The creativity business – the student’s journey

MV business planning

On Monday Tania Azevedo and I entered the ordinary world of Mountview classrooms to bring a call to action for 30+ 3rd year students to go on a mission for a day, and yesterday we did it again with 30 more. There was a general sense of unease in the room when we talked about business plans, and budgets, and a form which needed to be completed by the end of the day. But in the end they stepped forward into the unknown with us, charged with creating a first draft of a business idea which they could take into the real world.

The challenge to any actor (or creative in general) is whether to wait for the phone to ring, when a mystery person offers you the dream job, or to take the challenge and make something happen for yourself.   I sense most actors going through drama school are so busy honing their craft, doing shows, and reaching out to agents, that they don’t often think about the days and months after graduation. Indeed in all honesty they probably try not to think about it. Well today we were asking them to think wholly about it.

But first – let’s find a friend to help us on the journey. In this case we paired students and invited them to work together to find a single shared project they could take forward into the planning stage.

Tania and I played the role of the wise ones to whom any question is a good question, and allowing us to impart loads of knowledge very quickly. I’ve been doing it 40 years and Tania 4, having herself gone on this journey when at Mountview.

So with the wise words ringing in their ears we sent them off to come up with a great idea, a business name, and some promotional copy. One hour later the 14 groups revealed to us 14 new companies which they could (and some will) create when they leave. The ideas ranged from a number of shows for Edinburgh or festivals, a database inspired idea, some businesses using the arts to serve business, and one or two quite inspired company names.

They had not yet reached the end of their journey yet. Once again we imparted some wisdom on budgeting; 60/40% deals in Edinburgh and guarantees; marketing and finding your audience; building your contact lists; and raising seedcorn investment. With these new tools they once more set forth on their journey to complete the epic task of creating a business plan.

The energy in the room was electric. There was a sense of potential achievement, and as the budgets took shape, laptops were firing, and the creative ideas flowed we asked them about their knowledge of The Hero’s Journey. They (and we) nearly fell at this final hurdle – but we were joined by the spirit of Joseph Campbell whilst invoking the plots of Star Wars, Sweeney Todd and of course Dorothy and her yellow brick road.   We were surprised that the mono-myth and this whole fantastic tool for analyzing plot position and creating new work was not part of their vocabulary (and I checked with a couple of other schools, and found that to be the case there too). So Tania put that right and – at last – slightly battered and bruised by the “ordeal by business and budgets”, they could return to the ordinary world excited to have some amazing new ideas which could, just maybe, help them be heroic and solvent.

It was a pleasure to share this one day journey with Tania, and to excite (bemuse and exhaust) two cohorts of 3rd years this week.   We were both delighted to see the Hero’s Journey writ large when we went into the Musical Theatre writers room to share in their immersive exploration of storytelling, and join Snow White as she led us into battle.

I recommend Joseph Campbell, as well as Christopher Vogler (2007) or Julian Woolford (2014) who have drawn from the original when exploring film and musical theatre.   For me this should be introduced to all students of creativity in Year One, and used to help them see where they are in their journey.

Thanks to 60 inspiring actors for going on the journey with us.



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