Is there a better way to find/educate/sustain production support for devised work?

Convener(s): Richard Couldrey

Participants: Jo Crowley, Caroline Routh, Malcolm Rippeth, Robert Wells, Sara Parks, Katherine Maxwell-Cook, Lisa Markem, Natalie Querol, Peoder Kirk, Charlie Megrick, Hayley Radford

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:


I think its really valuable to have production support that is tuned into a devised process in a way that is very different to tuning into a “modern traditional” way of theatre making. It’s not just about ticking jobslist boxes and job description but is a lot more about tuning into the project artistically and feeding production possibilities into the creative process.

But its really difficult to find that type of person…

Notes from session:

Its about letting non-performers into the creative process demanding a multi-skilled person with artistic integrity nurturing a collaborative process.

This position requires a large amount of familiarity with the company which I guess touches on a need for trust extending to the production person.

This is something you learn on the job, it can’t necessarily be trained or taught.

First great idea!

Engagement with colleges to bring students into a devising environment on placement

If placements are mismanaged it can unfortunately promote the myth of theatre not costing very much to make.

Good management of placements is essential, which is very difficult in the heat of making a show, however the idea is dead in the water if placements become nothing but a long list of menial tasks.

Post College:

There are difficult realities for students coming out of college with large debts and being lured by the corporate sector because of high pay. By nature of this work, technicians become more technical and less creatively minded… 

Education at college level could be great to open the idea of mixing up income streams for production staff rather than wholesale going into high paid corporate work.

Change tack: Is it the different application of a “traditional” technical theatre skill set?

Colleges often produce techs who need a script, clear plans, rigid direction etc… possibly the opposite of who you want as a making partner in a devised process.

Advise - talk to Council of Drama Schools – get devising onto the curriculum!!! Its not on the curriculum now, so techs and SM are not “taught” it!

Dynamic contacts between Colleges, Independent producers, producing houses, freelance PMs, all those contact points with devising processes.

It addressed the idea of feeding graduates into the “supply chain” (ugly phrase)

A creative role requires: 

  • Artistic understanding
  • Pro-active engagement
  • Instilling of confidence, particularly for students / recent graduates.

Are stereotypes preventing this from happening? The black t-shirt techie versus the camp actor?

Architecture of colleges promotes that as well, actors in different buildings than technicians, swipe cards denying entry to eachothers buildings.

Is there a way of pooling good PMs, creating a dynamic black book (tossy language) of names and numbers with new people coming in…

The search for good PMs usually happens too late for proper engagement, its usually too low on the priority list to get sorted.

Also PMs are bad at committing 1 year out to projects.

Balancing books is a big thing, smaller teams are more empowering, but generally lower paid…

Also, getting PMs in early is not in line with funding lead times etc. 

In bigger companies, PMs are on the management board and involved in artistic decisions, how can we achieve this on the smaller scale?

Second Great idea! 

Can independent producers and small companies budget for a PM position that is one day every two weeks? Specifically to get in on early project discussions and not the dog work. 

There for pertinent meetings

Educating artists to production language

Production input early on

Involved in channelling staff for projects

Inducting SM/ project PM/ Project tech effectively into the team

Regionally the old chat over a coffee system works because everybody knows eachother.

Observation: Good PMs didn’t get formal training! The whole group thought this… Interesting…

Its all about financial priorities really…

Action points:

Meeting between the convener and Central School of Speech and Drama to investigate the placement idea more and look at effective way to educate

Meeting between the convener and producers to investigate the feasibility of “1 day every two week” PM model and managing placements…