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ENLIGHTENED: Spotlight on Tiffany Keys

It just isn’t every day that you meet someone like Tiffany Keys, of Key Lighting Inc. The actress-turned-technician earned a Screen Actors Guild card by the age of 15, but that didn’t stop her from being drawn to a different spotlight. In the middle of her college program, Tiffany pulled a 180degree pivot and switched from on-stage to backstage. Little did she know that through her hard work and determination, she would find herself not only on the biggest stages in show business but controlling them.

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ENLIGHTENED is a series spotlighting women in the field. Visit Tiffany's website here.

Can you give us a little background on you and how you got started in lighting? How did you work through ranks to get to where you are?

"Right place, right time, with the right skill sets, work ethic and attitude. Growing up I had a unique childhood performing with some of Broadway’s finest musical theater actors, singing and dancing on tours around the world. By the age of 15 I had obtained my Screen Actors Guild card. In my young adult years I attended CSU, Fullerton with a scholarship in musical theatre. However, that is not the degree I left with. Four years later I graduated with BA in theater with an emphasis in lighting. The dramatic change was brought on by a combination of career burn out, curiosity of other opportunities and realizing that you get hired based on work ethic not how you size up in a chorus line.

With this new found love for technical theater I landed a job at Disneyland in Technical Services. It started out with mopping floors, changing lamps and helping with the seasonal holiday overlay installations. Finding myself at the right place, at the right time with the work ethic, I went form pulling cables through various planters to learning how to lead a crew on a full stage installation. In the following years I became part of the Rope Access & Rigging Team for the park and learned how to program a small one off stage show. My time at Disney gave me some amazing opportunities that developed a wide range of knowledge and experience. During the last half of my seven years at Disney, I decided to focus on programming opportunities of corporate parties, special events and stage shows. In 2013 Disney brought in a lighting design firm, Full Flood, Inc., to help with a new show that I was slated to program. That is when I met Matthew Firestone who introduced to the world of television by offering me the job to program the new reboot of the Arsenio Hall Show. Not knowing anything about programming for television, I dived into the opportunity and challenge. Since then I have created my own company, 'Key Lighting, Inc.,' built up my network of designers and gaffers, and been programming non stop for television and live entertainment. "

Did/Do you have mentor? Can you talk a little about their influence on you?

"For my world of lighting in television/live events, Matthew Firestone is my first mentor. He took a huge chance on a “stage technician” from a theme park to program a night time talk show with performances by Prince, The Jacksons and many up and coming artists. With Firestone, himself being a designer with an impressive programming career under his belt, he knew what advice to give and introduced me to some amazing key designers that helped me launch my own career. It was through these connections that I developed my own network of creative professionals and experience and started my own path in this industry."

What is your favorite project you have worked on?

"In the short time I have been in lighting for broadcast, I have had the opportunity to work on a diverse variety of projects from TV’s reality competitions, corporate events, musical festivals, artist residencies and endless amounts of award shows. However, my favorite type of projects are those that contain a live concert environment with the challenge of lighting for broadcasting. There is something about creating emotion through the movement of the lights with the rhythm of music that strikes a cord with my previous earlier career. Sometimes I tend to define my job as 'a choreographer of lights.'"

If you could go back and tell yourself something when you were first starting out, what would it be?

"Ask questions! Use this valuable time of being 'the new kid on the block' to ask! Approach knowledgeable co-workers by asking 'What way do you find best to…?' or 'In your experience how would you…?' Learn from those succeeding around you. They are your best handbook of 'How To…' Also, You will also quickly realize that just about everyone is figuring it out as we go along. Do NOT be afraid to fail. Everything we do is 'trial by error.' Failing is the best way to learn what works for you and what does not. "

Kanye West @ Arsenio Hall Show

What console do you use and why?

"My weapon of choice is the grandMA2. The diverse range of shows I work on, the grandMA2 has a unique customization that you can jump from show to show without needing to change your operating platform. Along with handling the high count of parameters needed for those arena shows, it can also use several network protocols for controlling anything you need. It truly is the 'Jack of All Trades and Master of All.'"

When you start a project, what's the first thing you do?

"Before starting any project, I make sure that the business side is taken care of; rate and payment method (preferably loan out through my s-corp). Prior to being on site I reach out to the gaffer and provide preferred fixture modes and a channeled plot. If given a “prep-day” I would then patch the show at home and start building basic groups and layouts in my start-up show file."

How do you stay learning and growing in your craft?

"Our industry is continuously evolving and staying “in the know” of what is “up and coming” can seem like a full time job. Networking, reading articles, watching videos of shows and dedicating a month to learning a new skill or building upon existing knowledge is what I do to try to keep up to date."

What are your hobbies outside of lighting?

"Being a programmer brings hours of sitting in one place for a very long time. To bring balance to this life style, I have found that working out before shift, practicing yoga and trail running are also great ways to prepare your mind and body for the stress that you can encounter on a daily basis in our industry. "

What advice would you give to aspiring females in the lighting industry?

"Do NOT let anything be about your gender. Whatever it is. Just be yourself. Yes, we do have to work twice as hard to earn the same amount of respect as a male walking in the door. Yes, our ideas and advice will be questioned and over looked more than others. Yes, you will be the main focus of jokes and comparisons. However, if you are able to earn that respect, capture people’s interested in your ideas and laugh and joke back with grace, you will be unstoppable in this industry. We certainly did not pick this industry because it was easy or a 'feminine way' to make a living. As a female in this industry we thrive for a challenge and very often prove to them to never underestimate the strength of a female’s determination to succeed. "

Check out these images from the Key Lighting Website:

ENLIGHTENED is a series spotlighting women in the field. Visit Tiffany's website here.


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