RICErally ‘09 – The Torn Identity

Oh wow, to describe the night RICE event in one word, it would have to be: EPIC! Indeed it was a hard run but I think the end result really does justify all the sweat involved. I especially was extremely exhausted at the end of it, since it was merely a week since the previous RICE event.

 

Anyway, us techies were sort of due in at 5:50am originally, to the Sydney Entertainment Centre, but luckily the admins managed to secure some set up time on Friday and so some of it was already done. This meant we were allowed to arrive by 8am. We were really relieved when we heard the news; those extra two hours really does help. Our health was boosted a lot more for the entire day and night as a result. We arrived at 8, and had to proceed inside through the back gates, through the loading dock. This was the first time I had been inside the SEC through the alternate route. They had security and we had our leader passes to get past.

 

Pre-Event

Set up was delayed a bit because our equipment had not arrived yet. Meanwhile we went to the backstage restricted area where we dumped our stuff. It was quite nice; there were rooms for different teams (we added our own directions on top of them), a vending machine, dressing room, etc. The stage seemed partially set; all the lights were set on their hanging beams, waiting to be hoisted up. As we began setting up, at about 9am, we saw these cool LCD panels which would create the ultimate backdrop for the stage. The professionals told us that each of the seven panels we used were $50k each, and they looked so fragile as well; so I just simply stayed away from them.

 

After a few more hours, we uncoiled more cables, and attached them to speakers, instruments and microphones. By the time we were all set up, music teams and everyone else arrived and finally main rehearsal was underway. It was mainly sound checking; lighting was still yet to be set. I think about 12pm we were finally done, and of course by then everyone had arrived. We were then finally let off to have lunch. But before that we met the professionals we were going to be working with. The cameramen and directors were from Hillsong, friends of one of our coordinators; we were meant to learn from them for this year so that we could do the same job next year T.T”

 

I was determined to have a good meal today, anticipating nothing but quick McDonald’s meals. So I immediately rushed off to have a nice bowl of ramen, best meal of the day! By the time I got back we were all either mucking around or wandering aimlessly with nothing to do. I went around admin and the other teams to see what they were doing. We were meant to be having a production rehearsal right after lunch but for some reason it got delayed by like an entire hour. Such that is the timetable at RICE, it is set at Asian Standard Time – add about 30 minutes to each displayed time.

 

When we actually did rehearse I got to see the control room right behind the stage. My job for the night was assistant director; it wouldn’t be the best view of the show but then it was the most interesting job. I was to help the director by looking ahead in the program and telling her what was coming up and what would be needed; whether it be a video, a shot of the audience or a close up of whoever is on stage. The bad thing was that I hadn’t read the program run-through beforehand. They only just gave me the program like at 1:30pm and I had like a few hours to learn it all, so not cool. Luckily I had been through the rehearsals on Wednesday night so I had a vague idea of how each of the acts flowed from one to another, and hence the overall structure of the night. That gave me a little bit of advantage for the night, since I had actually “seen” the show already. Videos of this will be on Facebook.

 

We had a short run-through of the night; we didn’t rehearse everything, there were a lot of acts that we didn’t get a chance to go through because of time. In fact Nicole C Mullen came only at about 4:30pm, and we only had a chance to practice the opening song with her like twice, that was it before we had dinner at 5pm. At that time it had already been a long day. Think about it, 8am to 5pm, having seen the stage put together over a period of three hours and then some, it really takes a lot of energy out of you to be alert for the rest of the night.

 

Anyway I rushed off for dinner, back to Central because I had to deliver tickets to some of the my youth. I met Matthew, Charlie, Katie and a few others from our uni group as I walked outside; yeah a lot of people were here by the time we decided to have dinner. I had a short chat with them, sold my spare ticket to them and then ran off the meet my youth group. I handed them the tickets, had dinner with them; Hungry Jacks inside a McDonald’s restaurant haha! I was pretty tired by them so I didn’t really manage much good conversation for them; the coffee in the morning hadn’t helped either. Coffee has never helped me which sucks; it’s like it has no effect on me whatsoever, am I drug resistant?

 

I got back just before 6pm, to find that our show was being delayed by 5 minutes already; I figured that was the case because as I returned the youth were still waiting outside the SEC even though they all should’ve been inside since like half an hour ago. We still had a short while to make sure everything was ready; I had a short read over the program again; I guess I was going to have to learn it as I went along haha! It was too hard to remember everything. The stage looked so awesome; it was dark and the smoke machine just made that eerie awesome atmosphere. Matt Chandler was also here by this time; we didn’t get time to chat with him although we could’ve, he was being briefed on how we were going to introduce him; Sam was messing around with him at this time.

 

I snuck out of the main arena to take a peek at our youth group stall. Poor Eva pulled off the stall on her own; she put in such grand effort and it looked spectacular; we had stuff to hand out, we had photos and videos, it was very easy to spot as well thanks to her banner! I didn’t have time to analyse any further because they were already letting the kids inside the arena; I ran past a lot of them as they sat down, and disappeared behind the stage curtains to get ready for the show.

 

During the Event

Alright the show was finally on. The rest of the day seemed a blur to me at this point; everything happened so quickly and yet so slowly at the same time. And now it was time for the show to go on. Immediately we had the Nicole C Mullen show. I’m not sure we had her perform for an hour, or part thereof; I guess she just really wanted to. She did a lot of up beat dancing songs which got a lot of the kids pumped up, everyone was sort of dancing I guess in the space that they had. I had my first look at the types of shots the director wanted to capture from our four cameras set up for the night.

 

We were late by the time she was finished. We even tried to cut one of her songs out to save time but she was persistent in finishing it. And finally after a few minutes of random-ness, the lights went pitch black and the crowd was suddenly roaring in that tone that you, as the production team, would want to hear; they sounded so excited about the event that it got me excited too. We had our countdown sequence and boom! Immediate jump into our opening dance. Nicole C Mullen was performing it with her dancers; our opening song. I think it was a bit rough that she had her own dancers because for rehearsal we had youth dancers who had their own choreography for the song; a whole 5 minutes of it and it was not used which seemed kind of bad now that I think about it.

 

But at least the opening song had everyone super pumped up. I won;t pay much more attention to the sequence of events for the night now; I’ll actually move onto what was happening backstage; the other side of RICErally.

 

As you might have expected from some other stimulus, backstage was just as exciting and nerve-racking as some could imagine. It really did come down to “Oh no we have a problem and it must be alleviated within the next few seconds, minutes, and at worst, milliseconds. First major bit of drama was at the very beginning of the show. We were going to go backstage to where Matt Chandler, Steve and Sam were, and our mobile camera guy was moving back there when all of a sudden the cable snapped! Or something like that – and our supervisor fully freaked out and we had to change to another camera, which gave a dud view of the auditorium. We got back visual like a few seconds later, shifted back, and again the cable cut out and our supervisor panicked once more.

 

I really thought my job for the night would be boring; fair enough, I didn’t know how to use he equipment and all. Assistant director had its unique roles too; ie. memorising the program and telling the director what was coming up, making sure the tapes that were recording were running fine. Major mess up of that. The tapes that were meant to record for 60 minutes lasted only 40, because of some short-play/long-play issue I don’t know. And so we lost a bit of footage for the night; I know we didn’t get one of the songs completely; I wonder if my core leader is going to rip my head off once he finds he can’t use some of our disjointed footage for next year’s promotional DVD.

 

There was a time when I did get a go at directing. The opening song had a lot of quick cuts from live feed to video; I couldn’t tell the director in time, nor could she change the view that fast anyway; so they gave me an LCD screen and a mouse which had complete control over the projecting screens so I just had to click between video and live feed – now that was awesome! My little LCD panel had priority over the director so basically I had more of the control bwahaha! Later on during the night the director messed something up and her panel wasn’t working for some reason. She couldn’t change between cameras, especially to pre-recorded video so I had to do all of it while they got a professional to come over and sort things out; had heaps of fun being in control haha!

 

One bad thing about the backstage section we were working in, was that we couldn’t hear the sounds on stage too well; so if everyone was speaking normally and not shouting I would not be able to hear it; this meant I missed out on the talk, sort of. I caught the first bit of it but the rest of it was too soft for me to hear from where I was. I also missed out on the game; I still have no idea how it’s meant to work and all.

 

The rest of the night started to go bad gradually; we were already starting late and as the night went on, we found ourselves running out of time – leading to some quick “trimming” of the program, snipping minutes off this section and that section. The original 3-minute timer for the Master Chef section was cut down to 1 minute, and that massive game was cut from 10 to 5. Even Matt Chandler shortened his talk a bit. I could hear a lot of the commotion going on over the headsets – all the “tell Sam that we need to wrap this section up now”.

 

I didn’t get any time to enjoy the show; it was always looking ahead to see what was next, and what was needed for video; by the time RICErally ended it was overtime and I was extremely tired, it was getting harder and harder to concentrate, but I managed to hang in there some how. I guess I can’t give much more detail about what actually happened, maybe I’ll do a reflection on what I thought of the program in a later post.

 

 

Post-Rally

Oh yeah, post-rally seemed more interesting than the show. I immediately popped out once half the crowd had left through the doors; I went out along with them, found my friends, my youth group and just hung around our stall for a good half hour, chilling out and all. I managed to meet up with a lot of people I haven’t seen for ages, from Baulko and from Livingstone. Had a short chat with them but it was definitely worth it.

 

But apart from that half hour of bliss, I went back to an empty auditorium where all the lights were on and things began falling apart. Lights were coming down, the speakers, all the microphones the stage looked completely different once we started tearing it down. Pack up went rather quickly because we had like 30-40 people working hard, pulling things down, coiling the cables and placing equipment back into crates. The auditorium automatically began a “hard-hat zone” so we all had to go over to a big box out back and grab hard hats – stupid OHS. But fair enough there was a lot stuff hanging above us; those $50K LDC panels I mentioned earlier, huge speakers hung from a single giant metal chain (I really wondered how that one chain could’ve supported such huge speakers – it was like 8 units joined together, hanging from that one chain).

 

Packup was really tiring as well – having to move stuff here and there, having to lift things back inside crates, taping all the cables back together, sorting them out into piles. There were these really huge cables too, not just microphone ones, huge power cables which were really thick and heavy; even after coiling them up they asked us to tape them together and I was thinking: “How can tape possible hold such huge heavy cables together?” The answer: just wrap tape around it a million times and it should be fine.

 

The untangling of cables was the hardest process because everything was just shoved under the stage so it wouldn’t get in the way during the night; we would find that a 15m cable was stuck on the other side of the stage and so we had to go there to find the source of the tangle, or give up and try the next cable.

 

The night went on and by 12am we were nearly done – most of the equipment was back in crates; the only thing left was to move them back out of the auditorium to the truck, and loading each crate one by one onto it, in a tetris fashion; I’m amazed at how a truck could hold all that heavy equipment, especially when it packed so tight that it really was like tetris. I’ll  try to put photos of these things up later. By then lots of people were tired, we had people pushing stuff further out to the door, others moving them onto the lift thingy that raises things into the truck, and other stacking them into a truck – it was all systematic and by 1am we had finished the pack up procedure. The professionals announced that we had finished an hour earlier than expected and all the leaders who stayed for this pack up all gave a cheer! It really was a great accomplishment.

 

Sam came out, gave thanks to the professionals and yeah there was a bit of loitering afterwards as we all rested for a moment. And then came the after party! For those who were hungry or still didn’t want to go home yet were invited to come to a Chinese Restaurant close by to have dinner; dinner at 1:30am? No way! But yes there were a few places that were still open that late at night, in fact there were a number of people there; we just added our 20-30 leaders to the crowd haha! So we all ordered food, all showed each other how tired we were, all ate and all laughed and joked around. Some of us had some good conversations going, relaying our experiences for the night, especially in the lounge where the evangelism was taking place; good stories there.

 

We ate till 2:30am, it went on for ages because someone on our table ordered way too much food and it was impossible to finish – eventually people started leaving, and we’d all sing happy birthday in loud voices to get everyone’s attention and to keep them from leaving, it was just a gag haha! I got home at 3am, slept at 3:30am. Long day, a reflection post might come out later.

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