Tuesday, 23 August 2011

What does a producer do?

Today I was on a Producer's Panel hosted by Fuel and Ideastap. The three other producers on the panel were all really inspiring women whose producing I admire, so I felt very privileged to be speaking with them about a subject I often find so complicated until I'm doing it. Below is the text for my provocation. It was a funny question to have to answer, but to be honest, right on the money. I often ask it myself.

I set this panel’s question as my facebook question and here were some answers I got. No producers responded to my status.

What does a producer do?
- I think they make stuff
- They make it all happen!
- They bring it.
- Steal money from old ladies?
- They always break your heart in the end.
- Allow an artist not to be a producer

Back in December 2006 I had a meeting with the now artistic director of a theatre in the UK. I told them that I had been invited to curate a series of events at the Forest Café in August of 2007, that I was considering taking it on as my Practical Dissertation for the Master’s I was doing, but that I was terrified by the idea of producing. I had no idea what I was doing. They looked at me for a moment, leaned forward, and said, “Debbie, let me let you in on a secret. Nobody knows what they’re doing. 90% of Producing is Blagging it.”

To do list – August 23rd, 2011
- Speak on a panel for Fuel – try to answer the question “What does a producer do?”
- Speak on a panel for Central about “Making the case for Innovation.” Try to make the case.
- Pay STK Airport Invoice
- Deposit donations
- Update Budget and check on running totals
- Check-in on Total Theatre bookings for Tania’s piece.
- Move chairs.
- Pick up rubbish and keep lounge/office tidy
- Upload videos for “Save the Forest Campaign” and post them on youtube
- Proof read “Save the Forest” press release and send back to Ryan Van Winkle
- Count chairs and consider seating configuration for Daniel Kitson benefit
- Respond to emails
- Help Lucy with her installations
- Chase Gary about invoicing me.
- Check on Ira and Andy.
- Check on myself.

I became a producer because I wanted to see an alternative to the way that work was presented at the Edinburgh Festival, and I was given an opportunity to help create that alternative. Aside from this Artistic Director’s early advice, nobody told me how. My only perspective was the perspective of an artist. And this is where my advice comes from. Dare to imagine the best possible context and circumstances in which to present your work. Imagine the person who would facilitate this project. What traits would they have? Would they be warm and supportive, hardlined and organized, flexible but structured? Once you’ve answered these questions, go out and try to create that context, try to be that person. Here’s a guarantee - you will fuck up a bit. You won’t always succeed. You will probably put more things than you can complete on daily to-do lists. Focus on those individual tasks deliberately, one thing at a time. And then just keep going until somebody notices what you're up to. Do this for long enough and eventually you will be asked to be on a producer’s panel. And you’ll know what a producer does. Just about.

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