A guide to producing

So you want to be a producer! You are about to enter the wonderful world of theatre management, finances and spreadsheets, and being the person who makes stuff happen! This page is meant as a basic guide to the main steps of producing a show, with links to various other resources on the OUDS website and elsewhere. It is not meant as a universal how-to, because there are as many ways to be a producer as there are producers. You will find your own way of producing, but until that happens, we hope this guide is a good start.

Some of the information below is also covered in our guide to putting on your first show (here) so consider having a look at this page too!

This guide was compiled by the 2020/21 Treasurer. Any questions about this guide, producing or marketing can be addressed to the OUDS Treasurer or the rest of the OUDS committee.

 

Good luck!

1. Pre-Production

Finding a Director


One of the first steps to putting on a show is to find a director to work with. There are usually more directors than there are producers, so you shouldn’t have any problem finding a director to start a production company. A good starting point is posting on the OUDS Facebook Group and on the OUDS newsletter.

If you have any thoughts on what you want from a director, you should make this clear when you are looking for one. It is really important that you and your director get along well and that you are on the same page, both in terms of work ethics and creative vision on what sort of shows you’d like to put on.




Starting a Production Company


This is really easy! All you need is a director and a company name and you can register your company here. Having a registered company allows you to receive OUDS funding and bid for the three main student venues (Burton Taylor Studio, Pilch Studio, Keble O’Reilly Theatre), as well as use OUDS resources such as the Audition portal.

After this, you will need to open a bank account for your company. Remember that your company is not a real business, so if you try to open a business account, you might run into issues. You should open a Community account, Treasurer’s account or Clubs and Societies Account - these are named differently depending on the bank. Banks that have been used successfully by companies in the past are Santander, NatWest and Lloyds. Allow plenty of time to open your account, as processing times vary and they can take over a month. It is not appropriate to run the finances of a show through your personal account.




Choosing a Show


From a creative perspective, a producer can have as much or as little input as they want. You can work with your director to choose a show and develop the creative vision of your take on it, or you can take a step back and let the director do all of these things, if they are happy to have full control and responsibility over the creative side of things.

Aside from the creative considerations, the producer should consider the practical and financial sides of putting on a show. A show might require too big a budget to be feasible for a venue - for example, musicals will be difficult to make financially feasible in a small black box theatre, especially large musicals. Equally, a show with a very large budget such as a Playhouse musical will need to be commercially successful, so you should keep marketing in mind as you choose your show. There are lots of practical aspects to consider when deciding on a show and it’s helpful to consider these early!

All factors considered, a producer needs to be fully on board with the choice of show. This is because you will need to enthuse team members, potential funders, and eventually a target audience about the show, and also because producing is rewarding, it is also very hard work – you should enjoy the process and keep your eyes on the prize, and this is all much easier if you are passionate about the show you are creating!




Securing Performance Rights


Once you have chosen a show, you should obtain performance rights for it. As long as a show is still in copyright (this is most shows, but it does not include any Shakespeare or other old shows, or new writing), you will need to pay a royalty fee to protect the intellectual property of the authors. This is usually straight forward, with most musicals being licensed by MTI (Musical Theatre International) and most straight plays by Samuel French.

Sometimes the rights are held by individuals, not companies, in which case a good starting point would be contacting the publisher, then the playwright’s agent or the playwright. If you are performing a show that is a translation of the original, you will usually need to pay a royalty fee for the translation.

If you are producing a remote show or you are looking to live-stream your show, you need to pay close attention to the type of performance license you get. Simply getting a license to perform the show won’t include the right to stream it online. To complicate matters further, licensing companies sometimes make a distinction between live-streaming, streaming pre-recorded content, view on demand, and remote shows (those shows performed in different places and edited together, such as Zoom performances). These are technicalities and rightsholders will be happy to walk you through them, just ask if you’re in doubt!

Sometimes, rights for a show will simply not be available. A good rule of thumb is that if something is on the West End, it will not be available for licensing. Other shows have extra restrictions which make licensing more difficult (e.g. geographical restrictions, venue size restrictions). When choosing a show, it is a good idea to keep performance rights in mind and not to get too invested in a production until you know that the rights are available.




Building a team


The team you should build will depend on the requirements of the show itself, and the venue you are planning to bid for. At a minimum, aside from the director, you will almost certainly need a marketing manager, a number of designers, and a stage manager, depending on the technical requirements of the production. Large-scale productions might require contributions from a team of 50 or more, whereas smaller shows may only need 5 or 6 production team members.

For detailed descriptions of each technical or design role, you should consult the TAFF website.

To find a team, you should advertise for roles on the OUDS Facebook Group and Newsletter , as well as on the TAFF Mailing List.




Venue Bidding


To get a venue for your show, you will need to create a bid and a budget. These are usually done the term before the production, with the exception of the Oxford Playhouse, where bidding happens two terms in advance.

You can find general tips on writing a bid, a list of the most common venues in Oxford drama, and their bidding requirements here.

When you are bidding for a venue for the first time, it is a really good idea to have a look at previous successful bids for a venue (you can find some on the venue page linked above), to see the general scale and complexity that is expected from a show in a certain venue, and how much of this complexity should be reflected in the bid.

The producer is generally the person who coordinates the bid writing process, but the director is also sometimes in charge of this. You will need to organise and chair at least one production meeting (several may be needed for the bigger venues) where you and your team will discuss how the director’s vision translates into different departments. You will also need to create a budget (more on this below) and have a rough idea for the breakdown of costs for different departments.




Budgeting


The OUDS Budget Template

Several generations of OUDS Treasurers have worked on a budget template which meets the needs of most Oxford-based student shows, which you can find here: www.ouds.org/budget. This template comes with very comprehensive notes explaining how you can use the template and what it can do for you.

In a nutshell, this template allows you to enter your expected costs, expected revenue, see what the breakeven is and if it is feasible, enter different types of funding and see how they affect the show’s finances, enter your actual costs and revenue to see if you made a profit or loss, calculate your funding returns and calculate how much profit your company has left after a production. It also has a cash flow template and breakeven tracker, which you can make use of, if you wish. It is a fantastic resource to help with the budgeting needs of student producers and we encourage you to use it when bidding for venues and applying for funding.

How to budget

There are as many ways to budget as there are producers. Although this is arguably the most important part of a producer’s role within the team, it is difficult to find a universal budgeting recipe which will work in every occasion. The Supporting Budget Notes here have valuable budgeting tips, explained in the context of the budget template. We recommend you read these even if you do not use the template, as they are general budgeting tips that will apply in most occasions.

The method below has been tried and tested, but it remains general enough that we hope you will find it helpful as a starting point.

  1. When budgeting for a certain venue, you should have a look at previous budgets of shows put on at that venue. That should give you an idea of how much money producers usually spend on a show of that scale, as well as the usual income a show in a certain venue can generate. The example bids here contain budgets which you can consult. If you are in doubt over how big a budget your show should have, you can email the OUDS Treasurer.

  2. Budget for the fixed costs: these are costs without which a certain show categorically cannot happen (e.g. rights/royalty fee, venue fee, venue technician’s fee, scripts).

  3. Budget for design costs: in conversation with your designers and production manager, allocate a budget to each design department. Balancing these costs is a crucial part of the budgeting and design process, and you should do it in communication with your production manager (if applicable) and designers.

  4. Budget for marketing: now that you have an idea of the overall scale of your show, you should allocate about 10% of your total budget to marketing costs. A large-scale show will have high costs in general, which means you will need strong marketing and sales to make back those costs. Remember that marketing is the only department where putting more money in makes you highly likely to get that money back.

  5. Budget for other costs: printing, tape, fireproof spray, batteries, etc., are all small costs which add up and they should not be neglected.

  6. Contingency: we recommend setting 10% of your total budget as contingency for unexpected expenses.

  7. Add your venue’s capacity: consult the venue brochure or contact the venue committee to find this out

  8. Decide your target audiences and make an assumption on how your tickets will sell (e.g. most student shows will sell 85% student tickets and 15% full price tickets). You may wish to communicate with your marketing manager in deciding your target audience and sales expectations.

  9. Add/set ticket prices: sometimes, ticket prices are set by the venue (e.g. BT and Oxford Playhouse) or you may have full control over what prices you have (e.g. Pilch, O’Reilly). In the latter case, it is important to check what range of prices is common for a venue.

  10. Check your breakeven. If the breakeven is around 50% (= you need to sell 50% of your total capacity in order to cover your costs), you are good to go. If it is higher than 60%, you should go back and lower your costs, increase your ticket prices, or look into getting some grant funding (more on this in the Funding section below).




Writing a Producer's Statement


The producer's statement is an important part of any bid, but there is always some confusion around what exactly is supposed to go in one. Here are some ideas of what to include:

  • Why this show is an important one to stage now
  • Why you want to produce this show
  • Why you chose this venue
  • Why the show will do well financially (this can include a marketing summary, a discussion on breakeven, comparison to previous shows, budget figures and how you will stay within budget)
  • Your funding plan
  • A summary of the show's design or technical complexity
  • How you are going to run the team efficiently
  • Details on your outreach plan
Naturally, not all of these will apply to your show! You can find lots of examples of producer's statements in the examples bids on this page. When turning your venue bid into a funding bid (details on funding bids can be found here), you might wish to emphasise the financial and funding aspects more.





2. Production

Funding


Types of funding:

  1. Pro rata loans = funding which needs to be repaid after your production is over. The amount you return is equal to the amount you were given, plus a percentage of your profit, or minus a percentage of your loss (click here for a more detailed explanation)
  2. Grants = funding which does not need to be paid back (the main source of grant funding in Oxford drama is the Cameron Mackintosh Drama Fund)

For a glossary of other terms we use when talking about funding, please click here.

Reasons you might need to secure funding for a show:

  1. To cover your operating costs (all the costs you incur before you start getting revenue from tickets). Both loans and grants help with this.
  2. To lower your breakeven: securing grants, as funding you do not need to return, lowers your breakeven percentage, making you more likely to make profit
  3. To have some guarantee against loss and lower your financial risk: because most loan funding in Oxford is pro rata, if your show makes a loss, the funding body covers some of that loss at the end of the production. This should not be your main reason to apply for funding, because if a show is financially unfeasible, it will be very difficult to secure pro rata funding for it (since funding bodies will be looking at how likely they are to get a return for their investment).

In terms of applying for funding, information on how to put together a funding bid and what to expect in an interview can be found here. You can apply for funding from OUDS and/or from other funding bodies.

Colleges increasingly provide small grants to support student theatre. However, it is almost always necessary to have a member of the college (JCR or MCR) working on your production as these are frequently obtained by JCR/MCR motions. Occasionally, there are JCR arts funds specifically designed for funding theatre and film projects. The best way of finding out about these is by having a member of the college seek advice from their JCR or MCR committee, or by getting in touch with one of the OUDS College Reps.

It is solely the producer’s responsibility to determine how much funding a production requires and apply for that funding, although you should ask the team for help in putting together the funding bid and attending the interview. When determining how much funding to apply for, consider both the show’s requirements (e.g. you should cover all or most of your operating costs and have a breakeven around 50%) and your long-term plans. If you were to cover 100% of your budget with pro rata loans, your financial risk is reduced to 0, but that also means that if you make a profit, all that profit goes to your funders and none of it remains in the production company for future shows. If you plan to tackle a bigger venue after this production, it makes sense to fund less of the budget and keep some of the eventual profits, acknowledging that this also means that your financial risk increases. You can also aim for a mix of pro rata funding and grant funding and cover all your costs that way, while keeping some profit for future production.

Finally, remember that both OUDS and other funding bodies exist to support student productions, so there is no need to be intimidated by the funding application process. Ask for help if you need it, and remember that the questions that the funding committee ask you in the interview are meant to help improve your show and your likelihood of making a profit.




Production meetings & Team communication


You should have had one or two production meetings before your venue bid interview, but once your venue is confirmed you can start to build up momentum and shift into the 'post-bid' mindset. Discussions within the production meeting, ranging from marketing to technical departments, should now start to focus on what is necessary to make the show a success. Regular design meetings should also be held between the director and members of the visual design team (set, lighting, costume, props), and between the director and other technical departments (such as sound), with minutes being circulated and reported on during production meetings, so that everyone is aware what's going on at the key stages in each design.

Communication within the team is usually the responsibility of the producer, although the director also helps, and in some shows, they take charge of this side of things. Regardless of who is in charge, communication tends to be the most important factor in the success of a production, just as lack of communication is the most common culprit for productions that fall through. You may choose to have regular meetings with the entire team, or break it down by department and only summon the whole team every once in a while. There is no set rule for how many meetings are needed for a production to be successful. Indeed, some shows will need a handful, whereas other shows may need tens of meetings. Scheduling many meetings is acceptable if they are needed, as long as you are respectful of your crew’s time (e.g. making a marketing manager sit through an entire production meeting if only the last 15 minutes are related to their department should not be compulsory).

Comprehensive production schedules for each department should be compiled early on in the post-bid stage. Some producers and production managers choose to follow these religiously, to make sure everything happens on time, whereas others will use it more as a guide​ as to in what order things need to happen. Whichever approach you take, make sure that you only leave tasks until the days before show week that absolutely have to happen then. Props and set materials should be sourced at the earliest opportunity, as should physical marketing materials, to make sure they are there when needed.

After getting your funding, depending on feedback you may have received from funders or your venue, you may wish to make changes to your original production plan, or you may decide to make such changes based on ideas you have had since the original bid was created. This is a very normal occurrence, and very few shows make it from bid to stage entirely unchanged. In fact, the more successful shows are often those which work with good ideas that have come up post-bid, rather than choosing to set them aside.

Remember, however, that any meaningful changes to your budget, especially those which change the breakeven percentage, will need to be agreed with your funders before they can occur. Usually, changing a budget that was signed upon is not a problem, but it is an important producer responsibility to liaise with the funders when changes to budgets must be made.




Welfare


Student theatre is a wonderful opportunity to escape day-to-day academic work and even use a stepping stone to a career in theatre. However, it can get stressful, and it is really important that the welfare of everyone involved in a production is kept in mind at all times.

Please consult the OUDS Welfare page for general welfare guidelines. You should have a welfare contact within the team, which both cast and crew can contact if they have any concerns, and circulate the details of the OUDS Welfare Officer (ouds.welfare@gmail.com) and TAFF Welfare Officer (welfare@tabsareforflying.co.uk).

Producers should keep welfare in mind at all times. As the person in charge of a production, you must balance your instinct to work hard and expect a high standard of work from your team (especially on larger-scale shows) with the fact that your team is made up of students with difficult degrees and limited free time. This is not an easy balance to achieve, but talking to your team and having a well-organised production reduces stress all around.

Finally, do not neglect your own welfare! Producing is hard work and it can often feel thankless, so don’t hesitate to get in touch with your team welfare officer or any of the welfare contacts above if you are struggling.




Rehearsals


Rehearsals are run by the director, so producers do not have a lot of work to do here usually, especially if the producer chooses not to have much creative input in the production from the start. However, regardless of the level of creative input, it is helpful to attend some rehearsals to keep an eye and ear on the ground and spot problems before they happen. Some aspects of rehearsals can have a lot to do with the production/technical side too (e.g. costume fittings, rehearsals with props or some set), where it is especially relevant for the producer to be present. Another benefit of being in touch with your actors is that it might make them more likely to help you secure college funding and help with the marketing.

Make sure you talk to your director about how many rehearsals you should attend, and read the room, as both directors and actors may feel a little uneasy if the producer is in the room for no apparent reason (consider bringing snacks!)




Marketing


A producer is the legal owner of a production, and usually the only person that is financially invested in the show*. A producer’s main job is to make the show a financial success, so it goes without saying that they should keep a close eye on marketing and ticket sales (more on ticket sales below).

*along with their funders, whom they need to convince that the show will be a financial success first

Marketing and commercial feasibility should be in your mind from the start of a production. For larger scale shows, the show itself should be chosen based on how likely it is to cover its costs, but this is less important for smaller shows. While the producer has less input into day-by-day marketing (unless they choose to have more), they should be involved in deciding the overall marketing strategy, selling points of the production and target audiences. For example, a classic musical has the potential to appeal to the general population of Oxford, not just students, so some of the marketing should be aimed at attracting the general population (if this is spotted in an early stage, you may be able to have a larger budget, as the general population pays more expensive tickets and lowers your breakeven). As another example, a Greek play has plenty of school outreach potential, so getting in touch with schools from an early stage, holding workshops and perhaps giving group discounts will boost your marketing to an audience group that is not often reached by student theatre (note: inviting schools is an important part of Oxford Playhouse shows, as they make up most of the audience of the Thursday matinee performance).

An important part of the marketing campaign of shows of any scales is the involvement of the cast and crew into marketing. BT and Pilch shows can break even or even sell out if everyone in the cast and crew brings a few friends to see the show. O’Reilly shows are more difficult in that perspective, but marketing through word of mouth and inviting friends and family is still really important – usually this happens naturally if your team and cast are excited about being in the show, but sometimes it may take some convincing (especially with crew). With O’Reilly shows, start thinking about allocating budgets for outreach, paid adverts, increasing print marketing provision and events.

Finally, Oxford Playhouse shows need extremely strong marketing campaigns, with an emphasis on reaching the general population (which makes up roughly 50% of your audience), both in Oxford and the rest of the county. Playhouse shows are generally difficult to break even, so choosing a show that will be commercially successful is important.

A side note on marketing: funding contracts may require you to include funding logos on your advertising materials, so make sure you relay that information to the marketing team.




Ticket sales


Platform

In some theatres (e.g. the Burton Taylor Studio and Oxford Playhouse), ticketing is done through their website and you do not need to worry about choosing a platform. In other theatres (e.g. Pilch, O’Reilly), it is your choice how you sell tickets

.

There are many platforms available for ticket-selling you can use. The most common ones are Fixr, TicketSource and Eventbride. On all of these platforms, you can choose to turn the booking fee commission onto the audience (this will usually be around 50p, up to £1) or pay for it yourself. However, if you choose to cover this fee, it must be added to your budget. Ticketing platforms such as Tickets Oxford will also allow you a marketing boost (especially with the general Oxford population), but the box office commission is payable by the production company.

The majority of ticketing platforms will only pay the ticket sales into your account after the show is over. If you are running a show with very high operating costs which you can’t cover from funding, it is helpful to receive the ticket revenue on a rolling basis before the show. This is not straightforward to achieve. If you use a ticketing platform that incorporates sales via PayPal or Stripe (e.g. TicketSource and TicketTailor both allow this, as of March 2021), you will receive the funds on a rolling basis, but you need to be careful as this makes booking fees more difficult. Paypal/Stripe will charge a fee independently from the ticketing website, and you might not be able to turn this onto the audience; be careful that this extra booking fee will depend on how much money is spent, not how many tickets are bought, so it may be difficult to predict what the booking commission will be. In summary, receiving the revenue on a rolling basis is possible, but difficult, and it is not recommended that you rely on this being possible (it is much easier and reliable to secure enough funding to cover operating costs).

Monitoring ticket sales

Once you’ve started selling tickets, check back in often to see how they’re going and how close you’re getting to your breakeven (there is a breakeven tracker in the OUDS Budget Template you can use for this, if you wish). A good tip is to check your sales often and see how they correlate with marketing events or content releases, which is useful to see how effective the marketing is.




Complimentary tickets


Known as ‘comps’, these are free tickets offered in a production. They usually go to:

  • Press, for example reviewers
  • Your company: the standard is one comp per company member, but bear in mind that some crew may need to see the show on multiple nights (e.g. directors, choreographer, some designers). It is at the discretion of the producer if more comps are to be offered to the company
  • Funders: it is a requirement of many funding contracts that comps can be requested by members of a funding body
  • Venue staff: sometimes offering complimentary tickets to venue staff (especially at the Oxford Playhouse) is well received or even expected

If monitoring ticket sales reveals that a show has the potential to sell out, it is important to reserve comps well in advance, so you don’t sell more tickets than you have available (remember venue fire safety capacity!).




Show week


Producer jobs during the show week are quite varied. At this point, you have done all the preparation you could’ve done for a show, and it is mostly over to your run crew to make it happen. Your jobs could now include (note that these, like most other things in this guide, depend on venue):

  • Front of House management, including comps management
  • Front of House materials, including the show programme
  • Continue to monitor sales
  • Schedule call times
  • Manage the get in and get out (in the absence of a PM)
  • Manage the tech rehearsal (in the absence of a PM or DSM)
  • Snack-bringer in chief
  • Odd jobs: get in hands are always helpful, so fetching bits of set, costume, looking after props, filling gaps on run crew may or may not be needed




Insurance


Any show should have a Public Liability Insurance to cover you, your team and your audience if an accident happens. Currently, student shows are not insured by the University, so you should budget for and obtain a private insurance. This is usually cheaper than people expect - around £90 for any venue, assuming you have a standard show without riskier elements (things like stage fighting and pyrotechnics will drive up that cost!). PLI should be purchased a few weeks after show week.





3. Post-production

Settlement


Congratulations! You put on a great show and you should be very proud of what you achieved. However, your job is not over yet. As producer, there are legal and financial loose ends which you need to tie up. Depending on the show, this can take anything from a week to several months.

A ‘settlement’ is a loose term which refers to your final financial situation with a venue. It can be a document (essentially an invoice), but it can also refer to the process which leads to this invoice being produced.

As with many things, this depends on venue:

  • OP: reaching settlement is a complex process involving your final sales figures, settling on staffing fees, reimbursement of deposits as appropriate, any fines which might apply and hires or other costs that were processed through the venue. Get in touch with the OUDS Treasurer or University Drama officer if you would like to see a previous show settlement or if you need help with this process.
  • BT Studio: you will be given a settlement document showing your sales figures (how many tickets you sold and what the revenue is), from which the studio manager deducted your hire fee. Your deposit will also be returned at this stage.
  • Pilch, O’Reilly: the formal settlement is simply the reimbursement of your deposit.




Invoices & Reimbursements


It is a requirement of any funding contract to collect all invoices or proofs of payment from all costs incurred in a production. It is helpful to collect these as they are incurred, where possible.

You should cross-examine these with your budget breakdowns to check that everything matches. Unexpected costs are normal, but you should not find out about overspending when you see the invoices for it. If overspending is deemed necessary by a crew member, they should discuss it with the producer or (if applicable) production manager before they make the payment. Clear communication about expectations on this front should take place from the beginning of the production period.

You should then reimburse your crew for their expenses on a show as soon as you are able (or, ideally, before they even incur an expense), but you can reserve the right not to reimburse anything that is not accompanies by a proof of payment, just as a funder reserves to right to not recognise anything without an invoice as part of a budget.




Final payments & Funding returns


You may have final payments which depend on your ticket income (e.g. royalty fee can sometimes be a % of box office sales). The final steps are to pay all of these and close the accounts for a production, which just means obtain a final figure for profit or loss. Along with this final figure, you should now have a complete cash flow and an invoice inventory.

This final figure should be quoted to the funders when returning the funding, as it determines how much you need to pay them back. You should also attach your final accounts with actual expenditures by department, and make your invoices available upon request. Unless you have a very good reason otherwise, the closing accounts returned to different funders should be the same (e.g. you should not report a different amount of profit or loss to different funders).




Next steps


If you have just made a profit, you can use these funds as a grant for a future student production. If you made a loss, you should try to cover that. Try applying for JCR and CMDF funding, or maybe taking donations. If you are still not able to cover your loss, contact CMDF or OUDS for further assistance – don’t worry though, student producers should never make a personal financial loss from a student show, so the loss will end up being covered somehow.

When both you and the director with whom you founded your production company graduate, the OUDS Treasurer will contact you to find out what you plan to do with the remaining funds. As stipulated in the terms and conditions for company registration, you cannot keep the funds personally or use them for a non-student production. You can donate the funds to:

  • Anything within Oxford drama: you can donate your company profits to any society or group within the wide ecosystem of Oxford student theatre. This includes OUDS, TAFF, ODA, any college drama group or funding body, other drama societies (e.g. OxBAME, DisDram), or another production company registered with OUDS. If you choose to donate to OUDS, you could ask for the funds to be used for the Fringe Fund, which is a small fund awarded to help individual students travel to the Fringe Festival.
  • A charity: you may donate up to 50% of your remaining company profit to a charity of your choice. A larger donation would be possible if a company has a long-standing relationship to a charity (such as collaborating with them on a show), but this must be discussed with OUDS.





Bonus: Producing during the Pandemic

It goes without saying that the ongoing (as of March 2021) pandemic has changed many things about theatre, including the role of producer.

The main thing that changed is how unpredictable theatre is right now. Despite all possible mitigations, a show may get cancelled on the day of its opening (see: Six press night on Broadway) by evolving government guidance and there is nothing that can be done about that. A paradox thus developed: producers need to be as flexible as possible, whilst planning for as many scenarios and contingencies as practical. The pandemic has forced us to do significantly more planning, whilst teaching us that keeping open and flexible is the only way to create theatre in these times.

On a more practical level, the changes are:

  • Safety. The producer of a show, or an appointed Covid Officer (if not the producer, this is usually the Production Manager or Assistant Producer) must oversee all efforts to keep the cast, crew and audience safe during the full production period. This involves a plethora of changes, risk assessments, contact tracing, understudies and contingencies. Guidance for safe operation during the pandemic can be found here: www.ouds.org/covid-19. Start the process of assessing Covid as early as possible and keep revising your strategy as the production (and indeed, Covid guidance) evolves.

  • Budgeting. Theatre was a risky business before, but now it just got a whole lot worse. With shows being cancelled at very short notice, and reduced capacities when they do go ahead, budgets should be kept low to minimise risk. Detailed budgeting guidance can be found at the bottom of the Covid page. Remember that if you do lose money because of a Covid-cancelled show, support is available via the CMDF.

  • Producer duties. Interestingly, with so many shows going entirely online with little or no budget and small teams, the role of producer started becoming a bit blurry. Student producers have found themselves leading the marketing instead, or helping with the editing of a show, as there is little need for lots of coordination or funding. Don’t be alarmed if you find yourself part of a radio play and not quite sure why you don’t have much to do – just help wherever needed and remember that it’s okay not to have to spend your every waking hour working on a student show.

  • Welfare. Everything previously stated about welfare (see Welfare subsection above) still stands, and becomes more important with the added stress of being in a pandemic and trying to keep safe, whilst also engaging in an extracurricular activity. The OUDS Covid page also contains some welfare guidance for pandemic theatre, which we’d encourage you to look at.

This is it, in a nutshell. Easy, right? Jokes aside, some producers choose to just wait out the storm and come back when everything is less risky. Others put on risk-free, online shows. Others are ambitious, careful and go full out trying to stage socially distanced shows. Whichever producer you are, we wish you best of luck, take care, and thank you for keeping theatre alive!

 

All content © The Oxford University Dramatic Society 2021 unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved.

 

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