"Being a stage manager in live television is forever gratifying because you’re part of creating something magical that will never happen again,” says Chris Hines, who recently pulled a career trifecta working the Grammys, the Emmys and the Oscars in the same year.
“The rewards are continuous because each minute that goes by is a victory. Stuff can and will go wrong in a live situation, so walking away at the end of the night with the audience not even having a glimmer there was a problem is an incredible feeling.”
As a talent stage manager for the Oscars in 2003, Hines had to cue cast members from Chicago for a musical tribute. “That included Queen Latifah, whose show I now work on,” Hines says. “I had no idea our paths would cross again.”
Hines describes stage managing variety shows as a constant balancing act. “On The Queen Latifah Show we might have a cooking demo, followed by a race car driver, followed by a child violinist,” he explains. “Safety is also a premiere issue, like when Latifah had to ride a motorcycle on the set one day.”
Clearing a safe path for talent is a Hines specialty. He recalls one award show where a fireworks effect, set off from behind a presenter, almost went dangerously awry. “The artist didn’t realize the urgency of stepping past the mark on the floor because he was more preoccupied with the box of jewelry his staff had given him to wear onstage,” says Hines. “With 20 seconds to go, I handed him the mic and said, ‘If you don’t get past that mark you are going to have a rocket in your crotch!’ I literally had to push him on to the stage. He cleared the pyro by about a step and a half.”
A native of Odessa, Texas, Hines had originally planned on being a writer. He landed his first industry job on Malcolm & Eddie. “I became an office PA to be close to the writers,” Hines recalls, “and then realized I’d rather be on the set, problem solving.” Eventually he became a stage manager on the show and joined the DGA when his mentor, Ken Whittingham, got bumped up to assistant director.
He also says he was lucky to be one of a dozen or so stage managers who worked President Obama’s inauguration celebration at the Lincoln Memorial. “I took a picture from the stage looking out at the mall every hour starting at 7 a.m.,” Hines concludes. “It was truly electrifying.”