I love project’s. I love the idea of a new story, a new play, a new film, a new venue coming alive. Artistic projects promise an opportunity to give voice to a group of people, an experience, or a world that has yet to be made known. Whether working on my own products, co-producing another artist’s work, or working as an actress on a production, I have found it critical to evaluate each opportunity so that I feel confident when I say yes. Often, however, we are so busy creating (as we should) that we do not always take the time to establish criteria for the projects that we work on.  
I created this series of articles: How to Select Your Next Project because I believe that the difference between a successful artist career and an unfulfilled one lies in the ability to decide what to work on. First, what is a project? A project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service or result. Just to clarify, on this blog when I discuss a “project”, I am distinguishing from your own “products”. When I am discussing “project selection” I am simply acknowledging that you are not the producer of the final work and that you have a start and an end date.
When I discuss “product selection” I am discussing a product that you own and produce and that will be in your artistic portfolio for the rest of your life. Project’s are both time-bound and unique. A project has a definite beginning and end in time, a defined scope and resources and it is unique, in that it is not a routine operation, but rather it is a specific set of operations designed to accomplish a singular goal.   As an artist you will have many exciting opportunities to create new and fresh project’s. This makes our position in society special. We get to meet and collaborate with producers from unique backgrounds. This phenomenon is both exciting and frustrating. It is exciting because choosing the right project, the project that receives wide success, could transform a your career entirely. On the other hand, it is frustrating because there are many opportunities and we know the right one could change our lives. So, time and time again, after the tour is over, after the play closes, after the concert, we are left with the question: what should I do next?
Think of project evaluation the same way that you would evaluate a job offer. If you were considering working at your favorite fashion boutique, then you would most likely consider the following: the employer, the department where you would be working and the company’s culture. Project evaluation for artists can be approached in a similar way and I’ll show you how. In this article, I share three things to evaluate when you start the project selection process: the producer (“employer”), the project itself (the department) and the production environment (company culture).

1. PRODUCER EVALUATION

First, assess the producer of the project.

Who is producing this work? Does this opportunity allow you to establish a track record with a producer that you want to have an ongoing relationship with? This is the first question to ask when deciding if you will work on a project. The producer is the individual or organization that will determine the final details of the product: price, market, packaging, branding and more. The final product will be a part of your artist profile and how you are viewed professionally as an artist. Therefore, you will want to consider the quality of the final project. Here is a list of questions to answer regarding the producer:

  1. Does the producer have a portfolio of work that resonates with me?
  2. Does this producer share my vision?
  3. Does this producer share my values?
  4. Do I have previous experience working with this producer? If so, was that experience positive?
  5. How have others referred to their experience working with this producer?
  6. Does the producer have a plan for handling conflict?
  7. How well does the staff at the producers organization work together? (Is it obvious that the organization is disorganized? Is there internal conflict, gossiping etc.?
  8. Will I be encouraged to voice my opinion if I have suggestions  or identify problems?
  9. Does the producer address problems head on or pretend that everything is fine?
  10. Is the producer more invested in me or my ability to deliver?
  11. Do I feel comfortable presenting new ideas?
  12. What is the process for beginning and ending the relationship?
  13. Is this a producer I would want to work with in 20 years?

Your focus in this evaluation is to ensure that the producer’s values and vision align with your own. In short: is this producer a part of the community of people doing work that you believe in and want to be a part of? Search the web and look for more resources if you feel that you want to give this further thought. Here is a site that I references when drafting these questions. Note: If this project provides an excellent opportunity for exposure but you do not wish to continue working with the producer in the future (and this may be the case depending on how long you have been in your field) then you want to consider how this project will position you to get to the projects and people who you want to be aligned with.

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FOR THE ARTIST ENTREPRENEUR.

elevate the artist

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