Planning Co-productions

Deliberations on planning a process

Speaking as the former manager of Theatre Får302 and having partaken in the theatre’s co-productions, Charlotte Rindom’s deliberations on what producers should be particularly aware of when preparing a process of co-producing are as follows.

Preliminary Questions

There is no set way of going about planning and carrying out a co-production, as each process and all collaborations are different. However, here is a list of things worth considering:

  • Who is involved in the project and where will it be staged?
  • What happens if/when others join the process further along? Consider this in terms of all areas and all aspects of the production.
  • How do you establish and administer the organization?
  • What will the organization’s chain of command be?
  • Is it to be a singular project or could it entail continuing collaboration?

Cultural Differences And Communication

The great challenge, right from the start, is ascertaining the cultural differences between the collaborating parties that may be of consequence. And this includes both ethno-psychological and organizational differences. It is very important to acquaint yourself with the reality of your partners, both culturally and locally, and to start a dialogue about how you would like the project to be managed, specifying the different chains of command for the various work areas involved in the co-production.

Good Communication

 

Disagreements and differences are regarded as occasions for mutual learning.
 
W. Barnet Pearce, Professor of Psychology Ph.D.

 

In dialog and communication it’s all about listening, asking questions, explaining and finding the way forward together. In other words, you have to focus on the appreciative and reflexive means of conversation to create mutual insight and clarity. First of all, in daily communication, you have to be aware of the points in the conversations, i.e. the exact places where the conversation can be pulled in a direction that will benefit all.

Starting A Collaboration

The actual reality and common frame of reference in any group is of vital importance for the group culture and in defining how the group distinguishes itself from other groups. The frame can make you focus on the same things while loosing sight of other things. In order to explore someone else’s reality, you have to have an appreciative approach.

Initiatives, where the content is centrally decided and located within a short time frame, tend to create opposition, which is why it’s often recommendable to plan a project in close communication with everyone involved, with informal talks right from the start, where you investigate the different points of view represented by the participants, which again will make the project part of a shared consciousness. 

Learning While Working Together

Teams that are gathered for a one-off project very often manage to solve the job satisfactorily, as what they are; a limited project in terms of both time and content, and often including employees from outside. Unfortunately though, in these cases, holding on to experiences and learning gained in the different organizations can prove difficult. On the other hand, with long-term collaborations it is possible to accumulate experiences as you staff differently and the whole point of working together is to establish a long-term praxis together. A continuing collaboration must make sense to the individual parties involved and therefore processes and participation will invariably need to be planned differently.

 

…enter personally into a organizational learning process with colleges you trust and respect … It will be about experimenting, watching, discussing and correcting … about daring to create your own model.
 
Jan Molin, Professor, cand.psych, dr.merc

To ensure the preservation of the experiences and learning processes within the team you bring together for a project; be it singular or more long-term, you have to think carefully about framing and process management. Then learning can be acquired in both areas.

Artistic Management

When you invite others to collaborate with you, you have to, at some point in the process, abandon your sense of ownership of the project and enter into joint ownership, which naturally signifies changes that will influence the project in different directions, though you must never loose sight of your own artistic integrity. Obtaining a shared vision for the project is very important as is keeping all cards on the table in terms of personal ambitions, your partners’ ambitions as well as those for the project.

Process And Project Management

It is recommendable to employ someone who is dedicated to managing the process and who ensures that the common aim is upheld and that everybody’s interests are taken into account. If you lack the funding to employ a process manager as such, this area of work should be incorporated into the producer’s job description. It cannot be stressed enough, how important planning and sticking to the agreed process is, as it will ensure you that all areas are covered and included.

Deadlines

Make sure you define clear deadlines in terms of artistic, organizational and financial decisions. Of course deviations may occur as the project progresses, but having a clear plan and shared set of deadlines make for a much better starting point.

Financial Management And Fundraising

Make as detailed arrangements concerning financing as at all possible:

  • Who will do the fundraising?
  • What resources will each partner bring into the project – monies, working capacity and equipment?
  • How large a percentage of the total amount will each partner contribute?
  • How will a potential deficit/profit be shared? According to size and capability? According to contribution/fundraising? Equally?
  • How will the daily accumulation of income, costs and expenses be handled practically?
  • How many resources do each partner possess in terms of liquidity, grants, income from sales and guaranties?
  • How will finances be handled among the partners?
  • Which kind of auditing is necessary in relation to the partners and funders?

Logistics And Travel Arrangements

When embarking on a collaboration it is important to have planning meetings where you clarify many of the pointers stipulated here. You should start by planning necessary meetings and you need to establish an overview of travelling arrangements in connection with the project. Meeting face-to-face is vital; corresponding by phone and email is not enough. Among other things, you well have to start the artistic process together, either in general terms or ‘on the floor’.

Ownership, Royalties And The Continuation Of The Project

There has to be no doubt as to in which format, by whom and at which cost the project can be utilized after the initial production.

Responsibility And Obligations

The individual partners’ responsibilities towards own and shared employees should be made absolutely clear. You need to sort out terms of employment and pay, both between the partners as well as internally within each affiliated organization. Do all get the same wages or not? Who will be in charge of hiring employees from outside the organizations?

You need to delegate responsibility and decision-making competences in relation to every employee.

PR And Marketing

You should consider each co-production a unique project, independently of any communications and PR-strategies employed by any of the involved parties. Do you need a shared brand for this particular project?

You can, for example, create a new visual identity by hiring a graphic designer from outside.

Disputes

It is advisable that you are only obligated under you own country’s laws. Recommended wording in the contract under ‘Disputes’ could be something like: ‘Each project is subject to the laws of its own country’.

Evaluation And Safeguarding Continued Learning And Reports To Relevant Interested Parties

Make sure you plan the evaluation process as something constructive, where everyone gets a say, and the questions asked should point forward. Keep interested parties informed about the project as you proceed, which will ensure that the final report will be recognizable to all.
 

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