Have you ever played a strategy video game? The type where you have a set amount of resources and you need to accomplish a mission in a very short period of time? Well, sometimes the Christmas season at ACI reminds me of a mission in one of those games. A mission where the resources are wreaths, garlands and trees, time is counting down and the challenge is to decorate the New York Metropolitan area for Christmas in only 6 weeks.
My name is Anastasia Markova and I am an Assistant Director of Production at American Christmas. I will tell you how we plan and execute our installations.
In our company, there is a special name for the six weeks between late October and early December – we use the imposing phrase “The Season.” This is the period when we decorate more than 500 locations in more than 20 cities making more than 300 clients and all New Yorkers happy and ready to celebrate the holiday season. Believe me, six weeks is very little time for the enormous amount of work we do. We work hard to think ahead and predict all possible complications that might take place on each installation to make them run smoothly with flawless results.
Everything starts with the production department where we prepare the décor and the special staging for every single job. Before we start production, we have a meeting with the sales and production teams, discussing the client’s needs, placement of the décor on location, et cetera. Once production begins, we consider every little detail, whether it be placement of the plugs on the garland or how to protect the marble wall where a wreath will hang. We also label each box indicating the name of the job, the address, placement and characteristics of the décor. Additionally, we prepare all necessary tools and materials, thinking of each job exclusively. For instance, if it is a crystal tree at Radio City Music Hall, we send needle nose pliers to work with delicate crystals and Windex to polish them. If it is overnight tree lighting, we send spotlights and harnesses to work safely on a boom lift.
Decorators’ crew assignments are also a very important part of installation planning. All of our crews consist of three talented decorators. The three comprise complementary qualities, such as creativity, quick thinking, persistency, attention to detail and a good attitude. However, when we choose a crew for a job, we consider several aspects, like the amount of logistical work, the level of complexity and time of the installation. For example, when decorating the chandeliers with live laurel branches at Bergdorf Goodman, we send creative decorators with a good eye who will be patient enough to spend 10 hours on a ladder, conquering and taming branches. If it is an installation of the train display at 1271 6th Avenue, we send many strong decorators who are not afraid of spending 8 hours outside, moving heavy materials to assemble a gigantic train.
The last but certainly not the least important part of installation planning is our supervisor plan. We have 15 supervisors, all professionals and masters of their craft who know Christmas decorations better than anybody. Before they go on installation, they plan the entire process. They assign responsibilities to decorators, plan loading and unloading of the trucks on location, prepare schemes and take notes. This preparation is necessary to ensure effective installations.
So there it is, a successful season at ACI is the result of detailed and smart planning. We have the advantage of fantastic teamwork. Our players work with a passion, drive and attention to detail that is unparalleled. Together we make the magic.