Note: Please keep the names and companies in the following post confidential. I want you to know details about our progress because of your faith in us and your support on Kickstarter, and I also want to respect the privacy of those we networked with.
So much to tell you! But first:
Backer names have gone up on my homepage and I've sent them over to Echodrama's webmaster to be added to their site. For those of you selecting postcards as a Kickstarter reward, with no other physical items (e.g. T-shirt, CD, etc), your postcards went in the mail the last week of September. All other rewards will go in the mail by October 17, 2014.
Our goals for the two and a half weeks that Yannis was in Los Angeles were to follow up on leads, connect with the Greek community, explore artist residencies, and, if there was enough time, screen the video of The Cave.
It was also my intention to finish up all of our Kickstarter obligations before Yannis left, but we saw early on that we should focus only on activities he needed to physically be here for; writing postcards to backers, signing CDs and DVD, approving T-shirt styles and design, etc. As you'll read, there were many, many other goals to be accomplished!
So... How Did We Do
at the Conference?
We set several challenging targets for ourselves. Our goals at the Western Arts Alliance (WAA) conference were achieved and exceeded.
For details, please read, if you haven't already, my previous blog post.
In a nutshell, over six days in Seattle:
NETWORKING SESSIONS. We attended and learned from every session available to us, and made lasting contacts for the future.
PRESENTERS/VENUES. We spoke with and arranged meetings with presenters who have been very encouraging.
MANAGERS/AGENTS. We spent a great deal of time with agents and managers to understand how best to present Echodrama and where to focus our energies. These meetings changed much of our agenda for the following weeks in Los Angeles.
ARTISTS. Meeting other artists who are in similar positions, both with and without representation, helped us to better understand the challenges ahead. Watching more than two dozen showcases gave us valuable insight on how to showcase ourselves... and how not to showcase. Oh, yes.
LEADS. We returned to L.A. with the full participant list from the conference, and ready to dive in.
Laying the Groundwork
FESTIVAL PERFORMANCES IN APRIL 2015. At one of the WAA showcases, I happened to sit next to Deborah Brockus, a choreographer and festival producer based out of Los Angeles. Over the course of our first fifteen minutes together, Deborah had brainstormed a dozen ideas for promoting Echodrama and encouraged us to continue the conversation in California. After meeting with her back in L.A., she invited Echodrama to be part of an evening of contemporary dance this coming April, featuring two Los Angeles-based companies, an ensemble from India, and... Echodrama. Each group will have approximately 20 minutes to perform. She has five separate venues in mind, all of which will be familiar to Southern Californians, but since she's making those contacts directly, I can't share those with you until I get confirmation from her.
Since April, in booking terms, is soon and Echodrama doesn't have funds to send the entire company, we're discussing how many dancers can come, how to handle visas for them and whether they should perform sections from The Cave and/or Rhei, or create a separate piece specifically for this festival. More to come.
WORLD CITY at the MUSIC CENTER. While in Seattle, Yannis and I had breakfast with a dear friend of mine, Michael Solomon. Michael was my stage management mentor when we were in college at USC and he has since gone on to become the Associate Vice President of Programming for the Music Center of Los Angeles County. He encouraged us to talk to Barbara Leonard, the Senior Director of Programming, about submitting a proposal for the Music Center's World City series.
Ironically, it was Barbara who, many months ago, had encouraged me to bring Yannis to the WAA conference in the first place! One of the wonderful things about World City is, of course, the opportunity to perform at the amazing Disney Hall. The challenge for Echodrama will be preparing an hour of traditional Greek dancing. World City's focus is on performances from cultures represented in Los Angeles, and, although Echodrama is a contemporary ensemble, they also have created many traditional programs of Greek dance over the years, which makes them a very good fit for World City... and, of course, it would be an opportunity of a lifetime for this young company.
Meeting with Barbara at the Music Center was inspiring. Not only is the venue beautiful, but Barbara's passion for what she does is infectious. Based on that meeting, Echodrama needs to prepare a 50-minute program with traditional costumes and live musicians - not recorded music - and submit a video along with their proposal by November to be considered for the 2015-2016 season.
If the proposal is accepted, we will need to move quickly to confirm other performances at the same time whose fees can help offset the travel expenses associated with bringing a company of fourteen to the U.S.
AMERICAN HELLENIC COUNCIL. One of our biggest champions in this process was Kathy Konst, the Executive Director of the American Hellenic Council. Kathy was the first in the Greek community to offer to help us spread the word by sending out several email blasts to her organization's large mailing list and offering to hold a screening for backers.
Kathy not only supported us with her networking but also with her terrific ideas AND by becoming a Kickstarter backer! I love this woman!
Kathy and I will continue to work together to look at opportunities for Echodrama, and I'm so excited by her enthusiasm and her initiative when taking on large projects and challenging events. She really inspires me and I'm looking forward to our collaboration immensely.
THE GREEK COMMUNITY. One of our missions was to involve the Greek community, and that proved to be our biggest challenge. We contacted several Greek organizations across the country as well as people we knew locally and, in general, received an incredible amount of skepticism, which, I have to say, really took us by surprise. I think ethnic communities in general are "hit up" for so many fundraising activities by their own that they become circumspect, to say the least. So it's really up to us to do a better job with our marketing to that community over the coming months.
I want to thank Zafiris Gourgouliatos of the Hellenic University Club for emailing his members, to Demetrios Liappas of the Modern Greek Studies program at Loyola Marymount University for meeting with us and offering to send an email to his mailing list should we perform on the LMU campus, and to Gonda Van Steen of the University of Florida, Department of Classics and Center for Greek Studies for sending our Kickstarter info to their list.
The Greeks in Seattle are amazing! They have pledged to bring us to Seattle to perform once we have reached the U.S. and seem as excited as we are about Echodrama coming to the States. Their support has meant the world to us.
AND we have some amazing Greek Kickstarter backers! Five of them (of you!) had never even heard of us before and took it on faith that our project was worthy, and that we would do what we promised. Thank you for that faith!
To put it in perspective, though, less than 6% of our Kickstarter funding came from the Greek community. Again, I don't think this is a commentary on the Greek community as much as it is a clear indication and directive for us to be more effective in our communications and marketing.
READY FOR AGENT REPRESENTATION. Our first project once we returned to L.A. was to assemble the necessary materials for agents and presenters to review. We compiled a full press kit including technical specifications for the tour, company bios, a history of the company, a synopsis of each production and press photos... available in both hard copy and .pdf. One of the best pieces of advice we received at WAA was from Katherine Miller of Kamstar who reminded us that our demo video should ONLY include the two productions we were going to be touring with. The videos we used for the Kickstarter campaign contained too much back story and needed tightening, so we spent several hours re-editing the demo video.
Once these were completed, using the list provided at the WAA conference, Yannis and I sent out many, many personalized emails to agents who represent dance companies both in the U.S. and abroad. We had already spoken with several of them at the conference and knew which were the most likely to be interested in Echodrama. We have received many positive responses, though most acknowledge that they won't be taking on new artists until the spring. We will continue to follow up over the next many months.
ARTIST RESIDENCIES. Residencies, as we learned from a variety of sources mean different things to different people... long-term, short-term, in-school, master classes, etc. With this information, the Echodrama team will need to evaluate the best types of residencies for us to look for, then start researching from there. With two full-length contemporary dance productions and a traditional Greek dance show available for touring, a variety of residency opportunities is open for them.
AND EVEN MORE... Just to give you an idea of some of the other things we were able to accomplish, here's a quick list: 1) Recreated the opening and closing credits for the full-length video of The Cave in both Greek and English, since agents and presenters will want to see a complete production before committing to performances. 2) Created cost projections for travel, accommodations, visas, and other touring-related expenses to better set fees. 3) Discussed changes to Echodrama website (much more work to be done on this). 4) Uploaded music for Rhei to CDbaby.com, got Yannis on Facebook (finally!) and set up a musician page for him. 5) Researched the rosters of every agent from the WAA conference who represents dance companies, and reviewed videos and press materials from these ensembles. 6) Responded to several questions submitted by an independent journalist who is writing an article about Echodrama for U.S. publications. 7) Researched grants available to international companies for U.S. touring. 8) Researched festivals across the country who book international ensembles.
SCREENINGS REEVALUATED. Our original plan as we were preparing for Yannis' trip to the U.S. was to do two screenings of The Cave video in San Francisco and in Los Angeles. I sent out several emails and made lots of phone calls but, in general, we needed more lead time to make this happen and bring in an audience... and we just didn't have it. Big thanks, again, to Kathy Konst of the American Hellenic Council who was the first to say yes! She offered the large meeting room at their offices, but, again, we didn't have enough time to build the audience. Yannis, however, did have an opportunity to make a presentation to the Arts Council at California State University, Northridge, of which I'm a member. Five of our backers are Arts Council members, in fact, and they have been terrific supporters.
WRAPPING UP. On a personal level, bringing Yannis back to the U.S. was extremely rewarding. I spent time with a dear friend, not just creating professional opportunities for he, his family and his dancers, but making some music, exploring a little of L.A. and expanding our friendship.
We were both very aware of how much needed to be done and how little time we had to accomplish so much. Days started before 8am and most ended after 10pm. We worked in restaurants and coffee shops, around the dining room table and anywhere we could find wi-fi. We worked hard, laughed a lot and became a good working team. We even spent an evening making some music in my voiceover studio. And we watched the pilot episode of Firefly... so now I'll have to shut up about what a great show it is, won't I, Yannis?
THIS MONTH. I still need to go through all of our receipts and balance the budget for the Kickstarter campaign, setting aside all extra funds towards Phase Two. I'll also process the rest of the Kickstarter rewards, as I mentioned earlier.
ECHODRAMA IN GREECE. On October 1st, Yannis and Sevi submitted a proposal to the European Union for a second grant. This one, unlike the previous which funded both The Cave and Rhei, will be used to create a contemporary dance festival this summer on the Greek island of Skiathos. Dance companies from France, Germany and England (Akram Kahn Co.) have already committed to performances on the island if the grant is funded.
PHASE TWO. THE U.S. TOUR. Over the next many months, Yannis and I will continue to follow up on the work we started in September. We're really pleased with how much we were able to accomplish in a short amount of time and are very excited about the future. From time to time, as things develop, I'll drop you a line, and you'll be the first to know when Echodrama will be here performing.
And watch for updates on their website at www.echodrama.gr
Thank you again for your support. I know Yannis enjoyed meeting so many of you during his visit and we both want you to know how important you were to this process. Thank you for supporting Echodrama. Thank you for supporting dance.
– Dena Dahilig, October 4, 2014