Theatre, Film, Television, Digital Media, (Radio!): What do we have to learn from each other- Do we want to?

Convener(s): Sam Howey Nunn       

Participants: Tom Mansfield, Annette Mees, Andrea Kantor, Barry Wilson, Jo Faith, Amy Powell-Yates, Becky Owen, Leanne Cosby, Darren Bolton and lots of other bees and butterflies

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

  • My own agenda (and plug!) is that I run a Stellar Network (which is an events programme and online community) which works to support people working in theatre, film, tv and digital media. We’ve not yet done enough to corral dialogue, events, resources about issues of crossover between these industries and we’re beginning to in 2010.  We’ll start with events and an advisory board all asking the same thing- what can we learn from each other?  Any more info- or contact me [email protected]/07877948021.

  • We can learn from the dramaturgies of film. Focussed stories, defined genres- all particularly useful in marketing speak.  Theatre is such an unknown quantity. However too reductive?
  • In a theatre and in a company the Artistic Director and the Playwright etc can all try to influence the marketing of a show. Can be damaging. Film is marketed by marketers who know best how to sell their product.
  • Theatre marketing can fall into clichés. Physical, devised, participatory etc.  people think they know what you’re offering. How to convey the spectrum of work? Again, back to asking people to take a risk on the unknown.
  • In film festivals the marketing is often more for other film-makers- there are references to style etc. In theatre are we marketing to our friends and colleagues? This led to a discussion about a lot of theatre audiences being theatre-makers.  Are we all self perpetuating.  When does a show break out of that circle and really become successful.
  • Learning how to write screenplays can be great for a playwright. The formulas can be great if you can knowledgeably reject them (but also a lot of newish playwrights could do with remembering some of the formulas of structure!). Then again, how time unfolds, transitions etc are non transferable.
  • Can TV learn from theatre on any level? Maybe on how shows are developed? Eg devising, teams of writers.  It comes down to money. TV has more to lose so is necessarily more cautious.
  • What does theatre offer that film & TV don’t? the event, the live experience. Why do people go to see Dirty Dancing on stage?
  • Exciting things can happen in crossover especially as theatre starts to use more technological tools- well. Using headphones in theatre has some reference to radio.  We’re seeing film devices onstage.
  • Theatre can also find more audience in the people who watch arthouse films. How do we access this crowd? More of them should be going to the theatre.
  • In US Broadway is starting to advertise on TV. We’re seeing more trailers here on Youtube, theatre websites etc.  com is a central place for trailers, clips of extended scenes etc.  We need that here! We might do it!
  • People are getting more creative about their marketing and using film tools to do it- backstage access, rehearsal room diaries, documentaries. Sky Arts did a great example with Cate Blanchett as Hedda Gabbler.  Artichoke has a deal with SkyArts that is developing their audience. More US examples of good marketing- has great podcasts showcasing people, shows.
  • Moving away from marketing, can Directors cross over- they do, but is there a hierarchy- do they move freely back and forth between (eg) theatre and film? Completely different skillsets. The only real constant is the ability to tell the story and perhaps a particular sensibility.  What about actors? Drama schools tend to spend 3 years on stage acting and 3 weeks on film.  Its easier for actors to move from stage to film rather than vice versa.  Easier to tone down than build up.  Discussion of directors using film terms ‘editing’ ‘montage’ in the rehearsal room and the usefulness.  We need to remember that theatregoers have seen more films than theatre in their lifetimes- they come to our shows with that perspective.  Can we do something more with this? 
  • Discussion about training vs process in discovery in both theatre and film. But my hand was getting tired!