We touched first on why people had attended and the areas of interest included – to decide a pathway between in house and freelance, to look at risk of moving from safe portfolio of paid jobs to developing own projects, how to fund the process of finding funding for projects, and just honouring oneself as a freelance producer.

Then we began to make a list of challenges which needed to be overcome. And the letters relate to some Actions which might/could/should be taken.
• A need to find more opportunities – they are out there but often not advertised. [A]
• Understanding more of the realities of producing (landscape and funding)
• How to navigate a sense of an overwhelming amount of work being made or wanting to be made when there is so little funding for producers to live and develop projects.
• As a freelancer how to be on the lists of invites to see work, in a way an inhouse producer would be. We need to see what is being developed and generated [A]
• How to fund oneself [B] and not rely on a steady-salary partner or doing loads of jobs to pay the bills and then produce in the wee small hours.
• In a hard world, getting harder, making risky intense non-mainstream work is a real challenge. And the artists involved have never been in a more fragile place. Individual solo/small projects are often being squeezed from the mix of a producing or programming house. [B]
• Artists and creatives in training are NOT being taught what producers’ do, and an example was shared where an institution teacher directly advised trainee directors to keep producers out of the room, out of production meetings. All artists need to have a feel for being theatremakers and self producing artists – even if they don’t need to do that and the phone call comes for big time acting roles. [C]

“Producers are enablers not barriers”

“Freelancers are the essential glue” which keeps most arts organisations and projects afloat. But they are often not at the table for decisions and even communal acknowledgement [see other discussions this day elsewhere]

In TV/Film there are “Treatment Fees” to fund that early phase of work needed by a creative team to develop the pitch for eventual approval for the real money. In theatre we are freelance and too often pitching ideas to salaried venues/programmers. Being asked to do more planning work for free and then maybe, just maybe, getting through the gatekeeper for the project to be green lit and funded.

Ideas then flowed on what could/will/may make a difference either coming up already or needed:

[A] Producers Persona is a new searchable database of producers which Producers’ Pool and Chris Grady are developing to enable a search by artform, geography, and experience. It will be a closed system searchable by those with profiles. It is not for writers/actors etc for pitching.
(i) Helps with who’s out there to build a community with.
(ii) Will have a function to share opportunities
(iii) Could be then used as a tool by producers to invite other producers to projects
(iv) Producers’ Pool can then become more localised regionally and internationally so that pitching days or meet-the-directors or meet-the-programmers can be planned.

Persona seeks to complement, and include everyone who is a producer of other people’s work, from Facebook UKTheatreProducers, Producers’ Taskforce, Producers’ Pool, StageOne. It will be free to get a profile on for the first year and may then have a nominal charge in Yr 2.
In development. Early testing in April. Aiming to be operational June ish.

[B] Creative Scotland have an Under £5k “grant for the arts” fund which is [we understand but need to check] easy to apply for with a light touch form and a proposal in your own document/words. They even ring you up if they need another question answered or some clarification. Could this be something many other funding bodies and grant givers embrace.
(i) Could this fund an artist to then pay a producer to develop the first project plan and a skeletal tour for example.
(ii) Could it fund a producer to go out and spend time with an artist or small new company to make business plans and do very very early r&d on a project.
(iii) Could it help to get a new project/company/producer under the radar of a big funding bosy or a potential sponsor/major donor.

ACTION – check with CS and with Scottish producers/artists.

[C] Campaign of in training education about producing and self producing. If all drama schools and conservatoires and university drama departments taught producing basics it would help greatly. Some like LSBU have a module Alice teaches. Some like Mountview have a 2nd year actors module. Some like UWS have a business planning module for all performance/theatre/film students. But many have a cursory and sometimes even negative and very dismissive attitude to the business of the arts.

INVITATION – let’s gather comments below on examples of good practice. Let’s challenge major institutions to ‘get real’ – their wee jonnies and fionas are not all going to get a call from the NT or RSC – they may have to make their own opportunities.

Conclusion. Thanks so much for fresh ideas, wise wisdom, shared frustrations across generations and experience – and some great ACTIONS and provocations to go forward. We ended our meet hopeful of some changes in attitude and care for the arts post election - good words are being written and spoken by possible future Culture ministers and we hope they will turn into joined up positive actions. [But the above is about We since They weren't here]

[email protected]