profiles - a light-hearted look at industry personalities
No. 104 in a continuing series
Coffee Drinker, President and CEO of Cast Group of Companies
Gil started out as a licensed electrician in the UK. He actually asked once, when drinking a coffee and installing some dimmers for the BBC in Southampton, why would anyone need to dim lights instead of just switching them on. He definitely knows the answer now!
After leaving the UK at a young age and always wanting to get into the TV or film business, he emigrated to Toronto, Canada, and joined The Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC) as a lighting assistant - so his great plans had reduced him back to getting the coffees again.
It was during his time at CBC, some 20 years of it, when he realised that what he was doing there needed to be shared with others in the lighting industry. The fact was highlighted when John Offord and Tony Gottelier visited the then new CBC Toronto broadcast center, and were amazed at how far advanced all the lighting installations were, and how ground breaking. Over a coffee, they suggested Gil come over and do a seminar in London, at PLASA in 1994, not only to talk about his 400-line DMX distribution system but also how CBC had been and were using computers for all their lighting needs.
Gil is a very logical person and has always had the ability to think things through, coupled with the vision of where things should go and are going. This rare talent is what leads others to join in and work with him. He doesn't have a large ego, and is willing to listen to all ideas (but only while drinking coffee). He is still holding onto a document that he had to write for his managers at CBC, to justify purchasing computer equipment. It talks about everything that Gil has continued to drive towards. It outlines his vision of the future of lighting and how computers play a major role in it. In fact this now coffee-stained document has become his bible and is absolutely playing out to become factually true.
It was written in 1991, when he and Steve Plotkin working together as a team were seen as the rebels at CBC, because they were all about change and making things more efficient. Funny though, they both drunk lots of coffee.
Back in the late eighties they were taking their materials to shows like USITT, looking for help to further their cause, only to find out while sitting around a coffee table with the then notables in the industry, that they were ahead of what the lighting world was doing, and that at that time, no one could help them.
Not to be deterred, Gil continued until he found help and had a young Robert Bell hired into the CBC in 1992, as a lighting assistant. "He also drank a lot of coffee," says Gil. Robert was very much instrumental in moving Gil's visions ahead and later they formed a partnership in 1994 with Rick Szijarto. This became ‘Cast Lighting' who brought WYSIWYG to the lighting industry.
Now 2005 and a lot of coffee later, Cast and WYSIWYG have changed the industry and set new standards. Both original partners have since left for pastures new - apparently according to Gil, they stopped drinking coffee and took up tea - but under Gil's leadership, Cast is still making and delivering valuable innovative products to the lighting industry and the company now consumes a lot more coffee.
"Continuing to build new relationships within the industry brings everyone more together, for the good of all lighting professionals," says Gil.
Over the years Gil has garnered many awards, not only for Lighting Design but also for what he and Cast have done for the industry, the most recent being a 2005 USITT Citation award. It was presented to him at an awards dinner gala, and he was called up to accept it, just at the point when they were serving the coffee. It recognized his continued passion and drive to deliver tools to the lighting industry, and making it more efficient.
Like all major innovators, Gil does not stop and has many more visions of where things should go, and is constantly driving them, as long as he has his coffee. He is now surrounded by over 30 people, sharing in his visions and helping them along. "Keep watching this evolution," he says. "It will continue to make great history, and Cast is playing a very significant part in it."
Gil is currently contemplating investing in coffee futures.
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