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Oct 18

Making a Living From Art

Disclaimer: Just to make this clear right at the beginning: I don’t have a “right” to make a living doing what I love. I understand that I am privileged to even be making the attempt. My ability to make this attempt is partly an accident of birth, and partly a result of the sacrifice of others. I am aware of this, and, if successful, hope to “pay it forward” and help others do the same.

“Hey, let me tell you something kind of important.”

 

Most of you know that I do theatre. I consider it my full-time job, although I have a part-time job and take occasional freelance gigs in order to help make ends meet.

The arts economy has changed since I left theatre school. And, as far as independent theatre production in Japan goes, it’s changed a lot since I first came to Japan as well.
The upside is that the inter-tubes and related technologies have made it easier to make shows. We now have easy access to media assets (sound, video, text) and inexpensive ways of integrating them into our shows. We can advertise to potential audience members quicky and efficiently and do ticket reservations online.

The downside is that the competition is massive. Not just from other small groups like us, but from the huge media companies. Fifteen years ago, expats here were bored and somewhat starved for English language cultural activities. Sure, they could watch movies on bulky VHS tapes, but they had to at least leave the house to get them. Now, stimulation, vacuous or intellectual, is just a finger-push away.

The problem isn’t so much that people can’t be convinced to go and see theatre, but that they’re not looking for it. Most people these days have a surplus of stimulation, not a deficit. Add to that the marketing problem common to groups producing original works, that is to say that the shows are unknown, and you have some idea of where we stand. There is an audience for international theatre here, but it tends to be focused on groups who tour into the country (usually sponsored by a large media company or University). The problem is twofold: the audience doesn’t know about us, and if they did, they might value us less because we’re local.

YTG (Yokohama Theatre Group— my theatre company)’s goal is to develop the company name as the “star” of the show, rather than the title of the show itself, but that’s going to take time. To get attention from the general theatre-going public, the media, the festivals, and the universities, we’re going to have to build up a reputation, and the only way to do that is to keep creating and documenting our shows.

Until then, we’re stuck in a financial model that requires us to depend on friends and family, and from the arts communities that we’re associated with, both here in Japan and around the world. This means that the very people we should be giving free access to are the ones we rely on the most for support right now. I’m not going to bemoan this state of affairs, as I’m very much in favour of the democratization of media in general, but I think you can see the challenge we face, and the challenge that I, in particular, as an artist trying to make a living at making art, have.

So, for those of you who are supporting me, thank you. Thank you so much. Seeing your faces at the show, or your names on the list of Patreon patrons warms my heart. (And of course, thank you to those of you who have supported YTG in the past in one of our one-off crowdfunding campaigns.)

Hey, thanks.

For those of you who are not, no worries. But consider this: a small amount of support from each of you would make a huge difference to me. I’d be able to increase my artistic output and it would be available to you, either in the form of show tickets (for those of you who are local) or show videos (for those of you who are not, or who just miss a show). At the moment, I’m able to squeeze out one to two shows a year, plus some events, plus a podcast. If there was a stable base of support, I could probably create 3 – 4 shows per year, plus multiple podcasts, plus possible writing projects (several of which are currently sitting on the back burner). More shows means more stuff for you to see if you’re a supporter, and it also means more chances to get YTG shows into festivals, to get grants, and to get commissions. First, I’ll have a body of work I can show to festival directors and grants agencies. Secondly, I’ll have a repertoire of works to draw on should opportunities arise. (Not to mention that if I’m able to pay my collaborators, I’ll be more likely to keep them around and keep more shows on the ‘active’ list.)

If you want to think of supporting us as charity, that’s fine. YTG is a charity. We’re a registered NPO in Japan.

A still from “39”

If you want to think of supporting us as advance or surrogate ticket purchasing, that’s fine, too. At a certain level of support (currently $20 USD, but I’d like to see that drop), you’ll receive stuff: like videos, show programs, and the like.

For those of you not currently supporting my work, I want you to ask yourself this question: If Andrew was doing his shows at places and times convenient to me, would I pay to go see the show? If the answer is yes, then I encourage you to support my work via https://patreon.com/ytg .

For those of you currently supporting my work by coming to my shows, I want to suggest that supporting me via Patreon would not just get you cheaper tickets, but allow you to support me even when you can’t make it to a show or event due to bad timing. (And you’d get a video!)

Look, I’m not going to get rich from this. The first goal is to bring YTG into the black so that it can start paying off some of its accumulated debts and so that I won’t personally have to front the company the money for each show it does. Next, I’ll worry about making sure people get paid for their work. It’s great to work with our dedicated volunteers, and volunteers will always have a place at YTG, but despite the fact that it’s a charity, I see YTG as a professional company, which eventually means paying casts and crews.

Please consider supporting this NPO that I’m putting all my serious energy and resources into. As I said at the top, I have no right to make a living doing this, but support is going to make the difference between theatre being an expensive full-time “hobby” that produces 1 – 2 shows a year and me being able to ramp YTG up to a professional company that pays its artists and makes lots of great shows. Your support will help me get YTG’s work out there and seen by people who can help me take this to the next level.

Places you can find my work:

YTG website: http://ytg.jp
Patreon Page: https://patreon.com/ytg
Theatre Podcast: http://exit.ytg.jp

 

 

 

 

Looking into the future. Or maybe a chair.

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