The Start of Pre-Production
By Giles Moss on April 15th
The start of April. Our theatres are mostly all booked up now, save the odd hour or two around the place. Charles, our Creative Director, has booked in all 340+ theatre companies in a process that started during last year’s Fringe and has run all through the autumn and winter. It is an absolutely mammoth task, and Charles tackles it all himself - you should see his notebook! But the result is a completely personal service for every company with advice and assistance from their first phone call or email.
The outcome of the bookings process is a - large - spreadsheet listing all our theatres, companies and booked slots within. It’s our master record for the year and is in the process of being handed over from Charles to the Production Team. Well, mostly: Even after handover there are adjustments and modifications as last minute companies are added and we get a few who are unable to make it, despite booking.
The Bookings Spreadsheet is quickly imported into our self-built customer management system called InfoSPACE. More on that in a future blog, but suffice to say it’s a web-based system that manages our companies, slots, slows, performances and ticket allocations. All our email newsletters are sent out via InfoSPACE allowing us to include personalised content per-company; it’s like a mail merge but without needing to get fiddly in Outlook.
From now on, our Fringe moves from the booking phase into the pre-production, which is the process of taking a company and their show through the steps needed to stage it at the Fringe. Companies receive regular email newsletters from different parts of our operation - there’s so much to go through we need to keep them separate for everyone’s sanity.
On the shows and registration side, Charles writes three or four newsletters a year, carefully choreographed to offer companies the information they need to know for the upcoming month. The first of these which went out in mid-March advises companies to register their show with the Fringe so they appear in the official guides and can start selling tickets.
On the Press side, our Head of Press, Nick, helps companies with their publicity materials, posters, flyers, press releases and the like.
And as if that wasn’t enough, our Production Team also has a lot to say and sends their own emails concerned with actually getting shows from rehearsal room to the stage.
We also publish a lengthy PDF called the Company Handbook, which we share with companies from the off. This backs up the information in the email newsletters and explains all the things companies need to consider to successfully get a show on stage. It doesn’t all have to be tackled at once but there are unavoidable deadlines throughout the process, and there are some requirements either from the Fringe itself (e.g. insurance) or from us (e.g. our venue names and branding on their posters and flyers). We’ve honed the Handbook over many years and it really is a fount of all production-related knowledge.
Of course, we don’t just leave companies to it. Ohhhh no! We have a whole team of Pre-Production Managers whose job it is... well, now that’s another blog post.