Year of the Producer Blog: Stage One - Stepping UpDate: 19 October 2011
Inspired by our adoption of Stage One as the charity for the 2012 Whatsonstage.com Awards, we’re declaring this the “Year of the Producer” on Whatsonstage.com, and are running a 12-month editorial series of interviews, blogs and other features to give theatregoers a greater understanding of the crucial role of the producer and an insight into the people who put on the shows they love.
Before starting on the scheme in May this year, I worked for the Pleasance Theatre Trust. The Stage One Apprentice Scheme has therefore facilitated my transition from fringe theatre into commercial production. I knew that in making this transition I would face different challenges and the Apprentice Scheme is designed on a practical level to help you learn how to overcome these.
At Jamie Hendry Productions, I am working for an organisation which allows me to play an active and meaningful part in the company, across all areas. In the first five months this has included practical involvement in all aspects of the company’s creative productions – budgeting, investment, casting, contracts, marketing and PR. I wanted the opportunity to work in an environment where I would be forced to learn quickly and effectively, and the scheme absolutely provides that.
I also benefit from the scheme’s commitment to exposing the apprentices to industry experts via the Stage Two seminars. These cover areas of interest such as West End budgets, rights acquisitions and venue contracting. The seminars successfully combine practical advice with the opportunity to build relationships with those individuals who play a vital part in the mechanics of this industry.
Furthermore, they encourage peer-to-peer support within the scheme as apprentices and bursary recipients are able to exchange ideas and share their experiences. As someone just starting out in this chapter of my career, I believe these events are invaluable and reflect the unique and crucial role Stage One plays in ensuring the long-term sustainability of commercial theatre.
Of particular interest this month was our seminar on touring which was held jointly for those of us on the Apprentice Scheme, but also Stage One Bursary recipients. Speakers included the tour booker Rebecca Mills, producer Michael Harrison and the chief executive of the Cambridge Arts Theatre Dave Murphy. They all brought their individual take and wealth of experience to the table giving the group great insight into contracting, budgeting and how to go about pitching your production to a regional venue.
As is often the case in these sessions, the question of how to go about establishing your professional credibility was raised. How, as emerging producers, can we successfully mount a production on tour that gives us our professional ‘break’? It’s the classic ‘chicken or egg’ – you need to have done a tour to book a tour and vice versa. The viable solution in many cases is to seek a reputable and established co-producer to add professional weight to the production. Once you have done several productions in this way, you will be in a better position to approach a venue and agents on your own and get a project off the ground.
During these discussions, it was fantastic to have the bursary recipients in the room to bring their experience to the table. They explained why they felt that touring was practical and achievable financial goal in bridging the gap between producing in the Fringe and producing in the West End. Their thoughts, along with those of the speakers’, have shed light on this arm of commercial production and I’m looking forward to putting their advice and suggestions into practice moving forwards.
For more information about Year of the Producer, and the producers taking part, click here.