The rollercoaster of the freelance life

On Oct 2nd my last blog talked of the excitement at waking up in our industry.  But any time we bounce forward, we have to accept that we live on a rollercoaster. And the rushes to the bottom are not usually accompanied by screams of joy and thrill,  they are more likely aligned with the feeling of a deflating balloon.

So let’s start with a high. On Thur 7th I facilitated a meeting of 25 professional producers and programmers of Musical Theatre in Scotland. We were hosted on the ground by the key team of Dundee Rep, but through the power of Zoom we had producers from New York, London, Amsterdam, Edinburgh, Perth and Pitlochry all on a equal platform for discussion.  We are finding ways to host blended discussions getting the best out of meeting ‘in the flesh’ and the phenomenal connectivity of meeting ‘in the cloud’.  

The best meetings of Producers’ Pool over the last 5 years that I have led this network have been when the final roundup includes action points voiced and owned by people around the ‘room’.  I couldn’t have wanted better when three Exec Director/Producers of three of the major producing houses of Scotland pledged to go forward and reach out to fellow producing houses to make something happen.  What could be better. 

[In two week’s time we have the first meeting of Producers’ Pool [New York and beyond] and already the people signing up suggest we could have some fascinating early connections made which could lead to a follow-up meeting and some excellent action points].

And now the rollercoaster gave me that burst balloon moment. After a year developing Producers’ Pool (Scotland) and offering workshops to freelancers and young creatives, with a little support from Creative Scotland, I put in a grant application to develop the next phase. It was something I had talked through with many lead practitioners, and built on exactly the area of development which had been highlighted by Creative Scotland.  But sadly I was turned down. Rather strangely for a weakness in one area of support information which was exactly the same diversity support information which I had used in the successful application a year ago. 

I have been turned down for so many jobs in my life, and so many grant applications – it never gets any easier. I particularly feel for those in the first 1-3 years of their freelance careers, coming out of the lockdown phase who have never known a time before lockdown. They are applying in their droves for newly awakened jobs and ever diminishing grant support. They are fighting back the tears and the frustrations. They are having to pick up another blank 30 page grant application form and start again. It is potentially soul destroying.

So I have had to ditch my plans for workshops and repeating the skills sharing classes for Scottish based freelancers.  I will have to move away from creating the Big Idea in Scotland which was central to the grant application, and re-look at it as a UK and International project. I will have to turn it into a commercial idea rather than one which can (as specifically requested by CS) be free to the user in Scotland in its initial phase.

After a couple of large pints and a break from the idea, I have started the long push up the rollercoaster’s upward slope. I have drafted a revised idea with a commercial budget and got it to the company I was going to work with on the Scottish project.  And just to release the grrrr from my bones, I’ve written this blog.  Thanks for reading.

And finally a group of little highs on the freelance rollercoaster over the weekend – three lovely emails from unexpected places.  A major festival in London wanting to work with Producers’ Pool, a lovely email from a lead producer of a diversity driven company thanking me for what we are doing in developing all these projects,  and a late applicant for the November Diploma in Creative Producing who quite rightly suggests that their skill set would be a great part of our classroom as we look at the theatremaking landscape. Producers are the employers, the entrepreneurs and the game changers of the future.  It is a rollercoaster pleasure to make new projects and big ideas happen which can help serve this community.

On Nov 1st we start DipCP3, and already we have applications in for the 4th cohort starting April 12th 2022. Thank you for reading and sometimes commenting or sharing these blogs. Your involvement is most welcome.

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