising in Production Electrics and very interested in all things Lighting. Review for Sightline magazine.




"Part autobiographical and part anecdotal, part how-to and part what-not-todo, Graham Walne’s book On Being a Lighting Designer, published last year by Entertainment Technology Press, is packed full of insightful hints on (as you would expect) being a lighting designer.

These range from the practical aspects of executing a design to more mundane, administrative matters. The book is dedicated to Francis Reid, with whom Graham studied at RADA. Graham writes that Francis “slowly seduced me into lighting because he made it clear, straightforward, and fun”. Francis’ impact can be seen throughout this book, notably in his observation that “muddy thinking produces muddy lighting!” (p.70). Graham, therefore, methodically takes the reader through his accumulated advice on how to be a lighting designer.

There is much in this book that will be familiar to those of us who have been in the industry for a while. Where this book will be most beneficial, I think, is to those who are about to graduate, have recently graduated, or are “emerging” designers.

Designers of other disciplines, as well as directors, would benefit from the knowledge here too.

It is particularly interesting that Graham begins the book not with techniques for lighting or with starting points for the design itself but with some questions about the “type” of person most suited for working in our rather atypical industry: Why should they hire you? How technical do you need to be? Are you organised? What do you like lighting? This is followed by a chapter on what I would refer to as “professional behaviour”. Graham exalts the importance of being on time, managing one’s time effectively and being a team player, in particular. This continues in chapter 5, with sections on stage etiquette, keeping the theatre tidy, and organising your workspace. In between, chapters 3 and 4 deal with the design process and how that design is realised on stage. There are tips here on dealing with potentially tricky situations and relationships, managing your time in rehearsals, focusing, and making sure you take breaks and avoid eye strainb at the production desk.

Overall, this is a useful and interesting guide, especially for younger or newer designers – I will be recommending it to my final-year students to prepare them for their professional working lives."

Kelli Zezulka, Focus magazine