The first two big responsibilities of a student producer are getting a budget planned and managed and getting a production team together.
Who do you need in your Prod Team?
As I said in an earlier post, a prod team makeup varies enormously based on the show.
For a student show, people you usually need most if not all of include:
- A Stage Manager/ment team (made up of stage manager, deputy stage manager, possibly assistant stage manager(s)…) who will be in the theatre, offstage, for every performance, doing things like calling the show (letting actors know five minutes before they need to be on stage via tannoy systems, cueing lighting/sound/other effects…) and generally supervising the running of the show while it takes place. The size of your stage management team will depend on the scale of your show, the size of the theatre, the complexity of the technological aspects of the show…
- Lighting Designer(s) who will, perhaps obviously, design the lighting for the show, and often also plot the lighting and set up the lighting rig etc. They may operate the lights during the show or this may be done by someone else (ops, SMs, you…). It’s very unlikely you’ll have more than one of these, unless it’s a very large show, or you have someone inexperienced and someone experienced willing to “associate lighting design”, ie. give advice and assistance, but not willing to do all the work for the show.
- Sound Designer(s) (see above, but sound, not lights).
- Costume Designer(s). This is a smaller or larger role depending on the size of the cast, the period of the play, and how specific a director’s ideas about how they visualise a character. In student theatre, the most common practice is that the director will have some preconceived ideas, which they will discuss with the costume designer(s), who will source (usually rent, purchase and/or make) them from that. If it’s a particularly small and contemporarily set production, you may be able to have they director produce ideas, and the actors costume themselves from their own clothes, but this is rare.
- Set Designer(s) and/or Set Builder(s) are perhaps self explanatory job titles. As with other designers, it depends a little on the scale of the production, but unless you’re planning on an empty stage with a single chair, I would say these are relatively irreplaceable.
- Publicity Designer(s). Getting people to come see your show is rather crucial, whether you’re producing as a student or as a professional… Getting very good publicity is so important that I’m going to write a whole post about it, so stay tuned for that, but a designer is a huge important part of the publicity campaign, and one of the most unavoidable members of a student production team. I can’t do it without them, so I wouldn’t recommend you try…
There are lots of other people you may need in a larger scale production or a specific kind of production, including:
- assistant director(s)
- assistant producer(s)
- musical director
- assistant musical director(s)
- make up artist(s)
- set painter(s)…
This list is not exhaustive, obviously, but it covers many different areas, and should give you some food for thought about tasks which you probably should delegate to a specialist who knows exactly what they’re doing when, for example, building a set which won’t collapse under actors… (*Disclaimer: I’m sure there are some producers who can do this specific thing. I am not one of them!) If you or the director or a member of the cast can already do something, that’s great, but remember that, unlike in professional productions, you aren’t in fact laying any of your prod team, so having more people does you no harm, and leaves you with more time to do your (perhaps rather neglected?) degree…
How do you find them?
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.
P.S. I was having a discussion on Twitter with a couple of producers (@Postcards_Gods and @eleanorturney) of a festival about paying people for work, rather than working for “experience”. They have an amazing attitude, but it’s sometimes difficult to get into the industry without that experience. It was reassuring for me that they recommended “proper, useful work experience alongside study”, which is what I’m trying to do, and what I would encourage you to do. They also recommended a really incredible sounding student run festival: the National Student Drama Festival, which I hope to go to next year! If you’re UK based, I wanted to pass on the recommendation.