During the production of the video series “Focus: Seattle Poets” there were lessons learned and observations made. In the following, I’d like to share some of them. This was not the first set I had been on, but it was the first serious video production I had ever been in charge of. Knowing that the project’s success ultimately rested on my shoulders was both scary and exhilarating.
I told myself that the one mistake I would not make, was to be a control freak. I believe strongly in delegating, and with that comes trust in the person you delegate to. Difficult as it was, this definitely paid off in the end.
The power of delegation
As a project, “Focus: Seattle Poets” took off when I first presented the idea to Dane Kuttler, a poet I had previously interviewed. When I asked her what she thought of it, she immediately volunteered and had a few others in mind as well. Her enthusiasm fired me up and absolutely sped up the early stages of the process.
I had a good feeling about working with Dane, and asked if she would take charge of the talent casting – a huge responsibility that could make or break the series. In other words, a perfect test of my delegation skills, and decision to not be a control freak. Also, Dane already had a presence in the poetry slam community and her own network to recruit from. Ultimately, her work saved me hours of research and dozens of emails, and she did an amazing job of finding a varied and exciting bunch of performers.
Dane is one example, but everyone involved volunteered their time and effort. Joel Telling had already volunteered to work on a future project, so I made him production manager on set and assistant photographer during shooting. He kept everything flowing, and my stress level within a tolerable range. Venkat Balasubramani of Focal PLLC provided talent and location releases tailored to my project for free, and Paul Zitarelli of Full Pull Wines let us shoot in his warehouse while he played host to the poets still waiting their turn in front of the cameras. All these people did a fantastic job and helped take the production value to a level, I could not have taken it to on my own.
Budget for the future
As much as I appreciate help from talented and dedicated volunteers, I would have preferred to pay people for their time. So I sat down after the fact and wrote out a backwards budget, figuring out what it “should have” cost to make this series.
I asked those involved to tell me how much time they had spent, added up my own hours and got a quote from the lawyer. It turns out, I would need at least $3k to cover expenses, and that did not include paying the performers. The reason for calculating backwards like this, is to use the information for funding future projects via direct sponsorship or Kickstarter.
Lack of self promotion
One thing that surprised me, was the lack of online presence by the featured poets. I know many artists don’t have much online, especially among the older generation for whom the Internet is still new and daunting. But in this case, the artists were young. This both puzzled and troubled me.
In the past, I have met several artists who were somehow afraid of losing their artistic integrity by selling out. All too often, those same artists ended up not selling anything at all, because no one ever saw their work. While researching relevant links to go along with the poetry videos, most of what I found was restricted to a Facebook page and a couple of blurry videos from performances past, randomly uploaded (by others) to YouTube.
This makes me want to help get more artists out there, promoting themselves. Blogs, videos, e-mail newsletters and Twitter accounts not only help to build an audience, but offer a way for someone who caught a show to follow up, stay connected and become a fan.
The importance of self promotion applies to musicians, comedians and fine artists, as much as it does poets. I was surprised by the lack of online and social media presence in this case, but it got me thinking about a workshop designed specifically for artists, as a possible future Another Passion production.