Last year I was asked to write an article for the 2014-15 publication of the Theatre Careers Handbook.
This article has been written for SJP by freelance digital projects manager and collaboration coordinator at PCMprojects, Caron Lyon. Caron has created professional social networks for Arts Council England, the Federation of Entertainment Unions and Audiences Europe. http://www.pcmcreative.com/social-media-consultation.html
In 1994 I graduated as a Stage Manager from Bretton Hall gaining a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Theatre Crafts. A year later the course had been renamed to Theatre, Design & Technology. The course hadn't changed but the predominance of specialisms (lighting design, sound engineering) and the emergence of technology (computerisation, projection and automation) was to irrevocably change the skill set and necessary knowledge foundation demanded of production and technical teams with in the entertainment industry. Twenty Years later its 2014 and it’s the Stage Managers turn to advance and profit for the shifting change.
As a Stagemanager I worked throughout the UK in Sub Rep (Leicester, Sheffield & Chichester), Toured to No1 touring houses, arts centres, village halls and outdoor venues nationwide, spent a season at Butlins and several years in London Fringe performance spaces gaining experience as Stagemanager, DSM, ASM and production assistant. I operated lights, sound, called cues, acquired props, paged doors, assisted with costume changes and relit shows.
Analog has given way to digital. Bluetooth, Wireless, Wifi and Mobile are not only common place but getting 'smart'. Production's can be operated after being intricately programmed and increasingly automated to such an extent that manual involvement is the pressing of a button. Design, Creation and Operation are distinct roles. Human decision making, timing, planning, judgement are still the realm of stage management and the digital shift has taken place around them.
In 2002 I found myself needing to move sound effects to MiniDisc from a computer after downloading from the Internet. This began my journey, 'phono to USB' that was to lead me to discover Social Media, in awe of how pre production and rehearsal communication was going to benefit, how staying connected after a contract ended would become a firm reality. I could see props resourcing and production promotion changing forever.
Producing paper props was my first encounter with IT using photoshop and paint packages in the late 90’s. I had been using an electronic typewriter and photocopier to write up and distribute rehearsal notes and company calls. The notice board and the pigeon hole post was ‘the’ most effective and accepted method of communication.
It wasn't Facebook and Twitter that excited me but Email then Dropbox, Evernote and Bambuser. The ability to share notes with out printing, being able to make changed with out re-printing, recording live and have a live reactive audience. I didn't get my first email address until 1996 social was along way off. Facebook and Twitter weren't in my tool set until 2007. I hadn’t sent my first instant message until 2006.
Pilot Theatre, Second Life and Live-streaming
After several years re-training as a web designer in order pursue a creative career and to make it possible for me to live at home. My heart always lay with theatre and performance, the internet opened up a new world of resources. For a short time I worked on an R&D project with Pilot Theatre as their Virtual Stagemanager in Second-Life exploring the capabilities of virtual exhibition space and a pre-production audience engagement arena. Facebook emerged on the scene as an audience engagement location. Not many of my colleges had even heard of Facebook. I was plunged in to Twitter after being presented with this online tool as a team communication tool, it was the digital water cooler for chatter, links, notes, messages and questions. I discovered a community of digital pioneers at ease with this new teamed up social interaction making me feel at the time I had missing the party invite and was playing catch up.
I now realise its like that for everyone when social media makes it on to their radar. Social Media has exploded in to society's consciousness and has quickly produces a generation with no memory of a world before the web and even more recent a generation with no memory of a world before Facebook. That has happened not in my lifetime (I’m 40) but in 20yrs, that's just half of my life time. How long before there is no generation with a living memory of a world without the internet?
2014 is set to be dominated by 'the Internet of Things', affordable 3D printing is on the verge of becoming the next big phenomenon yet for many in the theatre industry the age of social media is still a baffling trend many hope will disappear as a fashion fade.
The influence of Social Media on stage production is its use to communicate, inform, record and document. In pre and post production social media platforms, tools and services excel. Theatre is a collaborative process. Theatre people especially the production creatives including StageManagers are inherently good at 'social'. Communication is a key talent. The pre Facebook generation are at ease with the tools they need to do their job, up skilling and adapting with necessity.
QUOTE - Peter Hall
"Perhaps, therefore, ideal stage managers not only need to be calm and meticulous professionals who know their craft, but masochists who feel pride in rising above impossible odds."
Paper and Show Time
As the Peter Hall quote eludes Stagemanagers need to be calm and meticulous professionals. This also means in this connected digital world being confident that the infrastructure is reliably operational. A clipboard and paper will never run out off power. Multiple copies can be cheaply reproduced and positioned at locations of choice. Only transfer to powered devises with the certainly you will always have access and enough battery remaining.
Quote - Marcus Romer
"Don’t add technology to the way you do things, Change the way you do things when you know what the technology can do"
Going Social - Media, Networking and associated Technology
Many production areas and career professionals in theatre can benefit from the application of the many social strands available online.
Here are the 7 I work to develop with organisations and industry professionals. It is vital to acknowledge the bigger picture.
- Industry Connections and Job Seeking
- Company Management & Coordination
- Staying informed
- Career Development
- Promotions and Funding
- Measuring relevance and influence
- Production Collaboration
The greatest hurdle to adopting digital working is the access to compatible technology, reliable internet connectivity and an accepted set of platforms with best practice procedures to gain access in place. Stagemanager, Company or Production Manager can be at the heart of this digital nexus adopting a digital toolkit, embedding process, documenting and determining accepted best practice and taking the the collaborative lead.
Social Media mastery is a career skill asset.
TOP 10 platforms, tools and services essentials for your 2014 toolkit
Photos, Audio, Video, Text shared via links posted to media specific platforms
Instagram is a fun and quirky way to share your life and work with digital platforms through a series of pictures. Snap a photo with your mobile phone, then choose a filter to transform the image, tag it and post it. The team at Instagram imagine a world more connected through photos.
Audioboo is a tool for audio producers to record, upload and share audio. The Audioboo team believe in the power of the spoken word to inspire, inform and connect people across the globe.
A ‘boo' is made up of any clip of audio, a picture, a location, a title and a description. Broadcasters, Newspapers, Sports networks, Podcasters, Educators and Community Organisations all use ‘boos' to increase audience reach. They can easily share audio on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms, embed playlists onto their sites as listen again players. Audioboo also have a highly active and engaged visually impaired community for whom the platform functions as a social network.
Bambuser is a simple-to-use live video streaming service that allows users to quickly and easily capture, share and watch live video broadcast from mobile phones or computers. Bambuser also enables instant sharing to the world's favorite social networks including Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and many more
Establishing, maintaining and developing opportunities via online platforms
Facebook's mission is to give people the power to share and make the world more open & connected.
LinkedIn is the world's largest professional network with 225 million members in over 200 countries and territories around the globe. Their mission is simple: connect the world's professionals to make them more productive and successful. When you join LinkedIn, you get access to people, jobs, news, updates, and insights that help you be great at what you do.
Twitter helps you create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers.
Forums and Industry site members areas are also an excellent source of networking for sharing best practice, advise and job vacancies.
Tools and Applications available providing connectivity for the whole company to a central data resource enabling real time notifications and updating of common documents. (production schedules, rehearsal notes, setting lists, cue sheets, research, company calls etc)
Dropbox is a free service that lets you bring your photos, docs, and videos from anywhere and share them easily. Dropbox was founded in 2007 by two MIT students tired of emailing files to themselves while working from more than one computer. Today, more than 200 million people use Dropbox to always have their stuff at hand, share with family and friends, and work on team projects.
Evernote’s goal is to help the world remember everything, communicate effectively and get things done. From saving thoughts and ideas to preserving experiences to working efficiently with others, Evernote’s collection of apps make it easy to stay organized and productive.
Google Drive lets you store up to 15GB of your stuff for free, access them from anywhere, and collaborate with others.
GroupMe is the best way to chat with everyone you in your company or working on your production. It's absolutely free, whether you're talking to a department, or texting with one person. Best of all, it works on nearly every phone, via push or SMS. With GroupMe, it's easy to reach anyone, anytime, anywhere.
For further insights into developing your toolkit and skill set register for PCM & SJP associated workshops and surgeries planned for 2014-15. http://bit.ly/sjppcm14