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Hacking the system and taking the punk approach to live streaming shows

12 Nov

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On Saturday November the 4th at Theatre Royal Stratford East we captured the last two shows from the Graeae tour of  ‘Reasons to be Cheerful’

This has been part of the ‘live to digital’ work we have been doing at the Theatre, and something that I have been leading on over the last year. We have livestreamed work into hospitals, hospices and adult social care homes.

The show is fantastic, and the performers all belt out the songs of Ian Dury and the Blockheads with gusto, verve and infectious energy. It has a punk style and an urgent pace, and has been directed with flair by Jenny Sealey, the AD of Graeae.

We have been supported by The Space to deliver this – and we are aiming to get a release of this on the Cinegi platform in March next year.

It got me thinking, what would Ian Dury have done if he had the technology we have now to do this? I think he would say we need to take a more ‘punk’ approach to this kind of work, and just get on and do it.

We shot the matinee and evening show with 4 cameras on each show. HD cameras that also shoot 4k. They are BlackmagicDesign units and they are tiny. We can capture, cut and deliver work fast, live and in the moment now.

At the moment there are many obstacles in the way for arts organisations to get on board with this. Hurdles of rights, permissions, and legal stuff. All important stuff, but we surely need to find a way to streamline this and push the tech and opportunities forward. Otherwise the default position is always ‘It’s too much like hard work, and it is too difficult’

So if we are to adopt a punk approach, we need to get on with it. To help do this I have put together a ‘how to get started’ with all this, for UK Theatre. This was published on their site this year, and I am now attaching my redrafted version here, which hopefully might be useful.

Let me know if you have any thoughts or ideas about how we might take a more punk approach in the future…

Thanks – here is the guide for you

LivestreamingGuidebyMarcusRomer

marcus@artsbeacon.uk

 

 

The number 30…

19 Sep

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I have been thinking – and as a result of this I have been doing the ‘math’ as I believe it is now called. I keep coming up with the number 30.

And yes, I know, it’s not my age. Well not my age now anyway. But there are certain times in your life when you reassess, look back, and look forward.

Maybe because we are entering a new phase, as both children have now left home. Well, sort of. Mills has gone to uni in Sheffield and Christy is now living in Madrid.

So, what about this 30 thing then?

Well, 30 years ago I started my professional career. As a properly paid actor. I had dabbled around with various freelance contracts, but I got my Equity card and a full-time acting job 30 years ago this week.

This also coincided with me meeting the then administrator of the theatre company 30 years ago this week too.

For those of you who know me, you will also know that the administrator was a certain Susie Hargreaves. 30 years ago. No, we didn’t start going out in the first week. It was in the mid November. That was when we started seeing each other properly.

So it will be our 30 year anniversary coming up. Now that is a long time right?

So what to do for such an occasion I hear you ask. Well there are a few things in the frame and a few fun adventures lie ahead, which will of course be documented on here at some point. Well of course.

But if I can share with you one thing, blimey how quickly the time flies. It’s so true that in what seems like the blink of an eye our son is 26 next birthday and our daughter will be 20. So yes do the math…

30 not out, here’s to the next 30

Marcus Romer – Keynote Speech from the European Theatre Convention – 2017

5 Sep

This was from Karlsruhe in Germany this year, where I gave a keynote speech on the subject of Digital Innovation in Theatre as part of the EU Theatre lab Conference ad part of the European Theatre Convention

Making a cultural shift in your organisation by rethinking digital…

17 Jul

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Part of my work at the moment is helping Arts and Cultural companies develop their organisations by rethinking their digital strategies.

I have been developing this as part of my practice as an artist, theatre and film maker, using my knowledge and experience of working within the digital space over the last 20 years.

The key approach is to take time to analyse where the organisation is at the moment. Discover what skills and resources it has. Then to work with the organisation to create a framework and digital plan to enable it to get where it would like to be.

I take a multi-stand approach and look at the Internal systems and communication of the team. Then to look at the Creation of the digital assets that are being made, and to find the best way to capture, curate and develop those. Then to look at the External delivery of these and to focus on the public facing aspects and platforms that the organisation uses.

There is an analysis, discussion, training and development approach to this process, and I work alongside the senior Management team to help this cultural shift to occur.

The approach is not about what ‘digital’ is but about what it can help your organisation and team to achieve and deliver.

If you are interested please register your interest for a conversation by contacting me here marcus@artsbeacon.uk

MakeDigitalCultureHappen.com

 

Marcus Romer is a freelance Director, Writer and Filmmaker. He is Creative Director of Artsbeacon UK, and Associate Artist for Theatre Royal Stratford East, National Theatre Wales, and Collusion. He has delivered Digital Consultancy work for SOLT and UK Theatre, Home, Manchester, Arts Council England, Creative England, The British Council, The European Theatre Convention, New Norske Theatre, Oslo, Innovation Norway, LIPA, Barclays UK, Norwich City Council, Cambridge City Council. He created Shift Happens Conferences, and helped to produce No Boundaries in 2014 and 2015. He was CEO and Artistic Director of Pilot Theatre from 1994 – 2016.

Make Digital Culture Happen #NPO #Artsfunding

27 Jun

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This is for all the National Portfolio organisations who have just received the news from Arts Council England.

First, let me congratulate you on becoming part of the National Portfolio. Having run an NPO and delivered two successful funding rounds for my Board I know the work and energy you and your teams have put in to achieve this.

In becoming a National Portfolio client, part of your work will be to deliver your Digital Plan. More importantly how your Digital Strategy fits into your business plan and forms part of your delivery programme for your audiences. This needs to be sorted before January 2018.

This is where I can help.

I am an Arts and Digital specialist with over 20 years of leadership experience both in delivering and making work. I have pioneered Live to Digital delivery projects for the last ten years for a number of different organisations. I can work with you to help you deliver the right plan for your company.

I have developed a new Training Programme for Arts Organisations that will  help you to create an effective shift in your organisation’s capacity and enable you to make a new Digital Culture happen within your team.

I will Assess your current Digital capacity and Create the right Training and Resources for you and your teamThe key part of the programme will be to develop your Digital Strategy in terms of delivery, and in doing so your organisation will develop a strong and embedded Digital Culture.

I am able to work closely with a number of organisations to create bespoke solutions for your Digital Plan and Delivery Timetable.

If you are interested please register your interest for a conversation by contacting me here marcus@artsbeacon.uk

MakeDigitalCultureHappen.com

 

Marcus Romer is a freelance Director, Writer and Filmmaker. He is Creative Director of Artsbeacon UK, and Associate Artist for Theatre Royal Stratford East, National Theatre Wales, and Collusion. He has delivered Digital Consultancy work for SOLT and UK Theatre, Home, Manchester, Arts Council England, Creative England, The British Council, The European Theatre Convention, New Norske Theatre, Oslo, Innovation Norway, LIPA, Barclays UK, Norwich City Council, Cambridge City Council. He created Shift Happens Conferences, and helped to produce No Boundaries in 2014 and 2015. He was CEO and Artistic Director of Pilot Theatre from 1994 – 2016.

 

Making the good stuff happen – for free… @stratfordeast Tommy livestream

18 Jun

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On Saturday June 17th we ran a four camera livestream of the Tommy production – live from Theatre Royal Stratford East. In fact we ran two livestreams that day. One had an incorporated audio described feed, and both had integrated live captions. These were both HD streams with full stereo sound that we relayed live into Adult Social Care Homes across the country to the cities where the Ramps on the Moon production had played on the national tour.

This was a free to view screening for the residents in the selected locations, and this project is part of my work as an Associate Artist at Theatre Royal Stratford East.

I was present at one of the locations – an East Thames housing scheme in Newham, and Kate Lovell, who is the Ramps ‘agent for change’ at Stratford East was at an Anchor care home in Tower Hamlets. We had spent the previous weeks setting up the working relationships for this to happen, meeting the residents, and also working with some of the Tommy Cast who visited the Home last week.

The feed was encoded and sent live to our Stratford East website, which has a password protected page for the Homes to view the livestream. This was fed into the large HD TV screens around the facilities and were able to invite family and friends of the residents to join the afternoon matinee screening.

The feed, captions, audio description were all tested and working. With the livestream team back at the theatre we were able to capture the LED caption screen and place this as a picture in picture at the top of the screen for our viewers too.

In the room I was in the residents came and joined the party atmosphere. Cups of tea were handed round and the printed programmes made brilliant fans for all of us to keep cool in the sweltering 30 degree London heat!

One of the residents next to me, and for this blog I will call her Celeste, was in her 80’s and had lost the ability to speak. Her smile was infectious though and I watched her as she began to focus on the screen and listen to the music. The moment the Pinball Wizard track came on – she sat bolt upright in her wheelchair and focused hard on the screen, she began to nod her head and then her fingers started tapping the side of her chair, not in rhythm to the music, but it took me a while to realise. She clearly was tapping the side of her wheelchair like the flippers of a pinball machine. She turned and smiled at me, then she reached back, took her hair band off, threw it to the floor and then swirled her grey hair back and forth in time to the rock track. Celeste was rocking out.

At the end of the track, which was the interval, she retrieved her head band and tied her hair back. She caught my eye as I was the one now beaming back at her. I realised of course that when the Tommy Album came out in 1969, Celeste would have been 33 years old. She was glued to the screen for the whole of act 2 and her feet were tapping to ”I’m Free’ ‘I’m a Sensation’ and right through to the finale.

When the show had finished it was time for tea, so I packed away my laptop, hdmi cables and stuff and headed out, stopping to shake Celeste’s hand and to thank her for sharing the show with me that afternoon. She smiled back in a way that made a connection, a communication point that recognised that we were both rockers.

So – in a time where it is more evident than ever, we need to make more connections, make more difference with people outside our social bubbles.  So for me, this is a real way that the technology can create and empower, as well as connect and effectively communicate. After all, people like Celeste have spent their lives paying their taxes and inputting into their communities. It is only right that they have full and proper access to the work on offer from our cultural institutions. Here at Theatre Royal Stratford East we are developing the concept of what ‘A People’s Theatre’ means in a digital context.

A big thank you to the cast and production team, the technical team, at the theatre, the staff at the care homes, and we acknowledge and are grateful for the support of Telford Homes and NuLiving.co.uk that made this livestream possible.

Taking livestreamed theatre into Adult Social Care Homes with @stratfordeast

23 May

I really enjoy working as an associate artist at Theatre Royal Stratford East. As part of our work as A People’s Theatre, we are continuing  to explore how this can extend the reach and engagement for audiences using existing and emerging platforms and networks.

I have previously described the real human connection that was discovered when our livestream went into children’s hospitals and a children’s hospice earlier this year. As you may know I have been a real advocate in my work for developing new projects that have an extended element of digital engagement for audiences for over a decade now.

So this new initiative is no different. Tommy, is the great new touring production of the classic 1969 album and subsequent movie by The Who. Ramps on the Moon have produced an extraordinary show, directed by Stratford East’s Artistic Director, Kerry Michael, the piece has access running through all aspects of the production.

So as part of our discussions with Kerry, we will be developing the HD livestream, which will be broadcast to adult social care homes across east London, as well as across care homes in some of the venue cities that the production has toured to.

This will be a fully captioned, with an audio description feed too. The show has integrated signing as part of the action and a full live band.

Some of the homes and schemes we are working with are dementia care homes, and we are really keen to see how the piece works in these venues for the audience and their families. Clearly there are references both visually and musically from over 40 years ago which may allow recognition and connections.

We are inviting families to come and participate and watch alongside their family members who may be resident in the schemes and spaces we are working with. We know the technology can work. we have done it before many times. In a way that’s the easy bit. But what is really clear to me, is that the people here, living in the Borough and near the theatre have for many years paid their Council Tax, their income Tax, and contributed to the community in which they now live. They gave a right to be able to access the work that they have contributed towards, for free. To me that is what A People’s Theatre can and should deliver.

My question is, why are all theatres and arts organisations not pushing the boundaries in the same way and using the digital opportunities that are now clearly in our grasp to make those same connections?