To recognise the invaluable role of producers, Program Officer for Dance Kristian Pellissier asked three producers – Kath Papas, Jenifer Leys and Britt Guy – to talk about their role and the artists and projects they represent. In this, the first instalment, we talk to Kath Papas, Creative Producer at Kath Papas Productions. Kath is working with Tony Yap, Yumi Umiumare and Matthew Gingold on the remount and presentation of Zero Zero, produced by Dancehouse (supported through Dance Projects – Presentation) and Korean-Australian choreographer Soo Yeun Yoo, who has received funding support for the creative development of intercultural contemporary dance work [Gu:t].
What is the role of a producer?
Broadly, I think of a producer as the person who walks beside the artist in the journey of a work, especially if – as I do – you collaborate with the artist from conception through to development, presentation and touring. There is incredible value for the artist in having someone else who deeply cares about their work. Also, it’s my job to always have a view to the long-term plans for the piece, right from the beginning, and making sure at every stage we have the tools (artistic language, plans, documentation) that we need for the next stage. The producer also helps connect the work to opportunities and supportive contexts, whether that is financial support or brokering relationships with venues/festivals with the right audiences for the piece.
You work with Soo Yeun You; Tony Yap, Yumi Umiumare and Matthew Gingold. What was it about the artists you work with and their projects that were of interest to you?
I am intrigued and inspired by Soo Yeun’s drive to find meeting points between Korean and Australian Indigenous ideas and dance.
I produce a number of Tony’s works with different collaborators. He was already working on Zero Zero when I started working with him in 2010. It has been really exciting to watch and be part of the development and evolution of the piece over time. I love its dualities: visibility/invisibility, light/dark, looseness/structure.
I feel both [Gu:t] and Zero Zero are very contemporary Australian dance works that speak strongly to our culture today; that they are works that would not have happened even twenty years ago. And I love that these works are taking so much of their form, content and philosophy from outside of Western cultural perspectives and frameworks. That is a key thing that drives me as a producer: helping to take the art form forward in different ways.
What is your creative/logistical input for the project?
I work closely with the artists on all the applications, and budget the work in collaboration with them. I organise auspicing, contracts, venue bookings, etc. For a development like [Gu:t] I will spend time in the studio with the artists, watching, being part of conversations. That is crucial in order to develop a language to communicate the work. Careful organisation of the showing and the documentation is also important.
For a re-presentation like Zero Zero, the role is different. In this case our forthcoming season is produced by Dancehouse (lovely luxury for me!) so the focus of my role this time will be around advocacy for the work – making sure we make the most of this season to secure more national and international opportunities for the piece. But I am still a part of all the planning of production especially in terms of how that was translated into our budget.
Where do you find the (non-state, federal) support for a project?
Conversations! Keeping presenters and potential supporters both domestically and overseas up to date with what’s in your portfolio as a producer, and where the artists and works of most interest to them are at in their development. Then finding the points of connection at the right time.
If there is one piece of advice that you could give to independent dance artists, it would be…
Think about the possible contexts for presenting your work as you are making it, and have lots of conversations about your work with different people so you get confident about communicating what you do.