There are times when you look back and wonder if what you once thought was a Really Good Idea was actually a gin-and-tonic-induced disintegration into madness. Be warned: taking a show to the Edinburgh Fringe is an experience that puts the fear of God in your heart and the bottle of gin back in your hands. It’s the only place where you 100% don’t just turn up and do your job – not least if you want your show to be a success! Producing and performing in a show is both a blessing and a curse, you get incredible insight and responsibility into differing roles, but you also get double the amount of work, stress and headaches.
Producing for the first time at the Fringe can be so full of unintentional trip-ups that you can sometimes feel like you’re starring in your own version of Total Wipeout. Firstly, it is vital you start to prep everything way before deadlines, as changes are about as common as rain on a British bank holiday. Secondly, you must adopt that classic Spiderman/Shakespeare mantra: “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them”. Regardless of which category you fit into, you must believe that you and the show will be great, and unequivocally roll with the punches. Finally, having a functional working relationship with your production team and cast is imperative for your sanity and your mobile phone’s longevity. Fortunately, there is a whole network of people available for support, to answer the little questions and help you figure out the big ones. This network is mostly embodied by the Fringe Office and your venue, which should also be praying for your show to be a success and should be happy to talk you through mind-numbing things like contracts and insurance. Not to mention the multitude of other Fringe performers and goers across Twitter and IdeasTap who will readily dispense advice.
Funding your project can, and will most likely, be a pain in the ass. There are gabillions of trusts and foundations to which you can apply for funding, but usually they’re only interested if you’re staging your piece in aid of something more honourable than your own ego, such as community development or working with disadvantaged kids. IdeasTap also offer a huge monetary prize but beware of the very early application deadline. Then, beyond contacting local or national businesses and asking for sponsorship as part of their community ventures, there’s always crowdfunding – an excellent, cheap and easy way to promote your show and garner online donations from friends and strangers alike. You should try to exhaust every fundraising possibility you have time for and be creative! It is desperately important that you begin to fundraise from the word go as the majority of your payments will be in advance of the show and you will not be reimbursed through ticket sales till after the Fringe ends.
So why do it if it is such hard work and feels like you are straddling a tectonic plate? Because where else but at the Fringe do you meet a hoard of generous folk (besides your doting parents) who are willing to invest their time and money by watching you flounce around a stage hoping to communicate the profundity of a text? Where else do you get to do everything yourself, learn everything the hard way, stay up half the night rehearsing, sell your soul on the Royal Mile, or race up Arthur’s Seat in order to bare your naked skin to the sunrise over beautiful Edinburgh?
Come the 28August, when we leave Edinburgh, we can look back at it as the train speeds away, laden with bags in our hands and under our eyes, an empty bank account and a sense that, yes, we did that, all by ourselves: We Conquered the Fringe.
Written by producer Francesca Murray-Fuentes.
Image: Rush Theatre’s Francesca Murray-Fuentes and Chi-San Howard.