This topic has 3 replies, 4 voices, and was last updated 4 years, 6 months ago by Robert Pedersen.

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  • #17232
      • Experience: 20+ years
      • Scenic Status: Full Time Regular

      Partner Member

      Hello Friends!    I was sent an anonymous question last week, that can be a tough one to answer when one is newer to the “Charge Artist” level of management:

      “Who ultimately gets to choose the products, methods, and tools for a given scenic element?  I was working on a smaller show and the Scenic Designer, Lighting Designer, and Dude who signs my paycheck were all the same person.    That person wanted an epoxy finish used that I was not comfortable with.   I sampled and pushed for many less toxic and faster methods but they wouldn’t budge.   And they were even able to steamroll the Production Manager into using the epoxy.

      Having not worked with this type of product before (Bar Top Epoxy) –  I suited up with gloves,  respirator and extra layers of clothing, but it still managed to make its way through all the layers, and I came down with some pretty massive rashes.

      So I guess the more important question to ask is: How do you stand your ground and learn to be firm with Designers so that you don’t get steamrolled into bad decisions (and not lose your job)? ”   



       Ellen Jones
        • Experience: 20+ years
        • Scenic Status: Part Time Freelance

        Hi Gilda,

        In my experience the charge artist makes the choices; however there are designers who are quite specific about what they want done. and how they want it done. If the same person if filling three positions he/she is probably expecting a lackey not an equal department head. Also someone who is already not collaborating with  a regular staff may have limited experience in the area where he/she hires someone and  only trust what has been used before.

        Like you,  I always try creating samples that show the same appearance using products that I am comfortable with. Sometimes I ask first, sometimes I just get approval and then let the cat out of the bag. Did your samples look close enough? Were you able to show them to Production Manager and talk about the labor differences? I would push for that.

        Here is the real question: Was expoy just a bad choice or was the facility/company unwilling or unable to offer adequate safety protections as specified in OSHA or the product information? Is every show like this? That is a whole other ballgame.

        I have learned no one pays enough to sacrifice your physical and mental health.

        Hope all this works out for you,




          • Experience: 20+ years
          • Scenic Status: Full Time Regular

          Dear anonymous,

          I think the best way to answer your question is to look at your job description, whether it’s spelled out in your contract/letter of agreement (which may only contain the presumed start-stop employment dates and rate of compensation), or in a separate job description, both of which should have copies on file in the business office/HR department/payroll office as well as in your personal possession.

          Titles do not mean anything consistent from business to business; it needs to be clear (to everybody!) what an employee’s authority and responsibilities are, as well as the hierarchy/reporting structure and any other governing conditions (company handbook, etc).

          If a job description doesn’t exist where all of this is laid out, help yourself and everybody else (though they may not initially recognize this as progress) by asking whoever is appropriate to get these documents set up for the whole company, and/or,  move on to better places (after making sure you have documented the chain of events and chain of authority that led to a situation where you had an occupational health incident, and have contacted either your HR department and filed an accident/incident workers’ comp report or reported to  whichever state bureau would regulate worker safety  in your state if the company doesn’t have workers’ comp insurance, which it probably doesn’t if it’s small enough  that someone can have stacked roles like the TD/SD/LD/producer guy).  Keep a record of the chemical and product that caused the rash so you can advise future employers about  why you can’t use it.  Not shouldn’t!  Can’t.

          Wishing you and your colleagues all the best in health and sanity,




           Robert Pedersen
            • Experience: 5-10 years
            • Scenic Status: Full Time Freelance

            A large part is definitely the gap between a bigger shop and it’s rules and the smaller shows getting away with things not even knowing what they’re doing wrong.

            In theory you’re supposed to have access to SDS sheets that list all the PPE and precautions and also how to deal with stuff like a skin rash from contact, etc…


            Even at the better companies you still see people making mistakes and going for a respirator that filters when they need forced air – respirators don’t add oxygen and many chemicals replace oxygen in the air. So you’ll just get lightheaded from lack of oxygen and pass out thinking the mask is working because you can’t smell anything.

            It comes down to your safety being your responsibility and being willing to stand up for yourself. That can mean walking off a show of someone won’t listen or be reasonable. It’s hard, because how would you know if you’ve not run into the experience before?

            Read labels for products and look them up if you have any questions. And wear gloves. Always wear gloves. You don’t know what someone else may have put into a paint. Do not sniff pots of paint to try and figure it out. No label?

            I’ve worked in a shop where they hired in relatively unskilled help to work with teak oil to stain wood. They went home after their shift and tossed their rags into a bucket and put it under a work table. The fire department had to come put the fire in the shop out – the shop being directly under the track of a ride that was full of guests and operating at the time. Thankfully it had the 2 hour rated fire walls and a fire suppression system. No one was hurt but the shop had to be partially rebuilt and of course all the projects inside of it were ruined by the fire, water, or smoke.

            Look out for yourself and don’t let others bulldoze you. It’s not worth it. There will be more opportunities.

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