Had a frustrating meeting with a really well-connected producer last night about the project. I won’t go into detail, except that it took the wind out of my sails when he basically said if we want to take a show to Japan, it needs to be a zero-risk investment for the partner here. That is to say, if we can guarantee the investment, he knows of companies who would secure theaters, advertising, etc, but that no one will take the risk on an unknown company’s show. All he could suggest was that if we do a real small thing in a 300-500 seat theatre we might be able to convince a publicizing company and the theater to share the risk with us.
But really, even that’s too big for me to do on my own. The biggest show I ever produced from beginning to end was three people, and everything fit into our suitcases. Budget: 5000 euro, but made profit of about 25%. We still succeeded in finding investors, publicity, a venue, transportation, a technical team, etc, etc, etc.
The biggest tour I ever produced was four people in a station wagon through four countries in Europe. We still succeeded in getting festivals, venues, places to stay, food, make decisions on the spot, etc, etc. Budget, maybe 3000 euro, and we made a little profit, but we were not counting (it was our first project like that).
So while I know ALMOST diddly-shit, I do know a little. But, as I talk to these potential partners about bringing circus to Japan, I wonder if I am getting in over my head. Each meeting is with bigger and bigger people in the industry, so I am worried that I’ll be overmatched soon. I am realizing that you really need a strong portfolio to get your own shows made, and while The Rocker’s previous work and reputation helps lot with this, no one’s going to move until they see a final project and can see what this noise I’ve been making is all about.
No way forward
Things were going so well here. I was going 200kph, and all of a sudden, the road runs out from under me. I feel like everything I wanted just got pulled away from me; like I have wasted a good two months on a lot of nothing. Just a big bunch of no’s that came through all at once that represent about six weeks of wasted full-time work for free. Time moves very fast when you have no structure. Very frustrating.
The curse of interest
I started out so excited by everyone’s interest, but here I am, five weeks later, and the only three jobs that I haven’t heard a “no” from just have me spinning on strings with regular updates but no definite answer, just that, “they will have an answer for me probably next week.” For example, I just got an email from Global Live Entertainment that things are going to take even longer because they are working out logistical issues, blah, blah, blah. Basically, for two months, I have been working like crazy for them for free, and have no way to say, “HEY! give me a work visa and pay me or I am getting the fuck out of here!” This is Asia after all. I cannot be forceful until I have become indispensable. If, for example, I could get them really interested in working with me on this cool possibility, I’d be able to say that I am getting the fuck out of here unless they find a way to keep me here, because I am living on my own funds on a visa that runs out tomorrow, and they haven’t done anything for me so far. At first, I felt like I was getting too many job offers but now I feel like I’d be lucky if even one turns out to be real before I have to leave in a month! This is taking its toll.
Sure, my contacts keep inviting me in for more and more meetings, but things just have a way of piling up here, one project on another on another, without ever getting a definite answer… I tell myself this means that in about three months I will have a huge windfall, and that is when I will be able to relax and see all the people I need to see. I keep thinking I am making progress, but I’m actually just running and running without getting anywhere. I could just not start anything new here and just let all the current offers fall, one after another, until I can finally leave with a clean conscience. Basically, I’d just go around Tokyo for this last month to tie up loose ends.
Losing steam and taking stock
I am losing steam. I have no real energy left anymore. I was willing to give myself one month of income-free efforts to develop a project, but this is getting ridiculous. No one will give me a definite answer, so I am completely in the dark. I have not given up on my hopes of staying in Tokyo for another year, but the chances seem to be getting slimmer and slimmer. Things are getting down to the wire, which is where I have done my best in the past, but we will see, no? At worst, by concentrating on the business side of this project, I’m learning how to put it all together for my own work in the future, and I’m discovering that I enjoy all this business wrangling, and am actually getting the hang of it pretty quickly – but that alone isn’t feeding me over here. I just need to find the right contacts looking for an Anglo-, Japano-, and Franco-phone to work on something arts related. Ah well. I guess that this is life. This was one of those gambles. Back to thinking small. Too bad.
The grass is always greener on other side of the East China Sea
This is why I’m looking for work in Taiwan and things seem to be really moving together on The Rocker’s project there. He wants me to help him create two shows in late spring and to help sell them in Japan… a big one for the National Theater and a small one for an experimental space which are both supposed to premiere as part of an arts festival that The Rocker will be also directing. Actually, this festival angle just got me thinking about meeting with people who know about running festivals in Japan… that may be our best bet to bringing the show here, actually. Anyways, if Taiwan does end up being a real possibility, I wouldn’t be tied to Japan, but could still be close enough to maintain contact. But is Taiwan the only option? I’m not sure where to go if I leave Japan, actually. I’ve been spending the last three months so certain that I would be staying in here for another year, but alas, I guess everything can change in a second if the weather changes. Still, the chance of projects happening is what keeps me working every day of every week for no pay… hoping that if something works, I will make all this investment back. This is something that The Rocker really seems to understand.
Putting it all in perspective
Obviously, this is not exactly what I had really been hoping for over here in Asia. Clearly, people with enough money to invest in live performance in Japan see “new circus” as Cirque du Soleil, and that’s that! Their pockets may be deep, but everyone is so conservative-minded. I wish I’d taken a few more business classes at MIT. I don’t want to be a trained monkey my whole life, because trained monkeys don’t get to wear the nice suits. So right now I’m just trying to sell shows that don’t exist yet to people who have too much money to spend it on nothing, and that means a lot of talking with Japanese and French and Taiwanese guys while making half of it all up as I go along. Full day of meetings again tomorrow! I feel empty but have to pull myself together. Who knows what can happen? I have big plans for the next few years if all this works… imagine the credibility that comes from producing a BIG show on three continents… I want to make these show-making dreams a success! After all, this could just work out someday…