Fringe Update: What are we doing now?

With an event and a vision this massive, there is only one way to produce it: One little step at a time.

To make a project like this workable, we have divided it into phases. These phases define what we should be doing, who we should be talking to, and what goals we should achieve. The big picture becomes clearer and tasks more manageable when you think of the project in these terms.

This is phase one: Preliminary Planning.

During this phase we are working with definition, research, and basic framework (organizational, technical, and strategic).

DEFINITION
Who are we and what are we trying to achieve? We have been slowly defining our mission and our principles as a group to answer these questions. The mission more or less defined itself – we are here for the city, the community, and the artists. The principles have become more and more clear over time – what is it we value? What is our “constitution”, our core laws? Obviously these are important decisions as their implications stretch (hopefully) many years into the future.

MARKETING & BRANDING
In case you didn’t notice from my last post, this is indeed a focus right now. We begin with the logo, which will help us define identity, shapes, colors, fonts, etc. This immediately informs our business cards and letterhead which will be the next tasks. By February, we hope to launch an official “branded” website that will provide more information on our plans (don’t worry, the blog will still exist, too). As we start to prepare information packets for the press, artists, producers, industry, and the venues, the brand will inform them all visually. We have already discovered some alternative approaches to marketing we can use thanks to some smart thinking from our production team.

ORGANIZATION
We have recruited just under ten core production team members to manage such tasks as marketing, design, venues, technology, development, and research. I will be introducing them in later posts. We use a product called Basecamp to serve our internal project management needs. Basecamp gives us an online home for our project. Rather than emails, we normally communicate via posts and comments. All of our electronic communication is centralized in one place. It also allows us to track task lists, collaborative documents, files, and milestones. Members of the project receive email updates as relevant information is posted in basecamp. Project management is 95% communication, and we find Basecamp is a perfect fit for this end.

TECHNOLOGY
We have already made the decision that this will be a technology-heavy event. Our goal is to provide the most advanced web presence to our staffers, volunteers, audience, community, and associated artists. For example, we are building a world-class web-based submissions system whereby community members can vote on their favorite projects – “winners” will be invited to participate in official Fringe venues come Summer 2010. We are also developing online services for the audience (where to eat, what to see, where to stay) and artists (boarding, online workshops, collaborating). We have made a lot of progress already – we hope to launch a beta version of our submissions service before the Summer begins – and are on track to do so!

DEVELOPMENT
We obviously need money to accomplish our plans and one of the big research projects right now is learning where to find it. We are searching through all the typical avenues: Grants, individual fund raising, fund raising events, sponsors. We are also investigating alternative options such as Internet micro-donations, contextual and relevant online advertising, and more. We have the time to do this right, so research is of the highest importance right now.

That’s a rough description of what’s on our plate right now. As things progress and we move on to new tasks and goals, we will certainly keep our community informed.


Branding the Fringe

PigPenOne of the more challenging tasks when founding any endeavor is defining the brand. I have needed to go through this process several times – and it is never easy.

I find myself searching for words, images, movies, anything that would express the mood and purpose fluttering about in my head. As I also work in the web development world, I end up collaborating with graphic artists often. I have done so enough to accept that I am not one of them – actually, I envy the natural inclination to make beauty out of ugliness and wish I had the talent for it. As such, I try not to communicate specific design ideas (they will be bad), rather I like to convey moods and non-specific images.

Some of your honorable producers and I were watching a wonderful documentary released recently called Helvetica. It’s about a font (you heard me right). Actually, helvetica is probably the single most used font of all time. I thought the film would put us in the correct mindset to tackle this recent challenge of branding the Fringe. What it has done is driven most of us slightly insane – this font is everywhere and we can’t stop noticing it. I needed to force myself to stop looking at typefaces else I might really start to lose it.

Typography aside, branding is tough. It’s tough because you need to first know what you want to express, then figure out the most artful way to express it. As such, we spent many a late night in these early days of planning (we go up in 2010) just talking about what the Fringe is. If the Fringe were a Peanuts character, who would it be? (pigpen). If it were an artist who would it be? (bansky). If it were a movie would it gross more than 100 million? (probably not).

We came up with some basic language to try to express our brand so artists could have a crack at it:

Graffiti Art – the Fringe is tagged on walls, sidewalks.
The Fringe is an idea whose time has come.
The idea EMERGED from the streets.
Floating molecules joined to become an organism – that organism is the Fringe.
“Fringe is Rising”
Grimy, Dirty, and Pure
It’s from the people
It had to happen.
Banksy meets hollywood.
A carnival, a circus


Then there was my idea to try to move forward without a well-defined brand. I wanted to make the brand a combination of all the artists with whom we collaborate – our brand is the brand of “Hollywood Art”. I felt like this would be the opening paragraph to a larger treatise shepherding in a “post branding era”. Noble thoughts, eh? Ok, so it isn’t very practical in practice. Recognizability goes a long way towards attracting audiences – certainly one of our “goals” in this process. Artist exposure is apart of our mission – and that’s hard to do without an audience.


Even though these initial, idealist notions may not work as initially conceived, I still think there is something to it. The Fringe is unique amongst artistic organizations in that it is a meeting of artistic minds, a hub of creative thought. Fringes bring together divergent forces in the art community into an organic whole. How can we graphically and artfully capture and represent this as an organization? These are the high minded thoughts that keep us up at night – we will all see how they work out.


We are making some progress, fortunately. We happen to be associates and friends with some very talented artists and are exploring some interesting ideas. As soon as we have some candidates, we will post them here.


The Fringe, The Internet, & Democracy

With a limited number of venues available and demand expected to be high, how do we create a fair, unbiased process to select Fringe projects? This is a very sensitive issue as any “juried” selection process violates the underlying principles of Fringe. After all, the first fringe (1947 in Edinburgh) involved rebel artists setting up camp on the “fringes” of the much more effete and established Edinburgh International Festival.

Some Fringes navigate around this problem by establishing a “lottery” whereby Fringe projects are selected at random. Some approach it from a “first come, first serve” basis. Others utilize a selection committee staffed with press, artists, sponsors, et al. Almost all Fringes level applicants with a “fee” just to apply.

Amazing work has been produced using these paradigms, no doubt. We are trying something different.

Imagine this:

  • Artists log into our website and set up camp.
  • Each artist creates a MySpace/Facebook-like profile of their project.
  • To this profile they add text, links, video, pictures, music, blogs, podcasts anything to help articulate their artistic vision
  • The community at large votes on their favorite projects.
  • The projects with the most votes are entered into the Hollywood Fringe

To encourage participation from artists large and small, we will not be charging any fees to create a project profile on the website.


Community & The Fringe

At the Hollywood Fringe, our community is central to everything we do.

We are big fans of Hollywood. To the rest of the world, Hollywood is an idea. It is a capital of the world, a place of legend. It’s the spiritual core of the entertainment industry and a symbol of possibility and opportunity. People come here to “make it”. Dreams are big and ambition is high.

That’s Hollywood “the idea”. The Hollywood in which we live is a little different than the sum of the world’s imagination and ambitions. So much more than buildings and concrete, it is the fascinating array of personalities that provide its character. Personal style and expression are the norm. Conformity and conservatism are not.

When I moved here from Iowa (I was born and raised in DC), it was the vast array of personalities and styles that immediately caught my eye and imagination. In many places on this earth, communities rally around a style and vie to conform to it. Here it is just the opposite – style is an independent expression of individual personality, culture, and taste.

And then there is the theatre. In recent years, Hollywood has undergone a renaissance of the arts. You can barely skip out your door without landing yourself outside a potential venue. The expansive “Theatre Row” stretches across Santa Monica Ave with dozens of professional theatre venues and companies. Somewhat ironically, Hollywood is a theatre neighbourhood.

The counterculturism and natural expressiveness of this neighbourhood combined with the plethora of theatre venues and companies create a fantastic opportunity to host a world-class fringe festival. We hope to combine these divergent elements into a living, theatrical organism. Fringe is independent, expressive, bold, experimental. It is the pursuit of an idea because that idea seems worth doing. It provides a safe, supportive environment for artists to take risks.

As we plan Hollywood’s first Fringe, we are very aware that the community is the spiritual core from which this festival springs. Our inspiration, our ideas, and our support come from this place. As a result, the Hollywood Fringe will be unique. As atmosphere and water provide flavour to ageing whiskey, so to will Hollywood provide our festival’s flavour.

We are proud to develop a project that breathes this air and walks these streets every day. Ok, maybe not the air, but you get the idea…


What's Hollywood Fringe?

The Hollywood Fringe Festival is an annual event uniting local, national, and international theatre artists in a celebration of the performing arts.

It’s mission is to:

  • Host an environment for bold and experimental theatre
  • Vitalize the theatre industry in Los Angeles
  • Promote and enrich the Hollywood neighborhood
  • Champion underground art and artists

Our first festival will take place in the Summer of 2010 in Hollywood, California.

Interested? Here are some of our guiding ideas:

AN EXPANSIVE EVENT
We are thinking at least 20 official venues. The venues would be filled with performances of all types: Comedy, New Plays, Hip Hop, Dramas, Solo Artists, and more. To manage this monstrous event, we seek enthusiastic, inventive, and driven people as associate producers, volunteers, coordinators, marketers, grant writers, and idea people. For a few days, we want to turn this city on its head and we can’t do it alone.

ALL VARIETIES OF PERFORMANCE
Within the Fringe itself, there will be multiple programs to keep things interesting. For example, there may be two nights dedicated to 10-minute plays. Perhaps we will stage a new play festival to celebrate new works. We may stage an improv festival or one dedicated to sketch comedy. The nice thing about Fringe is that it is all-encompassing. We needn’t be hog-tied by a specific vision; all performance-based art is welcome.

STREET THEATRE
Up and down theatre row, everywhere you look there will be stuff to look at. Clowns, Mimes, Commedia, fire eaters, performance artists. Add to that food stands, merchandise sellers, information booths. We hope to create a real circus-like scene, making the the neighborhood a little crazy.

CENTRALIZED
Our current plans are to hold the event in the Hollywood, CA area. We want audience members to easily wander between theatres to check out new and interesting events. Hollywood is a wonderfully diverse neighborhood steeped in history and culture. It’s also a little rebellious, a little rock n’ roll. And, of course, there are tons of venues all within walking distance. The Fringe is a love letter to this place.

INTERNET-DRIVEN
We will be spending a lot of pain and effort making this a very tech-savvy event. We have several Internet aficionados on board with us, and plan to provide services to artists and audience to make this a truly wired event. To begin, we have launched this blog to connect with our community.

FOR THE COMMUNITY
if you are reading this, you are probably a direct or indirect member of the arts community. This event is for you! We welcome your participation, feedback, thoughts, complaints – all of it. We oblige every request; we will always be open minded. It is not our place (the festival producers) to make judgments on art, politics, religion, etc. On these points we are completely agnostic. We facilitate performances for passionate artists. If you have the passion, we are here to help you realize your vision.


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Advertising with the Hollywood Fringe Festival is an excellent way to promote your project, organization, brand, or cause. Buy an advertisement now on our website or printed guide.Advertising with the Hollywood Fringe Festival is an excellent way to promote your project, organization, brand, or cause. Buy an advertisement now on our website or printed guide.