The Next Stage: Now with UQ Events listings

uq31Hey, Vancouver theatre companies, have you jumped on the UQ Events train yet? It’s a social-network-y site that is poised to become a real influencer in Vancouver’s entertainment scene, and a great fit for indie theatre promotions. It’s a fantastic service, and it’s free. The folks running the site are seriously cool, too. Here’s how I know…

In December I got an email from UQ’s Marketing Director Michelle Lanthier. We had actually talked before, she had quite proactively contacted me about the company last September, which I duly checked out and, finding it a great concept and a unique service, gave a bump to on this site. It turns out ‘proactive’ is UQ’s middle name, Michelle was contacting me this time to ask for a coffee meeting to discuss some promotional ideas for her company with The Next Stage, which I was rather humbly happy to agree to. The result of this meeting is the new link in the sidebar titled ‘Click for Vancouver Theatre Calendar’. It’ll take you to The Next Stage’s UQ calendar which lists all the upcoming shows of the companies that we’ve subscribed to on the site. (Each company as well as your calendar on UQ broadcasts an RSS feed, which you can subscribe to in an email-like application such as Google Reader, so the site will send updates to you when new shows are imminent. If you’re not yet familiar with RSS feeds, trust me, it’s all way easier than that sounds.)

So far all the civic companies and a bunch of local theatres are on UQ – The Arts Club, Performance Works, Theatre at UBC, The Playhouse, The Cultch, Studio 58, Pacific Theatre. PuSh is on there, anything by Rebecca Coleman (always at the cutting edge, that one) – so a movement’s already begun, and ready for all of us to jump on board.

The site has a very easy interface for all the perks it offers; if you’ve used Facebook you’ll be able to navigate UQ with no problem. It’s full of great features to use, or not, it’s totally up to you how in-depth you want to get: photos, video, linkage, you can add ‘friends’ just like all good social networking sites and send direct messages back and forth…it’s certainly an idea whose time has come; web 2.0 concepts for linking the independent arts. But like all of these fun ideas it spreads virally, so have a look and if you like the idea, spread it around a little. Like I’m doing here.

I had to stop Michelle at some point during our meeting and say flat out “you know my readership is pretty much all in independent theatre, right?”

“Of course.”

“So I feel like I’ve got to tell you, you’re never going to make any money off of us. Like, none. We don’t have any, that’s kind of part of our thing right now.”

She politely indicated that yes, thank you Mr. Blogger, I’m aware.

“So, if you don’t mind my asking, why are you going to all this effort with us?”

Michelle patiently explained that UQ isn’t about promoting through sponsorship (they sell unobtrusive ad space), and that, being an independent startup themselves, they really want to get behind our industry, and see it proliferate. We’re exactly the demographic that they want as members on the site. Besides, says she, she met her business partner in theatre school. So there.

Good enough for me. Have a look around and see if you like it, and if you do and join up, friend me and I’ll add your company or show to The Next Stage UQ Calendar. This could be the start of something big.

Using Video to Promote your Show

businessyRebecca is a contributing columnist and founder of Rebecca Coleman Marketing and Media Relations, a Vancouver PR company. She blogs at artofthebiz.com and twitters under @rebeccacoleman.

Over the last few months, I’ve been doing guest posts on the topic of visuals to accompany your publicity campaign. We talked about the two photo shoots you need for your show, the publicity shot, and the production photo.

Today, I want to talk about moving pictures. While it’s true that theatre does not translate well on video, many companies are taking advantage of new, and more accessable technology to help get the word out about their shows.

If you haven’t taken advantage of Simon’s video listing services yet, you should. It’s free, easy, and fast. He will meet with you, and then he shoots you, speaking directly to camera, about why the  audience should come see your show. Within the day, it’s up on The Next Stage Video Listings page, and available to you through YouTube. You can embed it to your Facebook event page. This kind of video works because people are very passionate about their shows, and your passion while speaking about it can be very contagious.

If you want to try to get your play featured on the evening news, you need b-roll. B-roll is, essentially, footage of your show that you supply to TV news stations, in hopes that they will do a story on it. Because the quality of your footage needs to be high, this is not something you can just do yourself, unless you are a professional cameraman or director. You need to hire a professional.

The key to B-roll is to keep it short–I recommend under 3 minutes. Chances are, if you are lucky enough to actually get your footage on the air, only about 10-30 seconds will air. You may want to supplement your footage with short interview segments by directors or stars.

Here are some examples of how you can use video to promote your show:

Bard on the Beach
Stuff 2 Do
The Ash Girl
(this is a show I worked on last year–we shot a couple of video trailers for it)
If you are doing a lot of videos online, you can set up your own ‘channel’. Check out this example from the National Arts Centre.


Facebook is my friend, except…

A couple months ago, I wrote a column on using the social networking tool Facebook to promote your artistic practice. I myself use Facebook quite often to promote plays I am doing publicity for. One of my current clients, Metamorphoses, is no exception. They are a brand-new company, and don’t yet have a website, so we are using our Facebook event page as a kind of website, with links, photos, etc.

The play (which, by the way, I think is going to be fantastic), is a modern retelling of 10 of Ovid’s Myths. The primary image that we are using to promote this play is this lovely photograph, courtesy of Pink Monkey Studios.

I uploaded this photo to the Facebook page, but today, it disapeared, and I received this email from the fine folks at Facebook:

Vaughn Jones as Eros the God of Love in Metamorphoses
Vaughn Jones as Eros the God of Love in Metamorphoses

You uploaded a photo that violates our Terms of Use, and this photo has been removed.

Among other things, photos containing nudity, drug use, or other obscene content are not allowed, nor are photos that attack an individual or group. Continued misuse of Facebook’s features could result in your account being disabled.

If you have any questions or concerns, you can visit our FAQ page at http://www.facebook.com/help.php?topic=wphotos.

Now, when I uploaded that photo, it never entered my consiousness that this photo might be controversial. And, to be fair, I did violate their terms of use, which, to be honest, I have never read in great detail. They own the site, it’s their call.

Looks like Facebook is your friend when it comes to promoting your artistic endeavor. Except if there’s a photo of a bum involved.

So, I got to thinking… if nudity is at issue here, where is the line drawn? If I am a painter of nudes, would the Facebook powers-that-be consider that to be deletable? How about a photograph of a naked, pregnant woman? I’d love to hear if anyone out there has had a similar experience with Facebook, and what it was about their art that violated the terms of use. And, interestingly, the poster for the show, which I also uploaded as the main image to represent the event, has the same photograph on it, but it was not deleted. So, image alone = violation of terms of use. Image with words and other stuff on it = okay. You understand my confusion.

The other thing that blew me away about this experience was how quickly they found and deleted my photograph. It was only about 24 hours. There must be thousands upon thousands of photos being uploaded to Facebook all the time, how can they possibly keep on track of them all? Again, please, if you have any experience with this, I’m dying to know…

Rebecca is a contributing columnist and founder of Titania Productions, a Vancouver Marketing and Public Relations Company.

How Stephen Harper Made me Join Facebook

As any one of my real life, non-cyberspace, corporeal friends will attest, I’m a Facebook hater. Mostly because I’m a stubborn, reactive cuss and when people, especially large groups of people reeking of trendy tell me that I have to do something, it’s pretty much a guarantee that I’m going to be doing anything but. (Anyone want to get into a conversation about whether or not a historical grounding in theatrical forms is essential in the creation of a new work? Nope? Nobody? There you go.) Now, before you leap to the comments section, I have heard all the arguments. Many, many times. I know it’s a valuable networking resource and a smart business tool. And I guess I’ve always secretly known that jumping into the pool was inevitable, seeing as how the art form that I’ve invested my life in is by necessity a social one and I have a magazine that I’m interested in getting a lot of people to actually read. And, like, everybody’s doing it. I’ve probably just been waiting to see what impetus would actually make me jump, and thus be forced to eat crow from all my grinning toldjaso friends.

Well, that impetus turned out to be the Harper government’s C-10 bill, a nasty bit of legislation now in its 3rd reading before the senate that has been lovingly crafted to enable the censoring of the creative process in Canada. The Facebook group organized in opposition of the bill garnered 5000 members its first day up, and now has over 41,000. So, what’s the deal with C-10 you ask? And well you may…

The bill itself is a long, dry omnibus of changes to our existing tax laws, but tucked neatly in the middle somewhere is a new provision that would allow the federal Heritage Department, led by minister Josée Verner, to judge a film or TV project based on a personal and undisclosed set of criteria and deny federal funding if they see fit. After the project has been shot. Basically this squad of bureaucrats get to play critic, and if they don’t like the work, for any reason, they can deny them their tax credits, which most artists have to rely on to be able to make the work in the first place. This can be done regardless of whether or not federal agencies such as Telefilm or the Canadian Television Fund have already invested in the production. To quote David Cronenberg: “It sounds like something they do in Beijing?”*, referring, of course, to the Chinese government’s abiding love of censorship.

The rhetoric that the bill’s proponents are touting is centred around some redundant nonsense about protecting us, the highly suggestible and naive citizens of Canada, from criminal content: child pornography, hate mongering, that sort of thing. Of course, we already have measures in place to protect us from such vileness. Called the Criminal Code of Canada. And Canadian Heritage has to date received exactly zero applications for projects that contain this sort of criminal content.** So apparently they’re continuing to push through a piece of legislation designed to fix a problem that doesn’t even exist.

There are things that we as artists need to engage with our government in, and stand up and be counted, and this, for me, is one of them. After all, if they’re allowed this much power over our work, what’s next?

There’s much more info about this, and the things you can do about it at the aforementioned Facebook page. Have a browse and judge for yourselves whether it’s a battle worth fighting. Or at least giving in to social networking peer pressure.

*ref: CBC News

**ref: the Toronto Star

The Art of the Business, Part 4 – Repeat After Me: “Facebook is my Friend”

For a downloadable or streaming audio podcast of this article, click here.

You could not possibly be a bigger holdout than I was with Facebook. I resisted joining for a really long time. I thought “why do I need yet another time-waster when I’m online? I already check my email obsessively, do I need to have the temptation to be checking Facebook all the time now?” But, like most other people, finally I gave in. And yes, spent way too much time at the beginning updating my profile and searching for friends. But then I started to realize what a powerful marketing tool Facebook was, and now I use it at least half the time for that purpose.

In case you’ve been in a cave this past year without television, radio, internet or newspapers, Facebook is an online social networking tool. It’s free—basically what you do is sign up and get yourself and account. Then you get your own page, or profile, where you can put information about yourself, what colour socks you like, what you had for breakfast, what your dog had for breakfast. Then, you create a network by asking people to be your friend. Once someone is your friend, you can message them, send them virtual gifts, URLs, that kind of thing. Facebook also has groups and events that you can create or join. If you create an event or a group, you are its administrator, and that gives you the ability to message all the members of the group. It’s fantastic stuff.

A few words of practical advice about Facebook. First off, I wouldn’t encourage you to create a group unless you are pretty famous, or you have something quirky going on (I belong to “If Alan Doyle from Great Big Sea kissed me, I’d be a happy woman”, for example). You can also create fan pages, but again, I’d steer away from that unless you are Great Big Sea, or a decent-sized corporation.

What I do is create an event for all of my clients. Because my work tends to be rooted in dates (show runs, etc), creating events is perfect for me. It allows me to upload all the event information, pictures, and videos, URLs for media stories when they come out, and I am able to message anyone who said they are or might be coming.

If it’s your first time creating an event, here’s what I’ve learned:

1. Be really, really careful about your dates. While you can go back and edit a lot of things on your event page, the dates you cannot.
2. Make your event accessible to the “global” Facebook community. I once made it available just to the Vancouver network, thinking that anyone from out of town wasn’t going to come to see the show anyway. But not everyone (even people who live in Vancouver) belong to the Vancouver network. Tricky…
3. When you invite people to your event, encourage them to invite their friends.
4. Know that only your opening night (or the first date you have on your event) will show up in the updated information on your Facebook account. After that, if someone wants to find your event, they will have to search for it. However, you can still message people during the run of the show to let them know it is half over, closing Saturday, etc.

Facebook is good for other kinds of artists, too. Musicians and filmmakers can upload videos, photographers and visual artists can make photo albums of their work. Dancers and actors can upload demos and trailers.

A word of caution: as with everything on the internet, be careful about how much personal information you include. Don’t have your home address up there. A lot of people I know don’t even have their email address. Make your privacy settings high, so that people have to be your friend (ie: authorized by you) to see anything on your profile.

Facebook is a lot of fun. But it can also be a great way of getting the word out, and building a buzz… And yes, I will be your friend, but only if you mention The Art of the Business.

So, until next time, here’s to more bums in seats everywhere…

Rebecca Coleman

Rebecca is a contributing columnist and founder of Titania Productions, a Vancouver Marketing and Public Relations Company.