Participants Blogs 2015

A medley of madness: the smorgasbord comes later

Mid-October, Twenty-Fifteen: we have passed the halfway mark on our voyage of discovery with Watershed. Myself and the rest of the Late Night Future Producers, or Late Night Crew, as we have come to be known (or “Late Night Lovers”, as I like us to be known, though no-one else seems keen on that particular appellation) have braved the multi-faceted challenges of Amelie, the curious comedy of Punch Drunk Love, and the all-pervading intoxication of Blue is the Warmest Colour. There was a lot of blue paint, blue lighting, and gin. Not blue gin, but the bottles were blue. We used Bombay Sapphire. But there’s no pun I can make in there, so, just, yeah, we had gin-based cocktails, and they were blue.

Moving on.

Putting together an event is tough. It’s tough because you really have to put yourself in the shoes of the audience members and think about their experience as they move through the event that you’ve so lovingly put on and thought through. It’s tough because there are so many tasks to complete, so many elements to consider, and so many things that could go wrong that you just can’t keep track of it all! Then there’s the paradox of being part of a team of Producers: many hands make light work, but too many chefs spoil the broth. So how do you cope with that? Well, you feel your way through, or so we’ve found. But, more importantly, it’s really important to have tasks delegated to people who suit those tasks, and, more importantly, delegated to people who will enjoy that aspect of the work involved, or else they won’t be able to carry it through.

So, a little breakdown. Amelie was a roaring success, with the screen sold out days in advance. As the first film of our season this was a massive relief, as it put all of us in a positive and optimitistc frame of mind. We turned the cafe-bar into our own little slice of Paris, with candlelight and French signange, but perhaps the greatest success was our photobooth. This thing had been giving us a headache for ages, but, once we got it working, everyone loved it. Just by mocking up a tent frame in the Waterside corner of the bar, we managed to get everyone cramming into the tiny space to have their photos taken, in black and white, by fellow Future Producer Ruby, with Amelie-inspired costume and all, before whisking the photos away to Projection, and blowing them up on the big screen as though they were part of a photo album, for the audience to stare at as they filed into the cinema screen. Everyone loved it.

Punch Drunk Love was a joy to watch. But it had it’s problems too. Selling only 40 tickets in advance left us a bit nervous, but in the end we sold over 90; it’s an odd film, and as well as being an Adam Sandler/Paul Thomas Anderson fusion of awkward comedy and highfalutin’ art-house craft, it’s also a bit of a cult classic, and not available on DVD any more. Nor is it readily available on DCP, the digital format used in cinemas: instead we had a 35mm print, the only one in the UK. Which is fantastic, because it means you can show the film in the format it was shot in and with all the depth and visionary artistry you could hope for. Unfortunately, it also means that stray cats can gently paw at the celluloid depicting Adam Sandler’s face, all the way down, leaving train tracks across the screen. We sidestepped this issue by getting up and telling the audience about the “texture”, as Dan Kearns put it, that the film had acquired, and everyone seemed so enthralled by the film’s strange, abstract art and charm that the issue faded into oblivion. Along with a colourful, animated ceiling, provided by Limbic Cinema, the evening was a roaring, albeit slightly more low-key, success.

And lastly, Blue is the Warmest Colour. As the longest of our late-night films (it’s almost three hours), we knew we’d need a little alcoholic refreshment to get us through the night. So we ordered a load of Bombay Sapphire and drank it all. As an afterthought we used the bottles as table-lamps. No. Joking. That was a joke: the lamp idea came first, and we managed to get hold of a load of un-filled bottles, turning the cafe-bar blue, as well as turning Waterside 1 into a painting room, replete with blue paint, a big canvas, and an obligatory Yves Klein film of people painting themselves blue. There was a lot of blue. We also played some blues music. Not a joke. Then we drank some gin and tonic. It was a good night.

Just two screenings to go now: Her, for which we will be trying to make the audience feel lonely in a crowded room, and Let the Right one In, for which we will be trying to make the audience feel scared by 12-year old Swedish children. And jumpers. It is Halloween, after all (or near enough).

Lottie Donovan – Head of Development – Fundraising Talk

On Wednesday we had another one of our amazing Watershed talks as part of the Future Producers course.

Lottie Donovan the Head of Development at the Watershed ignited my passion by giving us quite honestly some of the best advice I’ve heard since working in the arts.

Firstly she asked us to define these four elements of Future Producers in regard to getting fundraising:

What is Future Producers? I said: It is a course that enables young creatives the opportunity to learn new skills and embark on creating interesting and engaging cultural events.

Who benefits from Future Producers? I said: The future Producers, the already established Watershed audience, new and developing audiences and the current Watershed staff (I hope they benefit from our outlandish ideas)

Why should someone support Future Producers? I said: Because it helps young people to penetrate an industry that is incredibly difficult to tap into and without that support from external funding, young people would not be getting this kind of experience.

What impact would a gift have on Future Producers? I said: A financial gift would allow us as Future Producers and The Watershed as a hub of creativity to continue to inspire young people to enter an amazing industry. It is a particularly tough time for young people to start their careers in the arts because of the recession, the competition and the lack of entry level opportunity so being given the Future Producers is a stepping stone into that world.

Enough about what I said:


1. POSITIVE PERSISTENCE –  It is key to keep trying and not to fear rejection. As it happens to everyone, try, try and try again. Within reason obviously!

2. KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE – Research the person you are pitching to, understand their background, their job and what institutions they have previously supported. This will help you build rapport with them and show that you have done your important homework.

3. LANGUAGE – If you are pitching to the corporate world use words like, support, gift, funds don’t just bowl in there and say we are looking for money. It is brash and unprofessional even though, realistically that is exactly what you are doing, use that initiative!

4. PROPOSALS – Give the listener three options as this will allow you room to move.

5. LISTEN – To their feedback, their wishes and to the general conversation as you never know when this information might be important for you to use in your future correspondence.

6. STEWARDSHIP – Always thank people whether they invest or not. If they do help you with funding make sure you always inform them as to what that finance has been spent on.

These lessons have become paramount to everything I do now. Lottie’s advice has actually enabled me to have the confidence to pursue my avenues of funding/publicity for my external project, my Death Cafe documentary that I have just completed. This is what the Future Producers is all about, inspiring you to keep pursuing your goals however big or small.


Culture 24 and Under 24’s Project

Blog post

Culture 24, Thursday 24th September

Last week I joined Clare and David from the Watershed team at Culture 24, a conference in Brighton, which sets out to explore engagement of under 24’s in the arts through digital technology.

At the event I was helping to present the project, which the team Poppy, Aiden, Zoe and Becci have been working on for the past few weeks. As many of us are aware (and some aren’t!) the Watershed recently set up a unique ticket price offer of just £4.50 for anyone under 24, to see any film. Which is amazing in it self, let alone coming and seeing some great cinema!

There hasn’t as of yet been the greatest of uptakes on the offer so us, the Future Producers, set out on a mission, nay a quest! We aim to promote and attract more young people through the doors, and most importantly, getting them back, time and time again.

The project is currently on going and we hope to launch our grand idea in early November, and all I am saying right now is think Quiz on acid (!) to act as the launch pad for our project.

The conference looked at a number of issues different organisations face across Britain, the digitalisation of their collections and exhibitions. In may cases the ‘digital’ people in varying organisations all face very similar institutional blockages due to their preconceived ideologies of what ‘digital’ is and what you can do with it.

Padama Gillen, who is a partner in SCROLL LLP and used to work for HM Gov in redesigning their website gave a fascinating talk looking at how the digital leaders can help break organisational blockages with 8 points:

1. Change looks impossible before it happens
2. Own the narrative
3. Give the gift of the fearless
4. If Content is King…Evidence is Emperor
5. Know your Enemy- people in your organisation may have different motivations and perhaps inhibitions about digitalisation
6. Be massively uptight about your rules- set deadlines for feedback otherwise you will run around in circles of peoples opinions
7. Let the organisation make your success its own- a hard one, but if your boss is on board, and sort of takes the credit, sometimes its best to let that happen and know that ultimately you are the change that made it all happen
8. Woo the big cheese, and get them to commit. If you can get the big guy liking your idea then you will find it far easier to get things done

Lastly, here is the only photo I took in the event…it’s the loos…I am an Industrial Design fan, what can I say…


No Boundaries

One of the nice things about Future Producers is that, occasionally, you get to pretend to be a fully-fledged member of Watershed staff. As I sidled surreptitiously into a staff live screening of No Boundaries, there was a mix of friendly waves and bemused glances. I probably read too much into them, the Watershed is a big place.No_Boundaries_AC_carousel

Bit of background: No Boundaries is an annual conference for the arts, where delegates and speakers from across the world come together to ask questions, spark provocations and chat over lunch. Provocation is the big word here, between 450 delegates and about 43 contributors, there’s a lot of exciting thinking and discussion, but nobody’s there to give you definitive answers. This is the arts, godammit! We’re not here to tell you what you should and shouldn’t believe!

The conference is hosted by Watershed (here) and HOME (Manchester) and is live broadcast to both venues, as well as for free, online. It’s terribly impressive. As the Bristol-dwelling child of a Mancunian mother, I appreciated flitting between the two. Like Skyping my grandad, and asking him what he thought about cultural financial policies. Anyway,

It’s fitting that each session was titled with a question, which each speaker didn’t really answer. In the sessions that I sat in on, everyone agreed that we probably can’t ‘Exercise Freedom of Expression’ at the moment but that it’s all relative and we should be doing a lot about it; We agreed that in some ways we are ‘Nurturing Tomorrows Talent’, but mostly we’re missing out, and we should be doing a lot about it; And nobody agreed on ‘How the Money Flows’ and we should be doing a lot about it.

You can watch all of these discussions and more online, but in case you’d like the cliff notes, keep reading. Continue reading

Curiouser and Curiouser

I’ve just got back from a fleeting yet fascinating trip to Birmingham to experience the final days of ‘Future C U R I O U S’.

I had found it quite difficult to explain to people what I was going to be doing this weekend and now, having been ‘there’ and done ‘it’, I’m still not 100% sure how best to describe this event…

After arriving at mac birmingham (all-encompassing arts/events space) we quickly delved into one of the many drop in sessions, talks and demonstrations dotted throughout the central space. The main, overarching theme seemed to be about exploring new ways that aspiring and emerging artists can utilise new technologies in their practice. Many of the participating practitioners were talking enthusiastically about the interesting results that can develop out of technological and artistic partnerships (though, always careful not to imply that these disciplines are mutually exclusive in the first place).

One key, and very simple, lesson that I took away from this event was the joy of (pointless) play. This sounds ridiculously obvious, but as an adult with a busy job and a finite amount of spare time, it is sometimes easy to go whole days, weeks, maybe even months without genuinely letting yourself waste some time, have a little fun and try something completely different. Glitch art (creating something new through corrupting the digital code/data) was a very simple, very effective way of encouraging adults to genuinely play, to discover and create something new. Refreshingly, seen as the whole point is to ‘glitch’, this particular activity also takes away the fear of ‘getting things wrong’, which I think can often be a barrier within creative pursuits.

Having been invited to come along as part of the Watershed’s ‘Future Producers’ programme I was also reflecting on what this weekend could mean for us, as we begin to gear up and plan for our own events. I’m part of the team looking into expanding and promoting the Under 24 Ticket Offer and I think, for me, ‘Future C U R I O U S’ really reaffirmed the importance of creative, inventive and (perhaps even slightly mindless) play. Another key lesson was to not feel too afraid of technologically-orientated ideas. As although personally, I still find the concept of ‘coding’ intimidating, I also now appreciate that working within disciplines you don’t fully understand can sometimes yield creative, and perhaps even unexpected, results.

The weekend ended with an utterly fantastic keynote speech by Christopher Barnatt, an academic and futurist (I had to Google it too). He said some pretty mind boggling things about society and our current relationship to the Earth and it’s undeniably finite resources. What I was most struck by, was his thoughts on what the role of artists and creative thinkers could be in addressing this challenge. Technology is nothing without a strong, powerful and overarching narrative. I realise that probably makes very little sense unless you were at the talk earlier, or are already familiar with Christopher’s work. I can’t hope to be as articulate and engaging as him so I’ll just encourage you Google him and check out his website.

I definitely left feeling curious, creatively energised (and keen to try out my own glitch art)…

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Many Encounters

What a couple of months it’s been.

Myself and fifteen others have been busy, chipping away at the great edifice of the Watershed, waiting to uncover our spectacular ideas underneath. We’ve had talks, we’ve had workshops, we’ve learnt what a ‘Gantt chart’ is (it’s just a really useful spreadsheet), and we’ve been sorting out our ideas for the three strands of Future Producers.

I’ve been working with Laura, Dan, Phoebe, Beth and Jess (we’re the largest group), programming the Love Late Night screenings throughout October. There are actually five Friday nights in October, so we’ve had the responsibility of coming up with five whole films and five whole events to run before the screenings, and the planning’s been an exciting ride through proposals for interactive media, sound installations, bring-your-own-jumper events and how to make a room smell of bread.

Anyway, more of that another time. This week I got the chance to go and see a day of screenings as part of the Encounters film festival, run in the Watershed and the Arnolfini. It might not be the Cannes film festival, but it was exciting enough to be going to a *real* film festival, with directors, producers, journalists, academics and all sorts of interesting people. Possibly the most interesting event for me, and for Ellie, from the 24 and under research group who went with me, was the BBC Three talk on the future of TV and short form programming. I’m really interested in the TV industry, so it was great to get to see three panellists from different companies, Max from BBC Three, soon to be online-only, Colleen from K2 films, and Dan from Little Dot Studios, all talking about the changing aspects of TV production, on and off-line. Ellie and I were lucky to get in, because the event had been booked up by a group of film school students, but it was worth waiting around for extra seats just before the start of the talk.


BBC Three talk on the future of short-form films

On top of that we saw the festival’s pickings from the Cartoon D’Or, a pan-European festival of short animations. It included one of the funniest short films I’ve ever seen: “La Buche de Noel”, or “The Christmas Log”, starring the imaginatively named “Cowboy”, “Indian”, and “Horse” (well, “cheval”, actually, but it was a Belgian film).

But now we’re moving into the deepest darkest Autumn, and things are getting real. We’ve already sold a significant number of tickets for our screenings, and it’s time to make it all actually happen. There’s no turning back now!

Getting to grips with reality: An overview of ‘my’ Future Producers so far.

So it all seems like it’s finally happening. Teams are set, ideas are crystallising and most importantly the tea and biscuits are flowing. After some motivating and practical masterclasses in August  (shout out to: Hilary O’Shaughnessy, Amy Rozel Martin and the Future Producers alumni for being some of the stand out talks), the Future Producers, tasks are becoming a heck of a lot more real – and it’s all pretty exciting over at HQ.



It’s safe to say we’ve come a long way since the dubious spaghetti and marshmallow constructions. A tea and biscuits based outfit is after all a sign of quality work going on. The large group has now been divided into three smaller ones, focussing on:


  1. An audience development project surrounding Watershed’s 24 and under ticket offer in response to a collaborative research project with Culture24
  2. LOVE Tea Dance with a Difference, as part of Bristol Family Arts Festival
  3. A series of late night screenings inspired by the BFI LOVE season


I can say assuredly, that the bubbling excitement has yet to dwindle (unlike the hairy spaghetti towers which did not last the judging process). Within my own group (Family Arts), this may or may not be to do with Ruby’s unending love and devotion to our chosen film screening for the October half-term – Inside Out. Despite the recent release date, Inside Out is already an instant Pixar classic, and if you have any doubts about this, Ruby will be sure to set you straight. (No really, the film is fantastic).



The last two wednesdays we have begun to outline and beef out our ideas, looking at the logistical sides too, from other events going on, to who to work with and how to budget (thanks to Katie Keeler for the great crash course – remember, a budget is not scary, it tells a story). It’s in this sense that it is suddenly really rather real.


Our magical team is made up of Ruby, Holly, Jessica, Rosanna and me, and our fab mentor is Roseanna Dias. It’s quickly becoming clear to us the Inside Out is indeed a winning theme for any event. There is so much scope, from ‘Imagination Land’, the ‘Train of Thought’ and ‘levels of abstraction’ within the films text, to the raw basis of distinct emotions, colours and playfulness that we will draw on.


Whilst we might have to try to not get too lost in our own imaginations, with the overarching structure of a dancing tea party, you can only really assume it’s going to be wonderful. Ideas may still be seedlings at this stage, but there is something refreshing about not being too precious with our individual visions, and letting them naturally mesh, grow and come into their own (achievable) form. Something I hope we do lots of tomorrow!





One aspect that is quickly becoming important to the group as we begin to flesh out our aims for the event, is utilising it as a tool for mental health education. Inside Out is a fabulous, intelligent and rich text that improves the more you examine it. Despite a growing understanding of mental health, it is still somewhat of a minefield, full of misconceptions, misunderstanding and underestimations. The idea of subtly teaching children (and adults alike), how to handle your emotions, the different aspects of your or your family’s behaviour and even the necessity to let your sadness in, is great! Having this underlying theme within the event will definitely add a depth amidst all the silliness.

Rather than paraphrase people who have said it much better than I can articulate, I will simply link some of the pages that inspired us. As despite this being a slightly bizarre blog, I really would encourage you to have a little look at what has inspired us thus far!

RIFE – ‘Inside Out and Child Mental Health’
NewStatesman – ‘All in my head’



Wednesday Session Number Two: Meeting with Mentors and Marketing with Jonathan Harper

This week, we dived straight into our second Wednesday night session and all had meetings with our mentors. The Future Producers team have split into three groups to work on each of our live briefs. These are:

  1. 24 and under ticket offer in response to a collaborative research project with Culture24
  2. LOVE Tea Dance with a Difference, as part of Bristol Family Arts Festival
  3. A series of late night screening inspired by the BFI LOVE season

Each group are closely mentored by Watershed staff, whose experience and skills align with the aims and objectives of each brief. I’m in the Family Arts Festival group, and we are producing an interactive day of games, activities, a dance and tea party that is themed around a film which will be screened throughout the October half term. Hannah Brady, Engagement Producer and Roseanna Dias, Editorial Assistant and Family Engagement Coordinator are our mentors. Our help, however, is not only limited to our group mentors, all mentors and Watershed staff are happy and willing to chip in and contribute ideas and advice wherever possible. We sat down with Verity McIntosh, the producer of the Pervasive Media Studio and talked about all of the exciting projects that we may be able to incorporate in our event.

The Pervasive Media studio is a fascinating place, where a multitude of talented people explore experience design and creative technology to produce all things weird and wonderful! One of the things our group is most excited about is working with artists/technologists/ academics from PM Studio and creating activities for our event that will delight and surprise its audience!

After another lovely sharing dinner, we had a talk and workshop with Jonathan Harper, the Managing Director of Exit through the Gift Shop and Executive Producer for No Boundaries. Working in the Arts, culture and music industry for over 15 years, Jonathan supports a wide range of UK organisations to plan and implement marketing strategies and to develop management teams with a view to increasing audience and income.

Jonathan was very down to earth and it was really great to hear about all his different experience, and about how Marketing as a profession has changed so much over the years. He talked about both creative and scientific marketing, how press and PR can contribute to the event, and talked us through his seven main focus points when marketing an event. We shared questions and ideas, and certainly finished the evening feeling a lot more confident about our events.





Wednesday Session Number One: Budgeting with Katie Keeler

And so begin our weekly Wednesday night sessions! Our wonderful introductory weekends of marshmallow towers, chubby bunnies, pitching ideas and meeting the previous Future Producers are unfortunately over, and it is now time to get serious with a lesson on budgeting. We continue on, however, with inspiring talks and workshops from an array of creative producers and learn from them how best to produce our events.

This week we met Katie Keeler, the Co-Director of Theatre Bristol.

Katie has produced 4 shows, co-produced 3 commissions and now takes an Executive Producing role at Theatre Bristol, which is made up of a collective of producers whose role is to work with artist, producers, venues and others to enable the best live performances to be made and experienced in Bristol. Alongside all of this, Katie is also Chair of Puppet Place and Vice Chair of the Independent Theatre Council.

Budget, budget, budget!

Admittedly, a talk and workshop on budgeting did not sound like it was going to be the most engrossing of topics (I speak for myself) but nevertheless it is an essential part of the process and it actually proved to be quite interesting!

A spreadsheet tells a story, and it is essential to start a spreadsheet where your story starts… at the beginning! Katie really instilled in us the importance of budgeting early on, and how fundamental this is for the whole project. We were told the difference between an administrator and a producer is the administrator focuses on expenditure while the producer focuses on the budget.

Some tips to take away with us were:

  • Plan for the best and worst
  • Make the spreadsheet idiot proof
  • Keep everyone in the loop
  • Don’t do it on your own
  • Identify the tricky bits

We also had an hour-long tour around all areas of the Watershed. This was led by Laura Wlader, Head of Operations and Helen Round, Watershed’s Food and Beverage Manager. We were introduced to the staff in the Pervasive Media Studio and Offices, before looking at the different event spaces in the Watershed. This was a great opportunity to visualise our events in the spaces and think about which areas would work best for each one. We learnt about the different ways the bar and café could support our events and started to think about health and safety considerations. Gareth Willis in Projections finished off the tour with a look at the projection area and a tour of each of the cinemas.

After a delicious dinner of roast veg soup, fruit and numerous packets of biscuits we rounded off the first Wednesday night session and headed home.