You sign on for one thing, and by the end, it's turned into a whole different beast. Whether you're starting a new role or managing a production, you might be on the verge of what we refer to as Scope Creep.
Many theaters, particularly LORT theatres, produce a lot of new works (some even exclusively).
For a Production Manager, there are some major differences in the planning and managing of new works vs. pre-existing shows that we don’t always fully appreciate. Failing to take these differences into account can have some pretty dire ramifications once you’re in the middle of rehearsal and tech. Let’s look at a few key things to keep in mind.
It takes a village to run a Performing Arts Center. Anyone who’s spent time working within the walls of one knows that technicians, ushers, box office, students, maintenance crew, and other part-time staff are a major part of the success of our venue. They’re responsible for executing the day-to-day tasks that keep our world running smoothly.
Unlike full-time employees, your part-time employees have variable schedules which change constantly and availability isn’t always a given. It falls to us to track and manage the schedules, conflicts, and availability of a large roster of folks. This is time-consuming and adds a huge amount of complexity to our jobs.
Whenever I see something that takes up large chunks of our brainspace or our day, I flag it as a potential opportunity for big improvement. It’s in these areas of our workflow where even a small tweak can mean huge gains in efficiency.
So… how can we make the process of scheduling and communicating with your staff easier? I’m so glad you asked!
Managing the daily life of a Performing Arts Center is hard for many reasons. One major complicator is the fact that we constantly work with people and organizations from outside the walls of our building. Artists, rental clients, external vendors, part-time staff, and designers all have their own systems of working. We have little to no time together before we hit the ground running. It’s easy to overlook the added complexity this brings to everyone involved. Let’s take a moment to reflect on these ramifications and figure out what we can do to ease the frustration.
Performing Arts Centers hold a place of strong cultural connection and value in the communities that surround them - be it cities, universities or private institutions. They are also notoriously difficult to manage with multiple events, shows, and gatherings being planned and executed simultaneously. One of the biggest challenges we face as managers is scheduling the seemingly endless (yet somehow always limited) number of venues and spaces in our facility. Here are several variables at play that must be considered when scheduling.
Last month we spoke with a number of major theater companies across the country about their challenges in planning an entire season. No one really seems to like the process. It’s stressful, unwieldy, and fraught with miscommunication. Everyone is trying to represent their specific departments and needs, which leads to an inevitable collision of interests. If everything is important, how do you prioritize?
We all know that it’s smart to continually examine and improve our process. After all, there’s always room for more growth, increased efficiency, and better use of resources - especially in the Arts where budgets are tight to begin with. We know that doing these things can lead to reduced costs and fewer hours worked.
So why don’t we do it more? Or if we do try, why do we often give up before meaningful change has occurred?
Because it is really intimidating to get started. It feels like it takes more time than we have (because let’s face it we already pull magic out of thin air every day). But the reality is we often emotionally sabotage ourselves in this process before we even begin.
At the end of October, I attended LDI Conference in Las Vegas. I usually attend as a Production Manager with the intent of scoping out new gear and tech toys. This year, I also had the honor of being invited to join Mark Randel as a presenter in his 2-day class “Production Management 101”.
Mark’s goal for the class was to examine the critical components of the role of Production Management when managing events. We had an incredible audience full of experienced production managers and venue managers. With that much knowledge kicking around the room, what started as a “back-to-basics” presentation turned into a massive roundtable.
I had trouble keeping up with all of the amazing ideas floated over the two day intensive. But I managed to grab some of the most important ones and I’m excited to share 5 of them that will really boost your production management skills.
Being a production manager is tough. No matter the circumstances of a project, you are constantly juggling the demands of multiple stakeholders - the crew, the client, your suppliers and many others! - while trying to keep everything on task and moving forward.
A few weeks ago, I was thrilled to share some of my tried and true event management tips with the good folks at Vectorworks. As I finished writing that article, I realized I had so much more to share on the subject! So this post, in a way, is my Part 2. Here are 7 tips to help you successfully tackle your next gig.