In Memoriam: Lighting Designer; USITT Fellow James Moody

February 23, 2023

Parts of article adapted from Lighting&Sound America

USITT is saddened to share that veteran lighting designer and Fellow of the Institute, James L. Moody, passed away on Monday, Feb. 20, 2023. James spent his life as a lighting Designer for theater, concerts, and television as well as a professor, lecturer, author, and mentor.

A giant in the field of entertainment lighting, a mentor and educator who had an incalculable influence on several generations of designers, and a long time USITT member, Moody was a pioneer of concert lighting design, working throughout the 1970s and '80s with such artists as Stevie Wonder, The Supremes, Rod Stewart, Frank Zappa, Barry White, Linda Ronstadt, John Denver, Andy Gibb, Smokey Robinson, Donny and Marie Osmond, The Beach Boys, The Eagles, David Bowie, and many others.

Moody also worked extensively in theatre and corporate lighting design around the US and internationally. Certified as a director of photography with IATSE Local 600 in Hollywood, he had long associations with the series Don Kirchner's Rock Concert, Entertainment Tonight, Jeopardy!, Hard Copy, and Wheel of Fortune, resulting in 6,000 hours of television programming and over 60 infomercials and direct-to-tape projects. He was a member of the Academy of Television Arts and Science and served on its technical production committee; in addition, he received two Emmy nominations. He was also recognized by The American Society of Lighting Directors, Los Angeles Drama Critics Award, and other organizations. A lighting director in Las Vegas for several years, he was named Las Vegas Designer of the Year in 1982.

USITT members will be interested to know that he served as program chair for the Las Vegas conference in 1995, where he was the first to put together "Super Sessions," all Conference events that presented programs that crossed over discipline lines. The most important was one presented by Cirque du Soleil.

Moody wrote Concert Lighting: Techniques, Art, and Business, long considered a standard work on the topic. Other books included The Business of Theatrical Design, and Lighting for Televised Live Events: Making Your Live Production Look Great for the Eye and the Camera, the latter of which was done in collaboration with Jeff Ravitz, his onetime partner in the design firm Moody/Ravitz Lighting. Throughout his illustrious career and along with his three books, he wrote 50+ articles for most of the magazines and journals in the field

Prior to his retirement, Moody was head of the technical theatre program, technical director, and lighting designer for The Theatre Academy at Los Angeles City College; he also served many years on the faculty at the California Institute of the Arts. In 2003, he received the Joel E. Rubin Founders Award for outstanding contributions to the institute - he lectured and held master classes at California State University; San Diego State University, Cal Arts, University of Colorado; Southern Illinois University; University of Minnesota; Carnegie Mellon University, and Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts. He received his MFA in lighting design from UCLA in 1969.

Above all, James' biggest passion focused on mentoring. It was everywhere in his life. James donated the Tech Olympic traveling trophy, solicited firms to sponsor awards for the individual winners, and had his business pay for the student party afterwards. His other passions were his children, his 40' sailboat, flying, and the US Coast Guard.