Unexpected Ways to Spectacular Things

“I started Preston Productions with an ETC Ion, a few thousand dollars and a credit card,” Justin Preston says when we meet with him in the unlikely setting of downtown Los Angeles. 

Bucking the trend to expand into the suburbs of greater Los Angeles, Preston – a designer, technical director, and entrepreneur – is proud to be one of the only production companies in downtown LA. The location keeps his immaculate warehouse, offices, and previz studio close to his corporate clientele. “We focus on mid-size, high-end corporate events and concerts. We provide design, technical direction, rentals, sales, and labor,” says Preston. “We skirt the line between the budget and high-end.”

A native of Northern California, Preston moved to LA in 2007, to study at UCLA’s theatre program. Then followed 10 years of freelance lighting design, technical direction, console operation, and a general absorption into LA’s performance scene. “The move to forming Preston Productions in 2018 felt quite natural,” he says. “I was spending a lot of time as a Technical Director and saw a need for competent full-service production houses for mid-size events”


JustinPrestonWarehouseCrewFive years later Preston has acquired gear in the form of many ETC consoles and fixtures, a new business partner and five full-time employees. “The business got to the point where I couldn’t do more on my own, so I took on Lucas Garrity as a partner. He has all the strengths that I lack, and we divide up the workload very well – I do all the admin and sales end while he makes sure that we execute the jobs perfectly.”

On his history with ETC, Preston looks back to his high school days where he learned to program on an Obsession console. ETC consoles were the staple of his freelance design and programming period and are the core of his current inventory. His ETC Gio @5 consoles with programming wings are a standard fit for many of the corporate and “pop-up” shows.

Preston explains: “I ran ETC consoles at the Geffen Playhouse and the Kirk Douglas, and the Ford Amphitheater. I ended up doing a lot of freelance concert work. I was that guy doing shows you would normally see done on other consoles that I was doing on an Eos console. I loved busking and was able to pull that off on what is thought of by some as a theatre desk.” Another breakthrough came when Eos started offering pixel mapping, eliminating the need for a separate media server for small scale events.

Fixture-wise, Preston is a big fan of the ETC Irideon FPZ and has 120 in stock, a rarity in the local rental market. ColorSource Spots and the ColorSource Fresnel V with the NFC chip are constantly in demand. “We really like the NFC. From a shop’s perspective you can just put the address and mode the client wants and do the rest with your phone. You don’t have to take it out of its case or even plug it in,” says Preston. In terms of wish list stuff: “We do a lot of gigs where a full-size fixture just hangs too low – but an IP65 rating is super important to us, so we would love to see something between an Irideon and a full size ellipsoidal with rotating shutter barrels.”

Upcoming gigs like Grand Master Flash at the Broad Museum and other concert jobs will more than justify the previz suite recently installed by this forward-thinking company.

“I like using quality tools in unexpected ways to achieve spectacular things,” finishes Preston. “Judging from my clients’ reactions, they enjoy it, too.”



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Marshall Bissett
Marshall Bissett grew up in Central Scotland and studied theater direction at the Old Vic Theatre School. He worked on the original productions of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead and toured with such acts as Chicago, Neil Diamond, and The Rolling Stones. In 1983 he founded TMB, a worldwide supplier of lighting equipment. He’s kept his hand in directing, which in retirement now vies for his time along with freelance writing and fly-fishing.