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Blog: Young directors – A new year, a new challenge

Posted on 09 January 2014 by Young Directors

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Saying goodbye to a year gone past and hello to a new one is always slightly frightening. For artists it’s even worse, as you might not know what your next project is, or if a new one will stand on its own two feet. For the StoneCrabs Young Directors, the new year brings excitement and hope, but also nerves and lots of pressure.

2014 is the year Play-ground, our young directors’ festival, comes to life. December was a month of fundraising for us, with our Sponsume campaign kicking off – and I’m not going to lie, we have lost faith in arts funding in this country many times during the holiday season. But now it’s a new year, a fresh breath of air for the directors, and we are back, ready to meet our target with a fundraising event in January and our big, final shout out to the industry with our festival.

We spent most of our time together in 2013 learning the craft of the creative team: how to produce our own show, cast it, get money and most of all be extremely prepared for every possible challenge thrown our way. 2014 is going to be the icing on the cake – over the next two months we go into production, with our auditions in January and then rehearsals in February. Now is the time we can challenge our directing skills and have fun – this is, after all, what all of us love and why we do what we do. It’s time for the creative fluids to flow, and I know we are all bubbling with excitement.

However, despite the creative aspect being what we all love so much, now is also the time to plan and be efficient. Our casting calls are going live through Spotlight and various casting sites this week, and then it’s time for auditions. Time to put a face to our beloved characters, time for them to have a voice, a life. The actors are the ones who breathe life into a play, not the director. We guide them through the world of the play and their characters, but we won’t feel it and experience it the way they do. That’s why this is the most important part of the process – without the right actors, everything falls apart.

Then comes our fundraising event on Friday 17 January – The Big Mix – at The Big Red in Deptford. We’ve planned a night full of entertainment and a chance to pitch in and support our festival, and no doubt it will be a night buzzing with creativity. If you are curious, follow the event on Twitter: @SCYD2013

After painting the town red and creating one big artistic party, we will be thrown into our rehearsal period in February. This is the time we all long for: exploring our plays with our actors and creating an unforgettable theatre festival.

There’s a lot to do, and it won’t be easy. But being an artist is all about the risks and the hard work that we curse and love at the same time. I can’t imagine a better start to 2014 than firing off a creative project like this.

Camilla Gurtler

Photo by Flickr user Amani Hasan under a Creative Commons licence.

Young Directors

Young Directors

StoneCrabs Theatre’s Young Directors’ Programme is a platform for young directors, centred around production, project management and theatre directing. The programme culminates in February 2014 when the young directors will put on the Play-ground Festival at the Albany. The 2013-14 Young Directors are: Eleanor Chadwick, Hattie Coupe, Emma Dennis-Edwards, Jude Evans, Camilla Gurtler, Lynette Linton, Antony Nyagah, Mariana Pereira and Katharina Reinthaller.

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Blog: Young directors – The craft of crowdfunding

Posted on 31 December 2013 by Young Directors

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In our last blog, Katharina Reinthaller discussed the trials and tribulations of funding and fundraising, but also their importance in mounting any production, festival or event within the theatre and arts industry. Throughout our planning and development, we have mounted a five-prong attack, the fifth of which is crowdfunding.

The term itself is a slightly elusive one, sitting somewhere between the formal notion of fundraising, and the more open and informal appeal of social media. It is precisely that which, I believe, is what works in its favour. Crowdfunding exists to provide an unobtrusive way for the project organisers (director, producer etc.) to approach a wide network of potential supporters, through an easy-to-manage campaign page with an appeal for small amounts of money (£5, £10…£100, £200) as opposed to huge sums. Asking for money is always tricky, so going about it on a smaller scale makes it a simple and accessible way for family, friends, colleagues, and interested potential donors to provide sponsorship for a project without too much faff and fuss. Small donations provided by a wide network can raise a fair proportion of a project budget. With the social media ‘share’ button only a click of a finger away, and a huge crowd of possible funders out there, isn’t it a perfect tool to bring in those all-important funds?

As with everything in the realms of fundraising, there are pitfalls. The major crowdfunding sites, including Kickstarter, Sponsume and Wefund, have a number of requirements that need to be fulfilled, and beyond those there are several elements which need to be conducted well if you want your campaign to succeed. Produce a poor campaign video which has little to no connection with your project (they do exist!), write and present an unclear or convoluted project description, or fail to research and reach out to your potential audience, and your campaign might well fall flat on its face.

So, how can these problems be avoided? No crowdfunding campaign is devoid of risk, but put the effort in, allocate a solid amount of time to its preparation and do your research – and then you are more likely to succeed than flounder.

Research other crowdfunding pages, the good, the bad and the ugly, and you’ll get a feel for what works and what doesn’t. For me, the best have been clean, clear and to-the-point. I can read the page and have a good grasp of what I may or may not want to donate to. Use headers, use questions, use bullet points, where appropriate, and it all becomes more user-friendly.

Crucially, be clear about how much you want to raise and what the funds will go towards; there’s nothing worse for a potential donor than wondering where the money’s going. Transparency can be underrated.

And then there’s the video or trailer. There are many approaches, but those which are simple, open and communicate what the project is about are infinitely more appealing than those which shut the audience out. It really doesn’t need to be super high-tech.

Last of all, spend time researching and thinking about your audience and how you will get your campaign page out to them, by Facebook, Twitter, e-mail or word-of-mouth? And how can they get to know you and your project? After all, it is all about the social side of things as much as it is about raising funds. And maybe it’s possible to achieve both.

If you want to check out  our crowdfunding page, get ideas or maybe donate (we hope so!) then take a look…

Jude Evans

Photo by Flickr user James Cridland under a Creative Commons licence.

Young Directors

Young Directors

StoneCrabs Theatre’s Young Directors’ Programme is a platform for young directors, centred around production, project management and theatre directing. The programme culminates in February 2014 when the young directors will put on the Play-ground Festival at the Albany. The 2013-14 Young Directors are: Eleanor Chadwick, Hattie Coupe, Emma Dennis-Edwards, Jude Evans, Camilla Gurtler, Lynette Linton, Antony Nyagah, Mariana Pereira and Katharina Reinthaller.

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Crowdfunding the arts: Can grassroots support help revitalise theatre?

Posted on 02 February 2012 by Catherine Noonan

I recently came across this crowdfunded arts project, headed by Stuart Murdoch from indie pop band Belle & Sebastian, aiming to raise enough money to fund his musical feature film God Help The Girl. This concept interested me firstly because I love Belle & Sebastian, and secondly because the idea of a musical funded by its future audience is a pretty exciting one. The premise is this: a sum of money is required (in this case, $100,000) to be raised by a certain date (12 February), and people who believe the project is worthwhile can donate to the cause. Big donations come with the promise of rewards, such as a chance to visit the set, but if the money isn’t raised the project is called off. Essentially: a musical is brought to life by those most eager to see its creation.

Community funded arts projects are not a new concept. With the repercussions of governmental cuts being increasingly felt, more and more potentially brilliant ideas are falling by the wayside with no conceivable way for artists to bring their work to audience. New writing is given a back seat whilst tried and tested favourites (I’m thinking about all those jukebox musicals…) are rolled out to bring in the crowds. Group funded arts projects are a way to combat this stagnation and give a voice to those underrepresented in the world of theatre, and are realised on such popular funding sites as WeFund, Sponsume, IndieGoGo, and Stuart Murdoch’s choice, Kickstarter.

There are numerous advantages to approaching creativity in this manner. Apart from the aforementioned benefit – that opportunities are provided to those otherwise unable to get a foot in the metaphorical stage door – crowdfunded projects also provide a ready-made fan base in the event of the project’s completion, giving the audience exactly what they want as they are the ones choosing what deserves support. I imagine it’s a great feeling to watch a performance knowing that you were involved from the very start, and can claim to have paid for, say, one thousandth of the creation. It builds links between the audience and arts organisations that are stronger and more intertwined than ever before, introducing arts patronage that extends beyond the seventeenth-century aristocracy supporting an up-and-coming playwright to include a diverse range of theatregoers with a vested interest in the outcome of a particular piece. Patronage, but in plurality.

A site that is of particular use to theatregoers is WeDidThis, a crowdfunding platform specifically dedicated to UK arts organisations. The success stories listed online are encouraging: from Brighton-based theatre company Witness Theatre managing to raise enough money to set up camp at the Brighton Fringe for five days with its production of The Importance of Being Earnest, to the inspirational story of Catalyst Rwanda raising over £2,000 to set up sustainable arts programmes for genocide victims – there is evidently scope to achieve amazing results. This kind of platform is especially useful for young theatre makers who are just establishing their identity – with Witness Theatre being run by two recent graduates, WeDidThis provided an opportunity for their talent to be recognised by the public. As WeDidThis founder Ed Whiting commented in a Guardian culture blog: “We believe that relationships that start with a very small donation and a relatively simple reward can grow to enrich both the creative and financial resilience of the arts sector, and the cultural lives and experiences of those who give to it.” This is the essence of crowdfunding: giving a little to make a huge difference to both struggling theatre creators and the people their art will one day affect.

Community funding doesn’t have to stop at producing theatre, but can stretch as far as literally building theatre, as touring theatre company Paines Plough is currently attempting to prove. The company has decided to produce a stage that is a little more permanent than grassy fields and historical sites in the form of a touring mini-amphitheatre, dubbed The Roundabout Auditorium, giving people across the UK the chance to experience its work in a theatre-in-the-round. The possibilities are endless – if Plaines Plough can flat-pack the theatrical experience, Ikea-style, even the most outlandish idea has a chance of becoming a reality.

As with most concepts, there are downsides to this type of collaboration. With anyone being able to post their ideas, there are an awful lot of projects requiring funding and not enough donations to go around. As Liverpool-based artist Emily Speed notes: “Kickstarter claim that around half the projects they feature make their funding goal”, which leaves half the projects having to be abandoned or rethought – appealing to the masses doesn’t always guarantee a response. However, as Speed concedes, this 50% figure is “comparable to, or higher than some UK regions in the Arts Council England ‘Grants for the Arts’ success rates”, meaning companies have an equal chance of gaining funding without having to fill out copious forms and wait around for a decision. As this categorical breakdown of Kickstarter’s stats illuminates, over $4m were pledged by 50,144 people to 931 successful theatre projects in 2011. Although these were mostly US-based, this still illustrates the level of interest in crowdfunding, with nearly 1,000 theatre projects coming into existence due to grassroots support.

Part of the beauty of crowdfunding is that creators can influence the progress of their project by interacting with supporters and promoting the idea online. In this sense, Stuart Murdoch’s God Help the Girl has a bit of a head start – they can appeal to Belle & Sebastian’s established fan base, and have the support in tweet-form from celebrity fans such as Zooey Deschanel and Matt Lucas, meaning their project has the potential to reach millions of Twitter users in a matter of clicks. For those without this kind of advantage, crowdfunding requires marketing the project directly to the crowds. Social networking sites are a great platform for this; with a thriving theatre community willing to lend a promotional hand, simply getting the project retweeted is a way to drum up support. Some other good ideas to maximise exposure include posting videos and photos to give donators an insight into the project’s progress, offering rewards to supporters and gaining press coverage to allow the project to reach more audiences. There are also the business aspects to consider – dedicated commitment is required from creators, a detailed and compelling pitch must be written, and an accurate budget needs to be produced to make sure what is promised can actually be followed through. Community funding might be a great way to give creativity a chance, but it takes a little more effort than simply posting your idea online and waiting for the money to flood in.

On the positive side, even if crowdfunding doesn’t result in the target being achieved, getting feedback from the online community is a bit like having a ready-made focus group – a way to present your ideas to both fans and new supporters, network with the arts community, hear the audience’s reaction, and adjust your project to include the suggestions of others. An idea that perhaps doesn’t initiate the desired response first time round may lead to contacts being made and long-term fans being procured for future proposals.

Funding the arts collaboratively is a way to meld ideas and generate new ones, fuelling creativity in the most imaginative way possible. I’m hoping that the Belle & Sebastian-esque film musical manages to make it off the ground, in order to, as stated by producer Barry Mendel, “show the powers that be that there’s grassroots support for our project”. But whatever happens, there are thousands of brilliant arts projects floating around the internet that need the support of the public, proving that even in the face of government cuts, the world of theatre remains resilient and creativity remains abundant.

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