This is the first of a series of articles about being a producer, you can find more of the series here, or you can check out the Producer Packet in our shop.
So you want to produce a show?
Welcome to being a producer! Producing theatre is just like producing any kind of art, you can go to a fancy school and get an expensive degree, or you can jump in and start practicing, but at the end of the day what matters more is why are you creating this art?
There is no right way to be a producer, anyone that decides they want to take charge of leading an artistic vision can consider themselves a producer. More than likely, you've already produced something, you've planned an event, maybe helped make a short film, if you were in the trenches to make sure a team of artists came together and made it happen, you've probably produced.
Being a producer is part of being something bigger than yourself, it is a big responsibility. It can also be extremely rewarding to bring a team and story to life that could impact your audiences and community.
Theatre is always adapting and growing, and we are all constantly in a state of learning, so understand this is not an exhaustive list of rules, but suggestions and guidance on building a foundation for yourself as a producer. These are the skills most producers have, and for some reason, they don't get shared around often, so we decided to write them down into this packet and build out supplemental materials while you ponder your own producer skills.
What is a producer?
Producers are the visionary leader of an artistic project. They see the biggest picture and have all the puzzle pieces to put a show together. You have to be able to zoom out and see the whole show for what it is and what it could be. That means being an artist, leader, problem-solver, motivator, risk-taker, and sometimes mediator to get your show up.
While being a producer is participating in something bigger than yourself, at the end of the day this is your artistic vision and your team that you are responsible for. The success of the show is ultimately up to you because you are defining what success is.
That means it is really important to have answers to the following questions:
What are your goals within creating?
What are your existing skillsets?
What does being a producer mean to you?
Why do you want to learn these skills?
Why do you want to be a producer?
Your job as a producer is to make it so everyone else is able to do their job to the best of their ability. This means building a company culture, leading challenging conversations, and pushing people to do their best. It may feel like a lot of pressure, but it doesn't have to be overwhelming when you have a team of people around you that have the same passion to create something.
What makes a good producer?
There really isn't a definition of a "good" producer, but it has very little to do with how many ticket you sold or how many reviews you had, and more about how you manage the team around you.
While there isn't a clear set of boxes to check off on any given production to know if you were a "good" or "bad" producer, but the hope is that the information and tips below will give you a foundation of leadership and administrative skills that will help you be a stronger producer.
Slow down to express what you mean with conviction, it takes more time and energy to try and clear up miscommunication than to take time to communicate clearly the first time
Relate your messages to the larger goals, not everyone can see your vision
Confirm your team understands, and if they don't then you need to adjust how.
Every show has different challenges, be ready to lean on your team and have the courage to ask for help when needed.
Provide an atmosphere where it is safe to have vulnerable conversations
Accept that emotions are a real and valid part of theatre creation.
Treat people with respect, they are helping your artistic vision come to life.
Pay people on time and have integrity with your deadlines.
This includes respecting their time, boundaries, and accept they have a life and responsibilities outside of this project.
You are not a leader unless you make your team feel important.
Don’t micromanage your team - let people feel like they have a voice in the creation process.
Admit when you don’t know something, or when you were wrong!
Keep an open mind and use constructive feedback to grow as a producer and leader.
If they are giving you feedback, it's because they care about the show, even if it means disagreeing or pushing back on one of your ideas.
Check in with yourself and your team regularly.
How do they feel about the process?
Is everyone on the same page?
Are you still on track with the mission and goals of the project?
This is just the start of being a producer, next we will talk about building a personal strategic plan to give you clarity on what you want to produce.
Have any questions - post them below!