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A chat with Stage One trainee producer Peter Huntley  
Peter Huntley talks to us about his time as a Stage One apprentice producer.

Read part one, part two, part three and part four of our interview with Stage One.

How did you hear about Stage One?

Peter Huntley: I’ve been on the mailing list for quite a long time, and lots of people have told me about what Stage One are up to. I initially applied for the bursary for Austentatious, a show I put on at the Landor Theatre, I was interviewed for the bursary but we didn’t get it. So I have been through the process before getting the apprenticeship…

Had you produced when you first applied for a bursary?

Peter: No, that first bursary application I didn’t get was for my first show – but when I arrived for my interview, I just couldn’t say what I wanted to do next. I didn’t have any idea. We’d got ourselves in a situation with the show where we needed some help. That show could have gone somewhere else – it could still go somewhere else – but I couldn’t do it at the time because I didn’t have those contacts and I realised by then that the contracts weren’t up to speed, I found it really hard to raise the money for taking it on to another venue, and all these things that I couldn’t talk about in my first meeting. You do need to have some understanding of how the industry works. And when I came back for my interview for the apprenticeship, I did!

What have you been doing during your time so far at Sonia Friedman’s?

Peter: Well, I’m now an expert on dogs! I had to find out if dogs could be imported from America for Legally Blonde!

What was the outcome?!

Peter: No! When I explained to DEFRA (the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) “Oh, they’re not actually pets, they’re cast members” – they didn’t really take it on board! They wanted me to do it and get them over for the next day and obviously there are quite strict rabies laws! But we have our dogs now, they’re very happy. There’s six of them and what’s really sweet is that on the board in the foyer, they have their names listed! So you can walk by and think, oh, Pongo’s playing Bruiser tonight!

What are your ambitions for when you finish your apprenticeship?

Peter: I decided that my New Year’s resolution was that within 18 months I’ll have my name above a show title. I want to produce a show that has a big enough star in it that everyone goes and sees it! And then just work consistently on stuff that I like. I really want to produce stuff that I think is appropriate for the time, and works for the audience, working with new people, not necessarily doing new plays or musicals but doing innovative new productions of older work – or new stuff! And then slowly I’d like to build up to producing a big musical. I love plays but my first love is musicals and I think it would make my parents immensely proud to see their son producing something that everyone really loves!

Are you producing at the moment, whilst you’re on your apprenticeship?

Peter: Being told about the new Start-Up investment scheme has really made me think that whilst I’m at Sonia Friedman, I need to look at what people have got coming up. I’m producing a one-night revue for the V&A in February and I’m directing a little musical revue… so there is actually quite a lot going on, so at the moment I don’t want to produce another fringe musical, because it takes up so much time. But by the end of the year I want to have projects where I am committed to working with somebody else to produce.

What projects are you planning beyond your apprenticeship?

Peter: Being in Sonia’s office, once every couple of weeks we have a development meeting and look at something like 52 shows which might happen. And out of those probably a fair proportion will, because she’s a prolific producer – but that’s the time for me to be looking at that list and seeing what I want in on. That’s how Jamie Hendry started, he co-produced a show with Sonia – she’s really good at that, so she’d be an ideal person to do that with. But what I don’t want to happen is to get to the end of year and think ‘oh my God! I’m stranded!’ so I’m trying to make enough connections so that doesn’t happen!

What would your advice be to someone who was interested in starting out in production?

Peter: I would say, just do it! My outlook on how production worked changed so massively by producing on the fringe that I would not have got the bursary, I’m pretty certain, and I couldn’t have done the apprenticeship, if I’d not gone through that experience myself. You do need to have a go. I think part of that is just being brave.

Zoe (Davies, Fundraiser for Stage One): You do have to do it. My first thing would be to tell people to read the So You Want To Be A Producer notes on our website. It is quite a big document – 50 pages! But it is brilliant for when you’re first producing something. It tells you about how you contract things, how you start negotiations with a West End theatre – obviously it can’t do it for you, but it’s fairly in-depth. The most important thing would be to try and go on the three-day workshop but that costs money and some people might not be able to afford it – but if you can go on the course great, and if you can’t, read the notes and as Peter said – do it! Get out there, try and produce something on the fringe, have a go, and then apply for a bursary or an apprenticeship.

Peter: The other thing I think is that you’ve really got to know your subject. I think if you want to produce, there’s no point in doing it unless you love the theatre and you know the stuff that you’re interested in, and you know people’s names. Doing the apprenticeship is a great way of actually meeting and talking to people on the phone, getting to know industry people, but you do need to have some idea about who they are to start with!

Check back for more from the Stage One team… and take a look at the website, www.stageone.uk.com.

Posted on: 26th March 2010

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