If you Google search “stage manager,” the Internet will tell you it’s the person responsible for the lighting and other technical arrangements for a stage play. For Sean Watkins, the definition is a little different. Sort of.
As stage manager at Eagle Rock Studios Atlanta, “lighting and other technical arrangements” is barely the tip of the iceberg of Sean’s job.
“We have 11 acres of roofs on our property and my job is to make sure that every single thing is set up and running smoothly underneath them,” he says.
It’s a dream job for Sean, who grew up in Roswell and is currently living in Tucker with his wife and daughter.
The studio is 470,000 sq. ft., with four stages totaling more than 119,000 sq. ft., and well over 30,000 sq. ft. in office space. It’s easy to get lost in the day, but Sean has his routine down. Early mornings reviewing call sheets. Tracking personnel and permits for specific shows. Making sure everyone has what they need and be ready to adjust on the fly.
Each show is unique and often times requires something a little off the wall, through the roof, or in some cases under the floor. “We always try to say yes,” Sean says. “Even if it means reconstructing one of our stages, we will get it done.”
That was the case for a recent production that needed an exterior shot of a large staircase. They had to get the angle right, and since the roof wasn’t high enough, they had to dig a pit around the staircase in the middle of the stage. It was quite an effort coordinating the speedy construction, but that comes with the territory. (If you’re wondering where you may have seen that spectacular staircase shot, you haven’t. It never even made the final cut. Go figure.)
While the day-to-day work can be tedious, it was always a goal of Sean’s to work in the entertainment industry. From dabbling in stand-up comedy in college at UGA to serving tables and writing on the side, Sean was looking for a way in. Fortunately, he teamed up with a friend with directing experience and they were able to get some traction with Turner’s online comedy network “Super Deluxe” and some other gigs with Adult Swim. But after a writer’s strike and the recession, nothing really panned out.
Looking for a new way to provide for himself, Sean took a job with a friend selling janitorial services and paper products, and that provided the connections he needed. With one client being EUE/Screen Gems Studios, Sean believed that more big studios would follow. And he was right — Sean began to serve more Atlanta-based studios, and his connections with Georgia’s film and TV production industry grew.
Those connections paid off — when the job for stage manager at Eagle Rock Studios Atlanta became available, Sean tapped his connections for an interview.
He got the job, and he hasn’t looked back.
“Being able to stay in Atlanta and be a part of the industry I’ve always loved is a gigantic perk,” Sean says. “I wouldn’t be able to do that without the tax incentives.”