TheatreCraft, the careers fair for theatre, took place at the Royal Opera House on 17 October. Here our writers reflect on the opening speeches and workshops that took place throughout the day.
Simon Holton reflects on the opening speeches:
After the initial bleary-eyed scramble of stallholders setting up their pitches, TheatreCraft 2014 began in earnest in the plush Crush Room of the Royal Opera House. The third year that it’s taken place here, this is indicative of how important it is now considered to get young people of all backgrounds in diverse non-performance roles in the theatre industry, and this was echoed in the opening speeches.
First up was Alex Beard, Chief Executive of the Royal Opera House, describing Theatre Craft as performing a fundamentally important task. It is great to have such a prestigious organisation lending their support to such an endeavour, and of course Beard was eager to stress all they are doing to attract and involve young people, with now 17 apprenticeships in pretty much every department. This is a great step in what is clearly not the most accessible or approachable organisation.
Then came Vicky Featherstone, who spoke about all the things theatre can be, and the many different roles that make it happen. She spoke of her diverse career history, working as an usher and a stage manager, reminding us that though passion for theatre will remain for most of us, it may not always take the same form. There were some inspiring words about British theatre leading in the world, and a reference to the importance of young people in theatre when she said “I need you biting at my heels”. She finishes by taking a photo of all of us to put on her wall, a nice little touch.
Caro Newling, president of the Society of London Theatre, rounded off the speeches. She stressed the things that tie us all together, mentioning that we are all united by the desire to delight our audiences, and celebrating the collegiate and supportive nature of the profession. She urged us all not to stop doing what we were doing, and to value each other, for “You will meet again”.
Hannah Tookey on the advanced workshops at TheatreCraft including West End Producing, Pitching to Venues and Marketing a West End show:
TheatreCraft has really upped its game this year. Having attended the past two years, and now working professionally in the industry, I didn’t think I had much more to gain by going along for a third year. Hosted in the beautiful Royal Opera House, it’s a day of workshops and talks geared towards industry newbies and students seeking advice about a career in the industry. There are a few networking hubs which book up very quickly, but on the whole it’s focused on providing introductory-level knowledge and tips about almost every aspect of the industry, from producing to acting to stage managing.
So what’s made this year better? To begin with, a few topics have been added for the beginner-to-intermediate level, offering advice that those who have some knowledge of the industry can implement directly into their work. It also felt more honest and open than in previous years, although of course this is heavily dependent on the workshop and its leader.
James Quaife’s talk on the transition from Off-West End to West End producing was refreshingly blunt and honest, offering sage advice, without covering up the hard work, less glamorous tasks and downright audacity that is needed to succeed as a West End producer. Especially handy were tips on where and how to find investors – hallelujah! Finally a producer willing to tell you exactly how they went about collecting their investors, and what you can do to hopefully achieve the same result. Whilst the answer may seem fairly obvious to some, Quaife didn’t shy away from offering a host of possible means of doing so, and it made his talk all the more useful because of it.
Director of Theatre for Ovalhouse, Rebecca Atkinson-Lord, led an interactive, exceptionally clear and detailed workshop on building relationships with venues. Whilst allowing participants to quickly identify their own skills and weaknesses of presenting their work to others, she concluded with a highly-informative rundown of exactly what makes her, and most likely other programmers and directors, scream ‘YES!’ at your first email to them.
Rounding the day off with a lively, interactive speech on marketing a West End show, Jules Goddard explained Dewynter’s approach to developing a comprehensive strategy. Presentation really is key to whether participants enjoy a workshop, and Goddard’s approachable demeanour and high energy meant the 45 minutes flew by whilst he talked us through the various tactics that might be employed, and allowed us the chance to put our own ideas into practice in a mock strategy brainstorming session.
TheatreCraft impressed me far more than I had thought it would this year. There appeared to be more stalls than before crammed into the marketplace where you can meet face-to-face with representatives from organisations such as IdeasTap and Stage One, and if it is moving towards a more varied and detailed set of workshops, then this can only mean good things for next year.
Lucy Cave on Marketing a West End Show and Improving your Career Online
How To Market A West End Show
If there is one thing you should know about marketing, it is that it is very different from working in a press department. From the initial stages all the way down to the execution and promotion, it is definitely not an easy task. But the workshop led by Dewynter showed us by breaking down the different marketing factors just how easy it can be. Dewynter’s history proves just how much the formula works, leading successful marketing campaigns for Mamma Mia!, Once and many more.
To get a feel of what it is like to run your own marketing campaign, we were split into six groups to do our own campaign for the rumoured Back to the Future musical. Our group was given image – what image would you put on the poster? We collectively agreed to the DeLorean and the flames coming out of the car: even people that had not seen the film knew that was the film. It comes back down to what was said at the beginning of the workshop: branding is everything when it comes to marketing a show, and if you can get that going, that is only half the battle.
Making A Good Impression: Starting Your Career And Manning Your Online
Even though tweeting about your favourite films and what you had for dinner might be fun, you might want to think about creating two different personas for yourself.
That is according to the advice of StageJobsPro anyway, and they definitely should be listened to when they give you advice on how to make a good impression. The site has become a hub for the industry, and if you are looking for your next job it is a good place to go.
The points that were bought up during this talk might seem a bit foolproof, but it is something that we often forget. A great point that was raised by Amelia Forsbrook was the fact that employers were once in our shoes, while we obviously need to be professional and concise with what we send into them, it is good to catch their eye.
As StageJobsPro led the workshop, it looked at how job sites can lead to a vast improvement in looking for work. Although prices for these services might give you bad anxiety, they might just bring you that edge to land your dream job.
You can find out more about TheatreCraft and the dates for next year via the Theatre Craft website. Photo by Helen Murray.