Podcast Transcript – Breach Theatre Writer and Director Billy Barrett

Conversations and advice

 

Billy and his team at Breach Theatre turned their three-woman theatre-show ‘It’s True, It’s True, It’s True‘ into a digital film, which aired on BBC Four, and was hosted on the National Gallery website which helped Breach reach a new audience. Billy explains to Fiona and Clare what challenges the team faced stepping into a digital world and how they discovered partnerships were the key to successful distribution.

Below is the transcript of their conversation.

 

Listen to Billy

Speakers

Billy Barrett (Breach Theatre), Fiona Morris (Creative Director of The Space) and Clare Freeman (Podcast Producer)

 

Clare Freeman, podcast producer 00:01

When the curtains on stage remain closed, what can a theatre company do to keep their work alive? They could turn their shows into a short film like Breach Theatre did with their work, “It’s true, It’s true, It’s true.” But where do you start with adapting from stage to TV? And how on earth do you build partnerships so that people will actually watch it? That’s something today’s guest writer Billy Barrett can shed some light on. And hopefully, by listening, you might feel inspired too, to share your idea and reach out to our agency for support. After all, our doors and curtains are always open. Welcome to The Space Arts Podcast. Hello, I’m Claire Freeman. I’m a freelance associate and audio mentor with The Space and we’re an agency that supports artists making great digital work. Have a look at our funding opportunities by the way, it’s on our website, www.thespace.org. Today, we look into how the world of theatre has had to adapt during rather testing times. For many performance-based organisations, phrases like social media and digital aren’t necessarily new. But when there’s only a few of you running the show, excuse the pun, it can seem cumbersome to even know where to start in transforming existing work or new idea into a digital offering. And that was the quandary that Breach Theatre found themselves in last year. With a staff of four, not even full time, they applied to The Space asking for help in adapting their established stage show into a film. They were successful in their application. But it wasn’t just money that The Space offered. It was also support from digital mentors, experts in their field, to help guide Breach throughout the filming and after its release. And crucially, it was a relationship that enabled the team to have their work aired on BBC Four, just before lockdown hit. Something which turned out to be pretty vital for their survival. As their tour at the Barbican Theatre in March was cancelled, they were still able to put out their work, albeit in a digital format. So this is an episode which looks much deeper into how to form successful partnerships and distribution. So grab that cup of tea that you’ve been meaning to drink for a while now, sit back, listen to this conversation myself and Chief Executive Fiona Morris captured with Billy at the end of 2020. Fiona kicks off by explaining how Breach Theatre first came to connect with The Space. But before that, here’s a taster of what, “It’s true, It’s true, It’s true” is about from the three leading ladies of the show.

 

Audio clip of the leading ladies of ‘It’s True, It’s True, It’s True‘  03:09

SPEAKER 1: The show “It’s True, It’s True, It’s True” focuses around the rape trial of an artist Artemisia Gentileschi, we didn’t set out to make it a Me Too show, it’s just an important story to tell. And thankfully, people have connected to it. But unfortunately, some of the darker themes are particularly relevant today.

SPEAKER 2: When we first started making the show and thinking about how to play Artemesia, I thought it might be quite difficult to get a sense of who she was. But actually, She’s bold, she’s brave, it didn’t feel archaic, because it felt very, very current.

SPEAKER 3: The tone of the show shifts like being on a roller coaster, it should feel really exciting. And like you don’t really know what’s going to happen next.

SPEAKER 1: Each time we rehearse the show, we find something new. We allow experiences so it’s constantly being fed, it’s constantly being nurtured. And it’s just growing bigger and bigger into a beautiful garden.

 

Still of two of the leading actresses in "It's True, It's True, It's True.'
Still from “It’s True, It’s True, It’s True.’

 

Fiona Morris, Creative Director of The Space 03:54

We were delighted to be able to work with Breach Theatre and with Billy and the rest of the creative team there. And it came up really as part of our commissioning relationship with the BBC. And it was pre-pandemic. And so I remember we met, I think in Somerset House, gosh, what is like two years ago maybe, now Billy, I guess. Those very first meetings. And that was really a conversation to say, you know, what was the nature of the piece that they wanted to transfer to television. It wasn’t a show that was going to be on as a live performance on the stage in period of time that we were looking at making a recording of it for television. So the opportunity was there to actually restage it for filming, and Billy will no doubt talk about that because that was a really interesting journey to go on with the piece but we were delighted to kind of start that conversation with the team. And you know, I think it’s really important to make sure that when The Space is supporting artists, arts organisations around the UK that, you know, we want to be able to give opportunities to younger emerging talents that are coming through so that we’re not seeing on our screens just one tier of arts and cultural output. It’s really important, particularly in these times where there are issues like Black Lives Matter movement and #MeToo, to let younger artists, who feel very strongly about these subjects, make some really compelling points through the work they’re staging.

 

Clare Freeman, podcast producer 05:29

I mean, Billy, welcome to the podcast, I guess the first question I’m going to ask is, why did you want to adapt the show to work for a TV or film audience?

 

Billy Barrett, Breach Theatre 05:41

Thank you very much. Yeah, I mean, I guess first of all, who would turn down that opportunity, in that everyone wants their work to reach a wider audience. And for context, this show is a small scale show by, as Fiona said, we’re sort of younger, more emerging company. And the sorts of venues that it had been performed were around 80 seats to 100. Normally the studio space within a larger organisation. So even through touring quite extensively, as the show had done, we were never going to reach the numbers, which we could reach, through our broadcasts and through a digital version of the show, which I know now has exceeded over 100,000 people who have seen it. So there’s something so exciting to us about bringing a story that I think is now getting more attention, particularly as there’s an exhibition about Artemisia Gentileschi currently at the National Gallery, and various kinds of other things that are coming out, that historically has been overlooked. And I think that story really waited for its moment to be told which certainly happened around 2018, as you’ve said, with the Me Too movement. So it felt like a story that had the potential to speak to not only people around the country, but people around the world as these kinds of scandals and dynamics were being exposed and fought within all sorts of different industries. So definitely audiences was a big was a big pull. But I think for us, as a company, we’ve always engaged with film in a way. We’re sort of a multimedia theatre company, really. And this was our first show that didn’t have a filmed element. And so we’ve always been excited by more kind of visual and digital storytelling with our live work. And we’re just yeah, really, really excited to be presented with the opportunity to translate this to screen and see what that could be.

 

Clare Freeman, podcast producer 07:38

So what did you know about how to get your show on say, BBC Four, which is where it aired earlier on this year before the pandemic, which was great, but what did you know about what you needed to do to make that happen?

 

Billy Barrett, Breach Theatre 07:53

I guess I wasn’t too aware of the actual…er, I didn’t know about how The Space’s commissioning worked. I’d seen some of these live captures. And then in terms of the practical steps to actually translating that to screen, yeah, it was all a bit of a mystery to me. Thankfully, The Space were really supportive in what they sort of called the amberlit phase where you sort of begin conversations around how something might develop, but it’s not greenlit yet. And during that time, they sort of assigned us different freelancers who’ve worked for them, to help develop the pitch of what it might look like. So those more practical things like running time, music rights, whether it’s going to be shot multi-camera live, or whether you’re going to shoot it sort of single-camera like a drama. Those questions were kind of put to us rather than us have to think of what those questions were. And it was through those conversations and collaborations during that ambulate phase that we really developed what it might look like as a screen project.

 

Clare Freeman, podcast producer 09:00

I mean, how many are you in your company, just give us an idea of size of staff.

 

Billy Barrett, Breach Theatre 09:07

So we’re a core company of four. We’re three creatives myself, Ellis Stevens, who co-wrote the piece with me and plays Artemesia and Dorothy Allen-Picard who was the dramaturg on this piece, but is principally a filmmaker. And then we have a brilliant producer Ellie Claughton, who worked with the producer on this film Anne Beresford to produce the piece and has taken a lead really on the kind of distribution side of things. But yeah, we’re a very small core team who collaborate with different actors and creatives on a project-by-project basis. So there are actors and designers and other creatives who we work with again and again, because we’ve developed relationships over the five years of being a company. But we’re a very, yeah, we’re kind of light on our feet in the sense of having a small team and no overheads really, which actually, during this pandemic, is a bit of a luxury because we don’t have big costs, like staff or buildings to have to cover.

 

Clare Freeman, podcast producer 10:06

Wow, I mean, I don’t know about you Fiona, but we work with so many kind of theatre companies who are just starting out and they have quite skeleton staff, often people are multi-jobbed, they’ve got part-time hours, then they’ve maybe got childcare, and then they’re writing, they’re directing they’re marketing, they’re doing social media, they’re doing bit of everything. So I think it’s amazing to know how many people you’ve got in your team, Billy, and how when you watch “It’s True, It’s True, It’s True,” it feels like a big scale production. Like I mean, like Fiona, you could probably share some of the secrets of how The Space kind of like held Billy and his team’s hands, because this is something that you do regularly, right? The link between, hey, there’s this great idea, that would be great to work with these partners over here, with BBC Four, or people like that, how do you spot that Fiona? In knowing a good jewel, and how to make it shine? I’m moving my hands like I’m waving or polishing or something. But you know what I mean, right?

 

Fiona Morris, Creative Director of The Space 11:14

I do. I do. I think, I mean, the big thing is, this is Breach’s this show, this is not our show, to suddenly come in and kind of take over. So I think what’s important is to, from The Space’s point of view, is to put support around. So as Billy said, these kind of really painful issues that come up around music rights, you know, a piece of commercial music you might have used in a live show, the minute you publish that on any other platform, you know, becomes a very, very different thing. So that’s the kind of stuff where, look, there isn’t enough time in any creative’s day, to get into the nitty gritty of that. So we can try and help and support things around that. But when it comes to what goes on screen, at the end of this, it’s more about enabling the team to have a supportive conversation around what the essence of the work is, and what you therefore want to translate to screen. And I know very early on, in conversations around “It’s True, It’s True,” you know, the idea for those of you who will have seen any of it, it is a courtroom based drama, that that already is a spectator arena. And that therefore we shouldn’t mess with that too much, that actually the idea that the TV audience become another one of those gallery spectators watching into this proscenium, it would be completely wrong to break that energy apart. So actually the filming of it was kept within that contained, front facing proscenium setting, but with a lot more intensity of where the cameras could be. So really enabling, it’s about enabling that conversation to happen, not, “I think, oh, it’s got to be this,” in order for it to be broadcast. But, then there’s all the stuff that sits around the side, you know, Billy will know this in terms of credits, who you can credit, how you can credit, honestly, more days are spent over broadcast programmes talking about that, you know, so it’s things like that, it’s doing a bit of hand holding around that. And also those compliance issues, you know, what you do when you’re in a theatre where people have chosen to come there and pay money to sit in front of you, is very different from what you can do and what you can say in terms of language, the opinions you express, if they’re going out on a broadcast channel. So it’s all of that, that we’re there to try and take people forward through that side of things. So they don’t trip up over those things. But hopefully, at the core of it, then let them get on and do what they do brilliantly, which is to make a really compelling piece of drama transit from a live presentation to a broadcast one.

 

Clare Freeman, podcast producer 13:53

So audience is like a key subject that we keep coming back to here Billy. Its like kind of a key focal point of, you know, reaching a new audience, accessible audience. I guess I’m intrigued to kind of know, as a writer, a director, when you have a piece of work and you know it’s gonna be toured, people buy tickets in advance, like, you know people are gonna turn up and watch your show. When you make something digital, does it feel quite vulnerable in a different way that you’re putting something out there and you don’t know a) whether people are going to watch it and b) whether people are going to engage with it or like it. So, what was that experience like for you?

 

Billy Barrett, Breach Theatre 14:39

I think it definitely felt vulnerable. Yeah, cuz the show had had quite a long touring life before we made this live capture. So I was confident in it as a live work. And I was very confident in the team that had been assembled for bringing it onto screen. But really, it’s a whole new thing and I was conscious as I was watching it, when it went out live on BBC Four, of the difference between sitting in a theatre on an opening night, where you can feel the buzz of expectation from the audience, as the lights go down, you can hear laughs…you definitely know at the end, whether it’s polite clapping, or whether people have enjoyed it. The difference between that and sitting alone in my room on my laptop, the awareness that this is going out on the BBC, and just thinking, what are, you know, what are people thinking? How are people responding to this? I think, as Fiona said, we kept the show pretty intact. We didn’t sort of break it open and, and re-explore how to present it. But there are some quite key differences, I think, to the show, particularly when it comes to music, because we use a lot of commercial music. And also just whether we had successfully managed to do that thing of making the audience feel as if they were a) a theatre audience and b) some sort of jury or spectators within a courtroom, whether that intensity would translate. So I did feel nervous. Yeah, that it would, that it would reach people in the same way. And it’s been so brilliant to see responses from people as it went out on social media, partly during the broadcast, but I think definitely we’ve been oddly helped by this lockdown situation in terms of it having a much longer digital life. I’ve just seen those responses roll in and feeling like, yes, we’ve managed to capture that thing that made it so…. [inaudible]

 

Clare Freeman, podcast producer 16:36

I didn’t see the live version, I only have seen your digital offering. And I definitely I mean, holding people’s attention in a digital world, you know, quite often we have this kind of – people watch the first 10, 20 seconds of a video, and then they’ll just play next or skip on to something. And it’s interesting that you kind of say that because they were at times when you watch your show that it feels quite uncomfortable. Like actually I felt myself wanting to pause and step away, which when you’re in a theatre, you can’t do. Yeah, it’s interesting how people interact with your work in a different way. Do you think that in the future, when you kind of look at writing for your next work or future works, that you might kind of think about the way that you write or direct things differently to factor in, specifically kind of create, content for that audience? Not for a live audience? First and foremost?

 

Billy Barrett, Breach Theatre 17:37

I think definitely. I mean, something that I felt, watching the show, as I said, live, as it was going out is that we do something particularly in this show the first 10 minutes or so, pretty heavily veratum, we open quite cold in this courtroom, and you’re introduced to a series of characters who just kind of gave testimony. And in a theatre, the audience can’t leave. So their intrigue kind of builds as they think, ‘okay, where’s this going?’ And then we kind of break that about 10 minutes in with something quite visual, which is the sort of Susannah and the elders painting moment. So I was slightly conscious that on TV, to be introduced to a series of essentially talking heads for about 10 minutes, giving a lot of Italian names, talking about relationships between people might be a bit of an ask, and I’m grateful that people seem to have stuck with it, and watched the whole show. But I think, yeah, whether with TV, or film, I think that might generally be a bit of a stretch. So I think structurally, things might have been slightly different, had it been made for TV in the first place.

 

Clare Freeman, podcast producer 18:47

See, Fiona, I’m gonna share a link in this description for this episode, you wrote a brilliant article on The Space skill section, which was called ‘Creating Global Audiences.’ And, you know, it kind of talks about the difference, the impact that digital technologies are having on the arts. I mean, do you kind of see something like, you know, Billy and Breach’s work, that, you know, it’s quite, it’s quite heavy manpower to be able to kind of take a tour on the road, get all the shows and get the audiences in. So this kind of opportunity, I suppose that Breach’s show can now reach a global audience is actually possible. It’s helping them get their work out there. Like this is obviously a kind of thing that’s rolling with the arts world and growing and growing, but can also feel quite daunting for people who are like, I love that, but I’m not quite sure how to get there.

 

Fiona Morris, Creative Director of The Space 19:40

Yeah, no, I think Well, as we’ve sort of said, you know, this began as a project that that was part of our BBC commissioning strand but even early doors to that we were talking to the company because part of what what we’re very concerned to do with any artist or arts organisation is to say, if you’ve got a broadcast window that’s amazing. But it’s quite hard to be identified in that broadcast window because at the end of the day, a television audience is coming to a channel, whether it’s Netflix or Amazon or BBC or ITV as that publisher, so they don’t necessarily take away messaging to say…so for example, I often quote the example of, you know, people the day after they’ve seen a Royal Opera House broadcast might say, ‘oh, I saw the Royal Opera House’s La Traviata last night,’ but if they saw Garsington Opera’s Traviata, the following morning, they’re probably going to say, ‘did you see the BBC’s Traviata last night?’ The Cherry Orchard – they might say, ‘National Theatre’s Cherry Orchard last night.’ But if it’s Newcastle Playhouse, they’re probably going to say, ‘did you see the BBC’s Cherry Orchard last night?’ So the recognition of who you are as an arts organisation, and we keep going on about this in this podcast, you cannot be bound up in one piece of digital content defining you, it’s got to be a conversation that you’re starting to have online with audiences about Breach, the nature of the work that Breach’s collaborative creative team make, responding to contemporary issues with historical examples, with other more recent testimony pieces…it’s about that engagement so that you build an audience who wants to hear from you about other things. And so even with this project, we talked with the team about where and how it would be distributed after its broadcast window had taken place. Then, of course, you know, our friend, the pandemic kind of lurks into view, and suddenly all of Breach’s plans, and everybody else’s plans about touring and opportunities to present live performance went out the window for, you know, an unknown unspecified period of time. So what was amazing was the team immediately swung in to talk to their partner venues about using their leverage with their audiences to put live streams online. And that’s really targeting particular audiences, actually, your existing audiences. But then also thinking about where the opportunity might come, once you’ve published this work very visibly as Breach to then be familiar and or have other audiences online, become aware of you and get in contact with you. And that isn’t just about, you know, what you might term the end user audience member, that’s also about the creative sector as a whole, you know, we’ve now had the best part of 18 months really, when this all plays out, if not two years, where young, emerging talent and artists, writers, actors, directors have not been seen by their peers in the sector, you know, other artistic directors, other casting directors have not had an opportunity. This is a two year blank gap, where young people with really, really important creative, wonderful pieces have been silenced. And at least digitally, you know, there’s an opportunity to put those voices back. But it’s an interesting period of time, and it will be interesting to see what stays going forward from all of this.

 

Clare Freeman, podcast producer 23:09

See, Billy, you’re you one of the things that you did was you partnered with the Barbican Theatre, who you would due to kind of run a load of performances with in March, April time this year, and also the National Gallery. I mean, I suppose there will be theatre companies listening to this thinking that we’d love to kind of do that. And we’re really want to get into partnerships and distribution. There can also sometimes be a bit of a fear, I suppose, over what am I kind of signing away rights wise, IP wise, editorial wise? How much control do I have over, you know, ownership of them kind of marketing? Do I get sign off, don’t I? But it almost seems like it’s inevitable that you need to kind of embrace partnerships and ask these people, just even picking up the phone and asking them, because you can’t necessarily get this kind of reach with only four or five staff members plus a handful of freelancers. What was that process like going in calling or making these connections with Barbican or National Gallery?

 

Billy Barrett, Breach Theatre 24:21

Yeah, I think you’re absolutely right. I mean, I think it’s important to say it was our producer who was leading on these conversations – Ellie. And that’s one of the main things she’s been doing during this lockdown, particularly at the beginning of lockdown was really working on reaching out to our existing network of theatres, and also reaching out to other institutions, particularly for this project that were related to art and art history, who might want to partner with us. And I think the way in which she did that was to make sure she was working quite closely with their comms people and their social media people to ensure that, say, copy was signed off by us, and that the kind of messaging around it was consistent across all those platforms. I think what worked quite well was that this particular show had the potential to reach an arts audience rather than specifically a theatre audience. Because it’s about an artist and because there was this quite high profile exhibition around. And with the National Gallery in particular, we’ve been working sort of on and off with them over the last few years since we began this project. But we there’s an awareness that we have an audience, they don’t and they have an audience, we don’t. And so it’s that kind of reciprocal thing of how can we draw on each other’s different audience bases to see this thing that’s combining both their interests. But I think drawing on your existing networks is a really useful way to go about it. As you said, we’ve partnered with Barbican. We also worked with New Diorama who we’re associates with in London who sent it out to their enormous email list. But also regional venues like The Pound, which is a small art centre and Corsham with a capacity of about 50 people but who we’ve talked to before. Yeah, it’s about reaching people who aren’t necessarily plugged into social media even but who might be really loyal audiences to regional venue and who keep up with their email list. But yeah, I think Ellie working with Anne, who was the film producer, did just such a brilliant job in terms of keeping momentum up and realising also, that people’s appetite for streaming theatre might not last the duration of that first lockdown. So actually moving quite fast to say, right, we got in the nick of time to film this, let’s make sure people are going to see it really within the next…[trails off]

 

Clare Freeman, podcast producer 26:45

Maximise your opportunity. Yeah. One of the things that you did do, which is kind of been a bit of a buzz term, I suppose, throughout 2020, is the idea of a watch party. And I attended some of these, you know, with other projects that we did with The Space even as audio series, actually, one of the projects that I mentored was ‘Isolation in Your Words,’ which came out on the 31st of October, which was the night that Boris announced the second national English lockdown, and at 9pm or 9:30pm, the programme which was a collection of music, and spoken word about what isolation meant to people was aired that night. And we all were on Zoom, with our videos on but our audio muted, listening in the background to the programme at the same time, and it was amazing to watch as the music kind of kicked into drum and bass, everybody was slightly delayed in different ways, dance at the same time. But I suppose what it also does is because quite often with digital content, it’s something that we can experience on our own, in our own time, whenever we wish. But there’s also something that as performers, we like to create these events, these appointments to listen. So the watch parties, I think, are, you know, a real interesting way to kind of see how do we kind of make a buzz, a noise about this launch? You know, part of our marketing plan? Come on, guys, let’s get together and watch this, collectively. I mean, what was your watch party like? And what kind of feedback did you get? Was it worth it?

 

Billy Barrett, Breach Theatre 28:28

I think it was absolutely worth it. Yeah, I mean, I think the things that make live theatre so exciting is that sense of co-presence and sort of simultaneity with other people. It’s about the shared sense of watching something and experiencing something, you know, even though the film was actually just available at any time for people to watch, creating that sense of isolated but somehow together feeling of all watching, it really actually brought a lot more people in. To make up for the fact that you’re not kind of together in person I think you always need to build other things around it. So we did some live tweeting during the live watch party. We then combined that with an Instagram live interview after but I think having something that is available, that you can say right, we’re all gonna watch it together and tweet along really worked for us.

 

Fiona Morris, Creative Director of The Space 29:17

It’s thinking about audiences again, you know, which we bang on about a lot but it is thinking about, you know, it’s exactly that issue, as Billy says. We did some sort of early talking to the sector, sort of in the first two months of lockdown, and now we’ve sort of updated that. And I would say, there’s two kinds of headlines around it really one is personalization, seeing audiences as individuals. However you invite them into this opportunity to this moment of event that you’re trying to make, that they do feel that’s been personalised, that you’ve seen them, you’ve acknowledged that they have been denied coming to see you live. So there is a degree of personalization to the offer. And then what’s the atmosphere that you can build around the event? I think the watch parties are a great way of making an individual audience member realise that they are, exactly as Billy says, part of a group of people sharing it, because that shared experience is the thing that counts, is the reason that we all love to go and see theatre to watch dance, listen to music, you know, is because of a shared experience that’s going on. To hear other people laugh, to hear other people gasp, you know, it’s really, really… that’s part of the human experience. And so we’ve got to kind of think about that online. But equally, at the same time, because of it having these agile digital assets, we can also respond to issues around accessibility for people. So time shifting because you can’t watch. Because how many times people found themselves trying to rush to get to a theatre show starting at 7.30? And trying to get something to eat beforehand? Online don’t have to do it. People can choose when they want to view it. So I think there’s opportunities, but it’s really thinking about the moment you’re trying to make for an audience. Who are they and what suits them and serves them best?

 

Clare Freeman, podcast producer 31:11

Yeah, like a burst of activity, I also find is a way to kind of beat the algorithms that we all face on social media. And then you could kind of just drop, like a tweet and hope that it goes somewhere, and it kind of just disappears into this huge sea. So when do you kind of create bursts of activity, you know, as someone who makes podcasts for a living, I’m all about like, kind of bursts of activities rather than little drops now and again. And that’s actually the biggest way that we can all spread our work creatively. And possibly, if you’re a creative, really the thing that matters, is what people think and whether people will tell a friend or share with someone. ‘I really love that piece of work. Have you seen this? Have you heard this?’ And that actually doesn’t cost anything, but has the biggest impact, I suppose in the ripple effect that we kind of hear. Marketing is an interesting one isn’t it? Quite often, as someone who’s been a part of the process in the amber-lit, getting things greenlit for some of the commissioning rounds, often people kind of don’t factor in as much money or as much time as they think for the marketing. Can you just kind of give us an idea of how much time, do you think you spent more time dealing with the marketing, the partnerships, the distribution than the actual making of it?

 

Billy Barrett, Breach Theatre 32:35

I think we’ve been very lucky in that we have a company producer, as well as the film’s producer, who was able to take that on. I think what it meant is that we were both busy at different times. So in the run up, I was working very closely with Rhodri Huw, who was the film director on this, and Ellie was working with Anne Beresford, who was the film producer. But once the film was out there, Ellie suddenly became very busy and my job was done. Had we not had a full-time producer, then one of us would have been very busy for a very long time. Because as you’ve said, the marketing was a huge part of it in that, you know, the broadcast is brilliant, but really what’s going to have a lasting life is the film online across these various different platforms and trying to reach people with it.

 

Clare Freeman, podcast producer 33:21

It’s really interesting, there seems to be a theme that I think we’re going to hear across this series about factoring in that time for that, and also factoring in that from the beginning, as well, having those conversations. So the fact that I guess, Ellie and Anne knew what was coming and what their role would be later on, rather than making this thing and almost having a bit of a surprise like, ‘oh, now we’ve got to do this?’ And as you say, kind of factoring that but creating the right team, delegating, sharing out the facts, like the planning of it, just sounds like it’s a big part of it, I suppose, rather than let’s make something lovely that people are going to watch and say, ‘wasn’t that wonderful?’ Fiona, what kind of advice do you have for…you know, perhaps there may be theatre directors, writers that are in Billy’s shoes as of two, three years ago, that really want to jump into this world but feel a little bit overwhelmed, and they’re not really quite sure where to start?

 

Fiona Morris, Creative Director of The Space 34:25

Well, I think I think it’s about being realistic. You know, as Billy said, these things, you know, the minute you start engaging with the idea of a full length digital project, you are now looking at the same amount of time and resource probably being devoted to it as as you put into creating the original work. So I think understanding that it’s going to suck up a lot of time, a lot of energy and so being really clear – and that’s part of our amberlight process – is to go is this what you as an organisation and a group of creative artists should be spending your time on right now? Think about when that right moment is. With ‘It’s true, it’s true, it’s true,’ it’s kind of slightly strange because obviously, it was the right moment in terms of profile of gaining a broadcast platform, it then became even more appropriate because of the pandemic, which we couldn’t have anticipated at the outset. But it is about understanding that it’s going to divert your attention away from other work that you might be trying to make. So I think knowing that it is the right moment, and knowing that you have got the resource to devote towards it. And understanding that’s going to be long, long term. If this is going to be useful to you as an artist, or as a team of artists or an organisation, you’re going to have to maintain this conversation. If you’ve done that thing of jumping up and down outside everyone’s online window to get them to pay attention to you and watch this one thing, then the reason for doing that is because you want to take them forward to the next piece. So you’re gonna have to be considering sustainability around can you afford to continue to be having that dialogue, refreshing assets, or blogs or stuff so that that audience having now latched on to you and become aware of the work have a sense of you moving forward. Because actually, worse than not bothering to draw their attention in the first place is drawing their attention and then the minute they look at you turning your shoulder and going, ‘sorry, off doing another piece of work now,’ and then your social channels look out of date, your YouTube channel looks out of date. That is, actually that’s the worst. So I would say for anyone starting out in this, really think about whether this is the right moment, whether this is the right project. Then obviously, it’s a question of thinking about how you want to adapt it. And then, you know, obviously, end of the day, it’s funding, it’s about considering where you might be able to form partnerships, make funding applications, and look for opportunities to bring in kind support from other organisations. And there are funding strands like The Space’s low cost commissioning strand. There are other opportunities with New Creatives for young individual artists, which is an Arts Council BBC funded programme, Random Acts on Channel Four, you know, there are other places. And obviously project grants. Now at Arts Council England, project grants do now encompass digital projects. But you know, even that bit, Billy will know this, even that bit of writing those applications, it’s a big time commitment. So make sure this is the time to do it. And this is the project to do it with.

 

Clare Freeman, podcast producer 37:39

Billy, are you able to tell us what are you doing next? What now?

 

Billy Barrett, Breach Theatre 37:44

We are actually working on a couple of digital projects at the moment. So we’ve been running weekly theatre workshops with a youth group in Cambridge, connected to Cambridge Junction, this term and next term, so from January we’ll be making what was going to be a live show with them, and will now probably be a film. So we’re yet to kind of work out what that will be. But it will combine probably some Zoom remote film stuff with us hopefully meeting up with them as well. So we’re excited about that. And the other thing we’re working on is a scripted podcast. We’ve never made an audio drama before. But we’re currently structuring and writing the pilot for what will be a verbatim drama based around the undercover policing inquiry, which has just begun in the UK, around undercover cops who infiltrated activist groups, some of whom then had relationships and children with those activists. So we’re kind of getting in there early, before anyone else decides to make a verbatim project around that. And yeah, hoping that we can get that onto a platform somewhere.

 

Clare Freeman, podcast producer 38:52

Wow. I mean, I’m excited. Also I hear the word podcast, which I’m like, ‘go podcast, go podcast!’ But wow. So it sounds like you are definitely going to continue to embrace this crazy digital world that you’ve now fallen headfirst into?

 

Billy Barrett, Breach Theatre 39:10

I think so yeah, I think whatever happens with this lockdown or pandemic, things are going to be moving into a more digital space. And something that’s quite exciting about having made this film is that it’s something we can physically tour when the time comes as well as virtually tour through just hosting it. And we had planned before the lockdown to take the film to Egypt and combine that with a workshop and a panel. We’re kind of hoping that that lighter version of touring where you don’t have to recontact the whole team and transport a set abroad can continue as things start to re-open and that we can use use the film as something to bring into physical spaces as well as virtual.

 

Clare Freeman, podcast producer 39:50

I mean, it’s amazing to hear positive stories in 2020 because there have been a lot of people either in the arts world or I suppose in real life that have found 2020 unbelievably difficult. But it’s great to hear that people like you are embracing this kind of technology. And being really bold, really ambitious, like I find it really inspiring. And I’m sure that you will have made listeners either in the arts world or generically really inspired. Thanks for your time, Billy.

 

Billy Barrett, Breach Theatre 40:22

Thanks very much. Yeah, brilliant to speak to you both.

 

Clare Freeman, podcast producer 40:25

And if you have enjoyed listening to this podcast, we’ve got some more episodes, where we are talking to a bunch of cool people, art curators, artistic directors, disability arts consultants, reaching accessible audiences, musicians, some incredibly inspiring stories. So do make sure that you subscribe, or you follow so that you get access to all of those. And of course, some of the things that we’ve talked about here, links to watch any of the trailers or other work that Billy is doing. Also, these skills and these toolkits that we talked about on The Space, you can visit the website, thespace.org. In the meantime, keep dreaming. Keep believing and keep sowing the seeds of the tiny ideas that one day we may see on the screen near you.

 

Fiona Morris, Creative Director of The Space 40:25

Thanks, Billy.

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