The Delicate Process of Negotiating Without Getting Fucked or Fucking Anyone

After finding out last month that I owed 7,500 dollars in Japanese taxes, I will now be broke at the end of June.  The Rocker asked me to prepare a budget for him my participation in the show in Taiwan.  I’m uncomfortable discussing money matters with friends, so I erred on the side of business.

Despite my situation, I tried to give fees based on what I would ask of any other organization interested in working with me, except for the performance fees, which kept at the “artistic rate” throughout, and for the workshop rates which I kept lower as well.  I assumed that room, transportation, and per-diem are covered as well.

New show creation and performance

I benchmarked myself to a USD $52,000 annual salary – that gives a weekly rate of USD 1,000 for the bigger jobs.  To come up with an “artistic rate,” for my show fee I chose the lower end of what my friends have told me that they earn on a for-show basis with smaller, more artistic circus companies – about USD 120 per show.

Development

I went with about 5x the US federal minimum wage, or USD 15 per hour.

Including my USD 200 expenses to date, I quoted him a fee of USD 9,300 for my work on the show itself.

Festival management

Festival management and performance

I quoted USD 300 per week for the part-time work from April to October and then added artistic show rates for the shows that I would be MCing and performing in and fees for each master class I would be teaching and each workshop for the general public.

The total there came to another USD 8,200, or, a grand total of about USD 17,500 for 5 months of work.

Judging from The Rocker’s initial estimates and the amount of work we are talking about, this lump sum seems very fair to me.  Of course, I have not counted any of the work that I have done on the side for preproduction of a Japan or US tour; that we can work out once (if?) we know that we have sold the show.

I’m also starting to prepare a budget for the invited acts based on my initial conversation with recent graduates.  My rough-draft schedule for the festival is ground-acrobat- and clown-heavy and lacking a bit on the aerial arts.  Beefing up the cabaret with aerial stuff might be a good tactic, but we need to ensure that there is enough space in the budget for, say, 5 of these artists.  If we run into trouble, we could try the approach of offering what we can to a lot of good people and just seeing who is willing to come for that price.

My friend from Montreal is also preparing his fee estimate to help me with festival organization.  I sent him my logic above and he commented that the organizing fee seems very low and that the Taiwanese producers are already playing with the number of shows they want us to do in order to lower our total fee without reducing our fee-per show.  We may need to tweak our fees a little bit in anticipation of having less shows if they play that game – I was assuming they were going to have us do something every day, but it looks like this may not be the case.

The bigger issue is that the Taiwanese producers are already doing a lot of the prep work that we were supposed to handle.  My lower fees and time estimates are my efforts to hold on to as much of the responsibility as possible without stepping on anyone’s toes.  Essentially, I am trying to be as useful as possible without costing them too much with the understanding that if the outdoor shows work well, we will be in a good position with the contacts we make to organize future events in Taiwan/Asia/Japan.  I would rather do a good job now for little pay and be invited back for more pay in the future than to ask for a lot of pay now and run the risk of being cut out in the future.

A Continually Developing Film Starring Us

Things did not go as smoothly with The Contortionist being in Hawaii as I had hoped, but at least it gave us a chance to say goodbye face-to-face instead of over email.  I miss her, but it is hard for me to think about how I can write to her feeing this strange push and pull; understanding that I am choosing not to be with her despite this being a choice that I make as much for her as for me.

We are in a continually developing film starring us.

She wrote me today telling me that she finds it difficult to move on.  I know she can no more forget me as I can forget her, but I told her that she should not let our past paralyze her.  She wanted to come visit in a few weeks, but I said that it makes more sense to wait for the Taiwan project.  My reasoning is that my schedule is even more hectic here now that it was when our relationship trouble started, and I might be leaving for Taiwan even sooner than expected as I am now co-director.  Even if she is free in the next couple of weeks, there is no guarantee that I will be, and I will not necessarily be in the calmest of moods the next 6 weeks or so.  I may have looked like a bastard, but I would have looked like more of one if I invited her here and could not spend time with her.

The Contortionist tells me that she is feeling stressed about the next step in her life after her tour with Cirque Theatrical finishes.  She must feel a bit like how I’ve been feeling since last August when the end of expo was just around the corner.  It’s a crazy time.

She’s planning to start studying to finish her academic education that was interrupted when she came to Montreal for circus school and asked me how she should think about choosing subjects; if she should do as few as possible or as many as possible, what subjects to choose, etc.

My advice to her was to try to do as much as possible for as long as she can.  She might be surprised at how well she learns under pressure or that she naturally does better at some subjects than others, and just go with that.  Having a variety of subjects to work on at one time is also important because often, if she’s sick of one subject, like math, studying French might be a great way to relax from it.  If she’s only studying French, she might not get that sense of “ah, finally, something I enjoy…”

It’s just like how flexibility training can be such a nice change from strength training that it almost feels like you aren’t really working, even though you are getting the benefit of working hard at two things.

But everyone is different.  I know that if I just do one thing I get bored; I need to always have a choice and have to feel like there is more to do than I can ever accomplish.  For her, it might be easier to do just one or two subjects at a time.  I would say at least two, though, or she may get bored quickly!

It’s important for her to keep drop deadlines in mind so that she won’t get stuck with a class you are struggling in.  Maybe some of the classes she thinks will be hard will not be so tough after all and she will surprise herself.

She tells me that she hopes I will find someone extraordinary to be “my girl” but that she is having a hard time moving forward; that she is sorry about what happened.  I think we should maybe talk about us again after her tour is finished.  Maybe she’s right – maybe we could put this ugliness behind us and start over.

And Three Years Later

An Italian woman named Valeria just wrote me back in response to an email I wrote three years ago when we were trying to set up our 2003 summer tour.  She wanted more information.  Evidently, three years after the fact, her director found our email and was interested in the possibility of collaborating.

Without telling her explicitly that the company had completely exploded, decimated by Cirque du Soleil productions, I told her that thanks in part to our successful collaborations, we had evolved a lot over the last few years – three of us working for Soleil and me working as an artistic director in Asia, specifically in Taiwan.  Since we didn’t want to lose what we had created, I’m working to keep some continuity until the four of us might be able to work together again.  In a sense, the company is currently an engine of creation, able to work with many different artist types for short- or long-term productions, especially smaller productions with 4-7 artists mixing dance, circus, and theatre.  I also highlighted the network of partners and promoters that we are building in Canada, China, Japan, and Taiwan and the show that we’re creating for the festival.  Of course, I can always send her the materials about our original show, but that it might make more sense to wait until I can send her the materials for the new one.

I made me think of The Clown.  His Cirque du Soleil show is opening soon; I am excited to read about how well he does in it; I know he’s going to be a hit.  Not the show, necessarily, but at least him.  I’m not sure that I’ve ever had as much fun as the two of us had in 2003 with The Artist and The Tumbler in Barcelona and all the other crazy times.  He’s not going to stay with Cirque forever and I guess I’ll be finishing up this Asia thing in the next couple of years, too…

Fuck!

We really need to hit the road old-school style again.  Just him and me and a guitar, three hats, some good fun, and the goddamn public.  That is what this shit is all about, no?  That and the cocktails after that!!!!

Little Plans

Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will never die, but long after we are gone be a living thing, asserting itself with ever-growing insistency.

-David Burnham in 1909 (maybe) after being commissioned by the Chicago “commercial club” to make Chicago one of the greatest cities of the world.

The Skeleton of a Project

I have this Taiwan project weighing so heavily on my mind that it’s impossible for me to sit still.  In the middle of my recent Hawaiian vacation, I was actually relieved in a way to see that due to a little bit of an emergency, The Rocker needed me to schedule the whole festival for him in a 24 hour period.  This justified my logging in and getting things done.  I started by drafting an initial proposal for artists in the Taiwan festival to provide all or some of the following services in the course of one festival day:

Stage Show: The artists will have the main stage at their disposal for one hour, which includes set-up, performance, and take-down time.  Actual performance time is meant to last about 45 minutes.  The artists will have the outdoor sound system at their disposal as well as the lighting system if the performance is to take place at night.  Technical needs and technical rehearsal schedule remains to be determined.

Animation: Artists will have use of a portable stage if needed.  Otherwise, animation takes place in the general space of the square.  The animations are meant to attract new audience members to the festival space.  A single block of animation is meant to last one hour with about 45 minutes of actual performing time.

Workshop: Workshops are meant to give the general public a chance to interact with the artists face-to-face.  They are meant to be interactive exchanges and demonstrations of the artists work.  A single workshop block is meant to last 45 minutes.

At most, an artist will be asked to provide one Stage Show, one Workshop, and one Animation in the course of a single day of the festival.  Technical needs and equipment for workshops and animations are the responsibility of the artist with the exception of rigging needs, which must be discussed with festival organizers on a case-by-case basis.

 Master class: Some artists will provide a Master Classes to local students and professionals in the performing arts which will be considered a Workshop for scheduling purposes.  Any change in the artist’s fee between a Workshop and a Master Class is to be determined on a case-by-case basis.  For example, if the Master Class is meant to last longer than 45 minutes the artist should be duly compensated.

New Creation:  Artists performing in the New Creation will receive those fees in addition to any fees for other festival activities.

Special Animation:  Another artist and I are MC’s for the nightly Cabaret, and our fees for this performance will also be independent from any other fees.

Nightly Cabaret: 4-8 numbers per night (some possibly from the new creation) may be featured in a cabaret made up of 5-7 minute long numbers adapted to a circus cabaret format with these fees in addition to any other fees received.

The next step was to start fitting all of the artists into a rough draft of a schedule for the outdoor entertainment.   Without knowing the exact show lengths and final duties of each artist as well as final confirmation on their availability I relied on The Rocker’s DVD of the acts he has booked/is thinking of booking to help me with the scheduling.  I’m also using materials from Cirque Theatrical who wrote back saying that they would love to be a part of the festival and are willing to work through us as the sole booking entity.  The show they want to do is definitely family friendly, and won the silver medal at the big annual circus festival in Paris last year.  These materials will also allow me to cut a trailer for my contacts in Japan.

So the final product was two schedule options for the Taiwan team:

Case 1 (Dream Case): Our budget is huge and we are able to have 10 groups there every day of the festival (groups may come or go, but there are at least 10 on site every day). In addition to the main entertainment under the big top, the cabaret, and the new creation, at least 4 of the 10 groups have shows that can be performed on the main stage outside.  6 of the 10 groups have smaller shows that can be performed on small stages or among the public, and all of the groups have something they can present in a workshop format.  In addition, some of the performers from the tent shows or the new creation or the cabaret are able to present some workshops (2-4 extra workshop slots availble per day).

Case 2 (Realistic Case): We have 5 groups every night of the festival with an extra group for the first friday (opening ceremony night).  2-4 of them have main-stage shows, and all 5 are able to do animation/street shows.  All of them can do workshop-style shows.

In both cases, I have assumed that weekdays are going to be dead until the late afternoon for tech rehearsals, troubleshooting, etc.  We will need a lot of time for that, I am sure!  The schedule is designed to give a sense of flow and build towards each night’s main entertainment under the big top which is always preceded by a cabaret “opening act.”  During the main show, the square will not be dead, however, a shorter, smaller-scale performance will happen outside simultaneously.  After the big top show, I have planned to have a “farewell, goodnight performance” on an outdoor stage with accompanying animation going on so that the public feels like the entertainment continues long after they are gone.  The workshops take place throughout the day on the sidelines inviting members of the public to interact with the artists, have their picture taken with them, to try out the techniques, etc. I’ve assumed that most artists will offer a lower level of commitment than what we have already requested.  If they commit fully, great, we have a surplus of entertainment.  If not, we’ll adjust the schedule for the performance hours that they can commit per day (we asked for three, which is more than reasonable from my perspective as an acrobat myself).

Antihomecoming

Fucking shit.  I just got back ‘home,’ (whatever that is) from travelling all around North America on business.  I am fucking drunk, celebrating at a welcome home party that my roommates threw for me.

The Political Scientist found out she’ll have to be in Lithuania for the end of June, to take a written test for her graduate school application.  Looks like a lonely July ahead.

I will write more when I am not so drunk, but until then, I think I need to drink water and sleep!

End of a Trip Abroad Back Home

I am sitting here, needing to leave in five hours to get to the airport and return to Japan.  Madness.  Looking forward to it, actually, but I’m sure I will be missing this vacation soon enough!

I finally did get a chance to do that hike, and it was perhaps the highlight of the trip.  Walking out, watching the humpback whales leap out of the water right next to the horizon, watching dolphins jump over each other in perfect synchronicity, watching the waves crash over the volcanic rocks below me.  Stopping here and there to explore tidepools or caves.  Having to steel myself to cross a bridge consisting of a single timber precariously balanced over a chasm.  I saw wild albatrosses feeding their young; chicks the size of their parents.  I walked on the only native and protected sand dune environment on the island out to the skinny westernmost point of the island where you can stand on a small jetty of volcanic rock and have the waves breaking on both sides of you.

Sitting there at the edge of the world with the oldest of the major Hawaiian islands crouching on the horizon under a blanket of clouds, I am surprised to find that I have been sitting not 5 meters away from a member of the endangered monk seal population.  Formerly numbering about 50, now growing in population to around 500 or 1000.  I am illegally close to him.  If I am caught, I will face a fine and prison time.  But there is no one around for miles, so I relax and converse with him in silence.  He has been attacked by a shark.  A tiger shark by the size and the shape of the bites.  He is missing a pectoral flipper, but seems to have taken it in stride.

This is the most remarkable beach… the sand is not sand at all, but bone-white coral shards, smoothed into round, palm-sized pebbles that are rough enough to keep from sliding over each other when I walk on them.  They hurt my feet; remind me of Taiwanese foot massages.  I also see a giant sea slug.  The older brother of the two I tried to rescue earlier in the trip.

After an hour of sitting there, seeing this place as hard as I can, I head back, scanning the darker lava for other monk seals.  I am not even surprised to find another one there, just on the other side of the rock that my shark-bitten friend was lounging on.  The third monk seal of the trip, the fourth of my life.

I body surf on Makaha Beach on the way home, knowing full well that there is a great white shark out there today, preying on the dolphins and seals that I have been communing with all afternoon.  He won’t bother me here, though, I think.  And he didn’t.

A man made blow-hole, glass on the ground, the way these mountains look after all this rain…  It is impossible to describe, and infinitely frustrating that way.  The whole trip has been that way a little.  Other stuff happened too, Hanauma Bay, dinner with my uncle, a trip to an American club, my last ever goodbye to The Contortionist, bookworm-infested paperbacks.  All impossible to explain in writing, I know, but these little journalings have been my humble attempts to capture some of this month-long journey abroad to my home.