A crucial part of being a producer is finding the right artists for your projects.
First, you can start with this List of LA BIPOC theatre artists. When you find artists in a list or database, it normally means the artist has given permission for people to contact them with projects. Feel free to send them a cold email to see if they are interested and/or available for the project.
A cold email should include the following:
Introduce yourself and how you found them (List, Recommendation, etc)
Introduce the project
Give your ask (Be specific! Do you want them to read the script? Do you want to grab a coffee and talk about the show?)
When you are looking for a specialized designer, feel free to put an ask in a Facebook group that is specific to what you are looking for. Some examples are:
More often than not, someone in your team might know some artists, or a friend of a friend, either way, it is super easy to ask for referrals! This is a perfect way to expand a circle of people you are already connected to.
Ask other producers you respect if they know someone.
If you have a designer you like that can't do it, ask if they have a replacement
Who do they know that you might not know?
When you are looking for artists, resumes and portfolios are helpful, but should not be the make or break when building your team. There are incredible artists that don't have degrees in theatre, internships with big companies, or don't have a large quantity of experience. A short resume could be from a lack of opportunities, not a lack of talent.
Instead, give more value to an interview or consider an online form for an application that focuses on passion, interests, and natural skills.
If you are working with new artists, and they ask for a contract, it is not appropriate to say "we don't really do contracts, we all just trust each other." First, it makes you seem unprofessional in some of the most basic ways because when things aren't written down on paper there is no accountability and that's how people get taken advantage of. If you offer a contract upfront, it makes it seem like you have a deeper respect for their professional boundaries, even if you are friends and do trust each other.
While things might change, it is important to have everyone's expectations presented to them as clearly as possible. If there are things that need to change, make sure to put them clearly in written form - like an email, so that everyone can refer back to it. Things change from company to company and project to project so it is hard to have a flat definition of expectations so have a conversation with your artists about what they normally do in a project and what might need to be added or removed from their responsibilities. There are plenty of examples of letters of agreement and contracts that will help protect all parties and create stronger boundaries for everyone involved.
Unions use contracts, if you get into the habit of doing it now, it won't be as daunting when you need to do it later.