Gee, Brain…

giphyThere is another main aim of Team Effort! that isn’t listed anywhere on this website’s About page or on any of these blogs. This isn’t because it’s a secret (although I do wish that we had some sort of secret aim to take over the world in a Pinky and the Brain style calamity…). Rather, it’s because I’ve always felt like the other aims are far more important, exciting and relevant to people who are reading about the project for the first time.

This other aim is to develop my ability as a producer. Team Effort! should allow everyone involved to push their practice in new ways and bring a new rigour to the kind of work that they make. Including me.

Until now, I’ve been rejoicing in the dizzying prospect of this project actually existing, casually getting admin in place for the year, writing contracts, talking animatedly and passionately in meetings with partner organisations across the city and getting to know the Team Effort! artists better over coffee and notepads.

November has felt like a real change in tone. Month three of twelve, and it’s time to get down to the nitty gritty knots of this project. They wake me up in the middle of the night and snarl around in my stomach. So it’s high time I started to untangle them.

First, tie up all those admin loose ends. No one’s going to blame you if you still haven’t issued that contract/updated that spreadsheet/made that payment/found that receipt/sent that invoice/written that proposal a week after you said you would. But don’t let the clock strike December or you just look slack. (………..CLANG!).

Second, sit down with a proper, grown-up producer who you trust will give you the best advice and instate a “no stupid questions” rule as you go over your budget and accounts. Mhari Hetherington at Fire Exit has the patience of an angel and the wisdom of… an owl? It’s producers like her and Caroline that bring that “other” aim of this project screeching back to the forefront for me. Get better. Push yourself to be as good as these brilliant people. Work harder in the areas that scare you (and maybe try not to scare so easily next time…)

Third, communicate better with the Team Effort! artists. This project exists so much in my head, so I need to be clearer all the time about how I express it to them… The number of residency proposals we’ve received has taken us all a bit by surprise. I asked the Team Effort! artists to assess and feedback on these proposals, but I hadn’t given myself time to explain to them how to do this or on exactly what I was looking for from the residencies. By the end of November we had figured out some ground rules for assessing this sudden influx of ideas from people outside Team Effort!. (I’m also more than happy to talk about these ground rules with anyone before they write their residency proposal, all they have to do is drop me a line.)

Fourth, get on with it. September and October let us imagine our year, get to know each other and start to plan. November pushed us all to get things moving. For me, this was about sitting down with each of the Team Effort! artists again and finding the framework for a year’s worth of professional development activity. I asked questions. They answered. I listened and asked more questions. I drew a blank. More questions. More listening. More questions. Where do you want to go? Why haven’t you been able to get there so far? How are we going to get you there? Scrunched up paper and crossed out notes.  A picture begins to emerge… Each of the six artists now has a plan for their individual professional development activity over the year – flexible and subject to change, but a plan nonetheless. Phew.

And, gradually, my November knots begin to untangle, just as December ones start to twist up around each other and January ones wait just around the bend. Like the best producers I know though, I am starting to love this process of untangling.  And, knot by knot, I think I might even be getting a bit better at it.

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