I am a producer, marketer, publicist, designer, video editor, stage manager, fundraiser, production manager, accountant, digital marketer, social media marketer, promoter, flyer-er, sound designer, and general tea maker.
In other words, a show I wrote with my mates Michael and Paul Clarkson has gone from a script to the West End in less than six months.
Our show - Death Ship 666 is a disaster-movie parody play critics are calling "Titanic" meets "Airplane!", which follows the ill-fated passengers aboard a half-built ship's maiden voyage to the Bermuda Triangle. The play attracted sell-out audiences every day of the Edinburgh Fringe this Summer as well as copious five and four star reviews - including pick of the fringe from the Daily Express.
As complete newbies to the theatre industry, but with a background in video production for YouTube and TV, this has been a bit of a crash course. So here are some very honest learnings we've gained along the way through luck, educated guesses and mistakes that we'd like to share with you:
- Don't wait for an agent or a producer to pick up your work. You do not need the industry's validation. They don't know what they want, and you will waste a lot of your precious time waiting.
- Have a preview show run before Edinburgh festival - this will give you the time you need to hone your show so that you can hit the ground running at Edinburgh festival in the first week for when all those crucial first reviewers and audiences turn up
- Get yourself a frickin' awesome poster for your show that is eye catching and sums up your show's spirit. Otherwise it will disappear amongst the other thousands of posters competing on the fringe.
- Invest the extra £600 and list your show in the extra fringe guide - which lists a select amount of shows by genre and time. The main fringe guide has every single show listed alphabetically - how is anyone going to find you in there unless your show is AAAAAAAAAAA - which of course, some are.
- If you need to raise the cash, you will find a way. Whether that's through kickstarter or through sourcing wealthy friends of friends. The show at Edinburgh cost us £10,000 by the end which is more money than I have ever had to loose. Only half of that we raised in advance.
- Money is a huge problem! How else are you going to pay the rent, while holding down a job and putting on a show? A human can only do so much.
- YouTube is a fantastic platform for sharing your work, but it doesn't come close to the experience of a room full of people loving your work live on stage.
- Don't be afraid to fail. It helps you think creatively, to engage with new people and push yourself further than you ever thought you could.
- Edinburgh festival is the best experience if you're doing well. It's the worst experience if you've had some bum reviews, you have no audience, it's raining and you need to go out and flyer.
- The free fringe is a great place to expose your work to more people with fewer financial risks. It's also started gaining more kudos in recent years with more established acts and reviewers going to it.
- You don't go to Edinburgh festival to make money, you go to gain exposure, to break even and have a great time with people like you.
- If you want to transfer off the fringe, invite theatre programmers and promoters to your show months in advance otherwise you will have a long wait ahead of you before any of them have free slots in their theatres for you.
- Don't rush into taking the first offer you get. Is the venue the right space for your show? Is it in the right area? What is their audience demographic like?
- Tube advertising doesn't seem to work. And its expensive.
- Hiring the right publicist does work, hiring the wrong one is a complete waste of money.
- Flyering works in Edinburgh. It doesn't in London.
- As a producer with no money, you have to be every job from production manager, to social media expert, but delegate wherever possible otherwise things will be neglected.
- Try to enjoy the good bits because the bad bits suck.
- Be adaptable - do not rest on your laurels. Your show may have been a five star audience hit in Edinburgh festival, but back in London you might be faced with harder-to-please audiences.
- Don't take is personally. Some reviews just didn't get it. Some reviews might have a point to learn from. And some you can show off to your fans on Facebook.
If you want to see Death Ship 666, it's playing till the 15th of December at Jermyn Street Theatre (Piccadilly circus, London).
Watch the trailer here:
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