Production Manager

Overview
Most dance companies performing will employ a production manager.  This is a vital role. The Production Manager is the coordinator of the technical and logistical aspects of a dance production. In effect they deal with all the non-artistic aspects of a production.

The Production Manager is responsible for enabling the artistic ideas of the Choreographer and Artistic Director to happen, within the technical boundaries of the theatre or performance space and the budget.  They will coordinate the different ‘behind the scenes’ aspects of a dance production including lighting, costumes, scenery, sound, video projection and stage management. But on some occasions the requirements may be more peculiar, such as Cloudgate Theatre of Taiwan’s production of Moonwater which required a river to flow down the stage.

Setting the stage

All aspects of a production will have specialist technicians and designers working on them, it is the Production Manager’s job to co-ordinate them, bringing all their disparate disciplines together to complete the dance production on time, on budget and as close as possible to the Choreographer’s and Artistic Director’s original vision.

Who does the Production Manager work with?
The Production Manager is usually employed by the Producer but works most closely with the Designers (Set, Lighting and Costume) helping them to achieve the artistic vision of the production that they have evolved with the Artistic Director and Choreographer.  All of this must, of course, be done within budget and the Production Manager and the General Manager work together to achieve this.  Once a show has made it to the stage the Production Manager will work with the company’s technicians and the various theatres’ Technicians and Technical Managers to ensure that the show can be staged correctly.

The Production Manager coordinates the various contractors that contribute to the making of a production.  These are likely to include set construction companies, costume makers, lighting and sound hire companies and  transport companies.

What does the Production Manager do?
The General Manager and Administrators of the company will arrange the tour schedule, with the input of the Production Manager.  They will know the technical requirements of the production that venues will need to meet and will review the venues to assess their suitability.   For example, a dance show will need a theatre with a sprung floor.

The Production Manager will arrange the transportation of the set and costumes that are required for the production.  In the case of Dance Consortium, the dance companies travel to the UK from their home country.

Scenery

The Production Manager for the dance company will work with the Dance Consortium Production Manager to arrange what equipment will be brought from the company’s home and what equipment will be supplied either by the Dance Consortium or by the venues that they will be touring to.   On some occasions Dance Consortium have arranged the hiring of entire lighting rigs from UK lighting hire companies and on other tours lights that the venues have in stock have been used.

It is also the job of the Production Manager to be responsible for hiring the technicians that tour with the show, arranging with the venue which technical staff will be required to “get-in and get-out” of the show and who will be required to run the show (show crew).  They will be the one to make decisions regarding any problems that may come up during the preparation of the production.

The Production Manager liaises with the touring venues or local promoters to ensure that everything is prepared in advance of the company arriving at the theatre.   The objective is to avoid surprises!  They will provide the theatre with the technical specification for the show detailing everything that the company will bring with them and everything that the venue or promoter is expected to supply.  A technical rider will often detail the dressing room requirements as well, a seemingly obvious requirement but Dance Consortium’s Production Manager has experienced a time when staging an opera performance in Dubai that did not mention this detail and the company were obliged to get changed on stage!

A dance production needs a budget.  The budget will explain in detail how much money is available and how much can be spent where and by whom.  The Production Manager will create this budget in consultation with the General Manager.  They will then be responsible for making sure this budget is adhered to.

How do you become a Production Manager?
The route to becoming a Production Manager will often be through training in an aspect of technical theatre, and then working the way up to the role of Production Manager.   People commonly work their way through Stage Management, Lighting or Stage Crew, however there are Production Managers who have started out in Wardrobe or even as Performers. Over the last few years, courses in Production Management have started to be offered.