I’ve been involved in the Vancouver Fringe in every way except performer. I’ve worked for a venue, I’ve volunteered, I’ve produced & stage managed, and for the past two years, I’ve had the privilege of working for them as the BYOV (Bring Your Own Venue) and Onsite (site-specific development program) coordinator. I’m one half of the Artist Services department, and the majority of my time is spent dealing with artists. This year, I’m overseeing 46 companies in 31 venues around the city of Vancouver. Our festival opens in a week and things in the office are getting crazy, but I’d like to share with you ten small pieces of advice that are going to make your job as an artist easier because they are going to make the staff adore you.
You want the staff to adore you.
Here’s the thing: I wrote this post and started to feel like I was giving artists the short end of the stick. The point is that I LIKE artists. I want to see you all succeed and make the most of your Fringing experiences. But I have also seen many who have come before you fail. And fail in glorious ways. So learn from their mistakes, and don’t be a douche.
1. Be Prepared to be told No
Have you ever heard the saying “limitation breeds creativity”? Being told “No” doesn’t mean that your show is going to be a failure. On the contrary, every “No” is an opportunity. When you get told, “No, you aren’t on the mainstage,” you have the opportunity to find an awesome BYOV or create something site specific. “No” isn’t personal: It is your job to think that your show is the most important show in the festival. It’s my job to know that it isn’t.
2. Read Your Emails
I cannot tell you how many times I day I get emails or phone calls that ask me questions that could easily be answered by reading through the emails that have been sent or checking the festival website. The only stupid question to ask is one that you have already been given the answer to.
And as a side note, when we send you your schedule to confirm, look at it and confirm it. Don’t wait until a week before the festival to call us and tell us it’s wrong and that you want to add five more performances. At that point it’s too late.
3. Pick Up the Phone
(But maybe not my cell phone after hours…unless it’s an emergency.) For a short question it’s often faster to phone than to email. Let us put a voice to your name and have a conversation. And if it’s a really big problem that you’ve run into, call us about that too. Email inboxes can back up quickly: a phone call is in your face enough to get answered immediately.
4. You are Unique, Just Like Everyone Else
You are one artist of many. When you ask for an exception to the rules, you are not the only one asking. You are not the only person who needs a billet, a technician, a projector, or the ability to throw clay around the stage (okay, you might be the only one with the clay). Playing the “Don’t you know who I am?” card is not going to help you.
5. Smile & Say Hello
By the time you arrive at the festival, we feel like we know you. We’ve spent months reading your show descriptions, setting your schedules, and uploading your photos and now we’ve finally met the people behind the show. Artist arrival date is pretty much Fringe-mas. Show us that you’re glad to be there, happy to see us, and at least pretend to remember who we are.
6. Be Kind to the Volunteers
When artists yell at, belittle, or attempt to overrule volunteers who are simply doing their jobs, it is a huge turn off. All of a sudden I no longer feel the need to tell people to see your show. Plus, the volunteers are even better word-of-mouth supporters than the staff. You really want them on your team!
7. Flyer without Littering
Flyering line ups is still the best way to get folks out to see your show. It is still the best way to show them who you are and what your show is about by giving them a glimpse of character. But when you are giving out flyers, don’t force them on people who don’t want them. People who don’t want your flyer will throw it on the ground the second you step away, leaving a huge mess for the festival to clean up. Instead, use your flyering opportunities to get a quality conversation with a few people so the flyer means something. Or come up with something cooler than flyers that won’t end up on the ground.
8. I Don’t Need to see Your Bodily Fluids
Vomit. Urine. Spit. I don’t need to see any of it. Go ahead and get drunk at the Fringe bar (I’m sure I’ll see you there and we can raise a glass together), but urinating on the door frame of the business next to the bar doesn’t help anyone. Keep it in your pants, find a bathroom, and don’t leave me with a mess to clean up at the end of the night or the end of the festival.
9. See Everything You can
Do you want lots of people to see your show? Of course you do. Want to know a secret for how to get people to your show? Go see everyone else’s shows. Make friends with the other artists. Promote their shows in your curtain call. You’ll soon discover that they will do you the same favour.
10. Don’t Be a Douche
Within the first couple of days of the festival, I know who all the douchey artists are: word gets around quickly. I get asked which shows are worth seeing approximately 150 times a day, and I never recommend a show where the artists are douchey, no matter how good their reviews are. Be a human being and we’ll go from there.
I feel like so much of this boils down to “be a human being” but experience tells me that in the heat of the moment, with your artistic pride on the line, it can be easy to overlook everyone outside the bubble of your own show and in doing so overlook your biggest potential cheerleaders.
You want cheerleaders.