Sophia Fabiilli is a Toronto-based actor and budding theatre producer. This spring she had the opportunity to work with One Little Goat Theatre Company, assistant producing their current production of ‘The Charge of the Expormidable Moose’ (on stage NOW at the Tarragon Theatre Extra Space until May 26th).
What does an indie assistant producer do? How was it been transitioning from acting to life on “the other side of the table”? Sophia shares her top ten lessons on producing thus far.
1) Input does not equal output
My first experience as a producer came last spring when the Amy Project facilitated an internship withSeventh Stage’s production of ‘Stockholm’, in partnership with Nightwood Theatre. I was lucky enough to be an intern producer and worked under the guidance of the magnificent Melissa Jane Shaw, Artistic Producer of Seventh Stage. One of my focuses was educational outreach. I called ninety-one high schools in the GTA and booked zero school groups. Zero. This was a crushing blow to my rookie producer ego…
If you work hard, it’ll pay off, right? It doesn’t always work that way when building new audiences. It’s extremely difficult and you must brace yourself with patience. Lots of patience. Remember: even if it doesn’t work out this time, reaching out to new people will somehow pay off down the road.
2) Cold calling perseverance
Let’s be real: people are busy and inevitably think that you want their money/will waste their time. From my experience, know exactly what you’re going to say before you pick up the phone, but don’t sound like a robot. Be concise. Spark their curiosity. And if they’re not interested, be polite and thank them for their time.
Once in a while, you’ll call someone who is absolutely thrilled that you’re not a pre-recorded message announcing that they’ve won a phony free cruise. “You’re inviting me to your play? Awesome!” You willconnect with people who will be excited to hear from you (and you’ll be happy that you made the call).
3) Know what you’re talking about
This spring, I was fortunate to be hired as the Assistant Producer for One Little Goat Theatre Company’s English language world premiere of ‘The Charge of the Expormidable Moose’ (on stage at the Tarragon Extra Space NOW until May 26th – go see it!). I assisted Artistic Director/Executive Producer/my incredible mentor, Adam Seelig, with everything from securing rehearsal spaces to sourcing insurance to locking down cross-promo deals to brainstorming ways to spread word about the show.
At one point, Adam suggested that I contact some local galleries that showcased surrealist artwork. Claude Gauvreau, who wrote ‘MOOSE’, was part of a radical group of surrealist artists and political activists in Montreal, called Les Automatistes.
This was a brilliant idea on Adam’s part, but when it came time to make the cold call, I got cold feet. I realized that I didn’t know enough about what our project and these galleries had in common. I was going to look like a fool… and worse, make One Little Goat and ‘MOOSE’ look second rate.
I confessed my concerns to Adam and put myself through a crash course on the core and content of the play’s cultural history. Moral of the story? Be an expert on your show. You need to be able to speak passionately about your project and tell people why they shouldn’t miss it.
4) Get organized
This one sounds like I’m running out of ideas, but it could easily be my #1 piece of advice. Keeping track of a thousand details can be overwhelming, especially when you have other projects, a ‘Joe’ job, and a semblance of a social life on the go as well…
The following is completely stolen from Arts Planner Extraordinaire, Sue Edworthy, who did the marketing for ‘MOOSE’ and from whom I’ve learned lots… (do yourself a favour and read Sue’s blog –www.sueedworthy.ca)
In order to keep our Expormidable team on the same page, we created a shared Google calendar and a giant grid of all our reciprocal deals in DropBox. Everyone kept the calendar and the grid up-to-date with deadlines, show openings, and important dates. We scheduled everything (e v e r y t h i n g), even down to our social media postings. It worked brilliantly.
5) Reciprocals are your best friend
What’s a reciprocal anyway? Basically, it’s an agreement between two companies to help promote each other’s shows. If your shows run at the same time, you can trade postcards or program ads. If they don’t, get creative… Offer shout-outs in your e-blast or on your website, free tickets, social media or blog posts, whatever you got!
Advertising is expensive, my friends. What better way to pump your shows than to connect with each other’s audiences?
The Charge of the Expormidable Moose – One Little Goat Theatre Company
6) Use social media wisely
Remember last July? Remember receiving 12,000 notifications a day about Fringe shows? Remember how much you loved that? …Yeah. Social media is a powerful tool, but it won’t do squat if someone stops following you or turns off notifications about your event.
I’m going to take a page from Sue Edworthy again. For the ‘MOOSE’ event page we posted: “IMPORTANT: We will not be posting to this page. To keep up-to-date about the show, please “like” One Little Goat Theatre’s page. Thanks!”
SUCH a great idea! By directing people to “like” your page instead of “attend” your event, you retain those Facebook followers after your show closes… and have them on hand for your next project. LOVE. IT.
7) Be thoughtful about online etiquette
I was in charge of social media posting for ‘MOOSE’ and my first thought was “everyone is going to think it’s Adam posting, not me”. It was really important that I wrote in a style and tone that suited the aesthetic of One Little Goat Theatre.
Being the voice of someone else’s company is a huge responsibility! Go the extra mile and triple check… This is important to remember when it’s so easy to tweet or send off a quick email in a matter of seconds. Careful that what you’re writing won’t be misinterpreted or, quite frankly, sound rude. And while you’re at it, respond to correspondence in a timely matter. It makes a HUGE difference.
8) Get your hands dirty!
AH YEAH! This one sounds like fun!
When Adam and I were planning in January, I suggested that we create a promo video. Great idea, Sophia! Fast forward to April, when I shot and edited seven one-minute videos interviewing our incredible cast members (here’s an example: http://onelittlegoat.org/blog/2013/5/6/video-actor-sochi-fried-talks-moose).
I have neither shot nor edited a video in my life, but let me tell you… iMovie and I are intimate partners at this point. I also catered our opening night reception. Sometimes you just need to jump in and get a job done.
9) Ask questions
Holy hell, I asked a lot of questions! You can ask Adam. Actually don’t… that poor man needs a rest.
I’m new to this and didn’t want to screw up. So, I asked a bunch of questions and learned a lot (although I still have so many more to ask…). If you’re new to producing like I am, get out there and talk to people who’ve done it. There are incredible people in this community who are happy to share advice (and war stories).
10) Praise to producers everywhere!
Producing is an all-encompassing (and sometimes thankless) job and your work is never totally done. There’s always another post to be writing or another invite to send. Honestly, it has been a challenge to balance the workload with my other life as an actor.
Struggles aside, it has been fascinating to see a show come together from the “other side”. I had expected to find it artistically unsatisfying; I wondered if I would envy the cast, wishing that I were up there instead. I am happy to report the opposite! There is a creative side to this job and, let me tell you, sitting in a full house on opening night of the show you helped to produce feels DAMN GOOD.
So far, producing has been an eye-opening experience for me. The next time I work as an actor, I’ll remember that my director, producers, and designers have been working on the production for months(maybe years!) before I came onto the scene. The show cannot go on… without everybody’s efforts.
THE CHARGE OF THE EXPORMIDABLE MOOSE
by Quebec visionary Claude Gauvreau
“A tour de force” -GLOBE AND MAIL
“A production not to be missed” -STAGE DOOR
“An unforgettable performance” -CHARLEBOIS POST
Runs: May 10 – 26, 2013, Tue-Sat 8pm | Sun 2:30pm
Where: Tarragon Theatre Extra Space, 30 Bridgman Avenue Toronto
Tickets: $25 | $20 student senior artist + $3 final week | Fri & Sun rush tix $13
Buy your tickets over the phone: 416-531-1827 (no service fees!)or
In person at the Tarragon box office: 30 Bridgman Ave.
For more info go to One Little Goat Theatre Company’s Website – onelittlegoat.org/moose/