Struggle, Risk and Value in the Arts

John Burrows. Photo: Andi Crown
To say that ‘we don’t do it for the money’ and leave it at that is too simplistic.

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I’m deeply passionate about what it means to be valued in the arts and as an artist. I look at budgets, break-even points and I recognise the struggle to turn that value into something financially viable.

When artists are invested in the creative process and personal professional development is at the fore it can be easier to disconnect value from finances. But I question how we’re doing this. All too regularly I hear how few ‘producers’ there are.  

Currently I am in the thick of Burrowed Time’s third production, it marks a significant shift for me as an Actor and Creative Producer. I’m balancing a team that is part fixed-fee and part profit-share. I’ve got my own ‘skin in the game’ and have underwritten the profit-share company members because this show is also enabling me to grow as an Actor.

Burrowed Time is a new kid on the block for 2018.  I am aiming to build long-lasting audience connections as a theatre company. I’ve been passionate about the wider context of New Zealand’s theatre industry since I started my undergraduate. So, as a producer I am passionate about finding the right models for the sector and am prepared to experiment.  

To say that ‘we don’t do it for the money’ and leave it at that is too simplistic.

To say that ‘we don’t do it for the money’ and leave it at that is too simplistic. I don’t think that everyone should outright refuse to be involved in unpaid positions, roles, gigs or opportunities. I hate to think how much incredible work would never have been created if this were the case!

Weirdly, I like think of myself as a patron, using my ‘day job’ to sustain myself as a creative. It’s an interesting perspective if I become my own funding body. I end up asking deeper questions:

  • How will a project get me closer towards the sustainable ‘working actor/artist’ lifestyle I dream of?

  • How am I making sure that my investment is not being abused?

I think about the investments I put into productions, not just as money but as time and energy.

It’s important to realise that Risk-Share and Profit-Share are not the same thing. Judge, Jury & Cookie Monster (Auckland Fringe, 2018) saw me underwrite a minimum fee for everyone, and whilst well received we did not break even in Q’s Loft. Our profit share percentages in a sense became irrelevant. I was left out of pocket and undervalued my own efforts. In comparison pool (no water) closed last month after opening Basement Theatre’s Winter Season and, whilst the dust is still to settle, I will likely be paying the company similar fees and am happy as I will be acknowledging my own work. The venue’s Risk-Share model is a shining example of incorporating values into a budget and for me it’s why Basement Theatre will always be a beating heart of Auckland theatre.

Written by John Burrows

John Burrows is an actor & creative producer committed to the centrality of the audience to their own experience. He graduated from Unitec - Acting (2014) before working in the UK, The Generation of Z: Apocalypse (2015) and was awarded an MA Theatre Arts with Merit (Middlesex University 2016).

If you want to keep up with Burrowed Time like and follow them on Facebook. Tickets for their latest production A Gambler’s Guide To Dying are available HERE.

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Written by

The Big Idea Editor

8 Jun 2018

The Big Idea Editor

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