The lesson stuck with Feldman, as evidenced by his resourceful (sometimes improvisational) solutions to design challenges like lighting the curved ceilings of The Young Turks news set with 50 Elation TVL 2000s, which was featured in PLSN. This ingenuity is one reason why Feldman is one of the Big Apple’s most sought after LDs, having worked on projects for MTV, CNN, NBC, The History Channel, The NFL, Current TV and Swiss Re, among others. As if that weren’t enough, Feldman also spent 10 years as a guest lecturer at Princeton University. We caught up with Feldman recently and asked him to share some thoughts about his work, the lighting profession and how he relaxes when the lights go out.
Ok, let’s start at the beginning, where were you born?
“I was born in Queens, NY. My parents were born in Germany and left during the Holocost. My Mom became a nurse and my dad was a manager for Sears Roebuck.”
How did you like growing up in New York City?
“Growing up in and around NYC was fantastic. I was able to take advantage of all the sports, arts and restaurants. I also realized the amount of diversity I was exposed to. I think this may be one of the reasons I like to travel so much.”
What did you want to grow up to be when you were a kid?
“I thought I wanted to be an engineer.”
When you were a kid was there one thing you said you'd never do when you became an adult?
“I'd never lick my finger and wipe something off my child's face.”
Have you succeeded in not doing that?
How did you get started along the path to becoming a lighting designer?
“I started in High School doing "SING" now a big TV show called "Glee".
I met a group of very creative people and we were all kind of bored with our high school. Of the 15 or so people in that group I think there are 4 of who become professionals in the entertainment industry. It was also a way of getting out of other classes.
“I went onto college expecting to get into teaching and psychology. I somehow ended up in the theater and just sort of fell into another great group of people. I was assisting and doing a little bit of everything backstage. I was really interested in design not acting.
“I had a very inspirational tech director that one day put my name up on the audition board as the lighting designer for the upcoming show. He was incredibly supportive of my lack of experience and just kept nudging me along. As I remember it, I was totally stuck on what colors to use from one of the front light positions before the first dress rehearsal. He looked at me and said, 'Well you'd better come up with something fast, and remember they can always be changed'. That has stuck with me to this day and I have passed that onto my students in the past. The great thing about lighting is that it is very adjustable!”
What was the first lighting design or show you saw that really blew you away?
“The first theater event I ever saw was a Broadway version of '1776' I was about 11 years old. The entire theater experience kind of blew me away. Later on I saw a German band called Nektar, they used projection back then, 35mm projection and lots of par cans with saturated colors, it introduced me to light as scenery. Then the first Genesis rock show ....When the lights changed colors and moved WOW!!!!”
Now that you're established, what are the best and worst things about being a lighting professional?
“I still love what I do. Owning my own company has its positives and negatives. I get to work with so many diverse people in all sorts of unusual situations. I don't always like doing the business part of the company.”
If you never became a lighting professional what do you think you would have done?
“I probably would have gone into psychology or teaching.”
Do you think either of those professions would be as much fun as being an LD?
“Having taught for many years while also being a working lighting designer, I am sure I made the correct choice.”
What qualities do you admire most and least in other people?
“I really like to collaborate, so when someone brings ideas to the table the project always seems to be better. I don't like the 'show me what you have' kind of collaboration.”
How do you relax and unwind?
“I am a huge NY Rangers Ice Hockey fan. I like to travel, cook and home brewing beer.”
What are your favorite places in the world?
“I really like Prague and Florence.”
What's the one place you haven't seen that you'd like to get to?
Do you have a favorite phrase or saying?
“I use the phrase ‘everything has its way of working out.’ I feel it sometimes time answers a lot of questions.”
What do you want people to remember you for?
“Honesty, loyalty and practicality.”