Making Festival Maps
Guest Feature: Jimmie Rose
Hi there, I’m Jimmmmie from Mountains Shadow LLC and Brungardt Enterprises LLC and I have the best job in the industry. The artists themselves may have a good argument against me, but I have it pretty darned good.
If you don’t know me, you have probably seen my work. I’m your friendly rock & roll CAD guy. I get to play a significant role in well over 100 festivals and tours every year, and I get to spend most of my time at my Colorado home in the shadow of the beautiful Rocky Mountains with my loved ones close by.
I’m the behind-the-scenes guy who makes the festival maps. These maps or documents are seen by a lot of people and used for many things. The promoter may use it to show an artist that the crowd size will be large enough to suit them. It will show the fire marshal there is enough exit space to be safe. The site ops and production directors will use it as their bible to build the show. The city and county officials will use it to issue permits.
Building a festival is a dynamic, ever-changing, almost living endeavor. On some of the larger, more complex events, we start planning for next year’s event during load out. There are so many moving parts to pull one of these things off, it’s mind-boggling. I could not have more respect for the folks who make it all work. My job is to make their lives easier.
I get to work with creative minds who want to see if what they have in their head will work on paper and in the field. I work with lifelong veterans who’ve literally grown up with muddy shoes and seen it all. Like I said, I have the best job in the business!
So how did I get here? It all started with a caring friend, great timing and a lot of hard work. I was just finishing up my career as a USPTA Certified Tennis Pro. In that world I got to help people get more out of their lives by allowing them the opportunity to be better at the sport they love. That really was a great job. As I got a little older my body was giving out and I needed something new to do.
A dear friend of mine, Peter Brungardt, offered me a job working at his CAD company. I started without any CAD skills but worked hard at my craft to repay the opportunity he gave me. I figured that if I became a really good tech it would be the least I could do. On the job, we were doing boring, normal CAD stuff and then good fortune and timing smiled upon us. The Rolling Stones were starting a world tour and we were hired to create the venue maps for the entire world tour. With that, my music industry career began. Festival designers were finding a need for better, more accurate documents to work from, and we grew right along with the industry.
While online with the giants in their field, I listened, and I learned.I created a way of drawing that has been completely tailored to the industry. Today, I try to make all my drawings look the same. If you are handed one of my drawings you should be able to identify what tents are where and be able to follow the fence lines, where the stage is and how far off the front of house sits. Most of us in this industry know what’s going on in a festival ground but a fire marshal or city official needs to be able to identify these things as well. I try to make my drawings easily understood.
Most of the time we look at all these elements from the sky looking down. Just for fun, I will purposely make an element appear from a different perspective. I’m not sure why, other than I like a little whimsy in my day. If you see a drawing and the light tower is projected from the front, that was mine. If you are looking for a cell phone COW tower and you see a jersey cow, that was me, too. Every now and then I’ll hide an easter egg in the drawing, but you have to have keen eyes to find it.
The CAD skills that we use in this job are fairly simple. I would say, intermediate level classes will give you the skills you need to do this job. That is only one part of the tools that we use though. My best advice for anyone wanting to get in this world is to listen. Try to understand what is being asked of you. Build up your world of knowledge. Building a festival takes a ton of knowledge. Our job is to listen to the director and help them build their show using our knowledge of CAD along with what we know about festivals. It can be an extremely fun and rewarding process.
It all starts with an email or a phone call letting me know there is a new festival on the horizon. Of course, it is confidential and it won’t have a name yet. We will have a location or venue though. With that, I go to work drawing a background using whatever resources I have available to me. Backgrounds need to be accurate, and for most situations I can create the background with the tools I have at the office. On a typical day I have meetings with up to 6 different festivals or events.
Once we have the background dialed in it’s time to build a festival. We meet virtually so everyone can see my screen as I draw in real time. This is where it gets fun and each festival is different. I must be very flexible to provide exactly what each different show needs from me. With some shows an entire team will join the meeting to discuss what each of their particular needs are. Then, we fit it all together in a current version that we all know will change as more and different information becomes available. Vendors need to be represented along with sponsorship, décor, and sanitation. Production needs to be front-and-center and cite each of their needs. I also get a bit of insight as to their creative process and how they come up with some of these wonderful ideas.
We can also work without meetings. That’s when organizers make a “pencil CAD” and send me their version of a drawing so I can see what they need. I’ll take that information and turn it into an electronic CAD document. Sometimes it is as simple as a description in an email and that too gets turned into an official CAD drawing.
With the CAD drawing, we have a place to create and plan our event. This document will also track resources and assets that will need to be sourced. We’ll know exactly how many tents of each size can fit into the campgrounds, how many portable bathrooms are able to be placed, and how many miles of fencing we need. We will also know the square footage of each stage venue so we can track crowd size and consider sightlines and obstructed views. This allows producers to build a VIP section based on how many tickets are sold and the area provided. We can figure out where the artist compound will be so they will have ample backstage access to and from the stage.After months of planning and drawing and redrawing we are ready to build a show. The maps provided to the crew will allow them to build the fence line, place the portos, erect the stage and more.
When you get into any line of work you do an assessment of where you are and where you are going. This industry seemed bulletproof. I thought as long as I did a good job and kept my people happy, I would have plenty of work, but COVID-19 changed that.
After several weeks of little work, I called on a friend who put me to work as his apprentice at his remodeling company, but I can’t wait to get back to working on festivals all day.
For me personally, I could not have a better job. In fact, I would still do this even if I won the lottery. I get to work with the best and brightest people in the business. The relationships I have made will last a lifetime. Many of these people I have never been in the same room with but that has not stopped the relationship from growing. I am honored to call my colleagues my friends.
Outside of festivals, I also worked for three Presidential Inaugurations, including the musical events, the Inauguration ceremony and the parade. I got to work with the National Parks Service, the Secret Service, The US Army, the District of Columbia along with the DNC and the RNC. In a casual conversation with the US Army’s head of security, I said, “I’ll bet the Secret Service knows everything about me.” His reply was simply, “They do indeed, sir”.