You know the saying “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.”? Well, I’m a doer who comes from a long line of teachers, so screw that. In this new column, I’ll give you the skinny on festivals and the scoop on creating and producing your own solo show. And if you want to know how to diagram a sentence, I can show you that, too.
One For The Road
by Robin Gelfenbien
With all the festivals out there, it can be overwhelming to decide which ones to do. That’s why I always ask myself a few questions before I apply.
What are my goals?
I know this sounds corny, but knowing what you want to get out of a festival is important. Are you looking for a deadline for your show? Does the festival attract industry? Do you want to just see how your show will do in front of an audience of strangers? Just think about what you want and if the festival meets your needs, go for it.
How many shows do I get?
If you’re only offered one show, and the festival is in a town where you don’t know a lot of people, it might not be worth it. However, if you can book other shows in the vicinity, go in on hotels with other comics, then, definitely give it another shot.
Can I afford it?
Duh. I know this should be at the top of the list, but there are ways to curb costs with festivals. Once you get in, you can share a lot of your expenses (e.g. hotel, rental car) for out of town festivals. If it’s closer, you can road trip together. Be resourceful. See if another comic is staying with a friend, and try to get in on that, too. Some festivals have a list of locals who will might put you up. Just remember to treat them to tickets to your show, dinner, booze, etc.
Is there a fee to put up my show?
Each festival is different. Some ask for a registration fee once you get in. Some don’t. Some have ads. Some don’t. Some split the door 50/50. Some take the whole kitty. Be sure to read up on everything before you apply, so you know what you’re getting yourself into.
What type of technical equipment does this festival provide?
My solo show uses projections, so I absolutely need to have that for my show. If you have certain technical elements for your show, read the fine print to see what they do and don’t provide. Note: It’s best to keep your show low-tech because the changeover times are tight.
Do I know anyone in the area?
This is a good one for multiple reasons. If you have a friend in the area, you’re pretty much guaranteed a free place to stay and an audience. Your friend will tell their friends, and so on and so on. They can also help with some pre-show publicity by getting the word out with the locals.
Is this festival worth my time?
Look on the festival website to see who’s performed at the festival in previous years to get a sense of the caliber of talent. Ask around. If other comics haven’t heard of it, you might want to reconsider. On the other hand, if it’s the festival’s first year and you can afford it, it might be worth checking out. I went to the Women In Comedy Festival the first year they started. I made some great friends, and I’ve gone back ever since. Note: if it’s a first year festival, remember to be flexible while they get their feet wet.
So there’s my two cents on the topic. Everyone’s had different experiences at different festivals, so ask around and keep an open mind.
Here are some festivals whose deadlines are coming up in the next few weeks.
L.A. Comedy Festival
Deadline: April 1 (Screenplay competition)
Fee: $75 for live performance (See site for other category fees)
Hollywood Fringe Festival
Deadline: April 1
Registration Fee: $175-250 (varies depending on number of performances)
*This is the second year for this festival.
Out of Bounds Comedy Festival
Category: Improv, sketch, stand-up
Deadline: April 17
Providence Improv Festival
Deadline: March 31