‘In Depth: Working As A Producer’, Workshop with Fuel Theatre and the National Theatre, 19th May 2017

‘In Depth: Working As A Producer’, Workshop with Fuel Theatre and the National Theatre, 19th May 2017

The first big thing to mention this week is that I’ve started my new job! When this goes up I will have spent a whole week as Metta Theatre’s administrator. It’s great, and I’m really enjoying it so far: stay tuned to hear more about what I’m doing in a few weeks!

As those of you who’ve been around for a while will know, I interned at Fuel Theatre last summer for three months, which was an amazing experience, which set me up to start working towards being a theatre producer some day. (You can read my weekly blogs about what I got up to while I was there here.) When I saw that they were running a workshop about producing, in conjunction with the National Theatre, I was very tempted, but I hesitated, I wasn’t sure if it wouldn’t be aimed at people with more experience than me. I emailed Kate McGrath, the director of Fuel, who was running the day, and asked her if she thought it would be relevant to me. She sent me a planned schedule for the day, and it looked perfect, so I booked to go along, despite it being less than a week before my final exams, and I’m so glad I went.

The day was split into four in-depth sessions from various perspectives, using the National Theatre and Fuel’s co-production (along with West Yorkshire Playhouse, though WYP weren’t involved in the day) of the Barbershop Chronicles as a case-study in the earlier sessions. It was hugely useful in terms of learning about producing, and also upped my excitement about seeing the Barbershop Chronicles (on 5th June – watch out for my review in early July, when I tell you about theatre I enjoyed in June).

 

Session One: The Artist-Producer relationship

This was led by Kate and Inua Ellams, an artist Kate has been working with for 9 years. The focus was on how they had developed their relationship up to their current project, the Barbershop Chronicles at the National Theatre (which I saw on 5th June, btw, and it was fantastic, but more on that in a few weeks) and, drawing for how their relationship worked, how other producers might create relationships with artists and produce their work.

It was an incredible insight, and here are the biggest points I took away from it.

  • It takes time. Kate and Inua’s relationship has taken 9 years to develop to the stage it is at now, and that time was necessary. Kate explained this as being about trust. The artist-producer relationship depends on trust (trust that each will do what they need to do, trust that the work is good…) and trust takes time to build.
  • A group member pointed out in this conversation that, in order to trust an artist, the producer first needs to trust themselves; their taste and ability to pick something worthwhile to work on, their ability to be flexible and open to responding to ideas, and their ability to do all the administrative and financial tasks on their to-do list. (I think this is probably also true the other way round; artists need to trust in their own work before they entrust it to a producer…)
  • Different people need different things to begin a relationship (Kate specified that she needs to see the work in real life, and meet the artist for an in-person chat [or several], other people will need other things, from simply an idea they are insipired by to a detailed CV of successes or particular character traits for personalities to mesh…). No one comes in knowing exactly what they need to start building relationships, but it’s worth thinking about as your career develops, so as you do more, you can be clearer about what you need.

 

Session Two: Co-Producing

This was a panel discussion between Kate and Fran Miller, the National Theatre’s projects producer working on the Barbershop Chronicles.

It was a dynamic, fast-moving conversation, and explained how the co-producing relationship between Fuel and the National worked for the Barbershop Chronicles, which enables a bit of comparison of their roles as producers in a huge institution and theatre, and in a small company.

There are 25-30 shows per year at the National Theatre, and it is a staff-heavy business, with over 1000 staff members, which makes it a very different environment for producing that Fuel (10 staff members).

Co-production contracts are very complex and detailed, but very useful: they still go back to it regularly. It is negotiated by everyone involved (in the case of the Barbershop Chronicles, Fuel, the National Theatre, and West Yorkshire Playhouse). Kate and Fran suggested that, with such a complex document ‘don’t sweat the small stuff’, but do worry and discuss the necessary complexities until everyone is satisfied with them.

When working with a huge company like the NT different things come into play than working with smaller companies, because there are more people and more procedures involved than in smaller institutions, which don’t necessarily have policies for certain things. Kate and Fran gave two examples of how this affected the Barbershop Chronicles production process: the marketing was dictated by the NT’s marketing timeline, which was non-negotiable. The other, more amusing example, was Kate’s idea of getting food from the countries visited in the play for press night. In a small company, this might only have required one conversation, but with the NT, required eight conversations with eight different people, all of whom had input on how press night should function.

*Side note* There was a question during this conversation asking about contracts in general. This was the advice: Begin writing a contract with a standard contract originally and then edit it/make it bespoke to individual relationships/situations. *End side note*

 

Session Three: Detailed parts of producing.

After lunch, the first session in the afternoon was more detailed insight into producing. Four members of the Fuel team came in to give insights on their particular roles within Fuel as a producing company: Ed Errington, General Manager, Stuart Heyes, Head of Production, Emilie Wiseman, Head of Programme, and Sarah Wilson-White, Projects Producer​. The attendees of the workshop had half an hour with two members: I was in a group discussion with Ed about fundraising, and one with Sarah about pitching tours to venues.

Ed focused on fundraising for smaller projects and explained the importance of multiple sources of funding. He explained ACE small grants (<£15,000) and said to ask for what you needed, but to go up to the limit, not to feel that you’d be better off asking for £10,000, when you needed £15,000 from ACE, because you thought they might be more willing to give a smaller amount. ACE won’t cover all the costs of a project though; you need to get other funding sources: in-kind support is one (e.g. a venue offering you free rehearsal space). The other important ones covered were trusts and foundations and crowdfunding. Trusts give funding to projects which match their areas of interests: focus applications on the few to whom your project is relevant. Some do support non-charities (e.g. Jerwood), but it is usually easier to get support from trusts if you are a charity. Crowdfunding is a resource which is still being discussed: people are still working out how best to use it. The recommendation that came out of this discussion was to focus crowdfunding on something specific (e.g. please donate to help build the set) and giving appropriate rewards.

Sarah started by suggesting that you should give yourself a year to 18 months to pitch a tour, knowing that popular touring windows are school holidays for children’s shows, and Feb-May/Sept-Nov for adult shows. You should know how much each show costs before you pitch it to someone, and you should tell venues exactly what each show costs. The key information to put in a programmers pack is minimum stage space, target audiences, dates. Invite people to showings, arrange meetings in Edinburgh and develop relationships personally (preferably over phone rather than email). The objective is to find synergy with venues and aims. She also suggested the importance of budgeting to get photos/films from R&D periods (research and development) to send with programmers packs (but don’t send these if they don’t end up being good!).
Session Four: Different Producers’ perspectives

The final session was a panel discussion between four producers with different backgrounds: Kate, Nick Williams, an independent cross-scale producer who produces international tours; Henny Finch, a commercial producer for Headlong, who recently produced 1984 in the West End, which is currently on Broadway; and Kate Scanlan, currently working with Battersea on a new, localised cross-artform space.

Each gave an overview of the sort of work they do, and some advice. Start by getting to grips with how the landscape works where you want to create work, and make partnerships. Go make the relationships in person. In the relationship development stage, it is more about the meeting of minds of collaborators than about the show necessarily. If you can afford it, you can be in just one place, for just one week. Think about shows as ‘one suitcase’ or ‘two suitcase’ shows where you can. If you’re looking to make an adaptation and need to discuss rights: take your time with relationship building, it will be a series of delicate conversations. Remember that subsidised theatre can move to the commercial sector if it is popular enough.

They finished by giving a “top tip” each: the single piece of advice they thought would be most useful. These were:

  • Pick a good ‘Horse’ (artist) and back them to the end
  • Trust yourself: charm people, solve problems and trust yourself so you can be believed
  • It’s easy to get bogged down in stuff – just keep going!

My biggest conclusion was that producing is about relationships with people, and to take your time building these: I’ve got a long process of relationship building ahead of me, and I’m looking forwards to it immensely.

That’s all for this week, thank you as always for reading. If you have any particular insights that you can add to this conversation please leave them in the comments: it’d be great to hear them, and please like the post if you enjoyed it! I’ll be back next week with my “West End Wish list”: everything I want from a West End show, follow the blog if you haven’t already so you don’t miss it!

Emily xxx

Plans for the Term Ahead and Recommended Theatre for January 2017

Plans for the Term Ahead and Recommended Theatre for January 2017

Happy New Year! I hope you’ve had a pleasant end of the year, whatever form that may have taken, and that 2017 brings you everything you’re hoping for.

My list of New Years Resolutions for 2017 includes many things: try to bring more positivity into my life and the life of those around me, take time to establish routines of calm and self-care in my life, push forwards further and better for the next six months to get the best degree I can (I will – hopefully – be graduating on 30 June)… They also include plans for this blog for the next six months (after which, the blog will evolve in accordance with whatever I may be doing).

I am planning to continue weekly uploads on Fridays at 5pm GMT (to get your weekend started in style!) which will include both advice about theatre administration and production and updates on my current projects and (hopefully) my career plans. There will also be two new posts each month: one at the start of the month recommending theatre in places I know about (at the moment that will be London, Cambridge and Sheffield) and one at the end of the month covering theatre I have seen during the month and my thoughts about it. I hope that you will enjoy them.

Without further ado, here are my recommendations for theatre in January 2017:

In London in January 2017 plays which I have seen advertised which I think look interesting include:

  • The National Theatre’s LOVE at the Dorfman Theatre until 10 January. (Book tickets here)
  • The Old Vic’s ART at the Old Vic throughout January. (Book tickets here)
  • The Donmar Warehouse’s St Joan at the Donmar throughout January. (Book tickets here)
  • The Royal Court’s Escaped Alone at the Jerwood Theatre from 25 January until 11 February. (Book tickets here)

Plays happening in Cambridge which I think look interesting include:

  • ETG’s Hamlet at the ADC on 17-21 January. (Book tickets here)
  • I have to include CUMS’ Mahler Symphony No. 3, as I will be singing in it, in Kings’ Chapel on 21 January. (Book tickets here)
  • The Fletcher Players’ Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons at the Corpus Playroom on 24-28 January. (Book tickets here)
  • Also a quick plug for Cigarettes and Chocolate at the ADC on 1 and 2 of February, which I won’t be able to get into February’s recommendations in time. (Book tickets here)

In Sheffield, the following productions, in my opinion, look interesting:

  • Sheffield Theatres’ Annie Get Your Gun at the Crucible Theatre on now until 21 January, which I saw on 3 January. (Book tickets here)
  • Cardboard Citizens’ Cathy at the Crucible Studio on 10 and 11 January. (Book tickets here)
  • Anna-Jane Casey’s The Life in a Day at the Crucible Studio on 16 January. (Book tickets here)
  • Jamie Wilson’s Sister Act (UK Tour production) at the Lyceum Theatre on 16-21 January. (Book tickets here)
  • HHTC’s Beauty and the Beast at the Montgomery Theatre on 25-27 January. (Book tickets here)

A couple of other things which have caught my eye include:

  • Fuel‘s An Evening with An Immigrant at the Brighton Dome on 28 and 29 January. (Book tickets here)

I hope that you’ve seen something in this list which has caught your eye, and I’d love to hear your thoughts about any of these plays, if you can go see them, in the comments! I’m also very interested to hear about any plays which you would recommend, in places I can get to or elsewhere in the world (which other readers might be interested to see): please leave some in the comments!

Thank you as always for reading, I hope you’ll follow the blog if you’re new, and join us for what is likely to be an exciting year for me and like this post if you enjoyed it. I’ll see you next Friday for an update on Cigarettes and Chocolate!

Emily xxx

Reading Recommendations Page!

Reading Recommendations Page!

This is a post I’ve been thinking about writing for a very long time, and I think it’s very appropriate as a fiftieth post (say what? Yep – you read that correctly, I have written 50 blog posts, published twice a week for several months, and weekly while I am a student and have weekly essays to write too. I hope you’ve enjoyed them!).

It’s also appropriate as something to go up just before I take a two week Christmas break, to focus on a new dissertation to write and spending time with my family! I will be back on Friday 6th of January with more exciting writing of my own, including some new ideas for post types, but as I don’t want you to be without reading material during that time (or in life) I’ve written you a selection of reading recommendations.

They come in all sorts of categories, and are in a page, rather than a blog post, so that you can keep going back to it really easily, as I add to it over time, with other things I find interesting! (To find it, click on the Menu symbol in the right hand corner of the webpage, and it should be underneath the ‘About’ and ‘Contact’ pages. For ease for today, there is a link here.)

I would love to hear your thoughts about the recommendations in the comments, either on this post or on the page, and any further recommendations of books or even categories you think I should add!

Writing Invitations and Email Etiquette

Writing Invitations and Email Etiquette

Happy December! This year has gone by so quickly: I’m slightly bewildered that it’s December already, although, frankly, I won’t be sorry to see the end of 2016. I’ve  had some amazing times personally this year, but globally, there have been some pretty awful things going on, and I’m hoping that the international upsets will be fewer and further between from 2017 onward. However, it being December does mean that I have been blogging for just over six months now, which is an exciting thing to realise. Well done me, and thank you all for reading; whether you’ve been here for six months or six minutes, I hope you enjoy it here, and that you stay! Today’s post is an advice blog about writing emails and particularly invitation emails, from my experience in the arts. I hope it’s useful to you!

As I mentioned last week, The Marlowe Showcase was more successful than it had been in the past at getting an audience of agents to attend the London performance, which was an achievement I was pleased with. Several people mentioned they’d like some advice, so I thought I’d collate what I got from writing invitations for Fuel over the summer and for the Marlowe Showcase this term, alongside some more general thoughts about writing emails in general.

1. Make Your Emails Personal

This is the single most important piece of advice for any email. It’s obviously particularly relevant for invitations, which you clearly are sending to as many people as possible, but any email – asking for advice, or a reference… should be clearly addressed to the person recieving it.

No one wants to receive spam emails, and the best way to make your emails look like spam is sending them to every email address you have access to. At the very least, you should be addressing your emails to the company you are writing to (e.g. “Dear all at Name of Company,”), but ideally, you want to be writing to individuals (i.e. “Dear Joe,”) and noting that you know who they work for in the body of the email (e.g. “We would be delighted to welcome you to Event, along with any of your colleagues at Name of Company who you think might enjoy it.”).

If you really don’t have time to send them to people individually, make sure to send them by bcc (this is good practice for group emails in life in general, if you aren’t sure that every member of the group is happy for every other member of the group to have their contact details) but frankly, the time it takes to copy and paste an identical email and change just the opening Dear _____, is the best time you can spend for this (or, if you have the money/infrastructure, you could pay for a system such as iContact or Spektrix to do that for you).

The more personal you can make the email, the better. So if you met someone briefly, mention it (e.g. “Dear Name, We met briefly at Past Event, and I thought you might enjoy this Event, so I would be delighted to welcome you” etc…), making it clear that they are recieving a very personal email. Other personal touches can be things such as: mutual aquaintances (e.g. “Name mentioned you with high regard, and etc…”), appreciation of something specific about their company (or the ethic/atmosphere/something more general if you on’t actually know anything very specific), appreciation of a particular piece of work they contributed to (e.g. “I particularly enjoyed your Name of Show, and etc…”) or anything you know about them/the company that you can drop in to suggest that you are writing to them specifically, and not sending spam (even if, to some extent, you are).

2. Be polite, and to the point

Keep emails, particularly to people you don’t know very well, quite formal. In the arts, I would tend to address people by their first names (for invitations and most other emails), even if we haven’t been introduced, but otherwise I would keep everything fairly formal: Dear, not Hi or Hello, signing off with All best, or Best Wishes, or Kind Regards (I tend to prefer one of the first two, which are slightly warmer, but any will do), and correct written English throughout.

However, also keep them as short and to the point as possible: if it is an effort to read your email because it is too long and full of flowery formalities, you can be fairly sure that a lot of people simply won’t have time/be willing to make the effort.

Make it easy to spot the important information; for an invitation: who you are, what they are being invited to, when and where, and provide other necessary information (e.g. details about the event, a dress code, if applicable, any charges or a link to buy tickets if you’re inviting people to buy tickets, rather than attend an event as a guest…).

If you can design an email to look good (e.g. you have your own logo and or colour-code and an ability to create a simple graphic design), this may be a good idea, but don’t let design get in the way of ease of reading. (Basically, if you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re probably better off with simple, well written, black text on a white background.)

3. Keep track of Responses and contact details

This is longer term advice, and for either reccurring events or for trying to buil up a consistent audience. If you can, keep track of who responded what; if they said they would come to something and did, or didn’t, if they said they would be interested but weren’t available… This makes 1. easier in the future, because then you know that Joe Blogs came to Event last year, and you can write “Dear Joe, We remembered you enjoyed Event last year, and we’d be delighted if you would join us again etc…”, or you know that Jane Bloggs wanted to come, but was unable to attend, and you can write “Dear Jane, You were interested in Event last year, but were unable to attend and we wondered if you would be interested in attending this year. We would be delighted etc…”

It’s also useful to retain that info@companyname.com is answered by Fred Smith, and, if Fred Smith responds from fred@companyname.com, keeping that address and writing to that one in future is also helpful. Having several email addresses from the same company is a helpful thing in general, because if you want to try and contact an individual but don’t have their address, you can make an educated guess. (I.e. if you’d known that both Joe Bloggs’ and Jane Bloggs’ email addresses were joe@companyname.com and jane@comanyname.com, you could guess that Fred Smith’s would be fred@companyname.com, and not fredsmith@companyname.com or fred.smith@companyname.com or fsmith@companyname.com etc…)

As you become more established, you may decide to invest in software such as iContact or Spektrix which can do some of this for you, but in the mean time, a well organised google doc is your friend. You probably want the following columns: Name, Company, Job Title, Email Address, Phone Number, Events Attended in Past, Past Communication, Other Info, with as much information about anyone you contact as possible, for future reference. I would order it by contact surname in alphabetical order, but you can do whatever is most useful.

That’s it for this week, I hope you found this useful! Please like the post if you enjoyed it, follow the blog if you’d like to hear more (next week is an update on Cigarettes and Chocolate, and my thoughts on the Old Vic’s King Lear, with Glenda Jackson in the title role) and leave a comment with your thoughts or questions, or any suggestions of things you’d like to read about from me in future!

Emily xxx

 

The Cambridge Greek Play, Studying Tragedy as an academic subject and an announcement about my Next Project!!

The Cambridge Greek Play, Studying Tragedy as an academic subject and an announcement about my Next Project!!

By the time this goes up, I will have seen the Cambridge Greek Play (a triennial performance of Greek plays in Ancient Greek at the Arts Theatre in Cambridge) over a month ago, though as I write this, it was only a few hours. (My musings on studying Tragedy I may add to throughout the term, as I continue to study it, but the thoughts on the Greek Play are all almost immediate.) I wasn’t planning on going to see this double bill of Antigone and Lysistrata; it was sold out before I got around to thinking about it, and I wasn’t totally sold on the idea of surtitled Greek. Then I had a meeting about my dissertation (on contemporary [20th/21st century] performance of Shakespeare, more on that some other time) in which the play came up, and my supervisor had a spare ticket. So I went along, and I’m so glad I did! I had a wonderful evening – it was a hilarious, feminist, and illuminating performance and I’m delighted to have got so much out of it.

The first half was Sophocles’ Antigone, in Greek with English surtitles, in a relatively straight (in the sense of ‘not-revolutionary’) interpretation, in modern dress, but otherwise fairly straightforward. Now, my first interaction with the story of Antigone was aged about 14, reading Anouilh’s play, which made me entirely sympathetic to Creon, and irritated by Antigone. I then studied the play in AS (penultimate year of school education, for my non-UK readers) Drama and Theatre Studies, where in my exam I would be expected to write an essay giving directorial ideas about how to do [whatever was in the question] in a performance of the play. I’ve seen it performed since, and had written my first essay for the Tragedy Paper (one fifth of my degree) on it (and Oedipus the King). It’s a play I know very well. That said, I had never seen it performed in Greek, perhaps unsurprisingly, as that doesn’t happen all that often, and I have no Greek at all, so neither had I read it in the original. Hearing the text was an illuminating experience, because as much as you can know that something was poetry, and that it had its own metre and rhythm and rhyme, hearing that is rather different. Experiencing the transitions between spoken and sung text (perhaps not as they would originally have happened, but still feeling the differences possible) was also illuminating of different emotions that music could draw out of the text. The production of Antigone  was effective and exciting in the new light it shone on my appreciation of how the play works and sounds.

The second half was Lysistrata, which I had never heard of, and knew exactly nothing about (not even how to pronounce the title [Lesistrata, apparently]). The plot is essentially that the women of two warring countries refuse their partners sex until they stop the war between them. It is a very bawdy text, and it was a hilarious production, which had me in fits of giggles, and booing some contemporary politicians who made appearances. It was entirely recontextualised into modern politics and the parody performances of Boris Johnson, Donald Trump and Nigel Farage were spot on satires. (With the possible exception of the 7 strong striptease dance all wearing Farage masks. That was possibly scarring. Hopefully I will have recovered by the time this is published.) There aren’t many times/places where you can say that a performance of an Ancient Greek play, in surtitled Greek is the funniest play you’ve seen in months, but I say it now. This was a fantastic piece of theatre: amusing, thought-provoking, politically sharp…

Which brings me to the interesting experience of studying theatrical texts (or even in the case of some of my other academic work, theatrical performances) in an academic context. Obviously, this is not the first time I have done this – I had an entire term focused exclusively on Shakespeare in my first year, and have studied plays from a wide variety of periods in my first two years at Cambridge. But the Tragedy Paper is an experience which feels slightly different, because the plays are all focused on the big questions, as it were, which in today’s political context is strikingly poignant. (I’m not convinced that contemporary politics aren’t more of a farce than a tragedy, but that perhaps depends on how they end.)

The focus on ‘Tragedy’ (where every lecture and seminar begins with the fact that we can’t actually define what tragedy even is) is probably the most interesting element, because it means you focus on both a huge scope (seriously, for a paper which is meant to be about depth, two and a half millenia of literature is quite a breadth of stuff to study!) and on a series of fairly narrow, and occasionally seemingly contradictory, definitions. The two compulsory elements (Greek Tragedy and Shakespearean tragedy) are less massive, but ‘all the rest of tragedy’ is quite a lot, and it covers a lot of big human questions (about family, fate, what is or isn’t good or evil…) both in similar and in different ways to earlier and later works, as tragedies evolve in their contexts.

I’m enjoying it, and studying theatre texts (which I am doing entirely: I could chose to study tragedy in other art forms, but I’m most interested in Theatre anyway, so it seemed like a good place to stay) from an academic perspective is always interesting: I’m usually thinking about how a production or performance might work, and my focus being drawn to the effect of individual words or phrases and the themes in the play which I might not have tbiught about inform my ability to criticise performances effectively, which is actually quite a different skill, as I’m learning through writing my dissertation about contemporary Shakespearean performance. 

Is hearing more about my academic work something you would be interested in? I would probably stay on theatre-related academic work (which this year, as I’m able to choose what I’m doing more, is most of it!) but it’s a big part of what I’m up to this year, so you might find it interesting… Let me know in the comments either way!

In other news! 

I’m excited to be able to announce my next project – Cigarettes and Chocolate, by Anthony Mingella, at the ADC theatre on the 1st and 2nd of February next year! I’ll be updating you on that more soon, but I’m so excited about this project – it’s a great show, and I’m really looking forwards to working on it!

That’s all for this week, thank you as always for reading! This was a slightly different post, trying out a couple of different things I’m considering doing more of in future – reviewing/review-like writing about shows I’ve seen, and some discussion of my current academic work, and I’d love to hear your thoughts about it in the comments! Did you enjoy it? Would you like to see more of either or both of these things? Or would you prefer me to stick to clear advice and updates about my projects? 

Emily xxx

A Student Producer’s Guide to Time Management, the Juggling Act and Taking Care of Yourself

A Student Producer’s Guide to Time Management, the Juggling Act and Taking Care of Yourself

Before I get on to today’s topic, it seems only normal to note that today is the 11th November, Remembrance Day, and say that my thoughts are with the friends and families of anyone whose loved ones are deployed or have ever been deployed.

If you’ve been reading my recent blog posts, you know that I’m in the throes of producing the Marlowe Showcase (it’s next week in fact, so please send all of the leg-breaking vibes you can to our actors!). I am also doing a full time degree, working in the university theatres in the box office and as a duty manager, and singing in a Chapel Choir four times a week, as well as trying to maintain long and close distance friendships and long-distance relationships with both immediate family three hours away, and extended family across seas and oceans. And writing a blog. I’m busy, obviously, and one thing that means is that I’ve become an expert at time-management and the juggling act of maintaining all the aspects of my life at once. This is what I do, to try and make sure that I get as much of what I need to get done done, while making sure that I don’t burn out in the process.

  1. Prioritise and write to do lists

If you have a lot of things to do, one key way not to get overwhelmed is to have to do lists of priorities, and break those down into daily to do lists, with the knowledge of which things are more important than others.

I have a weekly to do list on my desk, and a notebook in which I write my daily to-do list each morning, from what is left on (or more likely, has been added to) the weekly to do list. And then I work through it, crossing things off when they’re done. I’m a full line through things which are done kind of girl, ticks just aren’t quite as satisfying, and don’t give you the same visual aid of lots of things fully crossed out. (Note: A temptation is regularly to deal with the little easy things, so that more things are crossed off, and leave the big scary thing at the top uncrossed out but it’s okay because it’s only one thing, even if it is the most important one… This is a mistake! Priorities are the things you should be dealing with first! And if it helps to break one thing down into lots of little ones on your to do list, so you can see you’re progressing through a task – do it! Split ‘Read X Book’ into 10 bullet points of ‘Read Chapter 1, 2, 3…’, it will help, I promise.)

  1. Know how to say ‘No.’ and ‘That won’t work for me.’

These are complete sentences, and learning to say them when people ask too much of you is not only okay – it’s very important, for your health and for your ability to do things you are committed to well, that you know when is so much to do that you will be crushed by it. Even if what you’re being asked to do sounds fun, or useful, or you’re being guilt-tripped because they have no one else and really need your help and you’re friends, you can still say no. Sometimes you should say no, and learning to recognise the moments when you should (and then doing it) is a vital skill for busy people.

  1. Thrive in the business and let it help you.

I work much better under a tight deadline, and business is a way of regularly creating those for myself. If I have a whole day ahead of me, during which I need to do a few things, or read a new text or piece of critical material, and nothing else on, I’m so likely to say ‘Oh, I have time, how about I do x or y fun thing first, or sleep for an extra fifteen minutes, or read this one interesting article on the internet’… The odds are that that will turn into procrastination and I’ll do what I need to do in about six times as long as it would have taken me if I had two and a half hours before a meeting to get it done.

  1. Remember to take breaks/Remember that you will be taking breaks

It is impossible and unhealthy to be ‘productive’ 100% of the time. You just can’t. So there’s no point setting yourself a schedule or to-do list, which is manageable only on the assumption you aren’t taking any breaks. You won’t succeed, and, if you’re anything like me, the sentiment that you haven’t done everything you need to do is more likely to lead to stress-procrastination and a spiral of stress. Schedule in breaks/times you won’t be doing x,y or z. E.g. You don’t work after 10pm, or you don’t answer emails between 9am and 1pm, because that is time dedicated to essay writing. Or every Sunday evening is time off to ring your mum. Or you definitely take a whole hour for lunch and even if you’ve eaten in 15 minutes, you have 45 minutes to watch funny YouTube videos. Or you have 15 minutes mid-morning to drink a cup of tea. Or you go for a run in the morning before you start anything else. Whatever it is that you need scheduled in, keep it in! It will save your sanity.

  1. Ask for help

If you need help, and everyone needs help sometimes, ask for it. Most people do not want to see others crumble under punishing to-do lists. If you are struggling to manage your academic work, ask your supervisor if they have study tips. If you can’t manage all the aspects of student producing, get an assistant producer and delegate! They’ll get experience, and you’ll get time back! If you’re struggling in choir, ask your choir director for assistance/support. And, most of all, ask your friends for a hug and a shoulder to cry on, when you just need some sympathy.

Also, if think you may be suffering from any kind of mental illness, ask your doctor for help. They can provide you with whatever mental health support you need, which is invaluable.

Thanks as always for reading and I’ll see you next week! Feel free to like this post if you enjoyed it, follow the blog if you haven’t already done so, and do let me know your thoughts and/or questions in the comments!

Emily xxx

How to make the most of an Internship, Fuel Theatre Internship Overview

How to make the most of an Internship, Fuel Theatre Internship Overview

As you will know if you’ve been around for a while, I spent 12 weeks this summer interning with Fuel Theatre in London, UK. (If you’re new, firstly, welcome! Secondly, if you want the more detailed posts about what I did day to day, you can find them here: Week 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12.) I’ve repeatedly said what a wonderful experience it was, and that I learned a lot from it. It’s true: it was, and I did. These are some of the things that I thought were really valuable in helping me get the most of the experience, and some of the things I wish I’d realised earlier, which I hope will be useful to you, either in internships directly related to theatre if that is what you want to do, or more broadly. (Also, a quick reminder that I wrote a post with tips on how to get a producing internship, which is one of the most popular posts on this website, and which might also be useful to you, either directly for producing or more broadly to get internships in the arts or even beyond.)

When you get an internship, you are looking to get several things out of it; experience, contacts… It feels like (or it did for me) you need to present yourself perfectly, and learn absolutely everything as soon as possible. Spoiler/ tldr if you don’t want to read the whole post: this is false. You have as long as your internship is to learn, and, if you’re getting as much out of the experience as possible, you will be learning the whole time. As for self presentation – if you’re polite and hardworking (which is really a bare minimum for life, so shouldn’t be too difficult) that’s really all that matters.

The Executive Director at Fuel, Ed, gave me the best piece of advice about interning on my very first day, and while I mentioned it then, it needs to be said again: ask questions. Ask questions to clarify what you’re doing, but also ask questions about what other people are doing (within reason, obviously don’t interrupt someone with a deadline in an hour, who is evidently stressed), ask questions about what the company is doing, and what they want to do in the future, and ask for advice from as many people as possible. My experience was that people want to help, and will answer your questions to the best of their ability, which will give you a lot of insight and advice which you are likely to find useful!

If I were to do my summer again, one of the few things I would do differently is have a clearer idea of things that I would want to know more about, so as to have more and better questions to ask. In my case it worked out fine, because I had 12 weeks to think about more questions, many if which grew out of what I was learning, but, especially if you have an internship which is shorter than mine was, planning some questions in advance would be a useful thing to do. This is also something people recommend doing for interviews, so it’s clear that you’ve thought about the job you’re applying for and how it would work for you?

The other biggest tip I can give, and this is something I feel I did quite well, although of course you can always do more, is make the most of the extra opportunities made available to you.

This is obviously a broad concept. It includes listening to the discussion going on in the office around you, to pick up on what sorts of issues can come up in the development process of a production and/or find out about other people in the industry and what is happening in other places. It includes going to as many of the events you are invited to as you possibly can, because going to see work you are invited to is networking, as well as getting to see incredible theatre (which you should strive to see as much of as possible, when interning and when not interning). Essentially, even if something feels a little bit difficult, or like you are putting yourself out there more than feels comfortable (and believe me, I know how that feels!) you should try to do as much as you can, without actually damaging your mental health, which would obviously be counter-productive. Remember that you are only interning for a short amount of time, so even if it feels like you are pushing yourself well beyond your comfort zone, you will hopefully have time afterwards, whatever you may be doing afterwards, to take extra care of yourself in compensation. In my case, that meant I let myself off a couple of evenings at university where I might have enjoyed going out, but I kind of just wanted to stay in and watch a film or something, and so I didn’t go out and I didn’t let myself feel guilty or worry myself with FOMO, I just chilled out at home. (For more advice on how to handle pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone without damaging your mental health, see my post on how to network in the arts as an introvert.)

There are lots of other little things that you can do to make the most of an internship, like focusing on what you’re doing and not worrying too much about how you’re dressed (beyond being comfortable in your appearance, ie. wearing clothes which are literally comfortable to wear and which enable you to feel comfortable, for instance by feeling dressed appropriately/on a similar level to those around you). In terms of clothes, for what it’s worth, in my experience, in the arts, there is less of a need for “business attire”, although I found I felt more confident in myself if I was smartly dressed.

In fact, not worrying about the little things is a good way to make the most of an internship! Tackle the big things, like learning about the company and career advice and options for development (either within the company you’re working for or in general) and don’t sweat the small stuff, like what to wear and does it matter what you have for lunch, or where you did your degree, or whether you use jargonistic words or simple ones… The odds are, if you don’t know if it matters – it doesn’t matter very much. Sure, things might be easier for you if you’re always “perfectly dressed” (whatever that means) and you always express yourself perfectly, but honestly, it isn’t the big deal you’re worrying it into being, I promise.

Basically, if you focus on learning as much as you can, and not about how you present yourself (beyond, you know, simple politeness, but, frankly, that should go without saying) you will present yourself in the best light, because that’s what an internship is for – learning – and on top of that, you’ll make the most of it by learning as much as you can! Win win.

Thanks as always for reading and I hope that was useful to you! Let me know in the comments if you have any questions, or any tips you think I should add!

Emily xxx