Pyrotechnician

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Rusty, 50

What does a pyrotechnician do?

Pyrotechnicians work on stage shows, film, television and events that can range from weddings to the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony. They work with lights, fireworks, smoke devices and music, working out what will happen, 'bumping in' (setting up the equipment), running the shows and then bumping out.

"What I do really well," says Rusty, "is logistics. In pyro, it's not just a fireworks show, it's all the paperwork that goes behind it; there's heaps and heaps."

How did you become a pyrotechnician?

"I come from a teaching background," says Rusty, "and was very much into things like rock eisteddfod and school plays, and had a need to use pyro, so I learnt... and from that I started my own business.

"A lot of people come into the industry and it's not their main source of income, they'll be builders or plumbers - whatever - and they'll have a pyro licence, and of a weekend they'll go and do a few shows, but they tend to do the smaller shows."

Is it dangerous?

"It's a dangerous industry. Don't beat around the bush: it is dangerous. People get injured and killed. There's a lot of people in the industry we call cowboys."

What sort of skills and qualities do you need to be a pyrotechnician?

"I think you've got to be a lateral thinker. It's not an industry where everything's laid out in front of you. Obviously hard-working and independent, because I'll send someone out on a job and I might not get there, and I expect them to have it all set up and ready to go for a technician to fire. Trustworthy."

Are there any tips for getting a job as a pyrotechnician?

"The best way to get into the industry is to align yourself with a company, find someone who's prepared to take you on - just be careful that's it's not someone who says, 'Yeah come, come and work 10 shows with us,' And when it comes to the crunch of getting a licence, they say, 'sorry mate,' and you've gone and worked 10 shows for nothing.

"It's an industry where a lot people drop out. A lot of people seem to think 'Hey wow! I'd love to do that,' and then when they're unpacking a show at four in the morning in the pouring rain, it doesn't look so good. You had 10 minutes of glory and it took you 10 days to load it in and four days to load it out. When you're humping a 20 kilo carton up to the top of a Fed Square building, it suddenly doesn't look as pleasing as what you thought it did.

"I didn't run around blowing up letterboxes, I come to it from an artistic point of view. For me it's like painting a picture, except I do it with colour in the sky and someone else will use a brush.

"For me there's a real buzz when we work really hard to put a show together and you see a hundred thousand people and they all walk away going, "Wow, that was really fantastic!" that's what I get out of it."

Find out more about this career path at myfuture.edu.au (new window) (Note: free registration is required to access the myfuture site).