On Tuesday evening at 6pm I set off for my first Spa session at Ideas Tap. Ideas Tap is a funding body that was set up a few years ago to support young creatives. It gives out lots of grants and creates exciting opportunities, so if you haven’t already signed up I would suggest checking it out.
One of its newest initiatives is a series of talks covering the arts spectrum. I am always on the look out for anything about producing and was excited to see there was a producing talk with James Seabright planned. Although I’m not the biggest fan of all the work Seabright produces (Jihad! the Musical anyone?!) he has done very well for himself. Seabright’s career as a producer and general manager has gone from strength to strength, and he has taken more than 100 shows to Edinburgh since he began ten years ago.
The talk was held in the rather nice Ideas Tap headquarters, and it managed to strike the right balance between informality and learning. The talk lasted about an hour and there was huge scope for asking questions. However, having already read his book I didn’t really learn that much. But hearing how he managed to get into producing through working on shows at university and the pathway he took from there was quite inspiring. He managed to get where his is through trial and error, and building good relationships with venues and artists.
One lady asked how she should go about producing a musical, as she had been given a script she loved. Seabright responded with the problems of music licensing, and told her that producing a musical was a huge feat for a newbie producer. However he did suggest that she ask a more experienced producer to work with her on it. This was a bit of a revelation for me as I had never really considering asking for help. I realise that sounds a bit silly but I think there will be others starting out who may not feel they can approach experienced producers. But if you have a good idea, or even better a script, then there may just be someone out there with the experience and the means to make it happen. I guess you will sacrifice some control, but if it means putting your show on perhaps this is a sacrifice you should be willing to make. Seabright also said that he was happy to offer advice although he wouldn’t produce an unsolicited script.
When asked if he wanted to be attached to a theatre in the future Seabright said that he preferred to work independently and liked the flexibility freelancing gave him. I agree with him on this point and feel that by having your own company you are able to work on several shows in different places. He also said that his relationships with venues means they often approach him to fill a programming slot but he never has to feel forced to do it if the location or time period doesn’t feel right.
Another interesting question was about using your own money for a show. Seabright said for a producer, it’s not a good idea. However, at the beginning of your career sometimes you may just have to; it’s risky but it could prove beneficial in the end. He also stressed the point of only investing in a project that actually benefits you. Don’t spend money advancing the careers of others and slogging away at both a time and financial loss to you. Within my own projects I often find myself working incredibly hard without factoring in the financial or creative benefits for myself that I want to ensure for other members of my team. It was good to hear, from an experienced producer, that it’s ok to factor yourself in.
So all in all I enjoyed my trip to the spa and will be going again. And as Seabright zoomed off in what looked to be a chauffeured car and I headed for the tube, I thought to myself maybe the life a producer won’t be so bad after all.