Zarah working in residence at the wonderful Experimental Television Center here in New York State. Deserving of love and respect? Heck, yes. And so are you. The person hiring you may just need some hand-holding about how to give it to you.

Zarah Cabaรฑas akaLady Firefly has a radical concept: what if you treated visualists properly as professionals? But she doesn’t make any assumptions that people working with visualists will know what to do. In a new manifesto posted to “Respect Your VJ,” she spells it out so there’s no mistake — including practical advice for making it happen.

You probably won’t learn anything by reading it. But the person hiring you (unfortunately) probably could. In short, the idea is:

  • Give credit.
  • Love them – including letting them play onstage.
  • Visualists are artists, not tech crew. (You should love your tech crew, too, but you wouldn’t highlight them onstage – unlike the visual artist.)
  • Pay them, and promptly.
  • Go over tech specs.

In fact, the whole idea is to communicate with the visualist, and give them the kind of input that will allow them to do more for you.

Check out Zarah’s work:
Zarah (Lady Firefly) on Vimeo

The “respect your VJ” suggestions are all simple stuff, but boy, is it often missed. I love the idea of it being on one website. Have a look; I’m curious if anyone has items they’d add.

Zarah writes with more of her thinking:

Zarah doing studio sessions with our good friends at Forward Motion Theater.

fellow visualists~!
here we are, its 2009, i’ve seen each and everyone of your visuals gracing the various events of new york city and beyond, and from the bottom of my heart i want to thank you for putting the good stuff up there! its exciting to see how our artform of visuals evolves, and is becoming more and more present in a wide scope of cultural niches and circles. i know from what ive experienced, we are often putting up visuals in places where either people have never really thought of them before, or don’t really know what to expect, or have some twisted idea of what we do.
so last night i wrote out and put up the first iteration that, as a VJ, i would appreciated future collaborators to keep in mind when working with one of us.
ive called it
i thought it was high time to have a simple webpage which included some practical pointers for those wanting to work in visuals at an event.
my goal with this page is to be able to use it as a tool, for myself and for yourself if you find it necessary — to be able to send anyone this link and get them quickly up to speed with what VJs need.
it may not be relevant to all the gigs we do, but i think it does address some topics ive discussed with many of you regarding our craft.
so im asking if you can please give it a look, think back to your own experiences….. however you think will make it better, simpler, clearer,,,, if there are things you see differently or should be included, it would be a great point of discussion to make this page better, write back! your feedback is necessary!

  • i like to ad a thing to the list:
    spell the vj right at your flyers website promo stuff.
    wrong spelling often happens to me even i think my name is not so dificult.

  • ;)

    is she somehow a single?

  • She's not single – sorry, boys (and/or girls).

    But in this growing global community of VJs, I'm sure there's a visualist for you out there. ๐Ÿ˜‰ All of us deserving of love…

  • very nice. thanks zarah!

  • m:ck

    brava zarah! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Well, first of all , respect to everyone, not just vjs.
    then i would "respect" more good vj´s tha bad vj´s

    people like eyesupply,flight404,pfadfinderei or other good ones deserv more respect than other that simply do some ugly sh%t.

  • John Hutchinson

    Good stuff! Bookmarked for future reference. Thanks!

  • Really Nice… one time a promoter told me:
    "I will pay my DJs before my VJs"

    So I hope in the long run this kind of initiatives will help.

  • Just to add something positive about promoters – I was mentioned on a show's website AFTERWARDS and it said "thanks to… vjwunderkind (what a show!!)" – I think promoters are starting to understand how important we are.

  • * The visualist should not be expected to carry drum cases or amps, unless he/she/it volunteers, or there´s a contract stating otherwise.

    I´ve actually had to argue about this. I rarely see any bass players carrying projectors, without me getting all pissy about that.

  • Right on, Sister! much needed words there. what about 'don't treat visuals as an afterthought, if there's some money left in the budget…'

  • Love the list, and can certainly understand the frustrations and situations that led to it!

    However, there are things that VJs can do to make things easier (and I've seen Vjs mess up on these too…)

    * Do a venue inspection beforehand and plan your setup.
    * Turn up early, esp if your setup is complicated.
    * Have a test routine – equivalent to a sound check, but for video (test cards, test clips, etc.)
    * Bring what you need – most venues don't have all the various dongles and video connectors! Long video cables and power extension cards are a good idea.
    * Bring black gaffer tape, and properly secure all your connections.
    * Have a backup source – if your laptop (or other setup) goes down, have a DVD of pre-mixed content ready to go.

  • Muy bien sistaaa!! Thanks for the post, definetly helpful an much needed!


  • @Gian Pablo: yeah, totally agree. I think we there's for sure a call for an ongoing guide to all of this stuff.

  • Kevin Hackett

    Thank you for your massive support of our art. You words are very much appreciated and needed. I will share them in as many place and with as many people as I can. I've already posted it on our local dance forums. Blessings to all.

  • hello everyone!
    the feedback has been wonderful!! i've made a few revisions based on discussions that have been circulating— one addition about lighting in the tech section, one about asking vjs how theyd like to be listed (aka as a video artist vs. as a vj), and a small love letter at the end asking all of us VJs to get our shit together ๐Ÿ™‚
    my hope is to get this text in a good enough shape to have it be useful for us to reference.

  • That is probably the most comprehensive collection of every conversation we all have had regarding VJing. My favorite nickname is "video guy" – said with love and a flavoring of ignorance. I have found a smile, a firm stance and a good tech rider will always get respect.

  • Wow.

    I dont know how to start… ๐Ÿ™‚

    Perfect! If there is a logo label, I will be glad to put on my site , something like: here we work this way!

    I am a visualist from Brazil, can you picture this things here????

    Each one of the topics in the list, sometimes here in my country happen in a gang, they come all together.


    I 've closed one advertising agency I had to live by video, because I really dont want to loose this moment in the history ๐Ÿ™‚
    I love motion graphics, design, technology, and the world is full of this now, billions of ways to do billions of great things. I want to be inside ๐Ÿ™‚

    But, the guys outside, in the nightclubs show me a new world, totally different from the advertising market I usually work.

    There's no respect, I've never talk about this at internet, but after read the Zarah manifest I realize that maybe this is everywhere.
    No respect from the beginning to the end.

    I stop work for them here, everyone, since 2007.
    I've created my own party to fill my desire to play live video. Focus my activities in my studies and sometimes I work for people the is not from the dark side of the force.

    I've decided to do the only but powerfull thing I can do, dont give my knowledge for them. I dont care if they can buy from others, I prefer this then go home after work and can not sleep thinking how can i be so stupid.

    There is no respect, and I really need this to work. I'm really that temperamental guy, Im there to make the best I can for an event, or other stuffs, but every time these kind of things happens, I got to the opposite, I loose this will, my mind change at the moment. I felt like I want to go home and do some voodu ๐Ÿ™‚

    So. I totally agreed, will send to all vjs and visualist I know ๐Ÿ™‚

    Have you guys read about "The Social Customers Manifesto"???

    its all about this conversation, but for everyone that want to do good bussines does not matter the kind of job. And its a good manifest too, because tells that this kind of behavior will not bee accepted at the web market and futures markets, because here we are the one that rules ๐Ÿ™‚

    Some liks of "The Social Customers Manifesto" for who interest.

    Good stuff.

    vj or visualist Lab ? ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Kudos to Lady Firefly and to all those spreading the word!

    I've found myself lotsa times trying to make these things clear to bands, companies or musicians…

    I would suggest, tho, a button, logo or image to put in our respective websites.

    Some guys from Spain have translated the manifesto to Spanish, it would be great to have all the versions in the same site…


  • nice text. Now i will try to have this link on every flayer on every party ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Pingback: Repsect your VJ!!()

  • I want to start a Writer Mama support group for women in my area who are writers and mamas, I would love to use your book and your manifesto as part of our guidelines. Let me know what you think.

  • It’s a great idea to create our own manifesto. I see how this one tool can help me (and so many others) stay focused and in action every day.

    And bless your husband…I taught high school English and drama (and creative writing, journalism, reading, AP) for fourteen years. Suggest that he get Paul Scheele’s Genius Mind video for your daughter and his students.

  • great, Zarah! I agree with your manifiesto! i will put it in my email sign! Thanxs!

  • leolodreamland

    where did this go? it was very important…