Circus Arts Scotland applied to the low-fi strand of The Space to produce video content to promote their work and engage new audiences. Here’s how it worked…
Circus Arts Scotland put in what Producer Joe Bell calls “quite a big, ambitious application” to The Space’s last commissioning round. As a small organisation, Circus Arts Scotland had, at the time, no in-house filming capability or equipment, but they did have a lot of big ideas.
Bell worked with Circus Arts Scotland’s Artistic Director, JL Cassells to refine – and scale back – his ideas, to the point where they were green-lit by The Space. Bell describes the company as “clever, reactive and creative” and says that in this case, his role was “almost to rein them in – they were so ambitious! They’re really going to run with it now.”
Keeping the focus
Cassells explains that the company wanted to make a series of videos showing off their circus skills, but on Bell’s advice they scrapped some of the more complicated, narrative-driven ideas, and instead focused on short videos demonstrating a particular circus skill in an accessible, amusing or unusual way. Think cocktails being made by an upside-down mixologist, or stilt-walking playground antics.
“I’ve been making circus and dance shows for quite a long time,” explains Cassell, “and over the years they’ve moved to where the audience is. They started out in theatres, and lots of the people who were most inspired by the type of work that we do were young people who wouldn’t come to theatres. It was a natural transition for us to then move towards the digital side of things. Particularly with circus, it’s such a visual art form. The more that we can create things that reach those digital audiences, the better. This was one of the first opportunities we had for a commission to explore that.”
Potential for audience engagement
Bell was impressed by the company’s ideas and saw the potential for audience engagement. The goal, he explains, was to measure meaningful engagement – “nothing that can be fudged or bought. We counted video views of ten seconds or longer, and really pushed for active engagement through commenting, nothing too passive. The initial aim was for 8,000 views across all of the views, and we’re now nearly at 350,000, so we were really impressed with how the videos took off.”
For Cassells, “the audience expansion has been very successful. Our initial targets for engagement and views were quite modest, because we’re a pretty fresh company. Circus Arts Scotland only officially launched at the end of last summer, so we were starting really with zero audience. The audience is there, and knowing that is massively beneficial for us in terms of building the brand and moving into the digital realm.”
Next time – and there will be a next time – Cassells is clear that they need to build in more contingency time: “We definitely learned a lot from this project. For future work, if we’re filming, we need to look at longer timeframes.”
The videos were filmed outdoors, in Scotland, through January, February and March, and they lost three of every four scheduled filming days to adverse weather. “If you’re doing anything outdoors,” says Cassells, “you need to build in so much more time. We were trying to do acrobatics in two feet of snow. I’ve done a lot of outdoor work, but this winter was particularly rough!”
So, with those lessons learned, what’s next for Circus Arts Scotland? “We very much like the content we made,” says Cassells, “and now we know there’s a market for it, we’re working on our next production. We will make a live show, and we’re also hoping to make a film of it and some digital content to go alongside it, too. A few videos, similar to what we did here, but with more narrative. Digital storytelling, and a good quality capture of the show. And We’re hoping to work with The Space again.”