Top tips for international collaboration

Over the past year Performing Lines has delivered an extended program of mentorship, training and professional development to two independent producers from Singapore, Hsia Ling Woo and Jeffrey Tan.

Delivered in partnership with the National Arts Council (Singapore) the Singapore Producers’ Platform is a pilot program designed to build expertise, networks, and industry-based knowledge to build capacity in the independent producing sector in Singapore.

Ling and Jeffrey took part in intensives alongside key Australian arts events OzAsia, Sydney, Perth and Dance Massive festivals, where they met artists and industry leaders and experienced a wide range of Australian work, whilst completing a structured series of modules using Performing Lines projects and their own independent works in development as case studies.

They are currently preparing for their final intensive in Singapore with our Producer Jen Leys where they will share their findings and engage in discussions with the local sector. Ahead of this, we caught up Ling and Jeff to get their top tips on producing work internationally.

Hsia Ling Woo

Here are my top five, based on my learnings and observations so far on Singapore Producers’ Platform and my own experience:

1) Be culturally aware

Know the local cultures and work practices where the work is being presented (e.g. laws, awards, rates, licenses, work cultures).
Have early conversations with venue/presenters/artists to learn local context and find out as much as you can.


2) Scale the project’s budget.

Know what the minimum versus ideal budget is. Know what you can’t work without.
Make sure you know the bare minimum required so as to allocate the funding from sources raised in each country.
Be sure to know which budget items are eligible/not eligible for funding under the various grants in each country/state/region.


3) Things take time

It’s not uncommon for a project to take between 18 months to 2 years to get presented.
Planning and time is required to pitch the project, fundraise, develop the work (for a new work especially), follow up and negotiate with presenters, invite/talk to other presenters and line up other presentations.
Keep in mind the various programming timeframes of presenters and plan accordingly.


4) Keep everyone in the loop

Maintain a tight communication loop with presenters, commissioning partners and collaborators
Never assume anything. Be sure you know what each party is responsible for.
What support will/will not be provided by the presenters/commisioning partners?
Be transparent as much as possible, and maintain close communications and relationships with them. Building trust is important.


5) Never underestimate the logistics required!

Find out as much as you can. Does/will the venue/presenter know how to help support the work and maintain artistic quality of the work?
Is there enough local support? What must they supply? What would you have to supply?
How are participants treated and organised?
A capable and responsible Production Manager is a treasure in helping to nut out and manage many of these requirements together with you.

Jeffrey Tan

Here are some questions and provocations I always consider before embarking on a project.

1) The art work must be good and timely

Does the artwork or experience blow my mind? How different is it from the other works in the scene
Is this art work so special, the local or international audience have to see?


2) Is the work relevant to the audience?

Does this artwork represent the artist or the community concerns of its time?
Will this artwork resonate with a local audience? Who else needs to see it?


3) Who is our local representative?  Collaborator? Partner?

Working internationally, we always need a local champion.
Who can be our reliable local partner?  Collaborators?
Will they be able to publicise and market the show to their audience?


4) Funding!

Securing funding for international work is never easy.
Can it be divided up into smaller more manageable pieces? Who pays for each component of the artwork?


5) Patience and time

International negotiations can take a long time, so patience and perseverance are very important.
We cannot rush relationships nor any artwork.
Do you have what it takes to wait and negotiate?

In everything we do, we acknowledge that we live on Aboriginal land and constantly learn from the wisdom of First Peoples.

Where we are and the history that precedes us informs how we work and how we move forward.