DESIGNING A PROJECT

Every creative process begins with a bit (or a lot) of searching. You feel the desire to create something but you might not know exactly what it is, or how you are going to go about making it. Before you even think about a public presentation, you might spend a number of hours experimenting on your own, or exploring with friends. At some point, your searching crystallizes into an idea for a performance. Now what?

In order to produce your performance, you will need to slowly organize the raw materials of your work into a plan of action. Clarifying the following elements will prepare you to apply for residencies, grants or performance opportunities.  It can also be helpful artistically, allowing you to clarify your intentions through words and a concrete plan of action.

As you begin to share your project with potential collaborators, presenters, or funders, it is important that you find a way to talk about your ideas. Many artists find this frustrating or intimidating. Keep in mind that no one expects you to know what the final performance will look like. Every artist finds their own way to talk about their work-in-process, but as a starting point, you can try to answer the following questions:

  1. What are your interested in exploring through the process of creating this performance?
  2. Do you have particular themes, concepts or questions in mind?
  3. How will you go about developing these ideas in rehearsal?
  4. How would you describe the aesthetics of the work?
  5. Are there images, texts or other artists that you will use as inspiration?
  6. How do you hope the audience will feel while they experience your piece?

Don’t be afraid to keep it simple! You do not need to use jargon, or complicated sentences to explain yourself. A clear, honest explanation of your interests and intentions is all that is necessary.

The people who work with you will affect your artistic process as much as your own ideas and intentions. So, assembling your team is an important step in defining your project. This team may include performers, designers (music, sound design, costume, lights, set), and artistic support (an outside eye, artistic mentor, rehearsal director or dramaturge). While it is not necessary to have every role filled before beginning your process, it is important to understand what kind of collaborators will be necessary to the creation process, and to ensure that the most important ones are in place.

It is likely that you will find your collaborators within your circle of friends and acquaintances. If you are new to Montreal, it is a good idea to take workshops, see performances, and attend networking events in order to meet people organically. While it is somewhat uncommon in Montreal for emerging choreographers to hold auditions, this is also a possibility. Whether you already know your potential collaborators or not, it is important to schedule a time to meet and talk with each person about the project before committing to working together. This is a time to discuss working styles, scheduling, remuneration, and other expectations, and to ensure that the project is a good fit.

Many artists find it very helpful to have an outside eye or artistic mentor involved in their process. This person can act as a sounding board to help your clarify your ideas. They may support, encourage, provoke, or challenge you as the process moves along. They may also be able to provide practical advice about the production and promotion of your work. When looking for an outside eye, you may consider past professors or workshop teachers. These people can bring lots of practical knowledge and pedagogical skills. However, you might also consider reaching out to a still emerging choreographer with just a few more years of experience than you. While this person may not be as accustomed to a mentorship role, they may bring a fresh approach and may also be in a better position to help you integrate into a community of emerging artist peers.

A timeline for your project will provide a step-by-step plan for realizing your work. While a timeline must be tailored to your individual needs, it will probably include blocks of time for rehearsal, moments for reflection and planning, regular meetings with collaborators, time to develop promotional materials, and your eventual performance dates.

It can be overwhelming, or downright impossible to start your project with a completely mapped out plan from first rehearsal to a performance premiere. Instead, work with smaller chunks, and more modest goals, like planning a short research period followed by an informal studio showing for friends and colleagues. What is important is to outline what you want to do, when you want to do it, and identify any external time restrictions (like application deadlines) to ensure that your plan is feasible.

Keep in mind that presenters generally program works between 9 months and 2 years in advance. Certain grants have specific application deadlines, and it generally takes 3-6 months to receive your results. Residency applications are often due 6-12 months in advance as well. All of this means you will need to plan ahead!

Tip : Make a note of important deadlines and milestones in your calendar so that you don’t miss them.

As you prepare to approach presenters, and apply for funding, it is important to have a few specific materials on hand. You will be asked to provide this information in applications, or when approaching institutions directly. While materials may need to be tweaked for specific purposes, it is useful to have a “master version” on hand. As your project progresses, you should return to these documents to make sure they are still accurate and reflect any clarification or evolution of your vision for the work.

You will need:

  1. An artistic statement describing your artistic vision (1/2 page)
  2. A biography outlining your background and experience as a choreographer (1/2 page)
  3. A description of the piece you are proposing, including the number of performers and its intended duration (1 page);
  4. A list of performers, collaborators and other members of your artistic team
  5. An approximate timeline for the creation of the work, including when and for how long you plan to rehearse, any scheduled residencies or showings, and approximate dates when you hope to present the piece (eg. Fall 2021).
  6. A list of anticipated technical requirements of the piece;
  7. Some selective support material such as photos of your work-in-progress and reviews from past pieces, if available
  8. A link to a video (use Vimeo!), of either the piece you are proposing, or of your most recent work. Avoid too much editing, the videos should give the best approximation possible of the experience of watching the piece live.

Tip: It is essential to have someone you trust look over your documents and provide feedback. Ask this person if they are able to clearly and easily understand your writing and your intentions, and if the visual material (photos and videos) give a positive and accurate impression of the work.