You've arrived at Edinburgh, got settled in and opened your show – but how do you ensure it’s seen by the right people? Nione Meakin shares some tips from experts at the Royal Court, BBC and The Stage...
Do your research
Seek out useful names – BBC comedy producer Will Saunders brought acts including Flight of the Conchords and Tim Minchin to wider audiences after spotting them at the Fringe. He advises you follow him on Twitter or invite him to your show via email (firstname.lastname@example.org). But target your work appropriately – as Chris Campbell, literary manager for the Royal Court, puts it: “If you’re a comedy knife-thrower or a maker of balloon animals, it may be more worthwhile trying somewhere other than the Royal Court.”
Make people feel special
No one likes getting impersonal emails that have clearly been sent to hundreds of others, says Saunders – tailor your approach. “Make it amusing or original,” adds Campbell. “Be clear about your show’s start time and duration.”
You might think your show is life-changing but beware of getting carried away in trying to convince others of that. “Don’t over-hype,” says Mark Shenton, theatre critic for The Stage and Sunday Express. “We can all smell a rat.”
“It’s really important to know the difference between being keen and pushing your show and being annoying and alienating people,” says Madelaine Bennett of Prospero, a PR company whose clients include Camille O’Sullivan, Andi Osho and Tim Key. If you’re emailing a producer five times a day, or tweeting them at 4am, it’s probably too much. Shenton agrees: “A ‘maybe’ will generally turn into a ‘no’ if I’m asked to see something too many times.”
And on a personal note…
“Please don’t describe things as ‘Beckettian’ unless they’re actually by Beckett,” pleads Saunders.
Do your own thing
Most critics and talent spotters don’t know specifically what they’re looking to find in Edinburgh but, says Saunders, they tend to share an interest in work that is “original and fresh… Someone with something to say or an act that just stands out because they have something different.” Don’t bother copying a style that already exists or trying to second-guess what people want – have faith in what you do and, with luck, someone else will too.
Remember that reviews aren’t everything
While press is important, word-of-mouth recommendations are just as crucial. Don’t be disheartened if you don’t have interest from the off. “I tend to book a set of new plays at established venues (notably The Traverse) then scan the Fringe programme but above all, I talk to people on the spot,” says Campbell. And keep a close eye on what’s happening online, adds Bennett. “If you follow the right journalists on Twitter, you can often pick up some press by looking out for tweets from journalists interested in certain types of shows.”
Finally, don’t expect your life to change overnight
What happens when – praise be! – someone does recognise your talents? “Well, their lives are immediately transformed into a sort of paradise on earth where their every desire is acceded to with graceful alacrity,” says Campbell. “Or I might just phone them for a chat.”
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Image: Edinburgh Fringe-52 by Alastair 2008 under a CC BY 2.0 license.