These are a few interview style questions that we put to Xiomara about her battle with work life balance as she slogs it about in the city as a theatre producer and writer, trying to get her voice heard and plays watched.
The arts and entrepreneurship are a big talking point right now with a move away from faceless corporate jobs towards the dream of ‘making your stamp on your industry’. But what is it really like for a young adult trying to make their way in an ever-condensing market of writers, actors and aesthetes? Read Xiomara’s answers to find out.
What is your role now and what are the main responsibilities for you?
I’m now working as the executive producer for the Impi Theatre Company; we’re getting ready for our London run at VAULT Festival, performing our show “The South Afreakins”. During the build-up of our project (before taking it to the Edinburgh Fringe in 2016), I was in charge of running the Crowdfunder page, looking for sponsors, managing our website, and being the first point of contact between theatre personnel and reviewers.
Now that we’ve established a pretty concrete base in terms of marketing (it also helps we had a sell-out season at the Fringe… that laurel has an effect on the poster!) I’m just focusing on getting the word out; promoting here is vastly different from the way we did it at EdFringe, so it’s a matter of adapting.
How long have you been doing this for and what did you do before?
I joined the Company last year, as part of a team of 5 who were recruited to help take the show up to Edinburgh. Before that I was focusing on getting my bachelor’s degree, working part-time and trying not to drown in bills and taxes.
Can you think of any key challenges you had to overcome and how did you battle them to get to where you are?
The biggest challenge was not knowing what I was getting into. I had never produced anything in my life, and had never been to an arts festival (much less the Fringe). It’s one of those things were you quickly realise you’ll have to crash-course your way through it. In a matter of weeks we were bombarded with marketing decisions, tedious paperwork and tight deadlines –and this was just the pre-fringe administrative side. Once up there, we had to learn how to pitch to audience members and industry professionals, how to flyer effectively, and how to make the show stand out from thousands of others.
The best way to overcome it is to get yourself into a Nike state of mind; that’s my un-witty way of saying that you just have to do it. You don’t know how to build a website? Just do it. You’ve never had to pitch your show to a big theatre agent? Just do it. In today’s fast-paced world, particularly in this industry, there’s no time for second-guessing yourself. And if you don’t know something, ask. It’s that simple. The company’s founder Robyn Paterson taught me this very early on and I will forever be grateful for it. She is voraciously passionate about her work and it translates into what she does and achieves, and really I think that’s the key to battling challenges: as she says, “find reason to do it, not reasons not to do it.”
What is the dream, or where would you like to see yourself in five or ten years?
In terms of The South Afreakins, I’d like to see the show expand into its full potential. We are currently working on transcribing the script into a film, and have some very cool prospects lined up. I can’t really say much more about that because we are still in early talks, but if it all falls into place it’s going to be an amazing final product. On a more personal level, I want to continue work in the industry as a novelist or actress. These are the fields I studied and where I want to display my work.
How do you find balancing lifestyle and downtime with your job?
Impossible. Well not really, but it’s difficult. One thing is to come into the industry knowing perfectly well it’ll be a challenge (and doing your best to prove people wrong), and another is being realistic. Bills won’t pay themselves, and sometimes you have to compromise. But it’s a matter of discipline, and it’s a testament to how much you really want to succeed. I’ve been working in hospitality for over three years now, and sometimes all I want to do is cry and question if my degree was really worth it, or if it was an easy way to become indebted.
But this is something everybody goes through, regardless of their chosen field. Being realistic is not synonymous to being pessimistic.
In my case, I try to find ways that will keep me in the loop without affecting my job. Working for the Impi Theatre Company is my hobby, if you will. Unless we breakeven, we don’t get paid. But it’s not about the money for me, it’s about the experience. I’ve joined background artist agencies, go to networking events, go to auditions, and send out work to publishers.
All in all keep your eye on the price but don’t neglect reality; that’s when it gets difficult.
If you could give one piece of advice to a young spark looking to start their business, what would that be?
If you find an opportunity, no matter how small, just do it, and make the best of it. Keep in touch with acquaintances (networking is key!), and always look into the future, not the present. Ask yourself “how will this affect my business in the long run”? For example, during the Fringe I’d stay up until 3am stapling reviews to flyers and prepping posters for the next day. Was I tired? Yes. Was I enjoying it? No. But I knew that reviews would bring attention to the show, which in turn would guarantee audiences, which in turn would grant exposure, which in turn would also benefit me. Also, make sure you are committed 110%. There will be times when things get in the way and you will be left with nothing but doubt. You will hit plateaus and you will make mistakes. But you have to brush it off and find ways around it.
What has been your favourite event you have attended this month? If not month, this year?
The first day of the VAULT Festival. It’s not just that it brought back memories of EdFringe, but it’s also an amazing feeling to be surrounded by people with the same ambitions and goals as you. Plus, the main bar has a very nice artsy vibe, perfect for prepping posters and having people side-glance you (our posters are yellow, you can see them from miles away).
And finally, what do you think is the best part about being an upcoming, self-employed business owner right now?
That you get to make creative decisions. This doesn’t mean not listening to those who know better than you (our marketing team Pulp and Pith, and our publicist Chris Hislop are miracles sent from above. They know their craft like the back of their hand). It’s about building a project from scratch, and seeing how your ideas slowly solidify into a functioning mechanism. And then, of course, seeing it develop.
Thank you so much for talking to us and telling us about your experiences! We can’t wait to hear all about what you get up to in the future and we’ll definitely come down to the show this month!
Make sure you follow Xiomara on Twitter and check out her website here, and make sure to check out her current production The South Afreakins which is running for five days this month as part of Vault festival on the 15th-19th of February!
Do you have any tips or advice on how to overcome challenges in the working world? Let us know by talking to us on Twitter!
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