Writer Samia Djilli shares her experiences of self-producing her own work, and looks into what it takes to create a night of new writing.
Working in the arts is not an easy feat, especially for emerging artists. As an writer, you often have high expectations of yourself to wake up one day and create that one play that every theatre in town will be waiting to get their hands on. But something you quickly learn from working in the industry is that it isn’t always that simple.
When myself and my production company, Kine Productions, decided to put on a night of new writing, we were conscious that there would be a few variables to overcome. However with enough drive and dedication, self-producing can be one of the most rewarding ways to get your work on a stage. Here’s a few tips on how to do it and a few things to avoid along the way:
1. Work with others
Self-producing work by yourself is quite a daunting prospect, and in terms of budget, not always that plausible. Working with others is the most efficient way to go about putting your work on a stage.
One of the major pluses of working with others is that you’ll get to build a network of people around you and get their perspective on your work. As we all know, tunnel vision is a common side effect of being a writer but working with other creatives is a pretty good antidote.
Although it can be scary to put yourself out there, don’t be afraid to connect within your local community. Fear is one of the biggest things to hold us back but you’ll quickly find that there are plenty of people in the exact same situation as you. Not only that but you’ll get to learn new skills from those you work with and learn more about what you do and don’t enjoy as part of the process of self-producing.
2. Connect online
For a lot of people, the whole creative process of producing can seem alien. When I first started I felt way out of my depth. One thing that helped me was connecting online with theatre communities.
If you don’t know the first thing about putting on a night of new writing, contact your local theatre and ask them if you could come in and have a chat or even tweet them asking a few questions. It may sound simple but you’d be surprised how much clarity you can get simply through outreach alone.Don’t forget to use online resources. There are plenty of blogs, Twitter pages, webinars and Youtube videos all dedicated to educating you in the process of self-producing. With a bit of hunting around you’ll find the right avenue for you and start to build up your knowledge in no time.
3. Don’t be afraid to fail
This one is a hard one and I’ve definitely felt the backlash of when things go wrong. The thing about theatre is that it’s not a solid structure; pieces are always falling off and you’ll find yourself in a constant state of rebuilding. But that is simply the nature of how it works.
The trick is to try and be ready for when things go wrong. It may be that an actor drops out last minute or a director gets sick, these things are all common and they get easier the bigger your network becomes.
It takes practice and I’m still trying to master it myself, but don’t be afraid to get back up if it all falls to the ground.
4. Utilize your resources
One of the biggest struggles in self-producing is, and will always be budget. Having to empty your pockets to get something on a stage is not the biggest highlight of the experience and is something I’ve learnt not to do.
It may seem a little implausible but putting a play on for next to nothing is somewhat doable if you have a good team of people around you. In my experience a good team means people that will come together to use their resources so no one goes home with their pockets hurting.
One of the key things is to know what you want from a production. If you want the show on for a week, crowd fund a year in advance. Or if you want it on for one night, contact a bunch of theatres and see if any of them have a space you can use for a discounted price. With enough get-go you can find a way to make it work. It just takes time and a lot of patience.
There are plenty of things you can do to self-produce but as cliché as it sounds you really have to love what you do in order for it to work. If you enjoy what you’re doing you’ll be more willing to put the work in and in my experience that’s the best way to succeed.
You can find tickets here.