The Art of the Business

A blog dedicated to artists who are serious about their business.

2009 Federal Budget: what’s in it for us? January 29, 2009

Filed under: Politics of Arts — Rebecca Coleman @ 6:48 am
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On Tuesday, the Conservative government brought down it’s 2009 budget. Meant to boost our failing economy (we are now officially in a recession), they are going into debt themselves by pouring money into infrastructure, tax cuts, and boosting Employment Insurance and retraining.

In all, $438 million is earmarked for Culture.  The good news is, they didn’t cut the culture budget, but the bad news is, there is no new money that is going directly to artists in the form of arms-length organizations like the Canada Council (who had its funding slashed heavily in the last budget).

Here are the numbers:

  • $100 million over two years for art, comedy and music festivals and events that promote tourism.
  • $60 million over the next two years to support infrastructure-related costs (ie: repairs) for  cultural buildings, such as theatres, libraries and museums.
  • $20 million over the next two years to the National Arts Training Contribution Program.
  • $30 million over the next two years to support Canadian magazines and community newspapers.(which have been hit hard by the internet revolution)
  • $28.6 million over the next two years to the Canada New Media Fund, which is administered by Telefilm.
  • $200 to the Canadian Television Fund over the next two years.
  • $25 million one-time endowment to the  to assist in establishing The Canada Prizes for the Arts and Creativity . The Canada Prizes is a not-for-profit organization founded by Tony Gagliano and David Pecaut, who are also the founders of Toronto’s Luminato Festival.  The Canada Prizes will be awarded annually to the most talented emerging artists in music, dance, theatre and the visual arts from around the world, and may be showcased at the Festival. (thanks to Daniel Davidzon, from the Luminato, who cleared up my previous mis-report that the Luminato Festival had recieved the endowment)

Story sources/more information:

The Georgia Straight

The Toronto Star

Theatre Is Territory

Please note: there are lots of rumors about revisions to the budget, but information on Culture, specifically can be hard to find. If you have heard of more accurate numbers that reflect the revisions, please post them in comments below.

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LinkedIn January 28, 2009

Filed under: Business of Arts,Business relationships,Networking — Rebecca Coleman @ 6:20 am

Opportunities for connecting on the internet abound. There’s Digg, Fark, del.ici.ous, Stumbleupon, and on and on and on. Unless you do social networking for a living, it’s almost impossible to keep up with them all (in addition to your six email accounts). The possibility of getting burnt out by information overload is very real, so I keep my online activities down to there main ones: Facebook, which I use to set up groups and events on behalf of my clients, but I also use personally to keep in touch with family and friends, Twitter, which I use mainly for sharing information, and LinkedIn.


LinkedIn has been around for a while, and is, essentially, online social networking for business. When you sign up, you can create a profile page for your business, which includes your areas of specialty, and links to your website. You can put information up about your past work experience and education. My profile also includes my blog feed and which business books I am currently reading or want to read. Pretty standard stuff, so far. But here’s where it gets cool. You create contacts with people that you know directly or have done business with online. By connecting with others, you get access to thier networks, and thier network’s networks, etc. etc. I currently have 46 connections on my LinkedIn, which gives me a total of 233,800 connections in total. It’s six degrees of separation gone viral.

You can also join groups of like-minded individuals, post questions (or answer them to prove your ‘expert’ status), and get recommendations for your work, which become public for the whole world to see. There is also a place to post jobs, and I have heard that people searching for work have often been quite successful by using LinkedIn.

Catherine Lough Haggquist, who owns Biz Books, is a dear friend of mine, and a highly-respected businessperson, says “I find the “groups” function to be the most developed, focused and subscribed to of any of the SNs I belong to…and I am at about 10 right now. As my professional pursuits are varied but related, LinkedIn is a handy way, through it’s emails from the groups that I belong to, to stay up on news and useful discussions and blog posts that I can incorporate into my different business plans and strategies. Also, the “status” function is very handy for getting the word out.”

Mojgan Fay, who is someone I met on LinkedIn, has a great program and blog called Business Mentoring for the Arts. Check out her great post on LinkedIn and how to make your profile more appealing.

And if you are already on LinkedIn, or if you join, look me up.

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A Who’s-Who of the Vancouver Theatrosphere January 26, 2009

It’s happening. Slowly, but surely, more and more Vancouver theatre companies are choosing to get online with Web 2.0 technology. Simon Ogden and I have been preaching this gospel for a long time: it’s not enough to just have a website any more. In order to really extend your reach to a new audience, you need to embrace new technology and get a blog, a facebook page, or a twitter account.

In an industry that is chronically underfunded and overworked, and tends to be a bit afraid of online innovations, it hasn’t been easy to convince people that they need to join the  Web 2.0 revolution.  But we’ve managed to convince a few.

Welcome to the blogosphere two new blogs: Biz Books and Ruby Slippers. They join these theatre bloggers already girldivingmaking a go of it (thanks to Simon for compiling this list):

  • Green Thumb Theatre – Green Thumb is a local company that specializes in theatre for young audiences.
  • Lois in La La Land – Lois is a stage manager at Pacific Theatre, and writes a good blog.
  • Pi Theatre – The blog of Pi Theatre.
  • PuShing It – Blog for the PuSH Festival, currently on.
  • The Next Stage – Simon Ogden is the number one Theatre blogger in Vancouver.
  • Soul Food – Ron Reed is the AD at Pacific Theatre, and I think, may be Vancouver’s first Theatre blogger.
  • The Theatre Department of UBC – written by the ever-on-the-technical-edge Deb Pickman.

How about you? Interested in starting a blog and reaching out to your audience? Come on in, the water’s great!

If I’ve missed any, please post the feed URL in the comments section below.

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Using moving pictures to promote your show January 23, 2009

This week, I’ve been writing posts on the topic of visuals to accompany your publicity campaign. We talked about the two photo shoots you need for your show, the publicity shot, and the production photo.

Today, I want to talk about moving pictures. While it’s true that theatre does not translate well on video, many companies are taking advantage of new, and more accessible technology to help get the word out about their shows.

If you haven’t taken advantage of The Next Stage’s  video listing services yet, you should. It’s free, easy, and fast. He will meet with you, and then he shoots you, speaking directly to camera, about why the  audience should come see your show. Within the day, it’s up on The Next Stage Video Listings page, and available to you through YouTube. You can embed it to your Facebook event page. This kind of video works because people are very passionate about their shows, and your passion while speaking about it can be very contagious.

If you want to try to get your play featured on the evening news, you need b-roll. B-roll is, essentially, footage of your show that you supply to TV news stations, in hopes that they will do a story on it. Because the quality of your footage needs to be high, this is not something you can just do yourself, unless you are a professional cameraman or director. You need to hire a professional.

The key to B-roll is to keep it short–I recommend under 3 minutes. Chances are, if you are lucky enough to actually get your footage on the air, only about 10-30 seconds will air. You may want to supplement your footage with short interview segments by directors or stars.

Here are some examples of how you can use video to promote your show:

Bard on the Beach
Stuff 2 Do
The Ash Girl
(this is a show I worked on last year–we shot a couple of video trailers for it)
If you are doing a lot of videos online, you can set up your own ‘channel’. Check out this example from the National Arts Centre.

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All about production photos January 21, 2009

This week, I am doing a series on getting great visual to accompany your marketing and PR for your show.

On Monday, I talked about the importance of getting a really great publicity shot, and how to do that. Today, we discuss the topic of Production photos. But I can hear you now:  “photo shoots are expensive, time consuming, and pain to coordinate. Can’t I get away with just one?”

Nope, sorry, not gonna do it. Here’s why:

1. You need production photos for your archives. You never know when you might need archive photos: for your website, grant applications, etc.

2. If you were lucky enough to get preview coverage, you must have different photos to accompany your review. Newspapers generally don’t like to run the same photos that they ran for previews, and they like to run photos that are from the show, with the actual set, costumes, lights, props and actors.

Usually, these shoots take place during the final dress rehearsal, so the photographer can flit around and take the pictures without disturbing the audience. Alternatively, some people schedule it for the break between two-show days. The earlier the better–if you have dailies reviewing your show, you’ll need them pretty quickly, so that’s why most people go with the final dress rehearsal option.

Here’s one last tip for you (thanks to Simon for this one): most of the indie companies I work for don’t have the ability to upload their photos to a website for the press to download, which is what the big companies do. Flickr doesn’t work, because it won’t let you upload the size of photos you need to for publication. Photo Bucket is an excellent alternative. Allows you to store your high-res photos, all you have to do is email the URL to the press.

Here are some examples:

This is the publicity photo for Metamorphoses (image Pink Monkey Studios):

This was one of the production photos:


This was the publicity image for Exit Commander Kitty:

And here is a production photo:

Bone in Her Teeth by Leaky Heaven Circus has some of the best photos I have ever seen:



And my all time favorite:

Tune in Friday for information about B-roll.

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The importance of a good publicity photo January 19, 2009

Filed under: Arts Marketing — Rebecca Coleman @ 7:32 am
Tags: , , , ,

If you are producing a play, you know you need them. Gone are the days of putting the word out about a photo call, and having a bunch of photographers and TV cameras show up to get a shot to accompany a story or review. Those guys just don’t have the resources–you have to bring it to them. And, you gotta be smart about it.

A good publicity photo is more than a necessity. A really interesting and arresting image can actually get you additional media coverage. I recently did publicity for TigerMilk Collective’s Exit Commander Kitty. I got them a preview in the Vancouver Province, but they got themselves on the cover of the entertainment section with this photo.

Kirsten Slenning as Kitty

Kirsten Slenning as Kitty

Here are some tips for getting a great picture.

1. Hire a pro. Having your BFF take a bunch of photos with their Cannon Sureshot is not going to cut it. Figure out how much money you have to spend, then put it out some photographers, and see what they can do for you. Try to hire someone that specializes in theatre photography, and look at their websites and past work. My favorite is Pink Monkey Studios. They did this fantastic image for Metamorphoses.

2. Go for a theme. Do not, under any circumstances, and I can’t emphasize this enough, take a publicity shot that is a scene from the play. Many theatre companies get caught up in “but the set’s not done yet, the costumes aren’t done yet, we can’t get the shot.” You don’t need the set, you don’t need the costumes, what you need is an idea. Think about your show, and try to boil it down to theme that is only a few words long. And then think about a visual image for your theme. Think ‘iconic.’ This image from Beirut is one of my all-time favorites.

3. Get a little variety. Newspapers will often ask for “portrait” (which means the longest part of the photo is vertical) or “landscape” (which means the longest part of the photo is horizonal). It depends upon what kind of space they have to fit the photo in, so make sure you have good shots in both formats.

4. But not too much variety. There was a time in the past when you needed to have B&W and Colour. Not any more. Just take colour shots. Do B&W if you want, for emphasis, or to fit with your theme, but these guys all have Photoshop and know how to use it.

5. Go big. The newspapers like photos that are as big as you can get them. So that means, a really high resolution, like 300dpi, and big (often they are 4-5MGs each). That way, they can do what they like with them–use them big, like on the cover of the entertainment section, or crop them down or shrink them to accompany a review.

6. Know your cutlines. Cutlines are the information about who is in the photo–the names of the actors, the characters they play, and it’s good to include the name of the photographer, although a lot of papers can’t print that.

7. Timing is everything. Lots of people like to use their publicity shot for posters, etc., so often they are done long before rehearsals even start. Even earlier if you are planning a season brochure. If you don’t have them done that early, I recommend you get them done as early as possible–no less than 2-3 weeks before you open so that you have images to go along with previews.

Publicity pictures are an incredibly important part of marketing your show, so do put lots of thought and care into them.

Look for information on Production Photo shoots and B-roll in future posts.

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Stubmatic–a new online ticketing option January 16, 2009

If you are independently producing theatre in Vancouver, your options for ticketing are limited.

For those starting out, I’ve often seen producers get a dedicated phone line with voicemail. The outbound message gives info about the show, and people can leave a message for a reservation. They depend upon family and friends to manage the box office at the door. This is certainly the cheapest option, but, unable to actually sell tickets online or over the phone, there is nothing to keep people from just not bothering to show up.

Next up, there is Tickets Tonight. Since Festival Box Office closed their doors a couple years back, Tickets Tonight is pretty much the only game in town (with the exception of Ticketmaster, which is where the big boys play). Tickets Tonight, although it may be the only game in town, is not a bad deal. Your show gets listed on their website, and people can visit their physical ticket booth, which is conveniently located inside Tourism Vancouver. They can accept credit cards, and all the math is done for you. As well, there is no fee to the producer–the fees are paid by the patron. The customer service charge ranges from $2.14 for a ticket under $10, up to $4.28 for a $40 ticket.

Enter the new kid on the block: Stubmatic. Developed by a software company headerlogo

in the UK, Stubmatic uses PayPal technology to sell tickets online. There is no customer service fee (although if you want to charge one, you can), and plans start at as little as $9/month for events that seat up to 250.

Jon Baker, the CEO of Vibrant Apps, who created Stubmatic, had this to say about it:

There are several benefits to small theatre producers using our service. Firstly, we offer them a massive cost saving over our competition. Even though some of our competition don’t charge any monthly fees they will add upwards of a 10% booking fees on top of the face value of each ticket sold. We only charge a flat monthly fee with no hidden costs. In addition we provide our users with the option to charge their own booking fee (per ticket or transaction). They can use this to cover the cost of our monthly fee as well as any PayPal fees they may incur, for example. The second benefit is that we are a small company and pride ourselves on being accessible and able to help our customers and we try to react quickly as possible to feature & support requests. Additionally we provide our users a range of tools to help market their event. These include “Buy Now” buttons that they can put on other websites to link to their box office and we also do behind the scenes search engine optimisation to improve their event page’s search engine ranking. If any of your users have a MySpace page we offer a MySpace application which can be installed. This displays / links to all events they are selling directly on their MySpace profile.

The only drawback of Stubmatic, that I can see, is that, because it’s PayPal, it charges in US dollars. Which, for some people, might be enough to keep them from using it. However, Stubmatic offers a free, no-strings-attached trial period. If you go to you can sell up to three events (maximum 500 tickets per event) for free.

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Ten seconds with David French January 14, 2009

Filed under: interview,Local Shows — Rebecca Coleman @ 2:15 am
Tags: , , , , ,

The summer I turned 13, my parents and I, and my older brother Stan, moved from the heart of Kitsilano, on the edge of UBC’s Endowment Lands, to Frenchman’s Cove, Newfoundland. Population: 200.

I spent my formative teenage years growing up the Maritimes, and I can’t even begin to tell  you what an impact it had on my adult life. I will say this: I know that my deep and abiding love of the arts was a seed planted in Newfoundland soil.

Because it is an island, it has withstood outside influences longer than other places in Canada, and the culture is more preserved there. There is a tradition of songs and storytelling that goes very deep.

I have two favorite plays by Newfoundland playwrights: the first is A Rope Against the Sun by Al Pittman, and the second is Salt Water Moon by David French.

I was, as you can imagine, quite thrilled when I got the job of doing publicity for an upcoming production of French’s 1949 at Capilano University. The play follows the Mercer family (we meet Jacob and Mary and their young love in Salt Water Moon) who have married, had children, and moved to Toronto. They struggle with feelings of belonging and displacement the eve of Newfoundland joining confederation.

We emailed Mr. French’s agent, and asked if we could ask him a few questions, and he said yes.david_french

TAoTB: Give your impressions on the state of Canadian playwriting?
DF: I’ve seen many excellent Canadian plays, and I’ve also seen plays that I wish I hadn’t seen. Theatre is a constant invalid, but sometimes he hops out of bed and runs around.

TAoTB: What’s next for David French?
DF: I’m working on two new plays and a novel.

TAoTB: Your plays about the Mercer family are produced all over the world. What is the appeal of a play about a family from a small Newfoundland outport that is so universal?
DF: It deals with our common humanity.

TAoTB: Do you sometimes miss Newfoundland? And long to move back?
DF: No. For years now, it’s existed in my imagination.

TAoTB: What is your favorite production of your work you’ve ever seen?
DF: That’s a tough question. Several are special to me, including the original production of Leaving Home at the Tarragon Theatre back in 1972, the production of Salt-Water Moon at the Saidye Bronfman Theatre in Montreal, and, during the last few years, the revival of those two plays at Soulpepper was outstanding.

For more information on David French, visit his website.

For more information on the upcoming production of 1949, please click here.

Special thanks to the director of 1949, Colin Legge, who supplied some of the questions.

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Inside the (UBC) Actor’s Studio with… Kim Cattrall January 12, 2009

Filed under: Attitude,interview,Success — Rebecca Coleman @ 3:43 am

Last week, I got a once-in-a-lifetime chance, and by golly, I took it!

Jerry Wasserman and Kim Cattrall (photo by Martin Dee)

Jerry Wasserman and Kim Cattrall (photo by Martin Dee)

Billed A Conversation with Kim Cattrall, this was, in actuality, an hour-long Inside the Actor’s Studio-like interview of Kim with Jerry Wasserman, head of the Theatre Department at UBC.

Jerry started out by welcoming the Courtenay-born, BC native back home, they talked a little about her home life, growing up on Vancovuer Island. She then talked about her professional training at both RADA and AMDA, and her brief career (and first professional Equity gig) in lunch theatre, here in Vancouver. She said it never occurred to her to not work here–she was from here, why would she want to leave?

Finding work was challenging, however, so her path eventually took her to Toronto. While working in theatre in Toronto, she was offered a seven-year contract at one of the big film studios. Feeling like she needed to learn more about film acting, she saw this opportunity as an apprenticeship (and thought it would get her back to New York, where she had a close circle of friends). Instead, the studio sent her to LA, but Jaimie Lee Curtis was there to show her the ropes.

And when it came to Sex and the City, she turned down the role of Samantha Jones several times. She said the part scared her. But then she remembered a conversation she had once had with Jack Lemmon, who said he always took roles that scared him–that meant there was learning in that role. She said they all knew that the show was going to be magic from the first read-through.

She spoke about her three books and the documentary she has made, all on the topic of sexuality. She regaled us with ‘backstage stories’ of plays she’s been in, and encouraged us to “take care of yourselves and eat good food.” She also encouraged the audience, primarily made up of students from the UBC Theatre and Film departments, to “listen to your gut.”

For me, there was one thing she said that I took away and prized above all others. An audience member asked her if she thought that there were starting to be better roles for women, and especially women ‘of a certain age’ out there. And she simply replied: “that’s why I started my own production company.”

Oh–and it looks good for a sequel to the Sex and the City movie.

You can listen to the entire conversation with Kim Cattrall and Jerry Wasserman here.

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On getting away from it all… January 9, 2009

Filed under: Attitude,Life — Rebecca Coleman @ 7:46 am

Hoo boy. You should have seen me in mid-December. I was a mess–making dumb mistakes, being forgetful, generally quite useless. I’m a little embarrassed to admit, it actually.

Truth was, I was suffering from burnout. The last three very busy months were taking their toll. All that work stress was compounded by the pressures of Christmas, and the inability, due to the worst winter Vancouver has seen in 30-some-odd years, to get around.
So I was understandably eager to get away from it all for a few days. My significant something-or-other and I rented a

The Wind in the Alders

The Wind in the Arbutus

cabin on Mayne Island for four days. My greatest aspirations for these days consisted of drinking wine and eating cheese.  You’ll be happy to know, I was successful. I also read, wrote, listened to music, re-watched old favorite movies, went for walks on the beach, fooled around with my camera, napped, cooked great food and ate it. I did bring my computer, and I had internet access, but I managed to keep my online activities to a minimum.
There were no schedules, no daytimer, no meetings. My time was my own, and it was so great.

A second goal I had for these days was to take some time to reflect on where I was going in the coming year. I’m not much for making resolutions, I never really have been, but I do like to set goals for myself, and Mayne was the perfect place for not working on them. I know, it sounds crazy, right? Make goals and plans by not working on them? Puzzling things through rarely works for me. I don’t make decisions lightly–I often do a lot of research–and then end up feeling overwhelmed by the results, too paralyzed to make a decision. The answers come when I stop looking for them.
I did get some answers during my quiet time, and that was great. But I also realized that I need to make a few lifestyle changes to keep myself from getting burnt out. Working like crazy, and then taking time off may not be the right soloution. Instead, I’m looking for ways to create that ‘just came back from four days on Mayne Island’ feeling. If I could bottle it, I’d be rich…

Do I look relaxed? Check out that background!

Do I look relaxed? Check out that background!

So, I’ll keep you updated on my progress, but in the mean time, I’d love to hear any suggestions from you. How do you keep the burnout at bay?

To see more of my Mayne photos, click here.

To find out more about Wind in the Arbutus, click here.

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