Casting Networks® caught up with the team behind the Collective Creative Initiative, which was created in response to the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the performing arts. The founders explain why they launched this initiative, highlights of a difficult year, and plans for the future.
1. Tell us about the Collective Creative Initiative!
The Collective Creative Initiative was launched in June as a response to the impact of the COVID crisis on the performing arts. Collective Creative Initiative offers 30 hours a week of online classes, seminars, workshops and live Q&As free of charge to anyone wishing to participate. They are hosted by world-class practitioners across theatre, TV, film, accountancy and wellbeing. All the practitioners are paid for their time and there is no cost to the performer for accessing these sessions. Our goal is to allow equal opportunity for everyone, regardless of economic circumstances, to benefit from the expertise and support of professionals at the top of their game. There is no charge for the classes, which are streamed live on YouTube five days a week before being uploaded to an online library for free access for an additional month, at which time they are replaced with new, up-to-date classes.
2. How has your initial concept of the program evolved since March?
The initial plan was always to offer a free industry service whilst still providing the practitioners with a sustainable model on which to grow their own businesses off the back of the platform. Initially, we had planned quite a rigid course with certain elements being covered each week. Of course, you have to listen to your audience when launching any product and we have since increased the number of industry Q&As with producers, agents, actors and casting directors in response to high demand. They have proved extremely popular.
3. Who is your target audience?
The project was created primarily to target and support professional creatives in the performing arts. The focus of the platform is to provide free practical training, mental health support and insider industry knowledge all in one place. The platform is also designed to offer training and accessibility to people who might be aspiring to move into the performing arts and have never had exposure to these kinds of classes, as well as people who might have an interest in the arts but are not seeking to be professionals. This platform creates an opportunity for everybody, from every socio-economic group and background, to access world-class practitioners from the comfort of their own home. We have a really strong focus on inclusion, diversity and accessibility with the CCI.
4. How did you both start out in the industry?
Both of us were professional performers, working across theatre, TV and the recorded arts. James has extensive West End and national theatre tour experience, whilst Rosie toured in Europe and worked as a TV presenter. After getting married in 2008 they decided to do one cruise contract together to see some of the world and ended working at sea for 11 contracts! They then moved into more creative roles including creating and selling shows and theatrical content, producing and directing their own work, and in 2014 started casting for a major cruise line looking after their musical, ‘Legally Blonde’ among others.
5. When creating CCI, how did you find your faculty for the classes?
We were awarded the grant towards the end of May, with a start date of first of June, so we had to work very quickly to put practitioners in place for the initial two-week programme! We started with friends and creatives that we knew or had worked with, people we knew had the right ethos for the platform. The main message of the initiative is to encourage productivity, creativity and positivity, and everyone who came on board was so incredibly supportive of the initiative and has been instrumental in its success so far. Once we had the first few weeks out of the way, we were able to cast our net wider for more tutors, helping us to keep the diversity and a wide variety of different classes on offer. Sometimes we go on Instagram to find people who are inspiring and can offer something different. Other times we ask colleagues and friends to recommend people who would be an asset to the platform. As the word has spread, many people reached out to us requesting to get involved! We are always open to hearing from new people with great creative ideas.
6. What are the most common requests from your viewers?
Aside from the Q&As, workshops and masterclasses that focus on specific acting skills such as an introduction to Meisner technique, get a lot of views. Our musical theatre dance class, which is adapted each week to focus on a different style of musical, is one of our most successful classes, probably because it appeals to people of all abilities and is really fun! We get lots of requests for casting directors working in TV and film and we have been extremely lucky with some amazing Q&As!
7. Tell us about a CCI highlight since launch?
Definitely the response we’ve had from the arts community has been overwhelming and extremely humbling. Obviously this has been a difficult time for everyone emotionally and mentally. The week after we launched we were inundated with emails and social media messages saying how incredible people have found the platform, mostly as something to keep their minds occupied and also to feel connected and inspired to stay positive. We think this has been one of the hardest aspects of the lockdown and the hiatus of work for people in the arts; we work in an industry that we are all incredibly passionate about, it’s not just a job. We are used to interacting with each other through theatre trips, workshops, auditions, creative meetings etc, so CCI has given creatives, including me and James, a hub to interact positively with other people and to feel connected with the industry.
8. Is there something specific you both are looking forward to for CCI in 2021?
The Collective Creative Initiative is currently fully funded by innovate UK, and the entire project only exists because of this grant. We are incredibly grateful to have been awarded the money and to create this opportunity at this time. This grant ends in December 2020 and we are now actively working to secure further funding for 2021 and beyond, as we feel this is an invaluable tool for the industry at any time. In line with our funding we are currently only permitted to use practitioners from the UK, so we are looking forward to connecting with our international cousins further in 2021. We are looking forward to expanding the platform outside of the UK, looking (for example) at more global timelines for life classes so that creatives in Las Vegas or Sydney have access to the live Q&A aspect of the platform. With this globalisation also comes an opportunity for us to use international practitioners – choreographers from Broadway, directors from Melbourne, casting directors from LA etc. The goal is to keep this as a free platform to access worldwide, whilst continuing to support the practitioners offering their time and skills.
9. Do you have a quote or mantra that you live by?
Oh gosh, there are so many! Stay in class. Be kind. Say yes and work out how to do it later. Don’t stop creating.
10. Lastly, what excites you both about the future of the industry?
This can feel like a scary time. There is uncertainty about when live arts will be able to return and when many people will be back in regular employment. Especially if you are a new grad, it can feel unfair coming into the industry at such a difficult time. However, times like this also provide us with opportunities. James and I would never have had the time to create a platform like Collective Creative Initiative, pre-COVID. We can see so much creativity already coming out of people having more time, people allowing themselves now to be creative, and also creating their own opportunity. There is a sense that we don’t always have to rely on other people to create opportunities or work for us. Very early on James referred to this as a Renaissance. We can shape the future of the industry. Now, there are no rules. You get to choose what this looks like now. It’s your industry.