What Do You Do? Producer – Michelle Barnette
Producer extraordinaire Michelle Barnette gives us an insight into her role!
How long have you been working at the King’s Head Theatre and what is your job title?
I’m the producer of the King’s Head Theatre and have been here a whopping total of four weeks at the time of answering this question. I’m only answering, I don’t schedule the blogs in! :)
What job did you have before coming to the King’s Head Theatre?
This job, but without a building and with a lot less job security. Oh, and I write plays! That’s a thing.
What does a Producer do on a day to day basis?
Me, being funny/thinking I’m funny; emails. A lot of emails. But I’ve been told that’s not a proper answer, because everyone answers emails. Most people don’t actually know what a producer is or what we do. I suppose the best way to put it is: I basically do a bit of everything. The job changes every day.
One day I’ll be casting, the next I’ll be in meetings about upcoming shows or talking to creatives, the next I’ll be watching a dress rehearsal or getting ready for press night. I usually muck in during tech and do some painting or set building. A huge part of the job is keeping people happy. It’s also my job to draft their contracts and make sure invoices get paid. Sometimes it involves pitching and mentoring. Essentially, my job boils down to all the invisible things that make the show happen.
What is the main difference between being a freelance producer and a venue producer?
Getting regularly paid. I say that only half jokingly. The first salary to go on a show is the producer’s, because it’s your responsibility to make sure that everyone else is paid and their contracts are met. It means you end up taking on probably more work than you should. I suppose on that note, this may actually be the biggest difference between a freelance and venue producer. At King’s Head Theatre, I’m encouraged to actually take weekends off. I’ve now had an entire weekend where I didn’t do any work at all. The guilt was very real – you train yourself as a freelancer to work yourself to the bone and it starts to become second nature.
I still feel like I should always be working, at every hour of the day. You don’t realise how exhausting it is until you stop. The thing I love most though is being part of a team – working as a freelancer gets lonely! If something doesn’t make sense or you just need a cup of tea, there’s a whole support network of people with a shared goal. It’s very special.
Why did you decide to apply for a job at the King’s Head Theatre?
Oscar, the Marketing and Programme Manager here, emailed me the link to the job and asked me to send it to anyone who may be interested. At the time I was in the middle of two other big projects and a lot of smaller things so I told him it wasn’t for me but would pass it along. Then I had a glass of wine and a sit down with myself and started thinking about where I wanted to be. I decided I was very interested, applied right before the deadline and one week later was offered the job. So Oscar is to thank/blame depending on whether you like what I do.
Why did you decide to come in house, specifically to the King’s Head Theatre?
I wanted to make that next step in my career and knew I still had so much more to learn, so moving into an organisation felt like exactly the right move. Then obviously there’s Tickets, the office dog, who makes me feel less homesick for my own pups. Their names are Darwin and Maya and they are exceptionally cute. Tickets is pretty cute too, but I’m a biased dog mom.
What is your favourite part of the job?
The people. Everyone at the King’s Head Theatre really cares about continuously making theatre a better industry to work in. They’re always looking at how to improve their practice. It’s really inspiring.
What is one thing that you have learnt from your role?
That it is okay to not answer emails on a Saturday night. In fact, it’s probably better for everyone that you don’t. Unless it’s an emergency. Then answer the email. (Or just pick up the phone, why have people stopped doing this??)
What has been your favourite show so far from your time at the King’s Head Theatre?
Only two shows have been on since I started and only one of them was produced in-house so this feels a bit too easy, can you ask me this again in six months?
And finally, have you tried all 11 flavours of ice cream that the King’s Head Theatre sells?
I haven’t even tried one yet, but am currently drinking an Oreo milkshake from Five Guys so I imagine it won’t take long for me to start the taste testing.
Published in Collaboration with King’s Head Theatre
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