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Year of the Producer Blog: The Ups & Downs of Producing

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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.

In this blog post, former Stage One bursary recipient Richard Darbourne, who is now a freelance producer, gives an insight into the challenges and rewards the profession can bring.

I am now two years on from my Stage One bursary and have managed to produce seven shows in that time. One was a Greek tragedy, the other a Roman tragedy. Then there was a play about the financial crisis that’s currently in New York, another about the Second World War in The River Line and so on. It’s a varied world is the life of the producer. Some plays are brought to you with money and directors attached. Some are your own brain-child that you’ve wanted to do for ages whilst others you can’t quite remembered how you ended up involved with it.

People often ask “who pays for that?” or “how much does that cost?” There’s no magical formula sadly and finding investment and cobbling together a living at the same time is as hard as it sounds. A project here, an unpaid project there that leads to paid work later. You never know the people you meet and how you may end up working together in the future. You also never know what’s coming round the corner so can only try and enjoy the journey.

Sometimes you might have done everything right: great reviews, great actors and a slick show. Then a tube strike or a snow day or a power cut comes along and you’ve got all sorts of fires to put out and problems to solve.

It’s also an incredibly invigorating journey. Yes, you worry about how you might pay your bills and where the next job will come from. You worry about how to make the leap from small-scale shows to larger shows and where you’re going to find someone to invest and get the big name actors to sign up. Yet everyday you find yourself being challenged and tested and then you overcome these challenges and learn that things do ‘just happen’ if you work hard and have faith.

Work and projects emerge from the strangest places and all the while you’re living right on the front line and learning about how the industry works and how the cogs keep on turning and how you can make a living being your own boss and being self employed. Plus whatever pennies you can put in your pocket at the end of the day have been entirely created by your own endeavours and labour. Which adds a great deal to your quality of life. You feel very alive.

Stage One has been brilliant in showing me how many people are trying to carve a similar path and that you’re not alone. Far from being competitors other producers give their time and energy to help and advise and chat through problems, contracts, casting lists and ideas. You realise that at every level of the industry people are grafting to make their way. Writers are trying to find theatres and directors, actors to find work, producers to find projects that can balance books. At times you feel quite scared in a merciless industry where the networker and bank balance is king. At others times you take great pride in standing next to your colleagues and seeing a play come to life and providing employment for people and thinking, “We did that”.

On the one hand you’re pleased it’s quite hard to make it work else everyone would be doing it but on the other you’re thinking… “Come on… I just want to make a living, I’m not selling drugs or anything!” But we’ll get there… fingers crossed we’ll get there.

For more articles from our Year of the Producer series, visit whatsonstage.com/yearoftheproducer

For further information about the producers taking part, click here.


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