Open Book Theatre

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.

Giant Happy Crab Is Happy

Some fantastic news: The Just So Stories – which I produced at The King’s Head Theatre over Christmas – is transferring to the Pleasance Theatre for a three-week run over Easter.

The show’s going to be better than ever, with a bigger and more comfortable snuggle pit for the children and a brand-new set from which the cast will find exciting items which they’ll use to bring to life five of Kipling’s best-beloved tales.

Just as with Red Table‘s first production, The Just So Stories will be run using Open Book Management, meaning that all of the financial and business information about the show will be available to cast, crew, and investors throughout the production period.

Rafe’s blogging about the process as we go over on the Red Table website.

There are some exciting things coming up in the world of Open Book Theatre as we introduce this new model to the industry – and there’ll be more news about that soon. But not quite yet. Stay tuned…

Tickets are £10, £7 for kids, and are available now from the Pleasance website

The London Screenwriting Gin Festival

I went to The London Screenwriters’ Festival last year. Successor to the now-defunct Cheltenham Screenwriters’ Festival, it’s a good way to meet other writers and learn from those already doing well in the business.

I had a great time, met some lovely people, and would thoroughly recommend going.

As you may have seen elsewhere on the Internets, the festival organisers are putting on a short weekend specifically for comedy writers on the weekend of April 9-10.

The going rate is £149. Which is actually good value.

The other thing you might have seen is a lot of people offering discount codes if you buy a ticket. This is an affiliate scheme, so basically you get £25 off your ticket and the blogger gets £25 for themselves.

The lovely Michelle Lipton has decided to donate any money she gets through the scheme to Comic Relief.

Which is nice enough, I guess.

But I don’t think you should give money to the children living on the street abroad, or to those in this country suffering from domestic violence and sexual abuse, or to people who are having problems due to mental health issues – which one in four of us will experience at some point in our lives.

Instead, I think you should give your money to me.
And in return, I promise to spend it on gin.

Here’s how it works: When you book, use the special code GIN to get a £25 discount on the cost of your ticket. I’ll then get £25, which I’ll put aside in a special GinTin in the house, and whenever we run out I shall buy another bottle and think of you as I enjoy a perfectly-made slightly-too-strong gin-and-tonic.

I like gin. You like £25 off your festival ticket. How is this not a winning combination?

Of course, if you’d rather give your money to deserving people instead (though why you would want to I have no idea), use the code michellelipton when you check out, and she’ll give the £25 she gets to Comic Relief.

And I’ll buy my own damn gin.