A Student Producer’s Five Steps To Opening Night

Producing as a student is slightly different (read: simpler) to producing in the “real world”, but it’s a great way to start getting your head around how producing a show works (the sort of steps involved/the general chronology), as well as letting you get your teeth into some really exciting projects. In fact, as a student producer, you may get to get involved with some projects which wouldn’t survive in commercial production, but that a student funding body is prepared to fund, which is an amazing opportunity. Also, because your actors and stage managers are students, and not being paid, you can tackle huge projects you wouldn’t otherwise get to try (until/unless you become a bigwig West End or Broadway producer…), which is rather fun.

Getting the project started…

As a student producer, unlike in the real world, you don’t always start the ball rolling with a project; often a (student) director will make an application for a show that they are really passionate about to get a slot at the student theatre at your university, and then get a student producer on board with them once they get a slot, usually through advertising for the role in the same way you will do so later for a production team. Student producers (at least in Cambridge) are really in demand, so don’t be shy about applying to the ads that get sent out – you want to do it, and the director doesn’t: win-win!

Disclaimer: It might be sensible to assistant produce a show before taking on producing. I didn’t do this, and I wasn’t entirely sure what I was doing the first time. (Or in fact the second time.) However, it worked for me, and I had a blast on my first few shows, even if it was stressful, so you can absolutely just jump right in at the deep end and start swimming. Just be prepared to maybe swallow a couple of mouthfuls of water.

Anyway…

Once you’ve got yourself a show to produce, there are lots of things to do (and no to do list provided by anyone anywhere. Except me, here – you’re welcome!).

1. Work Out A Budget and Get The Funding

The first thing you should do once you’ve discussed the show with the director and you know what the overall vision is and what you need to have is work out a budget.

I will be writing a whole post about how to make a budget next week, so stay tuned for more details on this!!

2. If Your Show Needs Rights, Apply for and Get the Rights

This is self explanatory. Most recent shows have authors/composers who deserve to get some money when their show is put on. Apply for the rights. This is mostly an admin exercise as usually (in student theatre) getting rights is not particularly difficult (partly because the theatre knows if you’re likely to get rights, so won’t programme you if they think you won’t).

3. Get a Production Team Together

Once you’ve agreed with a funding body on what the budget for the show is, and got yourself the rights to put it on, you need to get a prod team together. The exact make up of the team will depend on the show, but generally you will need a stage management team (stage manager, deputy stage manager, possibly assistant stage manager(s)), a lighting designer, a sound designer, a costume designer, a set designer, a set builder and a publicity designer (some of the design roles may overlap, as may the set designer/builder roles).

Depending on the scale of your production, you may also want some of the following: assistant director(s), assistant producer(s), musical director, assistant musical director(s), choreographer(s), photographer(s), composer, writer, orchestrator, make up artist(s), set painter(s)…

There are two main ways to get a team together – 1. ask people you know, 2. open for applications publicly (e.g. on facebook or on local websites like camdram). I prefer open applications; obviously you can still ask your friend to apply, and choose them if you think they’re the best fit, but there are always new people out there you don’t know, and it makes the system more transparent.

4. Open for Auditions

At the same time as you are getting your team together, the director should be getting a cast together. A student producer’s level of involvement in auditions varies, but I’ve found it tends to be minimal – make sure the adverts for auditions are readily available and clear and book rooms for auditions to happen in. You may want to get more involved, and attend auditions (if only so the actors will actually know who you are when you email them) but you’re unlikely to be making many casting decisions as a student producer.

5. Supervise that Everything Gets Done

This is unfortunately where it gets tricky. The student producer’s role is basically to make sure that everything that needs to happen happens in time. This includes:

  • Have prod team meetings to get updates on design and construction
  • Monitor expenses – particularly the spending of others in the crew
  • Help the director create/manage the rehearsal schedule
  • Book rehearsal rooms
  • Organise an online publicity schedule
  • Make sure that the crew/cast are happy – check on cast even though you won’t see them as often
  • Finally, a small and specific thing which I always forget and get stressed over: get all cast and crew to write and submit a bio for the programme
This list isn’t exhaustive, because producing as a student is incredibly varied, which is one of the best things about it, but if you do all of these things you’ll have got a show well on the road – good luck!

If you’ve already produced shows as a student, let me know in the comments if you think I’ve missed anything important, or anything you always make sure to do! Feel free to like the post if you enjoyed it and/or follow the blog if you want more.

See you on Friday!

Emily xxx

P.S. If this is the first post you’ve read here – welcome!

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