Phil Gutierrez started doing production work as an afterschool activity in high school, but it wasn't until after he'd come to Fordham for college that he committed to pursuing it professionally. Prior to arriving at Juilliard, in 2010, he was the assistant to the commissioner of the New York City Office of Film, Theatre, and Broadcasting. He's also a freelance stage manager, line producer, and event production staffer for theater productions, concert hall events, political campaign events, community events, and marketing activations all over the area. The youngest of four children and proud uncle to four nieces and a nephew, he lives in Park Slope with his partner, Garth Sunderland, a composer and interdisciplinary artist, and their dog, Charley.
What does a production manager do?
My role is to help facilitate all aspects of production, ensuring that a project's design and technical aspects—scenery, paint, props, lighting, video, audio, costumes, and wigs and make-up—are completed safely, on time, and on budget. At its best, production marshals a team's best skills as artists, technicians, artisans, and managers collaborating with our artistic partners and producers. No task is too small—we all need each other in a tightly choreographed set of activities backstage. For me, the challenge and the joy lie in the details that help bring a work to life and allow the artists onstage do their best work.
What's been your craziest day at work?
The busiest, craziest, all-hands-on-deck Juilliard days surrounding major one-night-only stage events have been the most memorable and satisfying. A few that come to mind are the biennial gala performances and memorial tributes (for Marvin Hamlisch, Elliott Carter, James Marcus, Shirley Verrett, and James Houghton, to name a few). While each is a lesson on controlled, focused chaos with many things coming together in a short span of time, our Juilliard team (in production and throughout the school) is unflappable in its efforts to make the event run correctly, gracefully, and with an awareness of the context and occasion.
Outside of Juilliard, the craziest project I've worked on was this past spring, on the venue production staff for the America's Cup sailing race. It required several days and overnight shifts—in torrential rain—of building indoor and outdoor stages at an event village on the Lower Manhattan waterfront. When the weekend of the races finally arrived, so did an overflow crowd of New Yorkers and sailing enthusiasts, but one big thing was missing: wind. From a technical and production standpoint, we had a well-executed public, globally televised event, but on that first day of the races, Mother Nature had other plans! It was a good reminder that there's clearly a limit on what we can control.
What are some interesting non-Juilliard events you've seen this year?
Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting the New York Philharmonic in Messiaen's Turangalila-Symphonie, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago at Jacob's Pillow, and Unfinished, the exhibition exploring the question when is a work is complete, at the Met Breuer Museum.
What other pursuits are you passionate about?
I dabble in graphic design and am the print designer for Lost Dog, a new-music ensemble in Astoria that recently presented a festival at Scandinavia House surveying the career of Danish composer Per Nørgård and will soon release its first CD, Chamber Music of Philippe Bodin.
What are you reading/watching/following?
I'm studying for certification as a Project Management Professional, so lots of course material, video podcasts, practice exams, and a really heavy study-guide book are capturing my attention. I indulge my inner urban-planning nerd by following blogs such as City Lab and keep current on insider local government news with the paper City & State. I just finished Mindy Kaling's Why Not Me? and Party of One, a memoir by former MTV host Dave Holmes, and when I need a good laugh, I revisit 30 Rock and early seasons of Veep.
What might people be surprised to know about you?
Since college, I've been fascinated by the intersection of art and spirituality, and I continue to explore that privately as a practitioner or audience member. A work need not be explicitly spiritual or religious to inspire a response of awe, mystery, transformation, inner expansion, or connection—any live performance that provokes that involuntary “gasp moment” falls into this category. That said, for me and a couple of college buddies, Bernstein's Mass, a sprawling and expansive theater piece for singers, actors, musicians, and dancers, remains a holy grail of production and artistic challenge. Perhaps one day.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
From the moment students arrive at the end of summer and even past commencement, Juilliard’s stages bustle with activity. I’m honored to work alongside such a talented, dedicated, and caring group of professionals and collaborators helping to support the performances of Juilliard’s artists.