In Real Life – Be (S).M.A.R.T.

Ok, well, I am not an authority on this, but I have three (painful) years of experience in an administrative role which has helped me a lot in fathoming what my tasks may be for the realisation of this little enterprise of mine.

Whether you are going to operate at a loss – such as we are, knowingly, possibly until the fourth year if not including that – or making the big bucks, you can’t walk in the dark until the light of bankruptcy / your first Jacuzzi finds you.

I am going to go with the flow in describing what I have done so far; because, ironically, although this blog serves all of you to understand that it can be done

young-frankenstein

… it is also fair I should admit that I am new myself to the world of theatre production and I am generally unorganised, messy and prone to panic.

At the beginning there was a starting capital. Well, at the beginning there was a dream. And then a starting capital, and the dream began converting into the blurry shadow of a possible reality.

I had two choices: spend the entire capital in this little dream of mine and call it a night. Or, make it all a bit more difficult for myself, by investing much more energy and emotional resources and make a four year plan. By deciding this, I was not only giving my nervous system a chance to blow up entirely, but also giving myself a chance of becoming who I wanted to be.

The third step was therefore to clearly understand:

  1. What my objective was
  2. To what deadline

Objectives, deadlines, are all things that anchor you to the ground and help you immensely in understanding what your next steps are going to be. For example, if you are a writer and your objective is to become famous – nothing wrong with that – you will write something entirely different (if you have a bit of salt) to what you would write if you were only interested in, say, change the world and educate it (this is my guess only, but I am pretty sure Fifty Shades of Grey sold more copies than Plato’s Symposium).

What I owe to my administration job in a big corporation is the understanding of the concept of SMART objectives. SMART objectives are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

Thanks to this knowledge I was therefore able to identify that my objective was, specifically, of starting my own theatre company; the success of which would have been measured on the production of a total of 4 plays – which, at least to me, seems attainable. I was not going to invest part of the capital in the production of purple choco-pops, my only aim was to do theatre and do it with a set of rules (only one comes to my mind right now and I will discuss it later); I think this made my objective relevant. The target, measured at 4 plays, was time-bound to 4 years.

Deciding that my objective was to start my own theatre company and make tons of money and win an Olivier would have been specific, but unobtainable (also, not time-bound unless I was completely out of my mind and decided to win an Olivier within 5 years). Although I have to remind myself of that constantly, I have accepted the fact that said capital is gone. The company will not operate at a profit; of the money invested in every production, the comeback – although I will be the sole recipient of box office splits as the major (and only!) investor – will probably never but approximate a quarter of the investment.

Admitting that this is legal – I am not sure it is, but so far I have not had time for real admin and I will do that in Quarter 4 of this year (see? Another objective that is specific, and time-bound. Just how cool is that.) – it is still something I have decided upon and that seems purely realistic to me. With this thought in mind I do not obsess over ticket sales (useless to do, since I am a nobody producing nobodies in non-famous venues) and my priorities remain straight.

Specificity and Relevance are concepts that easily collide. I am now going to talk about the first quality (trying to follow some sort of order, here), but you will see how the two points are intertwined (unless we were here producing peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, a specific however not very relevant objective to the cause).

Specifically, I did not want to create “yet another theatre company”. What for? And, would have it been enough to create a theatre company that “only produces work of quality”? I shall hope that is the objective of almost anybody.

The specific objective  of the Lettuce Dream theatre company is to break with the current, negative culture of unpaid work in the world of the arts. We will never, ever, operate on the basis of profit share.

All cast and crew members, even writers attached to the project, will be paid. The ultimate objective is to reach as soon as possible equity level; while, so far, although I am paying my cast and crew attached to Our Baby, we are about 50% short of that goal.

With this in mind, my budget revolves around my cast and crew’s salary first of all. An action this week was, for example, following a retraction from the theatre we have almost decided upon – from a two weeks run down to a one week run – to consequently adjust their salary (which consists of unpaid rehearsals, but paid performances).

Because the number of performances halved, although this negatively influenced the possibilities of revenue, their salary per performance doubled.

This choice is disputable. My stomach clenches even when I think about it. Why would the Lettuce Dream double their expense upon halving of their revenue expectation?

Because the objective of Lettuce Dream is not to make revenue. Nor to last forever, for what matters. The specific objective of Lettuce Dream – together with not going over the allocated budget per show – is to pay all cast and crew a decent amount of money. And how do we measure decency? By approximating as much as we can to Equity rates.

 

I have to specify that this is NOT how you would generally run a business.  By this I mean doubling your expenses in vision of halving of your revenue. I mean, if you can avoid it, then do so.

But this is how I learnt my first mistake. My first mistake was to schedule a two weeks run of a performance for which I would have not been able to pay my cast and crew more than lunch money. I am happy circumstances brought me to rectify this mistake, by re-adjusting payment rates of cast and crew to a less ridiculous amount.

 

I will do more S.M.A.R.T. blah blah next week; meanwhile, Wikipedia can always enlighten you further on this very important criteria which will, I promise, take you far.

 

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