Identifying the potential the online streaming platform has in regards to hosting theatrical works to new and wider audiences, YouTube have established the Digital Theatre Initiative – a funding and mentoring opportunity witnessing creatives receive up to £20,000 in financial support and guidance from YouTube’s content creation agency Remedy Inc to produce pieces of online content. Judged by an established theatre panel consisting of producer Matthew Byam Shaw, production designer Bunny Christie OBE, playwright Inua Ellams, actor Dame Sheila Hancock, chief commercial officer of LW Theatres Charlotte Longstaff and director Bijan Sheibani, the team will choose a maximum of four creatives they believe respond best to the question ‘what is theatre when it’s online?’. YouTube tell us more about the initiative!
Hi YouTube, you’ve recently launched the Digital Theatre Initiative, a programme offering mentoring and funding support to create online content. What does it mean to be able to support creatives during this time?
Lockdown forced many organisations, businesses and audiences online over the last 12 months. We’ve seen the creative and cultural sectors decimated by forced closures and we want to do everything we can to help them thrive in the new post lockdown world. We’ve seen some extraordinary pieces of work on YouTube and we want to continue to help explore and support what this could be in the future. We saw that during lockdown, people turned to the arts for solace, comfort and entertainment. Creativity always needs an outlet, and we’re proud that for many, YouTube was that place, now it’s our job to help theatres understand what that looks like moving forward.
How do we use this new medium to blend digital and the live platforms to benefit theatres and excite audiences?
Applicants have been asked to respond to the question ‘What is theatre when it’s online?’. With online platforms creating opportunities for practitioners to showcase their work to wider audiences, what within the past year have you learned about the sector’s potential on YouTube?
We’ve seen organisations like the National Theatre, English National Ballet and Bush Theatre really break new ground with YouTube on a number of levels. What started for many as a way to entertain people whilst lockdown descended, became a new way to connect to different audiences. We’ve found that they have been able to speak to a younger audience and bringing the next generation into the theatre in a different way.
The aim of the initiative is to continue innovation within digital theatre. What are your hopes for the digital theatre format?
What we’re most excited to see is the ideas people will come up with. This is about testing the creative boundaries of YouTube and seeing what is possible outside of the standard format of a play.
We’re also keen to work out how this can help drive people back into the theatre. The idea is not to replace performances in real life, but to use the platform to add a creative dimension to the theatrical experience and to help drive people back into the theatres when it is safe to do so.
You’ll be supporting up to four creatives with up to £20,000 and mentoring from your content creation agency Remedy Inc. What will this support entail?
The team at Remedy are experienced in both the theatrical and digital worlds. They will help guide the participants through the project and will act as a bridge between all the participants. We want to learn from each other and share findings as we go, so Remedy will be able to collate findings as we go and will also be following up at the end of the project to build a report based on the findings.
Applicants will create between three to four pieces of content to be hosted on their YouTube channel, this shaping the structure of their content. What should applicants consider in regards to storytelling?
Think about who your audience is, how long will they watch something online and what they want to see. This could be a stand alone piece or could it be an additional piece to add a depth to something you’re already planning to perform live.
What is the different way you can tell stories in this medium, and what can you show to the audience that you can’t in a live performance in a theatre?
Most of all, think about what you would want to watch? What would excite/entertain/surprise you?
YouTube will be hosting a masterclass on 29th March for applicants. What can be expected from this?
We want to give people the foundations of how to best use the platform. The areas this will cover will be channel strategy, audience engagement, how to optimise your videos, content strategy, how to better understand your channel data and how to use your channel for live events.
What advice can you give to prospective applicants?
Be bold! Think about who you are talking to and don’t just apply to film a straightforward live performance of a play. That’s been done, this is about something new.
Questions by Lucy Basaba.
To find out more about the Digital Theatre Initiative, visit here…