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.
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.