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Fern Manning

Engineer / Technician
Auckland

Bio

Fern is an established Audio Technician based in Auckland. She was the grateful recipient of the Wilfrid Hansen Technical Scholarship in 2019, and graduated Valedictorian from SAE in 2021.

Fern landed at Oceania Productions during uni and never looked back. Six years on She’s one of few among the full-time crew delivering shows, taming the chaos into a symphony and keeping the coffee machine company. When she’s not buried in cables she can be found behind a camera or a sketchbook, she is also a proficient athlete and three-time representative for New Zealand.

She has worked shows and festivals all over the country, most notably Northern Bass in Mangawhai, Listen In in Auckland, St Jerome’s Laneway, The Synthony Tour, WOMAD, and countless shows in almost every venue in Auckland and beyond. While she is an all-rounder in the event production domain, her heart beats loudest for systems and patch, where she thrives in the madness of live events Backstage.

“It’s all about connection. For the people in the crowd and the artists performing. I think I have been just about every person out there, from the screaming fans on the barricade to the kids lurking in the back. The experience ranges from a fun night out to something life-changing that they have been waiting weeks, months or even years for. It’s important and I want to make sure it’s perfect for them, and the artists and crew. I like helping people, I like being a part of something special.”

 

WHAT OR WHO INSPIRED YOU TO STUDY AUDIO?

It was always music. Having music around felt as essential to me as breathing. Dad had a huge music collection, I think that contributed to the problem. He had these DVDs of live concerts and I understood that that was the mecca. It looked like the best place in the world and I wanted so badly to be there, experience a concert and be a part of it. I played instruments and I originally wanted to perform but I had to accept that I was a terrible singer and a below-average musician. Dad was the one who pointed out to me that there were people working on the consoles and backstage making the show happen, and it just clicked for me. That is all I have wanted to do since. That was 12 years ago and the magic of a live show has never worn off. At the time I had no idea how to get to that goal. In high school, they talked about getting into university almost constantly. Studying just seemed like the next step, so I went for it with no idea how it would all work out.

 

WHAT DID YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT YOUR TIME AT SAE?

The comradery on the campus. I made lifelong friends at SAE, we helped each other and bonded over group projects and Sal’s pizza. Late nights in the studios, it was really special having the freedom to work late or come in on weekends. SAE was so open with their workspaces and that gave me a lot of freedom to figure stuff out and work in my own time, the campus felt more like home than my apartment did sometimes. The atmosphere was great too, especially around the times that projects were due.

 

WHAT HAVE THE HIGHLIGHTS OF YOUR CAREER BEEN SO FAR?

There have been so many amazing ones, I have so many stories. A big one has to be working on patch for Papa Roach and The Used at the Trusts Arena last year. It was a dream gig, if I wasn’t working it I would have been in the front row. Their touring crews were lovely, the show was amazing it just all came together. Before this it was chaos, the power was out in our workshop so we prepped the whole gig off an industrial generator over the weekend. I remember making coffee with a head torch! Also at the Trusts Arena was Highly Suspect and Banks Arcade. I watched the whole tour sell out, then expand to extra dates and bigger venues and sell out again. The crowd was ecstatic that night, the rig looked amazing and there were 43 seconds left on the clock before the venue curfew when the show came down. I have to say WOMAD this year as well. It was my first year at WOMAD coming into an established crew. It’s not your standard festival, the atmosphere was great all over the festival grounds, and I was working with a great team. I mixed front of house, for an amazing band called Moju, on two stages and put mics on instruments I’d never heard of from all over the world. It showed how music can translate any language barrier, of which there were a few. It brings people together like nothing else can.

 

IF YOU COULD WORK WITH ANYONE WHO WOULD IT BE?

The obvious answer here is just to list all my favourite bands, but that’s a long list. The ultimate goal is to tour, and some amazing productions are going around the world that I can only dream of being a part of. There are production companies that are doing amazing things too, on a scale far beyond anything I’ve been involved in. I don’t know how I’m going to get there yet, but I’m going to tour the world one day. There are also a lot of really talented techs and some awesome gear on home turf that I haven’t worked with yet so it’s a simple but vague answer: cool gigs, cool gear and cool people.

 

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE LOOKING TO GET INTO A CAREER IN AUDIO?

Take pride in what you do! Whatever you do, do it the best that you can. If you’re sweeping the workshop floor, sweep it the best anyone has ever seen. If you’re running a stage at a big festival, own your role and empower yourself to do it well. Both jobs are equally as important – people will take notice of the attention to detail in your work, and you will feel better about what you’ve achieved. You owe it to yourself to represent yourself in the best way possible, and the way you want to be seen. This job will demand everything from you. It can be incredibly hard, but equally as rewarding. You have to hold on to the reasons why you do what you do and never let them go. And I think that applies to anything worthwhile in life, not just this industry.