Convener(s): Sam Howey Nunn

Participants: About 20 people- didn’t get names, sorry everyone!

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

  • Why did people come to this session? Lack of producers in one place so producers came wanting to see each other. Directors looking for producers.  Various artists wanting to know what producers do.
  • Discussion of how collaborations are begun and sustained, with discussion about what stage producers come on board and how long they sustain. Lots of producers want to work with the same artist from project to project.
  • What makes producers tick? Lots of people wanted to know why producers do what they do. Answers:
    • To build new models of the way theatre can be
    • To connect people and ideas and opportunities- that’s the buzz
    • To make things happen
  • Commercial vs. fringe vs. subsidised. Different routes and working systems in each.
  • The fashionable term of the Creative Producer. General agreement that this term undermines the validity of the Producer in general and their inherent creative role.  An Administrative Producer from a subsidised theatre company (building based) pointed out that her role was very creative.
  • Discussion of more independent producing and good models. Akram Khan and Farouq Chaudry.  Akram is the artist, Farouq the innovator. Theirs is a respected model of collaboration- very close- Farouq with a huge creative input.  But we have to remember that not all artists want this.  We must have the conversations and set the boundaries early on in the collaboration.
  • Discussion about when growing companies and artists take on a producer. When’s the right time? It may be later than you think. Often you need an administrator not a producer.  So, useful to note what a producer does that an administrator doesn’t:
    • A speaker of many languages: that of the audience, the artistic team, and venues and funders.
    • Building development structures for the work. Helping to position the work and provide a framework and opportunities for its development
    • Critical dialogue
    • Sustaining a network around the artist and opening up opportunities for them
  • Some people referred to the Producer as the first audience member/uber audience, or having the creative overview etc. This might be a controversial stance- Dramaturges often do this but are less and less visible
  • Some people have experience of producers having too much power- coming into the Dress rehearsal and making changes for example, or sacking the Director at a late stage! Agreement that this would be a sign of a very bad working relationship to begin with and also more common in very commercial theatre.
  • What to do about the imbalance of producers and artists needing producers? I related my experience of mentor’s advice that I should work with a venue or a very reputable company to develop as a producer, rather than staying very independent and able to take on artists at the beginning of their work.  If the understanding is that for a producer to develop they need to move into a venue then no wonder there’s an imbalance.  However its also very hard for a freelance producer to make a living since the bulk of the work is speculative, trying to raise money. No-one can pay London rent on that kind of work!  What kind of help is there for producers to develop?  Battersea Arts Centre, Stage One.  Not much!
  • General frustration from artists that they didn’t know where to find producers. We named:
    • Stellar Network (plug for my own organisation!- we hold a large mailing list of all kinds of producers)
    • Recent graduates off the Birkbeck Creative Producing strand. Also the Central strand.
    • Old Vic New Voices
    • Young Vic – they hold a producers list much like their directors list
  • Useful to talk about how producers find artists they want to work with. Firstly producers can only usually take on artists that are already a little established, as the unpaid work involved in establishing them can be impossible to take on.  Producers try and see as much stuff as possible and keep in touch with artists to see how they develop so as to come on board at the right time.
  • Good examples are Fuel, Arts Admin, Your Imagination when it existed. We need more of these!  But companies like that can’t start up and sustain without subsidy and they often don’t have the capacity to take on half the artists they’d like to.
  • More frustration voiced at how artists get their work seen and a call for producers to get involved in seeing as many readings/workshops etc as possible. I mentioned Stellar Network and our aim to get producers, directors, artists, writers and actors in the same room on a regular basis. The responsibility is then on you to network and get yourself talking to people.
  • Actions:
    • Unlimited Theatre will run a panel on giving basic ‘producing’ tools to those artists and companies that need it but can’t find a producer. A stopgap.  Stellar Network will run the event.
    • Stellar Network will look at running a ‘Lonely Hearts’ monthly mailout detailing companies work and where it can be seen, and send out to list of Producers so that we are facilitating as much matchmaking as possible. We may also run a salon and speed networking type event that gets producers and artists together.  But how successful can this be if there are always more artists than producers? Can people attached to venues help companies and artists out in their spare time (much like people work on the fringe)?