My little theatre company made the front page of The Stage this week.
For those of you too far from a newsagent to pick up a copy for yourself, or who live in the future where paper is considered a barbaric relic of our savage past, you can also read the article online.
As you’ll see, what we’re creating here is nothing less than a new business model for fringe theatre.
We call it Open Book Theatre.
The concept is very simple: everyone in one of our productions gets to see the accounts. They know what we’re aiming for. Where the money’s coming in. Where the money’s going to.
There’s no longer any need for the cast and crew in a profit-share show to suspect that someone who isn’t them is coming away rich, because now all the information is available to them. And if they can find better ways of doing things, they let us know and we do it.
And everybody wins.
Open Book Management has been around for many years now. I first came across it about a decade ago in Jack Stack’s book The Great Game of Business (which is still an excellent introduction to the idea). But as far as we know, no-one in the world’s ever tried it in theatre before.
That’s changed now.
As well as helping promote transparency, we hope to improve conditions for everyone.
We as a company believe that the best thing for anyone is to have a proper union contract. Both of the founders of Red Table are members of the relevant Trade Unions – The Writers’ Guild of Great Britain and Equity respectively – and we recommend that as soon as possible any theatre company should use the contracts recommended by those unions.
But those contracts are still designed for larger productions, and in the case of small fringe productions it may not be possible to guarantee a minimum wage to cast and crew if the production is to happen at all. Instead, what tends to happen is that there are no contracts at all, and no protection.
We believe this should change, and are making the first steps towards this.
You can read the model agreements that we’re currently using on our website. Feel free to borrow them, use them, amend them – and let us know what works and what doesn’t. So we can improve the process for everyone.
As production on The Just So Stories continues, Rafe’s blogging about the open-book part of the process over at the Red Table website.
So feel free to go over there and ask any questions about how it’s all working out in practice.