Kevin Spacey Foundation: "It’s not enough just to have the creative idea"

Steven Winter, executive director of the Kevin Spacey Foundation, explains the intentions behind the organisation

Company SBB, US dance recipient
Company SBB, US dance recipient of the Kevin Spacey Foundation Artists of Choice Award

How long has the Kevin Spacey Foundation (KSF) been running?

It began in 2011 with Richard’s Rampage, the yearlong education counterpart to The Old Vic’s Richard III staring Kevin in the title role. It offered hundreds of young people, and emerging actors, the opportunity to work with Kevin and see the production for free. In the end we travelled to eight countries and across three continents.

Has the organisation changed since then?

Now we enable the creation of new work by emerging artists by offering them the financial means and mentoring needed to succeed
 as our KSF Artists of Choice. We also partner undergraduates with world-class universities for the duration of their study through our scholarship program. And our bespoke education projects increase aspiration and impart best-practice teaching techniques. One such education project saw us selecting a company of 34 actors from 12 countries across the Middle East to develop and perform with us in Sharjah UAE, which was pretty extraordinary.

The Kevin Spacey Foundation Artists of Choice Awards applications are now open, what is it that people can apply for?

We offer £10,000 in the UK or $10,000 in the USA and Canada towards a theatre, film, dance or musical theatre project. It should be something in development that would benefit from funding and mentoring to enable it to get to the next stage or to supplement an already secured grant.

How else does the Kevin Spacey Foundation hope to help artists?

The financial injection is great news, but the money is just part of it. Last year we were lucky enough to have an extraordinary panel of high profile industry figures from the different disciplines, many of whom went on to mentor the projects that we awarded. KSF also support them year-round, advising them on how to sustain the project or secure more funds or a venue etc. So the funding is important, but it’s equally important to us that we continue to be there for the projects throughout the year.

Kevin Spacey in workshop
Kevin Spacey in workshop

Who were the people awarded the grants last year?

In the UK the dance award went to Southpaw Dance Company and their project Speakeasy, already brilliantly supported by Dance City in Newcastle. Theatre was won by Offstage Theatre for Re:Home, which is about to open at The Yard. Chris Bush and Matt Winkworth won for musical theatre and Broken Hearted Youth for their film Rage. We also awarded five companies in the USA which you can read about on the KSF website.

What does it say about Kevin Spacey that he’s so passionate about this sort of cause?

That he understands the importance of ‘sending the elevator back down’, which is the Foundation’s motto, taken from something Jack Lemmon used to say to describe the importance of mentoring. You can see that very much in the series we recently completed which will be available in Spring 2016 where Kevin shares some incredible insights into acting and the industry in general.

What are you looking for in applications?

We’re looking for people that are really committed to an idea and committed to making a piece of work in an already competitive market. They should really understand that it’s not enough just to have the creative idea: you have to have a view of where it might be performed and who’ll watch it. It’s also good for us to understand the support around the project. Are there any other funding streams in place or venues that already have committed? Is there a great director who is already attached?

Steven Winter, executive/creative director of the Kevin Spacey Foundation
Steven Winter, executive/creative director of the Kevin Spacey Foundation

What are you most proud of achieving at the Kevin Spacey Foundation?

We’re probably most proud of the diversity of the offer from mentoring to funding, to scholarships and work in schools often finding those that might not ordinarily access the arts.

Kevin Spacey has moved on from the Old Vic now – has that changed the Foundation in any way?

It’s not really changed, it’s perhaps more transatlantic but other than that it’s really just about trying to continue the work that he and I began at The Old Vic.

Click here for more information on the Kevin Spacey Foundation

Watch the interview below with last year's Kevin Spacey Foundation Artists of Choice