We’ve got to the stage where we’re ready to go to Edinburgh with the show, and I’ve noticed a couple of things that are interesting about the way actors seem to be interacting with the Open Book Theatre movement.
Firstly, I know the actors are looking at the figures as we go along, but they all seem to look at different parts of the figures – some seem to like the spreadsheets, some the sales reports that we get daily from the Pleasance (which, if you can, I thoroughly recommend that you get venues to supply you with).
Secondly, the easiest and most effective way to talk about sales in the morning before rehearsals start seems to be to concentrate on total seats sold, and how much that constitutes as a percentage of breakeven. I rather suspect that this latter point is rather important. Announcing daily how tickets are selling and the percentage of break even they represent is providing a great feeling as we begin the day’s rehearsals. It’s an easy figure to understand, and not everyone looks at the figures every night or morning before they come to work. I’ve noticed this time round that we seem to have at least one conversation about sales and profit every day later in the day regarding sales and profits.
I think it’s going to be interesting to see how this continual updating of sales figures affects the actors flyering at Edinburgh. Certainly experience of the festival tells me that after about a week many actors marketing their shows start to become much more subdued with their sales pitches to the public. I have a feeling that in our case, we might just have a highly motivated team of marketeer actors.
I’ll let you know how that goes. As always, questions and comments are more than welcome…
We’ve pretty much done the first week of what is a two week rehearsal period this time around, and so I shan’t bore you all with how rehearsals are going, except to say that everything’s going well, with the usual positive feedback from the performers on the Open Book Management process.
What I have found interesting this week is that people rehearsing in other studios where we are also seem to know about this way of working, and keep accosting me with cups of tea, hoping to grab five minutes and find out a little more detail than there has been in the media. Also, it seems that industry websites are starting the odd topic of discussion on their notice boards, which is great news.
As a result of the RADA workshop, the Directors Guild of Great Britain has set up a working party to see how the concept can be applied to low/no budget films. That’s an ongoing process at the moment, and any film makers out there are interested please drop an email to us, which we’ll gladly pass on to the Guild.
As always, any questions at all, just drop us a line on firstname.lastname@example.org
Well, we’ve been busy in pre-production for our Edinburgh run of the Just So Stories, but today marks another little milestone in the mission to bring Open Book Management to the fringe and beyond.
Today, with lashings of help from both the Directors Guild of Great Britain and the Mackintosh Foundation, we get the opportunity to give a structured, three hour session on how to run an open book theatre or film operation to the industry.
We’ve spent a good amount of time preparing it, and because of the support we’ve been given, we have been able to offer the afternoon for free. We’re pretty sure there are going to be interesting questions, things we’ve not thought of yet, and hopefully some thoughts for even better solutions to some of the challenges we all face.
We’re still aware, though, that there is a prime opportunity to share this with pretty much the whole of the fringe world when we go to Edinburgh this summer. So if anyone knows of a venue there we can use for a few hours during the festival, we’d be more than happy to run this same session again there during August. And again, we’ll do our bit for free. Because we believe in this.
More to come, so watch this space…..
Red Table is taking The Just So Stories to Edinburgh. We’re currently looking for investors in the production.
Here’s how it works:
When we put on a show, the production budget is divided into units of £100 each. We then sell these units to investors – who can each buy as many or as few as they please – and the money received is used to fund the production.
After the books are closed, income to the production is returned to the investors until such time as they have received their investment back in full together with a 10% return on their investment (ROI).
For our last production of The Just So Stories this Easter at the Pleasance Theatre, each investor received their money back together with a 10% ROI within five months – a return you’re not likely to see anywhere else any time soon.
This production was so successful that we’re taking it to the Edinburgh Festival this August, to The Green in the Pleasance Courtyard, where The Just So Stories will be performing twice a day.
If you’d like to know more about investing in The Just So Stories, send an email to email@example.com and we’ll send you an Investor’s Information Pack.
Late post this week I’m afraid, for last week.
We’re getting the hang of doing the spreadsheets and making them available daily, sometimes more if anything big happens, and the cast are taking a big interest now. Just this last week I knew that because one of the cast pointed out to me that the spreadsheet figures hadn’t changed since the previous day (I copied the prievious day’s figures in by mistake). What does that mean? It’s working! The actors are actively interested in the financial side of the business.
It’s moving along. We have good pre-sales, and actors are actively seeking out more fliers from us so they can play their part to keep the figures going upwards.
My big concern is this – stage management. I’ll blog about this later, but it’s causing big problems. We tech today (It’s Monday morning 7am as I write this) and I have no Stage Manager still. Not an insurmountable problem, Cat and I will cover it internally if we have to. But the truth of the situation is this: the Drama Schools have spent the last few years churning out technical theatre practitioners in the same way they churn out actors. I predict pretty soon that, like it is for actors, the jobs (particularly for those at the beginning of their backstage careers) will be so thin on the ground that you’ll have to start working for free, or preferable for profit share, to gain experience.
Traditionally over the last decade or so, the technician/SM in a small 50 or 60 seater gets ten or fifteen quid a show. I’m afraid those days are coming to a close, and I’d like to help you brace yourselves for it. Because it’s not very nice. I know. I used to be an actor.
I’m hoping to talk to BECTU so at least we can be prepared as an industry for this happening, and work out how to handle it for all you black-clad geniuses.
As always, any comments below, or to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Well, what a week.
Those of you who buy The Stage will have already noticed that the new Open Book Management movement made the lead story on the front cover. And carried on to page two. And was the subject of the editorial of page eight. If you haven’t bought a copy, please do go and buy one. There’s plenty of detail, as well as the opinions of other industry professionals rather than just ourselves. We’re hoping that if The Stage think that we’re worthy of front page news, it might just be worth you taking a further look.
For the actors following this, this might be worth noting… I had so nearly finished what I wanted to get done on Friday by 6pm, which is our contracted finish time with the actors, that I asked (as is common practice) if people would rather continue and finish the section, or finish for the day.
Two actors had prior commitments which they needed to leave at six for, as contracted. So we stopped at six. It’s no problem, I can finish the work next week. What I think is invaluable, though, is that those actors were under no pressure to stay. I’ve certainly worked fringe productions where actors get overworked or have to let other people down just because a director insists on finishing and they don’t feel that they can say no.
I’m glad we’re not one of those companies. In fact, I’m rather proud.
As always, comments or questions below, or feel free to email me direct at email@example.com
Loads of lessons learned this week. The talk in rehearsal seems to be very much between the actors about the Open Book system rather than what they’re doing next Saturday. Interestingly, though, not many seem to be checking the private area of the site that contains all of the financial data for the production that regularly in their free time, if at all.
It makes me wonder. Simply by having it available, it may be that they don’t feel the need to be looking and can take us on trust. I think this might be good in some ways, but it does present less opportunities for the actors and crew to feed back into the process of trying to turn a decent profit (not to mention the fact that we could be writing any numbers on those spreadsheets, and it’s good to check these things). If it’s not that, it may well be that this is such a new concept they’re just not used to thinking about their work in this way.
If this is the case, I think perhaps we need to make sure that we regularly check that our casts are regularly checking the private areas and the balance sheets. It’ll take a long time, but production by production, company by company, as the movement grows then in theory at least actors and crew will grow expect to see and check these things for themselves through a process of education and word of mouth.
Looks like this might take a while to change the fringe. Still, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the more people run Open Book Management, the quicker we’ll address the issues this section of the industry faces.
In other news, The Stage gave us a call on Friday for an interview and asked lots of questions about the Open Book Theatre Movement. While I was on the phone, I showed the reporter what the actors and crew have access to in the private area of the website. We’re hoping that an article on the idea might broaden peoples awareness and they might come and find out a little more about the idea here.
If there is such an article and you have an opinion, please feel free to leave your comments below or email me directly on firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, please encourage others to read both the article and this blog. Lets start a debate…..
Back to the blog again, now we’re back into the rehearsal period, and my weekly opportunity to reflect on how the Open Book movement is affecting things.
I made a few different decisions from the beginning this time, putting the whole of the first morning aside to allow the actors the time and opportunity to fully read, understand and ask any questions they might have about the contracts. Once that was done, I opened up the new spreadsheet (which is much easier to understand) and talked them through it, encouraging them to ask questions and pointing out where the most important figures were on the spreadsheet, so they could understand easily when they checked in to the private online area.
I put a lot of thinking time into that decision. Piers is busy with another project at the moment, and I’ve never really understood spreadsheets, and it occurred to me that while we might be making the figures available to cast and crew, they might not be easily able to read and understand them – I certainly know I couldn’t first time round.
Lesson learned here? Time well spent. Through the rehearsals this week I’ve not had to answer simple questions about contracts, profit share or spreadsheets. The company are fully aware of the huge amount of money committed to the project already, and they are also able to understand the figures as they are posted.
I also, as agreed in our contract, set aside time for them to elect an Equity Deputy, who I believe has now contacted Equity. We now have a single point of focus for any issues should they arise on either side.
Join the Open Book Movement. It makes a lot more sense than doing everything in a dark room on the back of a fag packet.
As always, any questions, contact me on email@example.com
Cast of six this time, and a bigger venue means more people working on the show, thus more profit points to be allocated. However, the venue is three times the size, and schools marketing has already begun, so we’re really gunning for a profit.
I took a slightly different tack this time, and put the whole first morning aside for the cast to read their contracts before signing them, and talking through the spreadsheets, which we have made much more simple and easy to understand. It took a whole morning session to do this.
My hope is that this investment will pay off, and that putting aside rehearsal time for discussing the nuts and bolts of business will help that ensemble business drive towards profit. And what do you know? The photography line in the budget has suddenly dropped because someone’s uncle is a photographer!
Again, this is the way forward for fringe. We’re spanking out the hard work on contracts and spreadsheets so you won’t have to. And you can have them all for free. We’re teaming up with the Directors Guild of Great Britain to roll this model out in London and Edinburgh, so watch this space. We’ll have a meeting, explain it all as a lecture/seminar, and then make ourselves available for you afterwards for questions and to help you set up as an Open Book fringe company for free.
We’ll keep you updated – as always comment at the bottom or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll try to help you all we can.
I’ll feed back anything interesting later in the week.
Hecticness descends upon us, as with a last minute confirmation, the Just So Stories are transferring to the Pleasance Theatre, Islington, this Easter.
As before, we’ll be running Open Book contracts, so the performers and production team will all know what’s going on financially, as the show progresses. We’re auditioning this weekend, as well as getting the production team together, sorting out the marketing, and a million other things, too.
Expect tickets to be on sale any day now at the Pleasance Theatre box office, by phone or online. I’ll keep you as up to date as possible on the effects of the Open Book model on the production as we progress. Should be interesting, with many more variables at play in a bigger space.
In other news, it’s likely one other theatre company at least is taking on the Open Book model, further details will follow, as they will of at least one company who has expressed an interest in the model to take to the Edinburgh Festival. Should be interesting to see how much of a difference it makes to those who go flyering on the Mile (if you’ve been to the festival you’ll know what I mean. If not, why not make this year your first?).
We’re also looking for investors for this run, with a return payable on monies invested when the show goes into profit. If you’d like to support the arts and potentially get a 10% return, drop us a line.
Watch this space…