Making a Big Production

Dorklord_Canada_Logo_Wht_BG_Lo-Res.jpg-01I’ve made no secret of my love for TTRPG actual plays. Recorded or live, video or audio, they are my new favourite media to consume. I love watching and listening to them and I am thrilled at the rare moments I get to play and GM for them. For years, though, I’ve had the thought in the back of my head: what if I produced an actual play? Could I do that? Do I have anything unique to bring to the table, pun definitely intended? While the third is a larger question requiring more time to ponder, I think I have a handle on the first two.

What if, indeed. And yes.

I’ve mentioned before, here and on Twitter, that I worked for close to twenty years as a freelance stage and production manager. Both jobs related to the organizing of a theatre production, and so I have almost two decades of practical experience in organization and communications around production work. But could those skills port over to actual play production? My gut says yes, and every panel or workshop I’ve taken on AP production over the last few years seems to confirm that. Despite the fact that actual plays are consumed as video media and so are superficially like television, I’ve always thought of them as more in line with theatre anyway (that’s a post for another time).

A conversation with a few friends online led to us wanting to play and record a show together. This collaboration seemed like the ideal time for me to take a leap and see if if my skills would serve me. And I thought it might be helpful, to anyone else thinking of producing their own AP show, for me to talk about what I’m doing and the steps I’m taking. After all, when do you get a chance to watch somebody try things, screw up, learn, try new things, and hopefully get better? Hopefully my posts will help take some of the anxiety out of starting your own production.

Let’s call these…Theatre Tips! Sure that sound corny, but it will grow on you. So…

Theatre Tip #1: Collaborate. Don’t try to do it alone. Even one-person stage shows need someone running lights and sound.

For my first shot at producing I definitely was not going to solo. The idea came about from a conversation with two friends, as I said, and thankfully those friends wanted to work with me (I promise, as soon as we make details of the show public I will stop with the “my friends” and name names, give credit where it’s due. For now, be patient.). And based on what we decided to do we knew we needed at least three more folks on board, which meant convincing three people who weren’t in the initial conversation that we had a good idea they should consider joining.

First thing I did? Thankfully this initial conversation was via Twitter DMs, so compiling notes was easy. I copy/pasted the entire conversation into a Google Doc. Then I removed everything that wasn’t a detail related to the project. Then I made five main categories, which you may be most familiar with in relation to journalism and news writing: Who, What, Where, When, and Why? These questions are just as important when planning a production; I would suggest that how well you can answer them will determine how successfully you can produce your show. I could have created a category titled “How?” but decided to be specific, entitling it “Sponsorships and Support”. I also put a “To Do” list in the document, to keep track of tasks at the start. Later on this list will become a checklist in Google Sheets, but for now a simple list works fine.

Why do all this? Now I have a document containing all the details of our proposed production. I don’t have to hunt through a Twitter DM thread to find important information, I go to the Doc instead. Later, when I want to create a media release, or put together an ad, or even just answer someone’s questions about the production, I have a source from which to pull that information. And most importantly, because it’s a Google Doc I can share it with the other folks on the production so they also have this information at their disposal. As well, they can leave comments and questions in the Doc itself for me or anyone else to discuss.

Which leads me into the topic for our next post:

Theatre Tip #2: There is no such thing as overcommunication. Everyone should be able to know everything they want about the production at any time.

And we’re going to use the somewhat redacted text of the cast invite letter I sent out recently to illustrate this point. But that’s going to be Thursday’s post, so I hope you’ll come back.

If you have any questions about today’s post, or about AP production in general, send them my way. I’ll answer questions about the post right away; I’ll save my answers to other questions until we hit that point in the production. Again, I’m not an expert and I don’t pretend to be one. I have some skills I think will help so I am diving into my first AP as a producer. Hopefully watching me work through it can help other folks do the same. I guess time will tell!