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What is the ISPA Australia Council Legacy Program?

Mar 12, 2014

The five recipients of the recent ISPA Australia Council Legacy Program travelled to New York in the blistering cold of a US winter to discover the warmth of one of the world’s most renowned international performing arts networks.

Australian recipients Rachel Whitworth from Performing Lines WA, Simeon Moran from Snuff Puppets, Catherine Jones from Chunky Move, Theresa Famularo from Cre8ion and Charlie Cush from Circa attended the first year of a three year program, which includes participation in the ISPA Congresses and a paired mentorship with a current ISPA member through ISPA’s Community Building Program.

Dr Ricardo Peach, Program Manager of the Capacity Development Program, interviews Theresa Famularo, an independent producer who received an ISPA Legacy grant, to quiz her on the wonder that is ISPA.

Theresa, this was your first time at ISPA New York. Can you give us a bit of an insight into the congress, how you experienced the events and how you think Australians can really engage with opportunities provided by this forum?

Let’s see if I can open this door a little.  Yes I was an ISPA virgin and now an ISPA convert. The congress is not too dissimilar to many other congresses/conferences in style. However, the two hooks I discovered at ISPA which were of enormous benefit was it’s true globalness and being in a room of decision makers.

This year there was representation from Cambodia, India, Kenya, Egypt, Jordan, Zimbabwe, Turkey, Mexico, Argentina, Russia and host of other countries beyond Australia, North America and Europe. I find this global approach a very positive one as the world becomes more connected not just through technology but also through the want to have cultural exchange and the opening of new export markets – all be it that some of these markets will take time to mature.

To be in conversation with decision makers is vital, especially when operating in a dynamic and fast response market. If a single discussion can net an interested or not interested response, then to action from that point is far easier.

We are all looking for methods that enable us to work more efficiently and I find the opportunity to speak with someone who can simply respond with an “I’m interested” or “No, not for me”, is achievable when conversing with a decision maker.

I’ve often said that attending a conference is the equivalent of doing a year’s work in a few days.

You were lucky enough to be one of the five ISPA Australia Council Legacy Program recipients, and the only independent producer. How was your program tailored to help you link into the networks more substantially and what do you think independent producers can gain from these international opportunities?

Lucky…So very true! I only realised I could apply whilst sitting on a plane going through my emails, 24hours before the submission was due. One of the great joys of flying – time, quiet and disconnectedness all the perfect canvas for staying on top of it all! Always a challenge as an independent producer.

ISPA married up mentors and mentees and I had the privilege of Elizabeth Bradley – Arts Producer and Arts Professor at TISCH School of The Arts in New York, as my appointed mentor. A very perfect match we both decided within moments of meeting each other. Elizabeth considers the new business models within the arts landscape and this is a key plank for both Cre8ion and myself.

With the provision of a mentor, navigating the dynamic space of ISPA was certainly smooth and with Elizabeth’s assistance I was able to target those I needed to connect with quickly and efficiently.

So the program was tailored more by what I wanted to achieve from ISPA, which was the simple art of building new relationships with those in the delegation I had previously not met. Two conversations I had at ISPA are now moving forward and are likely to net outcomes in the next few months.

Other connections are ongoing with possibilities for future collaboration. In between meeting new colleagues and reconnecting with other colleagues I have met in the past, the sharing of information and past experiences cannot be disregarded – those coffee breaks surely swept by quickly.

For an independent producer, conferences are an important engagement to not only build connections but also provide the opportunity to sit with peers and absorb the conference sessions. This year the session that really left me wanting more was New Tools for a New World – an exploration from “Carrots instead of Tickets” to “Google Glasses’ application in the arts”.

The possibilities with technology both lo-fi and hi-fi are endless. This is a conversation that is only just beginning in terms of new technologies. What is the experience as an artist performing to an audience wearing Google Glasses? What is the audiences experience if all the artists were wearing Google Glasses? What if the work I was creating invited the audience a choice of experiences? Now I just want to geek out with an artist!

Beyond the conference sessions and the networking periods, there is also another opportunity that all producers should consider. This is the “Pitch New Works” session. ISPA closely sifts through applications received and ten pitch positions are allocated. These pitches provide delegates an opportunity to become involved in commissioning and/or presenting new work before they fully enter the international marketplace.

The level of delivery for all pitches was strong, the work being brought to the table was broad and all the projects were stamped with a ++. The mode of delivery for these pitch sessions was an allocation of one morning session to all ten and the arts market style interaction post the session.

I have talked to several independent producers and companies who pitched at this session and all found it netted real conversations and confirmations. It was great to see two Australian works being presented, one by an existing company, Shaun Parker Company and the other by independent producer, Virginia Hyam.

What is ultimately fantastic about the three-year nature of this program, is the continual conversation you are able to have with your mentor, the time to think strategically about what can be achieved and the knowledge growth through the engagement with the conference.