For Molly Leishman, being up close with celebrities is just another day at the office.
Leishman is part of the 11-strong team behind Human Person, a creative studio based in Los Angeles producing concerts for the likes of SZA, Billie Eilish and Calvin Harris.
So how did the Auckland-born 25-year-old score possibly the best job in the world?
Leishman’s love of the production industry was inherited from her television and broadcasting parents Mark Leishman and Jo Raymond; the power couple behind iconic Kiwi television show Tux Wonder Dogs.
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“My childhood was spent moving around different sets meeting lots of different people, immersed in the production world,” Leishman said.
From age 11 until she went to university, Leishman scored acting roles on the likes of Shortland Street, Power Rangers and other international projects, but was more focused on what was going on behind the camera.
“I always had a very keen interest in what Mum was doing, and an interest in writing and design,” Leishman said.
After completing a Bachelor of Design Innovation at Victoria University, Leishman jetted off to Los Angeles for the first time, before Covid-19 upended her plans.
“All of a sudden I was back in New Zealand, I was back to square one a little bit,” she said.
At this time, Human Person co-founders Ben Dalgleish and Ian Valentine were making moves to get their creative studio off the ground.
The two had worked together on a couple of projects, including Janet Jackson’s Vegas show.
“They realised their skills worked well together, and they were both at a point where they wanted to start something special and unique and that’s when Human Person was born,” Leishman said.
Unfortunately, this birth coincided with the pandemic, propelling Wellington-born Dalgleish back to Aotearoa, taking advantage of our “glory summer” of 2020.
“They took on Montell’s show, Benee’s, Sachi’s show, Netsky and Six60’s stadium shows, they designed that whole thing,” Leishman said.
It was then that Leishman’s and Human Person’s worlds collided, when she was living in a flat with Kiwi musicians.
“In and amongst that, I met Ben Dalgleish, and we got chatting about the fact I was coming back over, and they were starting to bring more people onto the team, and the stars just aligned,” she said.
The process of designing an artist’s concert or tour can take anywhere from one to six months, researching the artist’s brand, what their album cycle looks like and what they might have tried before.
“We take cues on anything they might be doing in their music videos or album cycle. Sometimes it’s their idea we interpret and bring to life, or sometimes we pitch something completely fresh,” Leishman said.
Their technical director turns the ideas into drawings, which are presented to the artist.
“Then they say ‘yes’ or they say ‘hell no’. We have a pretty decent track record, but it’s a back and forth,” Leishman said.
From there it’s go time – the team starts creating animations, figuring out production needs before moving on site, building out the stage and running the show through with the artist.
They don’t often travel with the artist on tour, instead going to the first few concerts to work out any kinks production might have.
Leishman joined the team when they were finishing up the content and lighting production for Billie Eilish’s world tour, but “got thrown in the deep end” with her first project – Coachella.
Coachella is one of the biggest music festivals in the world, with celebrity attendees the likes of Harry Styles, Beyonce and Kanye West headlining in previous years, performing to quarter of a million people over two weekends.
In 2022, Human Person was producing house music group Swedish House Mafia’s world tour, when the group was bumped to Coachella’s headline act 10 days out from the first day of the festival.
“We had about nine days to design and create a show, it was a huge experience but one we got through because we had our entire team working on it,” Leishman said.
“I feel very lucky to be in the job that I’m in, it’s exhilarating, exhausting, exciting.”
Human Person is also producing a number of big name artists for Coachella, which takes place this weekend and next weekend – but they were sworn to secrecy over telling Stuff who the stars would be.
“The long nights and intense work pay off when you get to see the show happen. It’s really cool when your job is to bring people joy,” Leishman said.
She said bringing people joy was a core idea behind Human Person.
“Everyone remembers their first concert. Everyone remembers their favourite artists and what that show was, and every time we put on a production, that’s the intent.”