Apply Yourself! Tips for Successful Burlesque Festival Applications and More

How to Prepare for Festival Applications, Producers, and Press
by Jo Weldon

Becoming a successful performer requires investments of learning, preparation, and practice to get your acts together. Once you’ve got the acts, you’ll want to get organized for the business. This article is about preparing for submitting to producers and festivals, to help you get over the jitters that can come along with knowing you’re about to be scrutinized. These folders will help you if you get interviewed by press, as well, since they may request materials. One of the hardest things in today's competitive online environment is being the fastest to respond to requests for bookings and press. Get there first and make their jobs easy, and you'll be picked first every time. Professionalism is everything in a world where producers and journalists have so many options.
Even if this exact form of organization is not the one that works for you, I hope the ideas here will help you find one that does. Although I will be using Dropbox as an example of a sharing protocol, you can use whatever works for you – and if the producer/festival/interviewer asks you to send attachments instead of links, do it as they request, and absolutely do not tell them it’s a problem for you in any way. You should have this folder both on your device and in your Dropbox/cloud/etc. so that you can send as attachments or link, as they request. Be prepared to make it convenient and easy for them. Send all materials ahead of deadlines. Also, be prepared to set boundaries in a calm, professional manner if they are too demanding or make inappropriate requests.
1)      Create a folder for your burlesque materials and name it with your Stage Name. Upload it to Dropbox or your choice of shareable backup system. This way if you need to direct a producer to all your work, you can simply send them a link to your folder. Because they view a lot of folder, naming it after your stage name is a crucial organizing function. If it was just named “Burlesque,” it would get confused with other folders they access called “Burlesque.” You can keep information that you need to be private or variable in a separate folder called Stage Name Personal, or whatever folder name works for you. Remember to have your stage name everywhere – it is the one item that distinguishes your folders and files from all the other folders and files burlesque performers and producers accumulate. Using folders as described here allows you the opportunity to send full folders or individual links to files, as you prefer or are requested to do.
2)      Within the Your Stage Name Folder, create folders named Your Stage Name Photos, Your Stage Name Bios, Your Stage Name Videos, YourStageNameMusic, Your Stage Name Class Descriptions, or whatever else you think they are likely to offer. This way, if they ask only for photos or bios, you can send them just that link or that specific material. If other naming conventions work better for you, do them, but keep in mind that you are organizing this from the point of view of making it as easy as possible for the producer to organize their show.
3)      In Your Stage Name Photos folder, you’ll have photos intended for their use. You must have the permission of the photographers who took the photos to use in this way, and must have a record, preferably a signed release, that states those terms, and always do your best to help the photographer get credit for those photos. I name my photos like so: JoBoobsWeldonByDonSpiro.jpg. I may add other details like JoBoobsWeldonByDonSpiroPinkDressLoRes.jpg. Obviously I don’t want the names to be insanely long, but the photographer credit in the name is never optional. What this looks like is a separate negotiation with each photographer. Their name is as important as mine – you may be the model, but they hold the copyright. You should have each photo in a lower web resolution and a high resolution, which means you have two files for each image, one for social media and one for flyers. The photos must be clear and recent and represent you realistically. It’s a good idea to have both full-body and head-shots. It’s also a good idea to have both studio and live shots – studio may, in fact, be required by some photographers. They should show you in costumes you actually own, as you are representing your body of work. You should be in costume, as you are presenting yourself as a performer. Most producers can’t use nude or pastie shots, so submit those at your best discretion.
4)      In your Bios folder, have a text document that contains the following: a tagline, if you have one, a one or two-sentence bio, a 150-200 word paragraph bio, and a two to three paragraph bio. The one or two sentence bio should be the opening of your paragraph bio, and the two to three paragraph bio should open with that paragraph. This allows them to use the amount of material they need. Sometimes that first sentence or paragraph is all you get, so make it whatever is most important to you, or the emcee of the show may end up getting your bio and use it to craft your introduction, so make it count. In that bio also have a separate document named YourStageNameCV, or whatever is an appropriate name, that is simply a list of your credits and accomplishments, so that they have that information available. Such lists can be tedious to read as well as irrelevant to readers and audiences who have never heard of the organizations from which you won awards, but htey may be useful to a producer or journalist. Some or all of the items on your CV may also be in your bios, but it is your bio, not your CV, which is most likely to be used in promotion. Always make sure you get input from other performers and producers as you write them. It is reasonable to offer to pay someone $25-50 to review or edit or coach you on your bios (and yes, I’m saying I’ll do it!).
5)      Prepare a folder of your music. Each piece of music should be labeled YourStageName_TitleOfSong.mp3. You should purchase the music in order to have the best quality file and to support the musician whose work you require to create your piece. You should not send spotify, youtube, or itunes links (unless the producer requests them, which I have never known a producer to do). It is entirely your responsibility to learn how to create and name these files as the producer requests. Do not ever ask them for that kind of instruction. Youtube is full of tutorials. I’m terrible with editing technology so I pay other people to do it for me. If you have combined music, name the file in the manner you think will best help producers curate the show and set list, and be sure they know the names of all the music in your mix.
6)      In the file named YourStageNameVideos, create a document with a list of links to your uploaded videos. You can also upload your videos here and use this sharing system to send them a link instead of youtube or vimeo, which should prevent problems with nudity or music copyright violations that can get your videos removed, clocked, or altered. Public video programs are always evolving, but many producers have told me they prefer youtube, even though many video professionals say vimeo has better quality. Never make a producer have to sign into a website to view your video.
Above all, do not ask the producer to give you special dispensation, do not ask them a question that is answered on the website or application (I find that reading them out loud helps me get clarity), and do not talk about them on social media – they will check your page and they will see it and they will remember it. You want to be memorable for being easy to work with and making them look good. Focus all your professional energy on how you can best do that while staying true to your artistic vision, ethics, and self-care.
Never make excuses for not being able to do what they request. It’s a pain in their ass. It will make them less likely to hire you next time. Their lives are hectic and for all you know they are living off of credit cards trying to fulfill their dreams while their kids are being bullied and they’re battling health problems. Remember that it’s hard to be human and even the people who intimidate you are fighting unfathomable battles every day. Making their burlesque life flow smoothly is a compassionate action on your part. Plus, be easy to work with and you’ll get more gigs!
Once you’ve done the best you can, let go of the results! You’ve done all the work you can do for now, and presented yourself realistically and in your best possible light. If you’re right for the gig, you’ll get it. If you’re right for the audience of the press that’s covering you, you’ll find a new audience to love you. If you’re right for the festival, you’ll get in! And if you don’t get what you hoped for, remember that you often have no way of knowing all the factors that led to their decision, and don’t second-guess yourself. Let yourself not be tortured over whether it was because your video wasn’t up to par, or they had several people submit with the same music, or the person interviewing you really doesn’t like you. No matter what you see them put on stage you have no idea what all the videos they watched looked like and how they decided each fit into their vision for the festival. If you didn't get it, it probably isn't a comment on the quality of your work -- although all performers benefit from constantly working to be better. You did your best, and you can keep improving your best. There’s no need to let them define your work – you do that. You’ll find the show and audience for you!
Be the burlesque you want to see in the world!
This is part of my #getthegig series of blog posts. To see more, use the search function at the top of the blog for that hashtag. As of April 4 I'm currently in the process of hashtagging them all, so you may want to wait until next week to check
If you have questions or suggestions, you can email me at headmistressatschoolofburlesquedotcom.

Related article (by Sparkly Devil):
Coping With Rejection in Burlesque

Photo of Jo Weldon by Don Spiro

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