Following on from his last blog about the work of a producer, Joe Kerry discusses how to get started in the role and his path to the RSC.

Everyone has their own journey. I didn’t have a clue that a theatre producer was a job option when I was leaving secondary school. I wanted to be a basketball player.

I ended up studying Musical Theatre at Sixth Form instead, and found my way to Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts to study acting. Drama school is a quick deep dive into the industry, and expanded my understanding of all the different components that need to come together to bring arts and culture to life. It was also about listening, being curious and discovering new things, a mindset that became essential to my own growth as a creative.

I realised during my training that I wanted to do more than just acting – I wanted to MAKE theatre: write, compose music, and most importantly, create opportunities for those wonderful and talented creatives around me. And guess what? You don’t need to train to be able to do it; you just have to have the drive and passion for creating great high-quality arts and culture experiences.

A man and a woman sit quietly next to each other.
George Damms and Michaela Carberry in Joe's play, tube.
Photo by Mari Fflur © The Artist Browse and license our images

So where did you start?

My producing journey began with putting on a festival of new writing that gave a platform to emerging writers, actors and directors. It was the most fulfilling thing I’d ever done, and the most stressful, but we sold out three nights of brand new theatre and inspired new theatre groups to form. Incredible stuff. With no experience of producing before, I approached it as I thought it should be approached – with transparency, clear communication, passion and an environment that encourages collaboration and ideas to thrive.

I went on to write a show called tube, which follows two strangers who meet on a train that stops in a tunnel and never moves again. This won the Stockwell Playhouse Bursary Prize for Writing, and was staged three times over the next few years. The experience of developing and producing this show transformed my practice, and really opened up the realisation that I didn’t have to fit into one box – I could be a creative and wear all the hats I wanted to wear. Fashionable AND creative.

And then I was lucky enough to land a job as Creative Producer at Warts and All, which I talked about in my last blog.

So – to become a producer, you need to DO. If you have an idea, then make it happen, give it a go, and you never know where the doing may take you.

But how did you start working at the RSC?

The internet is a funny thing. For arts and culture, it provides so many wonderful things – a platform for artists to shout about their work, discuss with other creatives, and find new opportunities. And that’s how I found out about this role. I saw the job on Twitter and thought…

“I can do that…”

So I applied on the RSC’s Jobs page. The application process was different to ones I’d experienced before. It was exciting! The questions provoked me in a unique way and the interview process was very different. The first round was as an entire group of creatives, and we had to work together to programme a year’s worth of arts and culture into The Other Place. From there, it was followed by two wonderfully inclusive, transparent and thought-provoking discussions with some of the RSC’s Producers team.

I was the one fortunate enough to land the position, and I’m counting my lucky stars every day. That being said, I’ve worked hard for this – I deserve it – but I won’t be complacent. I’m using this opportunity to soak up as much as I can, and develop my creative practice in a wonderful environment, surrounded by the best support an artist could ask for.

The cast in rehearsal, posing cheerily while looking to the front of the stage, with pieces of wooden scenery behind them.
Having fun in the rehearsal room for The Magician's Elephant.
Photo by Manuel Harlan © RSC Browse and license our images

Creative opportunities and fair pay

Digging deeper into the opportunity, I discovered that the position is being funded by Weston Jerwood Creative Bursaries. I didn’t know much about them, and after doing research I couldn’t believe what I was reading. This is just 1 role out of 51 that is funded by Weston Jerwood for this 2020/22 cohort.

All of these roles are within the arts and culture sector, across a wide range of organisations (large scale and small scale) and art forms, giving the successful applicant an incredible opportunity to work in an entry level arts job for a year and gain a wealth of experience doing so. Successful applicants become Weston Jerwood Fellows – which gives them access to skills-based workshop sessions, a network of other creatives all experiencing life in the arts sector together, support from Jerwood themselves. Most importantly, they will be paid fairly during their time on the programme.

What an incredible opportunity, one that I could only dream of. There should be more opportunities like this within the arts sector.

Kate Danielson, Director of Weston Jerwood Creative Bursaries

"It’s not rocket science but it does require new ways of thinking"

I asked Kate Danielson, Director of Weston Jerwood Creative Bursaries, to explain some of the thinking behind the programme. She said: "We know that gaining experience and accessing networks are vital to getting a foot on the ladder, but people hadn’t really thought through the consequences of unpaid and unadvertised internships being the entry point into these careers. 

"Those without the bank of mum and dad to support them while they work for free and those without friends and family working in the arts to open doors for them, struggled to find a way in and many extremely talented young creatives were, and continue to be, lost to our sector. What wasted potential!

We also work with the arts organisations who host their Fellow throughout the year to help them to change the way they recruit, make all their workforce feel welcome and included and ensure they progress and thrive. It’s a fascinating and on-going process and I love those moments when they realise how changing even something quite simple in their regular practices means they start getting applications from people who they have never been able to reach before. 

"It’s not rocket science but it does require new ways of thinking and it is very rewarding to be able to learn alongside organisations as they open up access to their workforce."

A QUICK ELEPHANT UPDATE

Rehearsals have finished in Clapham, and the entire team has moved down to Stratford to get into the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and begin tech. This is where we prepare the theatre to house the show, getting the stage ready, the lights, the sound and the auditorium, and making adjustments to fit the show into the theatre.

We’ve also been pushing forward with plans for the front of house design. We want to transport the audience into the world of The Magician’s Elephant, and the design team have pulled out all the stops to make it an unforgettable experience for everyone who attends.

Until next time, folks. Follow the elephant and grab yourself a ticket here.

Joe Kerry smiling with his dog 

Joe Kerry

Joe is an Assistant Producer at the RSC and a Weston Jerwood Fellow. As a producer Joe is passionate about championing new writing and building platforms for creatives to develop their work and skills. He’s also a HUGE basketball fan! Find him on Twitter @joelikepoe or visit flengwin.com.

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