So how to be a producer… Firstly, take a breath. Secondly, get those sleeves rolled up. Right I think we’re ready. Being a producer requires clarity and spontaneity, enthusiasm and creative distance, strategic-thinking and emotional intelligence – and that’s why I love it really. If you’re someone like me with a multitude of appetites then you should consider being a producer. I love reading a script as much as I love reading a good budget. I get to dream big with people from all walks of life then I get to make those dreams happen. Being a producer means putting everything in place to realise an idea. It is massively rewarding and involves a lorra lorra learning.
Ok enough poetic waffle about what a producer is. (I’ll allow you to browse over the previous paragraph and possibly come to conclusion that it isn’t very clear. Sorry-not-sorry about that.) This post is supposed to be less about the “what” and more about the “how”.
I can easily say that the arts world can do with more producers. There are lots of brilliant ideas flying around but not enough people with the talent to make them happen. So if you’re up for it, you’ll be glad to know that you’re already in demand. Also don’t get it twisted. Being a producer is a very creative role. You will be a logistical plate-spinner.
So the first step: find an artist or group of artists or an organisation that you believe in. Cool.
Next step, you need to be an advocate for an idea. You need to be able to listen to and, more importantly, get excited by the possibility of creating something new. However, you must be the voice of reason. Whilst the artist or creative team is riffing about a great idea, you need to be thinking: who can I get to do that; where will it happen; when and how long do we need; how much will that cost; do we need permission; who would fund this; who would be interested in this; how could I explain this project to a teacher / funder / community leader / venue?
Ask all the possible questions then you go out and find the answers. You need to learn how to negotiate, ask a few cheeky questions, keep your stakeholders satisfied and most importantly keep the idea alive.
As we know in any creative process, there are moments of doubt, fear and creative block. To counteract this you need you to show the most honesty, stability and confidence. “How” I hear you say? Know your shit! Be organised. What are the show dates? Who are your partners? What is the costume budget? I’m not saying that you should be a memorising genius (although popping a few gingko biloba tablets wouldn’t hurt) but just make sure you have everything in order. You should be ready to give your team the answers they need when they need them. That might mean using Dropbox, Google Drive, Slack, Facebook, whatever. Just make sure the info is centralised and accessible.
Obviously the boundaries are not as crude as this but when you’re working with an artist you should allow and encourage them to think inside of the “idea”. It’s their job to fill it out, shake it about, take some stuff out, etc. Obviously they’ll consult you from time to time but make sure you know when it is the right time to give your creative input. In the meantime, whilst that idea is being polished into something wonderful, you should be maintaining the structure on the outside. Once you’ve got this down, you can dream too. Where can this go? How big can this get? How many people can I get to see this? What could this become? But obviously always make sure you check-in with your artist. Your ambitions should always match up.
Now I’m just going to end this ramble with a list of things that you should get familiar with:
- Production meetings – writing agendas and taking minutes
- Making cups a tea and buying snacks (especially for those technical days)
- Funding bids
- Networking (not just to make connections with a wide range of people because you never know who or what you might need for a project but also to ensure that you know how to talk to a good range of people)
- Jargon related to various departments (technical teams, marketing teams, finance, etc)
- Being very clear about how much time you can commit and what your time is worth
Consult the ITC website, Creative Toolkit, Hiive. Speak to people in the industry. See if you can get some shadowing experience.
This post is part of A Younger Theatre’s ‘How to be a…’ careers series. Read Robert Evans’ ‘How to be a… Theatre Maker’ here.