Dear West End Producer: ‘What advice would you give an aspiring theatre producer?’
What advice would you give an aspiring theatre producer? (I know I already asked, but I would really like to know!)
— Not Mandy Moore (@emilyisntfamous) July 18, 2017
Just do it. It’s the same advice I give to anyone wanting to pursue anything in the theatre business. Put yourself out there, make contacts, and go.
If you are just starting out you have a lot of things in your favour. You can make mistakes, you can learn, you can ask for advice – you haven’t got a reputation. Which is excellent. Reach out, get in touch with producers you admire – question them. How did they get there? How did they know what shows would work? Keep asking questions.
When working on your own projects, just trust your instinct. You’ll be given advice from everybody – other producers, directors, friends, next-door neighbours – but the only person you can really trust is yourself. Of course, eventually you’ll make lots of contacts and colleagues with whom you’ll spend your life collaborating – and that is important: finding the people who inspire you, who you want to be around, and who have the same principles as you. But it’s your own instinct that can tell you which projects to develop and which to leave.
If there’s a local theatre company or small theatre, ask if you can get involved. See when there’s a free week, or even a couple of nights, and book it. Then you’ll have to put something on. The best thing is to have a deadline – it’s a necessity in all creative roles. If you have something you’re working towards, you’ll achieve something because you have to.
Speak with actor friends and get ideas of productions they want to do. Start small. Don’t go in on an unrealistic project. You have to consider budget, marketing, creative teams, rights, ticket prices, share of box office etc. Producing your first piece is the best learning experience.
After that, I suggest you contact other producers or production houses and ask if you can assist, or even just have some work experience. You’ll make valuable contacts which will help you throughout your career.
Have a look at Stage One, which has been training producers in theatre for 40 years. It mentors and helps new producers get their first rung on the producing ladder – bringing projects to life and turning ambition into reality. Its ‘new producer’ course could be just what you’re looking for.
Mountview Academy and Royal Central School of Speech and Drama both offer a full-time one-year MA course in Creative Producing. These courses are led by industry professionals, touch on all aspects of producing and are validated by a university. While there you will work with students, look at essential elements such as arts business structures, business development, marketing and sales, legal issues, budgeting – and, importantly, create and produce new work. These courses leave you with a full understanding and practical experience for every eventuality you could meet in your career as a professional.
And if all that fails – put on a suit, wear a mask and pretend to be Cameron Mackintosh, dear.
Send questions to your dear agony aunt via Twitter @westendproducer