National Improv Network Launches Free Teaching Tool

In honor of the National Improv Network’s “Year of the Teacher,” we are happy to announce The Teaching Tool, for both traveling teachers and for those who teach as part of their home theatre’s training program.

Like NIN’s submission tool, where improv troupes can curate an online resume to instantly submit to festivals, individual teachers will be able to maintain a professional resume with all the information theatres or festivals need. Not only will you be able to list all of your improv workshops, you’ll also be able to list your travel preferences, pricing and details about your workshops length, student cap and level of difficulty, giving a festival all the information they need to hire you. And for improv theatres you’ll be able to promote your training center to the masses listing how many levels you have, your curriculum and more!

Our promise to you, the improv community, is to create more opportunities for improvisors and The Teaching Tool delivers on that promise. We want to give every improv teacher, veteran or new, the chance to submit their self to a festival with just the click of a button for free.  And we want to make sure it’s easy for a festival and theater organizer to have all their information without having to hunt it down.

When NIN started promoting the idea of theatres bringing out more instructors, one thing we heard repeatedly is that people who hadn’t brought out teachers in the past really didn’t know how to reach out or what was expected of them in the process. It can be an awkward conversation. We really wanted to put as much information about an instructor’s needs out to the theatres before that conversation even begins so that theatres can approach that talk in a more informed way.

The teaching tool is available to improvisors today. Here’s how you set it up:

1. Edit your profile and make sure the option “I am a teacher” is selected to unlock the various teaching tools.
2. Click the link that says “Set up your teaching profile now” on your main profile page to go through the setup wizard.
3. Add Workshops from the teaching profile that will be added to your main profile.

If you’re a theatre with a training program you can now add training information to your theatre. Right now it’s just an information page about your training program that instructors can be listed under. But more tools for training programs will start showing up if you set up your training program today. Here’s how you do it:

1. Edit your theatre profile and select the option saying that you have a training program.
2. Visit your theatre’s profile and click the link to set it up.
3. Fill out the info and hit Submit
4. (optional) hit the “Change Instructors” to add or remove instructors.

These tools are only available for members of NIN. If you’re not a member of NIN you can sign up for FREE at nationalimprovnetwork.com. Sign up today to take advantage of the free resources for improvisors that NIN provides.

About National Improv Network

National Improv Network is an online community and non-profit endeavor that brings improvisors together from all over the world and offers Theatre Owners, Festival Organizers, Improvisors and Instructors a wide array of services and resources.  Currently NIN has over 2,000 members, 1200 improv troupes, over 100 festivals and over 90 theaters listed on the site.

Nick Armstrong and Bill Binder – Co-Founders of the National Improv Network

Nick is Camp Director and Founder of Improv Utopia an improv retreat for adults in California and Pennsylvania. He is also one of the founding members of the National Improv Network and performer and teacher at iO West as well as an alum of The Sunday Company at The Groundlings. He has also taught many workshops around the country.

Currently Bill is an instructor at The Torch Theatre and producer for the Phoenix Improv Festival. He tours teaching and performing across North America.

 

 

The Do’s and Don’ts of Getting In and Attending Improv Festivals

So, it’s festival season, there are a lot to submit to now so I thought I’d write some do’s and don’ts about trying to get into a festival and what to do when you get into one.

Do –

1. Have a great unedited video! A lot of festivals want to see what they’re getting and they want to see your show. Tape a bunch of your shows and take one that you think represents your show the best. It’s better to have a few to choose from. Taping just one rarely works out. Also, if you do a festival and they tape your show get it from them.

2. Fill out all the information. Whether your a member on NIN or a Non-Member filling out their application. Fill it all in! They are asking for all the information for a reason. Don’t make them work harder to find it, because they have 100 other teams submitting that have it all filled out and you will get passed up.

3. Put some effort into your submission – Have a professional group photo, a team logo, make it look sexy. You want to make it easy for a festival to promote you. Remember they have to fill your seats so anything you can do to make that easier is amazing to a festival producer. Do you have press clippings? Give that to them too. This shows you care and that you mean business and a festival producer will see that.

4. Network – Have fun, go to the parties at a festival, thank the volunteers, the producers, the bartender. Go support other improvisors shows. It’s a great way to meet people and I can guarantee you, you will find someone there that does another festival or has been to one and can help you get into more.

5. Take Workshops – What a great way to get teachers you would not necessarily have in your community. Most of the time the festival is putting up good money to bring some master teachers out and not making a profit off of it. They do it more for you. So take them up on it and trust me you’ll come out a better improvisor. Plus you get to play with people from all over the country and it’s also a great way to network. I’ve met some great people taking workshops in the past

6. Send a thank you e-mail to the producers after the festival. And if they send out a survey, do it. It helps them tremendously to hear your input.

7. Wear appropriate clothing – Sometimes you should ask what the attire is at a festival, but really what it comes down to is professionalism. Probably not the best ideas to wear shorts and a t-shirt.

8. Ask for feedback – Did you not get accepted. It’s okay to e-mail and ask for advice on your submission. Also, reach out to us at NIN and we can always help give you advice on it.

Don’t –

1. Back out of a festival once you’ve said yes. Recently, there has been a string of this and I’ve heard gripings. If you say yes then you’re in. You have committed and the festival has already put you on the bill, promoting, made posters, programs etc. By quitting you have cost them money and now time to fill your spot. I can guarantee you will not be invited back and the community is a small one it gets around.

2. Submit your team of 7 people and show up with 3 or 4 or different improvisors. When you submit your team and they watch the video with those improvisors that’s who they are saying yes to. If you bring a different team of less then what you’ve promised that becomes a huge issue. Festival Producers go through a lot to try and promote a festival, pick teams and fill seats. Your job is to give them what was promised.

3. Be unprofessional – You’re representing your team and your theater. Show a little pride and make sure you show up to your calltime on time, do the show you promised and respect everyone that worked to get the festival going, don’t be drunk during your show. I know this sounds like common sense but I’ve seen it all.

So if you want to get into a festival, be invited back or go to more festivals these do’s and don’ts should help guide you on your way through the festival circuit. Just keep in mind, once you’re in a festival you are representing that festival to their audience and community. Happy traveling and submit away!

To submit to a festival instantly become a member at www.nationalimprovnetwork.com it’s free to join!

Nick Armstrong

Nick is Camp Director and Founder of Improv Utopia an improv retreat for adults in California and Pennsylvania. He is also one of the founding members of the National Improv Network and performer and teacher at iO West as well as member of The Sunday Company at The Groundlings. He has also taught many workshops around the country.

 

Spotlight on Improv Fest Ireland

NIN has welcomed our first ever international festival to use our instant submission service, that festival is the Improv Fest Ireland. We were able to interview Neil Curran, who runs the festival in Dublin. Here is what he had to say:

What is the biggest difference you see between the US an Ireland when it comes to improv.

The improv scene in Ireland has been growing rapidly in recent years and long form is becoming more and more popular.  While the long form scene is still in its infancy, there are wonderfully talented performers and troupes emerging around the country.  I’m quite passionate about community in improv and its a joy to see other troupes embrace this notion as we witness more and more jam nights and shared stage events.  We don’t have a dedicated improv theatre in Dublin yet but more and more venues are opening their doors and embracing the art form.  While our excellent stand up scene dominates the comedy circuit, the improv community is working hard to forge our own personality in the arts and comedy community.  And this makes it a great time to be part of the improv scene here.  Improvisers are learning their art from many improv instructors, locally and also through visiting international instructors.  This is empowering performers to create their own style of improv, taking elements of what works for them from each instructor rather than abiding the style of one instructor or theatre.  For example, troupes are creating their own formats or personalising established formats and also blend game work with narrative.

For folks coming out of the country will you have hotel room blocks or how will you help them with housing?

We will have an accommodation partner for the festival where discounted hostel rooms will be available for performers.  There is no short supply of accommodation options in Dublin.

What workshops can improvisors look forward to?

We haven’t confirmed the instructors yet for the festival as the application window is still open, but we have been overwhelmed by the call for instructor applications.  As with previous years, we will be offering a diverse range of workshops catering for improvisers at all levels.  There will also be coaching opportunities where troupes can work with an instructor.  For example, last year we had instructors from Second City teaching character workshops through real people, an instructor from Sicily teaching about being physical in improv, to name but a few.

What venue is the festival at?

Since the festival’s inception, the festival’s home has been Dublin’s iconic Theatre @ 36 in the heart of the city.  However with the growth of the festival last year we are also in discussion with additional spaces that can cater for the prime time shows and the audience sizes they attract.  I can’t say the venue names yet but needless to say its another iconic space in the heart of the city.  Dublin is a small city by international standards with a population of less than 2 million, but what we don’t have in size we make up for in our rich culture and history

What are some fun things to do in Dublin?

There is no shortage of things to do in Dublin and the best part is everything can be either walked to or travelled to on a short bus/Luas (tram) journey.  Famous for Guinness, Dublin is home to many great pubs and bars.
The Guinness Storehouse tour is a fun way to find out the magic behind how they make a pint of the ‘black stuff’.Trinity College is our most famous college and is home to the Book of Kells which was found in an Irish monastery in the 6th century.  The book is housed in the “Old Library’ which is a sight to behold in itself.
The Dublin Literary Pub Crawl is very popular, and has storytelling guides take you on a tour of some of Dublin’s best pubs where you can stop off for a pint in each one while they recite famous stories and tales, some written by Ireland’s finest writers.The Leprechaun Museum might sound like something for the kids but at night, her interactive story telling tours bring us to the dark side of Irish folklore.We’re only scratching the surface here but its just a small insight into all the great things the city has to offer.

If a troupe gets into your fest? What can they expect?

A troupe can expect to be part of a festival in one of World’s most friendliest and fun cities.  The festival runs for a week and we will have shows and jams from all over the world.  There will be learning opportunities from world class instructor,  jams and mixer shows with talented performers from other troupes.  Last year we had performers from 13 different countries!  Troupes also receive a strong box office split for their professional performances.  But probably most important of all, is the highly coveting Improv Fest Ireland goodie bag.

What do you look for in a submission?

Programming the festival line up is a very difficult process and we really want all troupes to submit the best application they can.  Things for troupes to think about:
* What separates your application from the rest?
* What makes your show special?
* Do you have a unique genre show?
* Does your troupe have a particular strength?
* Is your show unusual or unique in format and setting?
* Does your application give a good sense of your troupe’s personality?
* Have you video footage you can share?

As someone who has been to Dublin, I can say Neil is right, it’s one of the friendliest and fun cities to go to. If you get a chance go! To instantly submit to the Improv Fest Ireland click HERE.


Nick is Camp Director and Founder of Improv Utopia an improv camp for adults in California and Pennsylvania. He is also one of the founding members of the National Improv Network and performer and teacher at iO West as well as member of The Sunday Company at The Groundlings. He has also taught many workshops around the country.

Spotlight on Baltimore Improv Festival

Baltimore has gone through a lot lately, but the show must go on and the 9th year of The Baltimore Improv Festival is showing no sign of slowing down. It’s just what the community needs so please check it out and submit if you can. I had a chance to interview BIF Executive Producer Mike Harris about this years festival.

9 Years is amazing run for an improv festival. What has been the biggest challenges of running a festival?

Thanks Nick. We’ve been really fortunate to have so many great troupes come visit. They’ve really allowed us to build a loyal audience for the festival. Every festival has to figure out what makes it unique, and for us, it has been the enthusiasm of the Baltimore audience. We’ve chosen to keep our festival at one venue to keep the audience concentrated. Which is great for giving performers a chance to get in front of large audiences, but also means we have less slots to offer and have to turn down some really good troupes. That’s probably the biggest challenge right now, saying no to folks we want to invite.

What do you look for in a submission?

Subjective though it may be, we do put funny first. Always like to see troupes that are having fun playing with each other, and showing solid grounding in improv fundamentals. Nothing wrong with breaking the rules as long as it comes from a deliberate choice to do so. Beyond that, we look for troupes that have uniquely marketable formats and increase the diversity of the festival lineup. Any chance we get to offer something Baltimore hasn’t seen before, we’ll take it.

What are some fun things to do in Baltimore?

Best thing about Baltimore is that you won’t mistake it for being anywhere else. We’re a funky, friendly city-sized small town. Baltimore is made up of a borderline absurd numbers of small neighborhoods. Great thing about that is that each one has its own flavor. So in a matter of blocks you can come across entirely different food, music, shops. So, I’d say hit Fells Point, Little Italy, Canton or Mount Vernon and just walk around and see what grabs your interest. And the Inner Harbor is fine. A little touristy and the one place that probably seems least like Baltimore, but tons to do.

With the riots that are happening in Baltimore. What can you say to an improvisor who is hesitant to submit to your festival.

Baltimore has a reputation that predates the recent demonstrations, and we, like a lot of American cities, have deeply rooted, systemic issues and injustices. The problems that came to a head these past few weeks will still be here for the 9th Baltimore Improv Festival and, sadly, probably the 99th Baltimore Improv Festival. That said, the amount of violence was greatly overstated. The overwhelming majority of the demonstrators were completely peaceful. The vast majority of the city is safe, and that includes the area where the Festival will be held.

Will there be workshops at the festival?

Absolutely. We will have two sessions of workshops on Saturday and two on Sunday. Hopefully we will be able to offer around 10-12 workshops over the course of the weekend, and we absolutely encourage members of accepted troupes to propose workshops they would like to teach.

To submit to the Baltimore Improv Festival click HERE.


Nick is Camp Director and Founder of Improv Utopia an improv retreat for adults in California and Pennsylvania. He is also one of the founding members of the National Improv Network and performer and teacher at iO West as well as member of The Sunday Company at The Groundlings. He has also taught many workshops around the country.

1,000 Scenes with Morgan Phillips

I think it was Miles Stroth who said you have to do at least 1000 shows before you can become somewhat good at improv. Well how about 1000 online improv shows? Morgan Phillips is on a mission to do just that and guess what you can be a part of it. I interviewed Morgan about his project:

N: Tell us about your project and why you decided to do it?

M: To celebrate my 20-year improv anniversary, I’ve set out to do 1000 online improv scenes in 2015 — each one with a different scene partner.

N: When did you start this project?

M: I started on New Year’s Day, 2015.

N: Do you have a finish date?

M: My goal is to complete 1000 scenes before the end of the calendar year.

N: Tell us how it works, how frequently do you do these?

M: Anybody who wants to be part of the project just needs to send me their general availability, and we’ll set something up. Shortly before the scheduled time I send them a link to a Google Hangout, and (barring technical difficulties) they click the link and we do a digital improv scene together.

I’ve done scenes at all times of the day and night — including a 3am scene to fit the schedule of an improviser in Australia (Reid Workman, scene #111). I have to average approximately 2.75 scenes a day to stay on pace, so I really am looking for anybody and everybody who’d like to participate. So far my scene partners have ranged from artistic directors of improv theaters to a guy literally doing his very first improv scene (Joe Cherry, scene #70). Some of the people are friends of mine, but many of them are people I’ve never met before.

N: What do you think about improv online? What are the pros and cons?

M: The technology is still in its infancy. There are frequent glitches, and sometimes we have to troubleshoot for several minutes before I actually start the Google Hangout broadcast. Once it’s up and running, it’s a lot more limited than actual, real-world improv. There’s less opportunity for physicality and space work, so there tends to be far less “going to the environment” than there would be in a standard scene.

That being said, it’s free. There’s no need to rent a space or book a show, and you can do it any time of the day or night. I highly recommend it for anybody out there who loves improv, but isn’t getting enough stage time. Provided you can find at least one other person who’s into it, you can literally add as much improv into your life as you can stand.

N: What has been the most interesting scene you’ve done so far?

Scene #221 (with Kevin Hines, head of the UCB training program in NYC) was an attempt to do my half of the scene live, on stage. It was an enormous failure, thanks to a huge delay between the scene and the live feed, and an unreliable internet connection. It made for an interesting video, though. The audience at the theater claimed to enjoy it, but it’s possible they were just being polite…

I think this project is so fun and I got a chance to do it with Morgan too. Our suggestion was Pun and we plotted to murder a co-worker. HA! Morgan is a super nice guy and very fun to play with! Go do it and help him reach his goal.

Do you want to be a part of this great project! Feel free to e-mail Morgan at morganphillips@gmail.com and join the fun!

____________________________________________________
Nick Armstrong
Nick is Camp Director and Founder of Improv Utopia a non-profit improv retreat for adults in California and Pennsylvania. He is also one of the founding members of the National Improv Network and performer at iO West as well as member of The Sunday Company at The Groundlings. He has also teaches improv throughout the country.

Spotlight on The San Francisco Improv Festival.

I’ve been to the SF Improv Festival about 5 times since its beginning 11 years ago.  I can say it’s one of the premier festivals in the West and one of my favorite cities to visit. I was able to interview Executive Producer of the SF Improv Festival, Jamie Wright about this years festivities.

The SF Improv Festival is one of the premier festivals of the West Coast. What can improvisors expect this year?

It’s still early in our planning for this year’s festival, but some of what we’re cooking up for 2015 is 10 days of fantastic improv and sketch shows, master-level workshop instructors, a professional 200-seat venue to perform in, an opening night party for the festival as well as post-show cool downs in the lobby bar, parties, Friday night jams, and the festival’s traditional close out of Game Island with Ron West where you can throw down with other performers under the watchful eye of Whose Line’s former games director. All this *and* a staff that is committed to making you feel welcome, and an improv scene in town that is beginning to burst at the seams.

What does a troupe get if accepted?

Troupes accepted to the fest get one 35-minute performance slot in a double-bill. Troupe-members get a performer bracelet which entitles you to any empty seat in a show after the audience is seated, performer pricing on drinks at our (full!) bar, and early signup opportunities for workshops.

What do you look for in a submission?

Really in the end it just comes down to looking for great work by people who love what they do. If you broke it down specifically, we look at: the strength of ensembles, improv basics (accepting & building on offers, support, team play, etc.), character work, overall quality and professionalism, and throw in a little consideration for accessibility to the general public and uniqueness of format. We also look for a diversity of performance groups and of forms. If there’s anything that tips the scales for us in the decision, it’s definitely seeing joy in the work.

Where in SF do you hold the festival?

The festival is held at the Eureka Theater, which is sandwiched between the Downtown, the Embarcadero waterfront area and North Beach. The theater is a 200-seater with a raised stage and a pretty enormous green room. The Eureka’s history includes mounting the premiere of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America and more recently, for being the home of the SF Sketchfest and the SF Improv Festival. The location is great for enjoying SF; it is walking distance to the major lines of public transportation, has a ton of restaurants and bars within a 10 minute walk, and pretty unbelievable views of the Bay just around the corner.

SF is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. What do you recommend improvisors do in your city?

There’s the usual run of amazing things to check out; the Embarcadero waterfront & the Golden Gate, some of the best food on the planet, fantastic bars & night life, stupid-beautiful views of the Bay Area and pacific coast, and then you have places like the Mission (which is a cross between the birthplace of the Mission burrito and a ready-made location set for Mike Judge’s Silicon Valley), and the other famous cultural-epicenter neighborhoods like the Haight and North Beach. And these are just a few of the things within city limits.

Oh yeah – then there’s a couple hundred improvisors hanging out looking for something to do after taking in each other’s shows. And you’re in San Francisco. Pretty sure you can figure out some way to occupy your time…!

To instantly submit to the San Francisco Improv Festival click HERE.


Nick is Camp Director and Founder of Improv Utopia an improv retreat for adults in California and Pennsylvania. He is also one of the founding members of the National Improv Network and performer and teacher at iO West as well as member of The Sunday Company at The Groundlings. He has also taught many workshops around the country.

When Does My Troupe Need a Coach?

First, I want to give a shout out to our members for suggesting topics to us regarding coaches. This was one of them, and I know there are many more to tackle.

We were asked, “When does my improv troupe need to get a coach.” I think it’s when your team is ready to organize, commit and wants to become better. At first when you form, you might not need a coach right away. You need to organize your thoughts as a team and get on the same page.

I wrote two blogs regarding how to organize teams – Read these and then continue.

1. Does Your Troupe Have a Bible

2. 5 Ways to Better Communicate with Your Troupe

When your troupe is organized and knows what it wants to do, a coach can come in and help you realize your vision. A coach can also read your improv bible and be able to guide your team towards your goals.

How to Pick a Coach?

1. Vet a coach – If you’ve organized your troupe, as read above, then go watch some performers or teams that fit your vision or are close to what you like in improv. If you’re looking to create your own new form, then go see a team that has done that too. Who’s their coach? Maybe if you like one of the performers on that team ask them if they’d be interested in coaching. I do think not all performers make good coaches, but it’s a start and you gotta at least try.

2. Teachers – Well this goes without saying, if you’ve taken classes at your local improv theater and loved a teacher ask him or her to coach you guys. They are usually more seasoned and have seen it all.

3. Try a coach out – So you got a coach! YAY! That doesn’t mean they’re your coach for life. Try them out for a month or so and see if you like them. If it’s not a good fit that’s okay. Here’s how you can approach a coach: Ask the coach if they’d be interested in coaching you for a couple months. After that couple months, as a team, evaluate how you think you’re doing as a team and how you think your coach is doing. If they’re doing great, then ask then extend them for a 6 month run and then evaluate from there.

I’ve said that every team needs a coach in blogs before, and people have disagreed with me. I often wonder why. I still have never heard a good excuse not to have a coach. Can you imagine a movie without a director, or a broadway play without one. Pure chaos. Hopping out of your team to coach while you’re in it does not work. You are trying to achieve group mind with your fellow improvisors and jumping out of that can only hurt the team. If one day I come across a team that is absolutely amazing and they never had a coach, that will be the day I say, “Hey you’re right teams don’t need coaches.” But to this day I have never seen it. Even if they had a good show, I can see room for some coaching. Having said that, teams that are vets and have been coached for years and are now flying solo that’s a different story altogether. Should they do a coaching check in once in awhile. YES! My team King Ten that’s been together for 13 years still gets a coach on a quarterly basis. Why? To push ourselves and to never become content with what we are doing. As artists we always must push ourselves past what we think we can do. And a coach is a great way to help you get to that.

Nick Armstrong

Nick is Camp Director and Founder of Improv Utopia an improv retreat for adults in California and Pennsylvania. He is also one of the founding members of the National Improv Network and performer and teacher at iO West as well as member of The Sunday Company at The Groundlings. He has also taught many workshops around the country.

 

 

 

How to Hire an Improv Instructor: Standard of Practice

During my travels and throughout all the improv summits I hold at Camp Improv Utopia I always get the question: How much and how do we hire an instructor? Is there a standard?

Our improv industry doesn’t have a standard yet. But most every industry has a pretty good standard of practice when it comes to hiring outside help. Bill and I created NIN for a lot of reasons, but one of them is to help guide improvisors, theaters and festivals. In this blog I am going to try and breakdown for you a standard of practice for hiring an improv instructor.

Transportation:

The  standard is to purchase the instructors airfare (Coach) or if they are closer and don’t need airfare pay for their gas money. The current Govt. rate is $.58 per mile click HERE for the official govt. resource. Also, transportation from the airport. You can easily have someone pick them up or pay for a car to get them.

Lodging: 

The standard is to get the instructor a hotel room for the time they are there. Unless they offer something else assume this is what you should do. The accommodations should be nice. Think of it as a place you’d stay too. I have heard nightmare stories from instructors about being put in bad neighborhoods and bad hotels so do your research.

How much do I pay them: 

This can vary…But I’ll try to break it down:

1. It really depends on your budget and the instructors experience – But remember this, they are not only training your students, they are usually training your instructors or future instructors. So think about this when hiring them.

a.) For one standard workshop and show a good average rate ranges from $300 – $800 again depending on the instructor. For Master instructors, think about $1500-$3200. But usually when you have one of these type of instructors out you are getting more than just one workshop and a show. This is all negotiable just want to give you some ball park figures.

b.) If you have them doing a couple workshops and a show that can range from $800-$1,700 for a typical instructor. Again, this is negotiable and depending on the instructor. It may be more for your top instructors this could be double as mentioned above it could range from $2,000 – $4,000. But again for most instructors the average should be around $800 – $1,700.

c.) Usually if you’re going to spend the money, bring an instructor out for shows and workshops. They will charge you a flat fee for their services.

d.) The 60/40, 70/30, 50/50 split scenarios. I get it, some theaters have to pay rent for their space and some instructors will do this, but you won’t get quality instructors from this scenerio. Why? You haven’t guaranteed them money to come out. Can you guarantee them the workshop will be sold out? Are you only charging $20 a head? Now if you’re charging like $80 or more a head a scenario like this may work out. But again, an instructor is leaving their community, job and family to come help your community out. They have put years of work, teaching, stagetime and money into their education.

You have to realize you are booking them out of potential other work so it has to be worth it for them to come out to you and you have to put a value on your community. If your community gets the best training from these instructors, you all get better. Creating better shows bringing in more students and more audience and potentially more revenue for you. That’s your return on investment.

Per Diem: 

Now this can get tricky. Are you feeding them? Taking them out? If so you might not have to give a per diem. But if they’re on their own it’s usually $40- $75 a day in per diem. It varies from place to place….San Francisco is more expensive than Omaha for example. You don’t have to pay per diem on their travel days but just the days they are working for you. This is a standard practice in most industries. They have to feed themselves about three times a day. Now can you build this into their base fee? Yes! Just ask them about it. Can you waive it because you’ll be feeding them…Yes. Again, depends on the instructor but always ask.

Contracts:
I know it’s improv, but you should have them. It’s really ridiculous not to. Doesn’t have to have tons of legal speech but at least outline what you are each responsible for. It protects your theater and festival and it protects your instructor. It also protects you from that awkward moment after the workshop of “How much did we say?” You can find templates of them online. Here is a sample template.Of course you can change the wording to fit your needs and always run by a lawyer if you have access to one.

Fundraising for this money:

Now you’re probably screaming, “Nick, how can we afford this?” “We are just a small festival.” This is my answer: Ask yourself why are you throwing a festival and why are you bringing these teachers in. It’s most likely to bring a name or experience to help your community grow and your audience grow. To bring your community more attention. Remember they represent your theater or festival that week or weekend so you get all the press, the growth as teachers and performers the whole shabang! Yes it’s an investment and you might lose some money, but in the long run your return on investment will be seen in the quality of work you’ll be elevated to and hopefully with better shows and improvisors comes more audience.

Fundraising has so many more outlets then ever before with social media and things like Kickstarter. Do some events during the year, get other theaters or groups involved. Have a budget so you know what your goal is. Here is a list you can consider doing to fundraise during the year:

1. Kickstarter, Indigogo or something similar. I’ve seen these have much success.

2. Do fundraising shows that the money goes directly to the festival. (Phoenix Improv Festival and The Torch Theater run a 48 hour marathon called GhostFest every halloween to raise money for their festival.

3. Festival Submission fees – The average submission fee is around $25-30. Merch sales at your festival – T-shirts, buttons, stickers etc.

5. Sponsorship Packets – Does your improv fest or theater have a Sponsorship Packet? Why not? Get local businesses, improv companies and more to put money into your programs, list their logo on your site. I’ve seen some great ones. Here is one from The Pittsburgh Comedy Festival as a great example.

6. Auctions and Raffles: Auction off classes, get prizes from other companies that can donate to you some goods or services.

Ultimately, you might not have the finances to do this and that’s okay. Keep working at it. Some teachers have wiggle room so just talk to them. Value them for who they are and their experience. If we are to become a greater community we have to have standards like other industries and I hope this helps guide you. Sure there are scenarios that aren’t listed here and things can change. And you can get creative…I’ve heard of a company that instead of paying the instructor they made it a vacation for them…tickets to disneyland, a vacation destination etc…So you never know. Best of luck and we are always here to help you! If you have any comments, experiences or suggestions please do!

Nick Armstrong

Nick is Camp Director and Founder of Improv Utopia an improv retreat for adults in California and Pennsylvania. He is also one of the founding members of the National Improv Network and performer and teacher at iO West as well as member of The Sunday Company at The Groundlings. He has also taught many workshops around the country.

5 Ways an Improv Troupe Can Communicate Better

I get asked this a lot…How do we deal with someone in the troupe that is hard to work with? How do we kick someone off the team? Should we add new people? Should we get a coach? How do we make these decisions? Improv is such a positive force we sometimes forget to set some ground rules because we assume everything will work itself out because we are all easy-going people. Well this is not the case all the time. We are also artists that have strong passionate feelings about things. Sure, improvisors are awesome we all know that, but a troupe needs to communicate and be on the same page or else it will quickly fall apart.

A troupe needs to set up expectations up front so when you come across a situation it’s easier to figure them out in a diplomatic way. Below I have listed some things that will help guide you and your troupe into communication bliss.

1. Get Organized From the Start:

I’ve mentioned this in a blog post before. Your troupe should start an improv bible. Now the bible in the blog mentioned is focused more on the improv aspects of your troupe, which you should have, but in addition to that bible, start a bible on the rules of your team outside of performance. Here’s an example of what you’d have in there:

A. How do we pay for a things – rehearsal space, coach, etc… – Dues Based? Monthly Dues? When we show up for rehearsal? I would personally recommend a monthly dues based system. Why? It’s easy and holds every member accountable. So if they miss a rehearsal you don’t get screwed out of money to pay for the space or the coach. This saves you a lot of tracking people down.

B. Troupe Positions – Sure you’re all improvisors in an ensemble but get organized – Like a Boy Scout or Girl Scout Troupe they have Senior Patrol Leaders, Patrol Leaders, Scribe etc. What are you in your troupe? Positions I think you need to have – 1. Booker – Books the rehearsal spot, coach and submits to festivals etc. 2. Treasurer – Handles all money to pay for space, coach and handles dues. 3. Marketing – Handles all social media posts, invites and team events. And switch roles every few months so you’re not always doing the same job, unless you guys are happy with your jobs then you can keep them as long as you want. But figure out how you’ll handle that.

2.  Set the Rules of Your Troupe:

If you miss rehearsal are you allowed in the next show? How many rehearsals can you miss before you are unable to be a member of the team? How does the team vote ? Meaning how will people deal with who is on or off the team or what new rules will be added or taken away? Does the coach/director vote? Does the coach/director make those decisions? Or is it a team matter only? Have this written in stone so there is no confusion and have everyone understand it and have it be accepted unanimously. If all else fails ask your coach for advice.

3. Get Serious! Get a coach!

PLEASE!!! Get a coach or a director. If you are serious about improv and growing as an artist you need an outside eye. Do not have another teammate give notes or step out and coach you. You need to grow as a team and you can’t do that with one member hopping out and coaching too. It’s a weird dynamic that doesn’t work. If you don’t have enough coaches in your community then someone has to decide not to be on the team and just take the role as a coach. But the best thing about a coach, is as a veteran, they can give you advice on what to do if you’re having issues with an ensemble member. They can be a great mediator. Trust me they’ve been through it all before.

4. Troupe Boundaries 

You have to talk about what is okay and not okay to do. Is it okay if we have physical contact? How far can that go? What are we as a group comfortable with? Some people don’t like to be touched and that’s okay. Know that now so you can figure it out and move ahead as a troupe. You don’t want to find out a month down the road when you kiss someone onstage that they were uncomfortable with that now and are quitting the team.

5. Team Vision

What kind of team do you want to be? Again, set expectations – Do you want to be a traveling troupe that goes to festivals or just a local troupe. If most of you want to travel but there are a few that don’t then you really need to figure out if this troupe goes forward. Agree on what you want out of the troupe. How many shows or rehearsals do you want a month? Where? I know it sounds like a lot but figure it out.

PHEW! That’s a lot. Hey guys and gals, remember improv is fun! YAY! Sure  this looks all serious but  it’s necessary. You will save yourself a lot of time and heartbreak by putting these things in place. It holds you all accountable and there is no questioning what is right or wrong if rules are in place from the get go. Hopefully with these 5 items in place communication will be a breeze.

If you have any questions or you think I’ve left something out please feel free to comment. Go Improv!

Nick Armstrong

Nick is Camp Director and Founder of Improv Utopia an improv retreat for grown ups in California and Pennsylvania. He is also one of the founding members of the National Improv Network as well as performer in The Sunday Company at The Groundlings and a member of the critically acclaimed Harold Team King Ten at iO West. Feel free to follow me @nickarmstrong on Twitter or on Facebook. We are always looking for better ways to serve the community. Drop us a line and let us know what’s up. 

To e-mail nick e-mail at nick@nationalimprovnetwork.com and for workshop information visit www.nickarmstrong.com.

 

Spotlight on San Diego Improv Festival 2015

The San Diego Improv Festival launches into its second year in February. I was able to interview Kevin Dolan one or the Producers of the festival. Check out what wonderful things this city and the festival have to offer.

This is your 2nd year of the SDIF. Tell us how the SDIF came about.

Amy Lisewski, the Artistic Director of Finest City Improv (FCI), has always believed in bringing the top improvisers to perform and teach workshops in San Diego. Even before FCI had its own space, she would have the best people she knew down from LA to teach workshops during the day and perform on the same bill with local teams at night. Once FCI had its own theater – and one that is attached to a hotel no less – having multi-day festival was a natural step.

It is unique to have a festival where the theater and hotel are connected. Tell us about that and what the hotel has to offer for improvisers.

FCI has a great location, attached to The Lafayette Hotel, Swim Club & Bungalows. The place has a retro feel reminiscent of a Hollywood-style property you would see in a 1940s movie. The hotel restaurants have tasty food, the lobby is a great place to relax, and the rooms have been recently remodeled. And of course there is a swimming pool which we use for the festival’s big social event: the pool party on Saturday afternoon.

The biggest advantage to being attached to the hotel is that it’s great for connecting with other improvisers. We want the San Diego Improv Festival to be a social event as much as it is an improv event. We want people to make friends and come back every year to see those people again.

The neighborhood surrounding FCI is also “uber-hip,” or so I’m told. I can definitely tell you it has some good restaurants that don’t cost a fortune.

What can improvisors expect?

Our goal is to make SDIF the perfect weekend vacation for the improviser.

Even if your team isn’t performing at the festival, you can participate in our open jam on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights before the shows start. This is an opportunity to get on stage and play with the people you’ve been partying with all week.

We also have a full workshop program, with four already scheduled and four more in the works. Improvisers will be able to take up to two workshops on Saturday (10am and 3pm) and two on Sunday (11;30am and 3pm). Workshops will be two and a half hours long to facilitate getting adequate stage time for all attendees. Nick Armstrong and Karen Graci from LA, and Colleen Doyle and Jason Shotts from Chicago, are the confirmed workshop instructors.

Then there are the parties. I already talked about the Pool Party on Saturday afternoon – it’s scheduled between the morning and afternoon workshops – and that’s the social highlight of the festival. There will also be parties either on site or very close by on Friday and Saturday nights after the shows. With the hotel so close by, the parties were very popular last year and I expect it to be the same this year.

And of course we’re going to have a great lineup headlined by King Ten from Los Angeles and Dummy from Chicago; as well as other great teams from Chicago, New York, and other places closer to home.

The San Diego Improv Festival is the perfect improv vacation: take great improv workshops, see world class improv teams, party with fun improvisers, and participate in an improv jam (or two).

If accepted to the festival what do improvisers have to look forward to? Discounts? Workshops?

Performers will receive a wristband which will allow them to get into shows free of charge when there are seats available (at start of show). Performers can guarantee a seat by buying tickets or a festival pass in advance and are given a 50% discount. Performers will also receive a welcome package upon arrival.

Tell us about your great city…What can improvisers from out of town do while they’re there?

Of course, San Diego has some of the nicest weather anywhere in the world. Also, FCI is not too far from Balboa Park, home of the San Diego Zoo as well as a number of popular museums. San Diego has a number of micro-breweries, for those who like beer. And of course the beach isn’t far away. Surf’s up!

What have been some of the biggest challenges putting a festival on?

There are a so many details involved in staging a festival. We are fortunate to have people like Kat Brown, Erin Hanehan, and a great team of volunteers to make everything go smoothly.

 

Instantly submit to SDIF today.


Nick is Camp Director and Founder of Improv Utopia an improv retreat for adults in California and Pennsylvania. He is also one of the founding members of the National Improv Network and performer and teacher at iO West as well as member of The Sunday Company at The Groundlings. He has also taught many workshops around the country.

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