Saturday, April 26, 2014

creating a/broad, April 26, 2014

Asking For Favors
by Cameryn Moore

“How do you do it? How do you put a tour together? Do you have a manager?”

I’m not sure that anyone would be asking me that sort of thing if I were a Young Thing, still in my 20s, just starting out in my performing/tour career, but I think, at my age, people do expect that I have sorted things out enough for someone else to be managing the business part of show business.

But no. I am handling my own stuff. Except for the extremely rare invitation from someone who stumbled across my work and decided it was exactly the thing they needed for their sex week/conference/performance festival—this has happened exactly once for me in the last four years, hi, Ludlow Fringe, I’m looking forward to seeing you in mid-June!—except for that exceptionally rare event, I chase this down by myself. I chase everything down by myself. 

Maybe you’ve seen this, if you’re a friend of mine on Facebook. I do it all the fucking time. I make myself sick sometimes, how much I have to chase everything down:

“Do you know any daring presenters or venues in North Carolina, DC, or Baltimore?”

“Hey, everyone, my Brighton housing fell through, GAH. I need two weeks of free housing there, starting a week and a half from now. I have references?”

“I have three weeks between Ludlow and Buxton fringes, and am looking to do a show in Liverpool, or Manchester. Know anyone there?”

“Looking for a BYOV venue in Winnipeg, anyone got any leads?”

This, constantly.


Add to that equal parts shameless, hustle, and messianic fervor, and that’s it. That’s how touring happens for me.

Self-producing is essentially a constant stream of pulling in favours, of sharing mailing lists, of asking friends to ask friends and friends of friends. Seriously, my Brighton billets for this year (see above) are literally friends three times removed. Even though I’m increasingly networked over the years, and I’m starting to get a sense of who knows whom and who knows absolutely everyone else, this asking of favours, asking for connections, this is what lies at the heart of my touring. Do you know someone who knows something that I need? I do my best, also, to respond to other people’s calls for help; try to put in at least as much as I have to take out. It’s a delicate web of pulling strings and favours and knowledge webs and obscure resources, and my own mental database that all of it fits into. 

Add to that equal parts shameless, hustle, and messianic fervor, and that’s it. That’s how touring happens for me. 

Sometimes I’m even luckier than usual, and I get a producer on the ground who possesses those qualities as well. Then we merge forces and manage to really boost the production. I might net more than $300 for an evening’s performance. I might get a packed house. My post-show parties will end up being more effervescent than usual. There might be a nice big article in some local media, usually because the producer is pulling their strings.

Peterborough, Ontario, is like this. And Georgia. But I’m not usually that lucky. I usually am begging by myself. Especially when I go to a new location, especially when I go to a new-to-me city or state or, oh god, country, where I know nothing and the currency conversion rate is not automatic, and I don’t know how things are done. I don’t know if billeting is common or how people will respond to cold approaches for sponsorship, I don’t have that information, so until someone stops me, I just keep doing what every self-producer does: beg for favours. 

Help me. Please help. Where are the venues? Who might have a black stage cube that I can borrow? What newspapers should I hit up? What’s the best local print shop? Any volunteers for postering? There are still three nights where I don’t have a bed. Please help.

It’s like that. 

I don’t know for how much longer it will be like that. As I say pretty much anytime someone compliments me on all the billeting I get, I would be totally happy to forego the pleasure of meeting new people and sacking out in living rooms around the world for the sake of someone picking up a hotel tab with an in-room fridge. I would not consider that losing track of my punk-rock, DIY sensibilities, or 'selling out'.  That would be 'selling for a fair market value.'

Sometimes I think it will always be like that. Maybe the people who are out there more than I am, maybe they are just asking for help on a grander scale. Maybe this favour-trading is just less obvious because they hire managers or publicists or agents who have their own networks of obligations and interest. Maybe if I want to go bigger, I just need to ask bigger. Or get someone to ask bigger on my behalf. 

I think someday I’ll get there, but right now, no, I don’t have a manager. This is how I do it. This is how the tour gets set up. Scrounging, hustling, begging, early-morning Facebook chats with people I don’t know on the other side of the country or the world, sniffing around other artists’ tour pages and putting pins in my mental map.

When I finally do have money to pay for someone else to do this, I will know exactly what it’s worth.

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