The Squeeze and the Breaking Point

Taiwan Productions contacted me to clarify my mandate and the budget.  It didn’t go well.

The mandate is fine:

  1. Period: 8/8-11/6  (90 days for visa)
  2. Performances: 17 comedy interventions of 15 minutes with two other performers (27th October to 6th November.
  3. Residence in Taipei Artist Village for 90 days and participation in Taipei Artists Village’s activities:
    (1) Provide a performance for the TAV 5th Anniversary on October 12;
    (2) Join TAV Autumn Open Studio by opening the artist’s studio on October 14 and 15 afternoons;
    (3) Organize a performing jam program for the Block street event on October 14 to promote the Festival and TAV Fifth Anniversary celebration;
  4. Office and production work (10-12 hours per day)
  5. 4 hours a day training my numbers for the show.

I will also be assisting The Rocker in the direction of the show, the coaching of acrobatic numbers, and performing in two solo numbers as well as in various group numbers.

What made me very nervous, however is that since the budget provided by the National Theatre is even tighter than before, the best conditions they can offer me are $6,000 Canadian and 15 dollars a day perdiem.

These conditions are even lower that the $6,500 from earlier this month and far lower than what I had been expecting based on communications with The Rocker over the last six months.  Of course, I understand that everyone has been working on this project for free this year, but I was assured that I could look at this work as being an ‘investment’ in the final project.

This investment has come at great cost to me.  My whole reason for staying in Asia this last year was to promote the project here in Japan and have had a fair amount of success considering the notoriously closed nature of the industry here.  I believe that in the next year or so, we are going to be able to build on this base of contacts to win performance contracts in Tokyo.  I’ve seen how this sort of work takes full-time availability as face-to-face contact is preferred in Japan to solidify deals and relationships.  This means that I have been paying my own expenses for more than half a year with the faith and assurance that this investment would not be in vain.

I was assured as recently as last week that the lowest I would be offered for my work would be $6,500 net (less than one-third than what I was expecting based on my fee request that was made on my behalf).  This fee was what I would get even before we took into account the residence at the artists village and that the money we were going to save on lodging was going to be added to my fee.  Even assuming a low hotel or apartment fee of 30 dollars a day, I was anticipating at least $2,700 dollars to be added to the $6,500.

I had also heard talk of other grants (residence, new creation budget grants, Canadian travel grants, and the National Museum of Taichung which may order some additional shows) that were supposed to come through that would be shared equally between the production team.  The Rocker calls himself “the grant man,” and I still have my fingers crossed, but time is running short and I have heard no further news about those pursuits.

Taiwan Productions and The Rocker offered that if I stick with the company, that they would make it up to me by giving me a bigger percentage on the contracts in Spring and/or take what they owe me off of their side of the profits on the top of the next contract because they understand that we can bring them many contracts in the future.  For example, in November, The Rocker and I will be going to CINARS festival in Montreal to audition acrobats for future projects in Asia and in December, The Rocker is flying to China to meet with the organizers of the 2008 Olympics to discuss the opening or closing ceremonies, and we’re trying to confirm dates for the Nihombashi project.

I had also been told that the work I was going to do for Taiwan Productions was going to be on a separate budget and that I would receive additional funding for that, but today I learned that this value has been reduced once again to 6,000 dollars.  This will not even cover the credit card debt that I have incurred in the last six months, not to mention the fact that I have entirely depleted my savings account.

Obviously, I am unhappy with the current offer.  I made large personal financial sacrifices in good faith, and I feel as though that good faith has not been rewarded.  I’ve also seen my living expenses cut to 15CAD per day for Taiwan.  Now, I have experienced the living expenses in Taipei, and while it is true that it is lower than in Tokyo, I am not convinced that 15 CAD per day will cover it.

There’s also the matter of the expenses I have incurred directly for production (in the amount of 2400 USD).

I see two options:
The company offers me full reimbursement of my production costs (2400 USD), and a fee of 12000 CAD net and 30 dollars CAD perdiem (which is the per diem that they are offering the artists) or,
The company reimburses my 2400 USD production expenses, offers a fee of 7500 CAD net (representing the 6500 minimum I was promised plus a small addition taking into account the residency),  plus 25 CAD perdiem AND they formalize my participation in next year’s projects.  That is to say that I could accept these terms if I knew that my participation would not be limited to this particular festival, but would extend into future projects as well.

I don’t want them to think that I am angry, that is not the case at all.  I have enjoyed working with all of them over the course of the last year, and I am very excited to meet them in person.  I know that they have been working very hard on my behalf, and I appreciate that effort a great deal.  Actually, I would prefer the second option above because I think that this concept will have a lot of success in the future.  That, coupled with the fact that I would be working with people that I trust and enjoy, makes me excited about the long-term potential for this project.  The last 9 months have been my full commitment to this project’s success, and I look forward to seeing this investment of time, effort, and money come to fruition!  I hope that they will be willing to talk about the future.

These arguments seemed to have helped as does the timed of the discussion at a moment when they really need me to help to replace an act.  I do not know how my gamble will pay off, maybe it was a huge mistake, but the fact is, I do a lot of work and I know what the other artists are getting paid.  The Rocker called this morning exactly in the 30 minutes that I was on the train downtown so I did not get them.  I kept hoping he would call again this morning but no luck.

I guess the situation is that they requested 3 months creation time, but got enough money for 2 weeks with the entire cast.  The Canadian Trade Office gave us a bit of help, but not a ton.  Bringing me here in August, although a great stimulation for the work, is not covered in the budget they received.  What they’ve offered me is a possible augmentation of 2-3k for the creators (including me) if their funding goes through, and possible reimbursement of my expenses so far.  Also, since the festival crew all have a return ticket except me, I will probably also get the difference in cash.  They are also still working on funding that could pay more, but we’ll need confirmation on our show touring to TOHU before he can touch it.  Considering that this is our first project together and that we are all working to make this a long-term commitment, I’ll accept the original minimum fee of 6500 CAD instead of the revised minimum of 6000 CAD.  I hope that there is enough flexibility in the budget to accommodate this request as I was guaranteed this amount more than a month ago.

Nonetheless, I am in deep shit financially right now.  I owe 2000 a month just to pay off debt, and I will not be able to make that with the salary they offer.  The Rocker will also send some money to help me cover expenses since they know it’s tight for me in Japan, they want to bring me there to for free and also have money to eat.  The Rocker says, “they like you already, and they have only seen you in your underpants!!!!!!! – I just need to verify that this money is an advance on the production costs and not of the 6500 CAD that I am meant to get for the festival.  Unfortunately, I think that at the end of this month I’ll be without an apartment – I’m considering living in an internet café at that point to save money.  I’m working with Taiwan Productions to get a $1500 advance to pay off my mother’s home equity loan that paid for my circus school tuition.  I need pay 1250 USD to pay down the home equity loan that paid for circus school.    I hope that it is not The Rocker’s money that is paying this, but the preproduction budget.

I would like to wait until we have all the details before putting things down on paper, so I am fine to wait until Taiwan to draft the contract.  If we need a contract for visa purposes, we’ll just draft one with the understanding that it will be revised once we have the details for the show.   The Rocker just needs to know if we have anything In Japan in December because without that, we need to start finding me a job now.

Basically, I am just breaking even from this festival with enough money to get a plane ticket back home to the USA at which point I will be flat broke with 8000 US in debt.  a big change from where I was financially last year when I decided to come to Tokyo, I’m afraid.

I need to get to Taipei quickly!  Japan is getting small and the walls are closing in!  Still no confirmation on my arrival date – starting August 1st, I am living on the streets of Tokyo so internet access will be even harder than it is now, but I might get kicked out as early as the 22nd.
He can’t give a definiate date yet, but I can be ready to come to Taipei with a visa good for 3 months, expiring after our festival, or around November 7 or 8.  This would have me leaving Japan after the first week of August.  At least he confirmed that they’ll have a place for me to stay and food!

They suggest that I come on the 8 August to stay 90 days until the 6th of November.

I want very much that when I arrive in Taiwan on the 8th of August, a little of that spark will return to my life.  For now, it is just a question of getting through it all.  I can almost smell that Taiwanese street food – but it will be a start if they can send me my plane ticket at least!

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