Joshua Cutts is one of the most prolific independent lighting designers in South Africa. With nearly two decades in the industry, he has designed some of the biggest events in the country, including Idols South Africa, the Vodacom Unlimited Festival and the South African Music Awards (SAMAs). The Pro Systems team recently caught up with the 37-year-old Joburg designer.
How and why did you get into the lighting business?
Cutts: I started working at the Market Theatre when I was very young. My dad is an Actor and my step mom was operations manager at the theatre so it was natural for me to get into the lighting business. I started out as an assistant stage manager but quickly over to the lighting department wherel I met Richard Barnes who taught me the fundamentals of lighting and lighting design.
At what point did you start designing independently?
Cutts: After eight years I left the theatre to freelance and gain technical experience in the industry. No one knew me at that point so I wasn’t really doing much lighting work. My friend says I was a hippie those days because I was always lying on the couch (laughs).
So how did you end up at Electrosonic and AV Unlimited?
Cutts: After a few years Dan Riley who was at Electrosonic at the time asked me to work in their lighting department. I handled their lighting control desks and I think that was the best opportunity I could ever have had. It was like university for the technical side of lighting and I really learnt a lot about the new technology. After two years I left Electrosonic to join AV Unlimited and got back into designing again and working shows.
And Visual Frontier?
Cutts: I left AV Unlimited last year to form my own small business (Visual Frontier) specialising in lighting and stage design. I really enjoyed my time with AV Unlimited and worked on some awesome shows but I wanted to focus on my passion for lighting design and I believe the industry needs more independent designers.
What do you think is the most important lesson a person entering the business should know?
Cutts: Stop trying to learn the control desks and start learning about what you want to achieve on the stage first. It’s not about the desk; it’s all about the light and the stage so learn what each light can achieve creatively before you can even call yourself a lighting guy.
What do you find most frustrating about the lighting sector in South Africa?
Cutts: The lack of lighting training. There is a huge gap, we need training but people are not willing to pass on knowledge. At some point I’d love to get involved with schools because if we do not act our industry is eventually going to suffer.
What do you love about your job?
Cutts: The flexibility, nothing is ever the same. No production requires the same needs and everyone has new challenges and I am a guy who loves solving challenges.
What projects have you been most proud of?
Cutts: Idols. It’s just the perfect format and I really enjoy working with Gavin Wratten; he is a very hands-on TV director who kind of forces me to a level of lighting that I don’t normally achieve.
Besides your parents, who else has Influenced you?
Cutts: Denis Hutchinson because he is a designer who does it right. He has the most scientific knowledge of lighting in this country and his designs are expertly crafted and thought through.
What type of invention would make your job easier?
Cutts: I think a second me (laughs). My dream is to have a rig with no generic fixtures but purely moving lights.
When you’re not lighting, what are you doing?
Cutts: it’s not often that I am not lighting (Laughs). But to answer your question; I spend a lot of time with my wife; We have a baby on the way.
What’s your lighting console of choice?
Cutts: GrandMA. I recently got the GrandMA on PC Wing and I am really enjoying it. I am excited about the onPC Wing as it allows me to sit in the comfort of my home and a pre-program the complicated shows using my laptop and the wing. It will hopefully cut down some of the all night programming sessions I often have to do on shows.
Holiday Destination of choice?
Cutts: Thailand, I enjoy traveling and seeing different places.
Cutts: Any science fiction or comic book films.
Great Chatting to you Joshua, thanks for your time and we wish you all the best!