20 Jun 2021
Through our Global Wayfinding Programme, we partnered with the Australian Performing Arts Market (APAM) to support three companies to Profile (pitch) their work in the virtual Gathering alongside the DreamBig Festival:
We chatted to these three companies to hear about their experiences and feedback.
1. What are 2 key takeaways you got from attending the APAM virtual Gathering?
Glitter Garden: I've come away with connections to various artists and companies from around the world. I have a better understanding of the international touring space and feel confident going into future arts markets with a clearer idea of what to expect, how to pitch and effective ways to engage with other makers and presenters.
Cubbin Theatre: Whilst there is uncertainty in when touring to other countries will begin again psot-COVID-19, there’s an energy to begin networking and making connections for future touring opportunities, which is exciting. Australian presenters are looking to New Zealand more due to the current travel bubble, particularly for 2022. Of the work that was presented at APAM, there was very little being made specifically for the under 5s and especially babies - most work was for audience ages 7 up. It’s interesting to see still how underserved our audience is.
Trick of the Light Theatre Company: You can't beat being there in person. Even with the good work being done and clever tech being rolled out to meet the needs of the times that we're in, it's easier to make stronger connections and advocate your work on the ground than it is online, and the level of engagement in a conference just isn't the same when a bunch of people are Zooming in from overseas. That said, there's a lot to be gained from the virtual developments of the last year - more people from more places were able to take part (with a significantly reduced carbon footprint), and we were able to put our work in front of presenters who might not have made it in person. We've also found that we can represent our work much better with a well filmed and edited video than with the roughly executed live excerpt and pitch in a conference room. Scheduling is a nightmare. Over the weeks leading up to APAM and DreamBig, we were trying to get our heads around four overlapping schedules (APAM in person and online, DreamBig schools and public programmes) as well as two different time zones.
2. Did the experience/conversations shift your thinking of traditional touring models and your own practice?
Glitter Garden: The experience encouraged me to take my time, resist the pressure to accept any and every opportunity, and invest in community engagement outside of the work itself.
Cubbin Theatre: Loved the conversations around 'slow touring' that were taking place - artists offering more than just a show, offering workshops/cultural exchange to engage with the venue's exisiting or new community.
Trick of the Light Theatre Company: I wouldn't say it shifted our thinking greatly, but it affirmed some suspicions we've had about touring in the current climate. We had some good conversations with presenters further afield, and given how much groundwork you have to do for an international gig, they may yet prove to be the start of something useful, but it does seem like it's going to be a long time before touring beyond Australia is possible. On the flip side, the conference drove home the extent of the network and audience that exists within Australia, so we might look to tour further there more in the medium term.
Through the work we saw pitched at APAM and performed at DreamBig, we did get the sense that there's a clear gulf of resources for shows and companies between Australia and New Zealand. I don't want to reign in our ambitions, but it did make us think that we want to be canny about pitching work of a scale that we can deliver to a high standard.
3. Were you inspired by any of the work of your international peers?
Glitter Garden: I’m always inspired by the work of other artists, but I was most inspired by our shared resilience in the face of COVID-19. There is a lot of unknowingness around international touring and how that will look in the future, but it's exciting to see how our industry has been positioned to reflect on the way we traditionally do things, consider if that still serves us as well as it could, and explore new ideas that better respond to our current climate.
Cubbin Theatre: Always, this was probably the most important part of attending APAM for us - seeing the level of work for children being made overseas, hearing these makers speaking about their work and us introducing ourselves and connecting with people that are making amazing things.
Trick of the Light Theatre Company: Yes! We've always thought taking in other work is an integral part of what we do, and since the pandemic we've really missed getting to see new work by people we don't know from overseas. We got to see a couple of great shows as part of DreamBig (Creation Creation, Still Point in a Turning World), but also saw some glimpses of cool stuff through the work being pitched which we hope we can see in full someday.
Yes! We've always thought taking in other work is an integral part of what we do, and since the pandemic we've really missed getting to see new work by people we don't know from overseas. We got to see a couple of great shows as part of DreamBig (Creation Creation, Still Point in a Turning World), but also saw some glimpses of cool stuff through the work being pitched which we hope we can see in full someday.
4. Any advice to others engaging with international platforms?
Glitter Garden: Focus on relationships, not transactions. When connections are made with set goals and an agenda to receive something in return, you can close yourself off from other opportunities and ideas you might never think of otherwise. Building relationships takes time and effort, and they don’t always yield results and benefits in the short-term. APAM is a startpoint for meaningful relationships to be developed and nurtured, not a silo in which deals are made.
Cubbin Theatre: I loved attending the sessions live to partake in the virtual chat. Also that gave you starter convos to begin with people that were also commenting. Also the live zoom networking sessions in smaller groups were a great way to hear from different people and meet others.
Trick of the Light Theatre Company: Personal connections make a huge difference, and it's worth taking time to build these if you don't have the relationships already. We were selected to take part of the First Timers programme at APAM, which brought together a bunch of artists pitching work for a series of Zoom meet ups around the conference. Whilst we haven't done APAM before, we've done a fair number of arts markets including some virtual ones, and to be honest, were somewhat dubious as to whether the first timers programme would be useful, especially given the APAM model was new to everyone this year. We're glad we did though, especially as it meant there were some familiar faces when we arrived at the conference in person - networking can be daunting, and it makes it so much nicer and easier to start a conversation if you are familiar with other people and their work.
Some aspects of conferencing are made easier by the them going online - we find it much less intimidating to approach someone in the first instance by message rather than in person, so we made extensive use of APAM's swapcard app. We tried to attend as many pitch sessions as possible, but especially ones that included work from people we knew, and took part in the live chat. It's great to be able to voice your support and experience of work you've seen - we certainly appreciated having people in our corner when we were doing our pitches.