Lighting artist Erwin livens things up with help from Tentoo

Erwin Van Lokeren

We at Tentoo are mad, hooked and very proud of all our freelancers. That’s why we love putting them in the spotlight – and why we love sharing their stories with the world. Today, we introduce you to Erwin Van Lokeren: he regularly uses Tentoo Payroll Services to take on freelance assignments as a lighting designer or production manager. In this way, he has already created visual gems for Triggerfinger, Ruben Block, Within Temptation, Racoon, The Analogues, among others. We could tell you even more about him – but we would much rather let him speak for himself…

Hi, Erwin! Can you briefly introduce yourself for our readers?

Sure! My name is Erwin, 43 years young, and I am a lighting designer, set designer and lighting operator – mainly for music groups. It is my passion to think visually creatively: this way I can add another layer of value and meaning to a performance or show. Just like the performers themselves, my goal is to provide an unforgettable evening: and when light, song and performance work together seamlessly, you can be sure of a show that will stay with you.

How did you end up in the lighting business?

I have actually worked in the lighting and sound industry since I was 19. For the first seventeen years of my career, I worked in a lighting company where I mainly worked in the repair of moving lights department. From there, I then progressed to become a lighting technician for shows and international tours.

At one point, I was asked if I would be interested in doing the lighting for a music group. I said a resounding ‘yes’ – and the rest is history: that night I found my great passion and immediately knew I wanted to do this forever. From that one request came another and another – and today I can proudly call myself a full-time lighting technician for music groups. Blessed, I think! (laughs)

Why did you decide to go freelance?

After a while, I noticed that I found it more pleasant to manage my schedule myself. This allowed me to make my own choices: who I would or would not work for, of course, but also what kind of productions. This freedom made for much less pressure – but most importantly, more creative freedom.

The clients I work for perform internationally. So they request technicians for foreign assignments – and so they come to me. They make the request and then it’s up to me to see if I fit in: in terms of the type of assignment, but also the duration of the project – and the location and distance, of course!

What is involved in such an overseas assignment?

Gosh. A lot! (laughs). For example, flights, hotels, interpreters and/or travel visas always need to be arranged. Or sometimes you also have to enquire what materials are available on location or not: if certain items are not there, I still have to arrange them on the spot – or fly in/get mine.

Anyway, there is always a lot involved in such a foreign assignment, this should not be underestimated. A lot more preparation is needed to make sure the production on site runs smoothly. But, when you then see the end result – and hundreds, thousands or sometimes more of spectators enjoying themselves – it is all worth it!

How did you end up at Tentoo and why did you choose us?

I had heard about Tentoo via-via. And because I want to move abroad in due course to start up something there, I thought Tentoo was the perfect intermediate step: this way, I can fully focus on what’s important to me – and enjoy the comfort of Tentoo taking care of everything else for me. Win-win! (laughs)

The choice was entirely due to the pleasant and easy communication with the Tentoo team. The conversations are always friendly and nice, they are always there for me when I need them – and they always have answers to my questions. I know Tentoo takes all those administrative headaches off my hands – and that alone makes it worth working with them.

What difficulties did you encounter when starting up?

Again, that’s purely down to the foreign nature of my assignments. It is sometimes really puzzling to balance the contracts in terms of hours worked – because I still have to strictly follow Belgian legislation. Still, this sector comes with atypical working days: sometimes the days are now very long and straight after each other. These restrictions are sometimes a puzzle to sort out. Fortunately, I don’t have to do that on my own: because Tentoo also comes into play here. They are incredibly good at finding the right solutions, without breaking any laws. So I can go about my long days worry-free, without the burden of administration or rules in the back of my mind.

Can you tell a bit more about the added value of Tentoo?

The added value of Tentoo is definitely the total unburdening. They are always ready and waiting to give you the right information when you need it – and always in the right legal framework. For example, they help you apply for certain forms, give you information on foreign daily allowances and give you tips on all those flat-rate benefits you can bring in as an employee – which can make a very nice difference to your final net salary.

In addition, they always think along with you about the structure of your contracts. Have you drawn up a contract and do they think you should do things differently – or arrange something better? Then they call you and explain why you’d be better off making change X, Y, or Z. I really feel that they are ‘on my side’ – and put my happiness first. That’s a really nice and comfortable feeling!

Do you have any tips for like-minded people who hesitate to go freelance?

Definitely do it! (laughs). Although, of course, you have to weigh up carefully which is the most advantageous: going freelance completely – or becoming a freelancer via Tentoo. If you ask me, I can tell you that I saved a lot of time, effort and headaches by leaving everything with Tentoo. I simply knew that everything would be arranged quickly, but also that I was guaranteed my payout – regardless of whether the client pays. That unburdening and financial security are definitely Tentoo’s greatest strengths in my opinion.

What was your most unforgettable experience as a freelancer?

I once got to do the lighting for a concert in the Forbidden City in China – and ended up spending two weeks there. At night, the lights were programmed and so I had access to the Forbidden City. It was an unforgettable experience to (be allowed to) walk through this place, all alone and in the middle of the night. Absolutely unique – and just one of the examples of where a freelance career can take you… (smiles)

Erwin, big thanks for sharing your story with us!

Your story here soon as well? Sign up with Tentoo today – and we’ll talk soon. We are already eager to meet you!