Hannah Brady

Hannah Brady's blog

2015 Future Producers has arrived

Day one

Day one of the new Future Producers 2015 opened with a focus on play. The morning was run by the dynamic duo Jon Atkin and Sham Ahmed with the key purpose of getting to know each other. It is fundamental that over the next three months the group of 16 young producers can work as a team, build trust and cooperate. The group will be collaborating on the delivery of live briefs that will form part of the autumn season at Watershed, so good communication and listening skills are crucial. In the traditional style of Future Producers we kicked off with the marshmallow tower and chubby bunnies, I never realised that marshmallows allowed for such fun.

The afternoon continued with some more focused fun with Playable City producer Hilary O’Shaughnessy. The playable city workshop got the group responding to mini briefs that touched on some important themes that will run throughout the Future Producers programme. They were asked to consider a location and audience to drive an idea. From this quick fire workshop the group came up with some interesting ideas that saw car parks turned into playgrounds of screens, interactive bus stop fun and large projections of selfies.

Playable city workshop 1Playable city workshop 3

Day Two

Day two opened with a talk from independent creative producer Amy Martin on the role of a producer. Her presentation style was satisfyingly relaxed and hugely informative, here are some things to consider on the role of a producer:

  • A producer needs resilience
  • A producer requires practical production skills
  • A producer must be able to let go and trust a team
  • A producer has a responsibility to their audience
  • A producer must consider the aesthetics and know why an idea is good
  • Whose idea is being produced – your own, others or a collaborative effort
  • Collaboration is essential when producing
  • Why not keep an ideas book
  • Borrow from different art forms and sectors
  • Always have the end in mind

And here are some inspiring quotes from Amy:

If the art form was a car the creativity would be the fuel

Creativity is by definition closely related to bravery, because it requires the creator to share a unique, personal idea, exposing themselves to potential judgement

Nothing else in the world is as powerful as an idea whose time has come


After lunch REACT Managing Producer Jo Lansdowne ran an incredibly valuable workshops that explored public speaking. For most of us having to stand up in front of an audience fills us with fear, here are Jo’s top tips to getting up there and giving it our best:

  • Hold you nerve
  • Know your audience
  • Tell your story
  • Keep to time
  • Don’t leave loose ends
  • This is a beginning of a conversation
  • Less is more

The weekend ended with an introduction to the three live briefs from the Watershed staff:

  1. 24 and under ticket offer in response to a collaborative research project with Culture24
  2. LOVE Tea Dance with a Difference, as part of Bristol Family Arts Festival
  3. A series of late night screening sinspired by the BFI LOVE season

The group now have two weeks to come up with an idea to pitch to an external panel of producers. Good Luck.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

A slide from Claire's presentation

A slide from Claire’s presentation

Last night Watershed’s wonderful Digital Communications Manager, Claire Stewart came in to talk to our group about how they might work with the communications team to promote their events. Claire is responsible for the ‘voice’ of Watershed; if you’ve ever interacted with us via Twitter or Facebook it was probably Claire you were talking to.

As they start to nail down their programming, marketing and communications the next things to consider. With that in mind here are just some of the considerations Claire put to our cohort:

Claire Stewart’s Top Tips for Talking to Audiences and Selling Out Events

1. The first thing I would ask someone putting on an event here is: agree on what you want to accomplish. So with each of your events, can you tell me what your goal is? Sure you might want to sell as many tickets as possible, but do you want to change audience behaviour? Educate people? Collaborate with them? Develop audiences? Get responses? What do you want them to do and how do you want them to feel?

2. Audiences – who are you trying to reach? The general public is not a target audience! ‘New audiences’ isn’t helpful either. Which audience/s will have the most influence and impact for your events?

3. The next step after asking those questions is to think about messages and reach – in other words, what are you going to say to your audience so that they’ll take notice and listen? Remember what resonates for you and your friends often doesn’t work for your target audiences. The difference between messaging that you like and messaging that is effective can be huge – it generally takes research to know the difference, but don’t worry, we are here to help you with this.

Fun, Fear and Emotional Journeys

Drawing on her experience as a Producer and New Media Consultant for Channel Four, Hide&Seek and Storythings, Kim Plowright talked about the life cycle of projects, from development to after the event.

Kim describes her role as a producer as one of developing structures around creative ideas. This was a really useful session for our group as they are brimming with ideas that they now need to start weaving together into a coherent programme. But Kim’s experience has taught her the importance of balancing structure with improvisation: changing and adapting your project as you find your audience. Holding a project together whilst allowing for a healthy amount of flux is a critical skill for a producer.

Understanding story structures and the way we react to them can help us focus on the toughest parts of creative production. Keeping that in mind, Kim discussed how differing emotional journeys – those of the producer, artist and audience might impact upon a project. Understanding how your emotions peak and dip over the course of project is something that has helped me in my own role; I hope that it will be a useful reference point for our Future Producers as they navigate the weeks ahead.

Armed the knowledge that the last two weekends have provided, our Future Producers spent the remainder of the afternoon working with their team. At this stage, Watershed staff took a step back to give the cohort some space in which to develop their ideas. Of course we spent some time in their production meetings over the afternoon. For the most part this saw us providing encouragement, asking tricky questions and pointing out where they might need to be aware of deadlines. Schedules were drawn up, to-do lists written and potential partners were contacted. It was an impressive performance; one that means that our groups should transition into the weekly sessions with a good deal of the groundwork covered.

This Wednesday, the team working on the BFI Sci-Fi late night screening will be meeting with Maddy Probst, Watershed’s Cinema Programme Producer to discuss their ideas. The Family Arts Festival team will be brushing up their knowledge of ET and exploring what other activities to programme as part of the Festival. The Fun Palaces team will be holding a public consultation meeting in our Café/Bar from 6-7pm. Come along if you are interested in getting involved with that project.

That’s it for now, as there’s the pressing matter of drafting wedding vows for alien and robot civil ceremonies that I need to attend to.

Day One: Sculpting in Jelly

Generate 100 programming ideas in 30 mins. Could you do it?

Generate 100 programming ideas in 30 mins. Could you do it?

The morning started with an introduction to the programme and an icebreaker challenge that saw the cohort compete to build towers from marshmallows and spaghetti. With great feats of confectionary engineering accomplished, the group met their first speaker.

Sarah Ellis, from the Royal Shakespeare Company, spoke about what the role of the producer is. Her candid description of the role as one where you need to ‘be able to do everything and one specific thing in details – all at the same time’ was a great way to get the group thinking about the range of skills a producer needs to hone in order to hold a project together.  Her advice centred on self-awareness, knowing when you draw on the skills of others and when you were the best person to lead.

These reflective skills are built into the Future Producers’ programme throughout its delivery and having an inspiring speaker outline the importance of working in this way at the start of the programme sets the tone. The group will be collaborating on live briefs that will be delivered at Watershed this autumn. With this in mind understanding each other skills and weaknesses is vitally importantly to the delivery of their programme.

The session also touched on the importance of considering different audiences. Taking the RSC’s work with Google+ on Midsummer Night’s Dreaming as a case study. Sarah explained that the project aimed to explore the way in which the RSC could use technology in order to interact with their audiences more playfully. This involved creating vast amounts of online content in the form of hangouts, video, text, gifs, photos, soundcloud, maps and animation. The result of this was that the content opened up the RSC to new audiences, but it also enable the RSC’s core audience to go on a journey with them if the chose to. But doing things that your audience doesn’t expect can be difficult, and this was returned to in detail in the Q&A session after Sarah’s presentation.

Idea generation during the afternoon workshop.

Idea generation during the afternoon workshop.

The afternoon workshop, led by Tom Metcalfe, was designed to get the group generating ideas, identifying where they could collaborate and thinking iteratively. Starting with a broad range of programming theme each working group generated 100 ideas in 30 minutes and then took one of these ideas through to prototyping. If that wasn’t challenging enough once they had settled on one idea the groups had to producer a short film using the app Vine to demonstrate the idea to the rest of the group.  It was a tough exercise but one that we felt worked really well. Having to produce something tangible in a short space of time forces people to work together and clear group dynamics start to emerge. To have to negotiate an idea and its presentation to an audience of their peers is a great accomplishment to end the first end.

Whilst producing can be extremely challenging but it can be equally rewarding. Sarah described the process as one that ‘can be a bit like sculpting in jelly’.  Today has left the Watershed team convinced that whatever they sculpt, this year’s Future Producers are going to produce something pretty tasty.