Producing – Proper Job – Honest

Workshop Participant: “I learned tonnes of answers that i didn’t even know the questions for…! Really exciting to hear about the industry beyond student theatre as well, and have a chat about the big post-covid questions… thank you thank you thank you!” Student / Bedlam Theatre

It is fascinating meeting the next generation of theatremakers and creative producers during my ongoing magic-cloud tour of University drama societies and festivals. Last week I was in Edinburgh. This week Chichester and then Durham. Last month the National Student Drama Festival and Exeter.

My Zoom Q&A/talk is around the massive world of understanding the role of the producer, considering career paths into that job, and looking at the world in which we live in a new way.  Each session I am struck by the comment of at least one person in the room, making me think differently about the world I live in.

Here are some of the topics we have covered in the order the Agenda was set in various talks: What is a Creative Producer ? Difference between Production Manager and Producer, Pathways to the career, Prepare ourselves for the real world of theatre producers, Is an MA worth doing – what’s involved, Interview for Creative Producing Courses, Do you need to do a Masters, Building v Theatre Co producing, Options for training, Corporate and Sponsorship, Accessibility – courses and programmes, Leadership tips,  Rates of pay – for the producer, Agency / Talent Management, Programming a post covid world, Programming and producing differences, Post Covid Theatre, Fundraising – sources not ACE / CS, Producers’ Pool.

These talks have led to enquiries from trade bodies, career guidance organisations, theatre access groups, international networks, a think-tank, and other universities – and I look forward to meeting many different aspiring people wanting to make a difference in our industry in the future.   They are leading to enquiries for our Diploma, and I hope for other pathways which I discuss in every session.

What is becoming clear to me is that those creatives who are 16 to 25 at the moment, just hoping to make a mark on the arts, are the advisors we the 40-70 yr olds need to help us think differently. Before they get drawn into the expectation of grants and funding and systems and rules which all may be broken in the new world.  I am lucky. I do not have a building to worry about, or staff to care for in the way so many of my colleagues do. I came into Covid with a relatively clean slate [The project I had been working on for 2 years had just been cancelled, and since this was intended to be 50-75% of my working life for the next couple of years, it left me pretty free (if a tad bruised)].  The CGO Institute is the result of my blank sheet of paper.  I am not sure whether we, the Faculty will end up being the students, and the trainee, aspiring creatives will be our teachers.  They will, most definitely ask questions which challenge the old-ways. We will work together to make new ways possible.

What the old guard (and here I am talking of a Faculty aged 28 to 65ish) can bring is an understanding of some of the tools we used in the past, some of the audience expectations there were in the past, some of the things we failed to address in the past. I was struck by this quote from a BBC interview with Kwame Kwei-Armah, artistic director of the Young Vic Theatre in London “When theatres do turn the lights back on, those who have often been excluded in the past must be present. From class to race to gender, we have made great progress over the last few years in our sector in trying to equalise it. I’m determined absolutely that all of that progress that we’ve made cannot go for naught. We have to rebuild with that as a fundamental.”  The first few cohorts of the DipCP will be at the vanguard of supporting this determination.

I keep coming back to the tension between the public’s ‘need for community’ and ‘fear of gathering’.  I sense it will be a theme for the next two-three years across the industry, around the world. 

Last Thursday I was in an audience of 30-40 people clapping along to a lone piper in the heart of our village theatre/square, as the sun tipped golden through the clouds, and we all shared thoughts engendered by a single performance and a communal gathering. (Thursday 8pm NHS clap).  How easy it will be to go one step further and welcome some barnstormers/ travelling players into our midst. To bring out some chairs for our family groups. To have a glass of wine, beer or a cuppa, and to enjoy some fine theatre and good laughs.   I hope there are producers doing a proper job all over the UK thinking about these ‘full houses’ and gatherings which are possible.

For now I continue to offer my “Producing – Proper Job – Honest” workshops and am looking forward to getting dates in the diary with the Mousetrap Foundation, a network of theatremakers in Kazakhstan, a bi-lingual version with my colleague in Saudi, and some other University networks who have said they want it for their members. Cheers (and yes I would love to be propping up the bar of The Lobster Pot in our village or a gathering of the Producers’ Pool network and tasting a freshly poured pint of Proper Job)

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