Writer/Director/Producer, Chris Keeble has worked in the arts and entertainment arena for over two decades. She’s recently produced The Rockumentary Series, including Pearl: The Janis Joplin Show, which tours to The Street on March 5th.
Chris paints a picture of life as a producer:
WHAT DOES A LIVE PERFORMANCE PRODUCER DO? IS THERE A PARTICULAR SKILL SET THAT MAKES SOMEONE A SUCCESSFUL PRODUCER?
It’s important to have an imagination, to be a bit brave, and a little bit crazy. But mainly it is a true passionate belief in great music and supporting Australian talent. Oh, and of course the ability to wear many, many hats. Understanding budgets, deals, publicity, writing, identifying talent… the list is endless, as are the hours.
HOW DID YOU GET IN TO PRODUCING?
My background is in theatre. I did a BA in theatre, theory and multi-media with a focus on Commedia dell’arte masks and puppetry. It’s been an unusual journey because while I was into the great playwrights, and traditional theatre there wasn’t much work for that or my puppetry!
I found myself managing a club theatre venue that focused on concert style shows, which led to producing rugby league matches of all things…eventfully finding a niche in this style of commercial event/ sport producing. This working past life has shaped my productions now (and paid my bills too). Not too high-brow, not too low-brow… a middle brow! It’s all about trying to appeal to a commercial reality while still being true to an artistic form.
IF YOU COULD GIVE THAT YOUNGER VERSION OF YOURSELF A PIECE OF CAREER ADVICE, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
“There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in”… that’s a Leonard Cohen line from his song Anthem. I just think it’s great. To me it says… sometimes things don’t work out, but they always lead you to something. Be open and grab opportunities. It’s helped me many times. I wish I knew it when I was young. And to know that the most important thing in business and life is ideas, for without them we can’t grow. Good or bad, we need ideas.
WHAT HAVE BEEN THE BIG MOMENTS IN YOUR CAREER?
I’d say giving birth to my creative pursuits and seeing things come together. Everything from film, producing grand final rugby league matches, my puppets with attitude projects and my current crop of productions in The Rockumentary Series. It’s very satisfying seeing things grow and presented on stage.
TELL US ABOUT PEARL: THE JANIS JOPLIN SHOW, AND THE JOURNEY FROM INITIAL IDEA TO TOUR.
The fact is that no one has really told her story live on stage.
There seems to be a heap of other tribute type shows eg Beatles, Elvis etc. But I didn’t want to be like a typical cover show. I wanted more theatrics, a story. So I started researching Janis. I had co-produced a show about Stevie Wright and The Easybeats, so I used a similar formula. But tweaked things. I learnt a lot in that project, what not to do etc. Then it’s a matter of reading, researching and highlighting the main bits and building little stories around those, fitting in the songs. The stories are all in chronological order, but the songs are from all over and they are chosen because they summarise that piece of her life we have just talked about. Of course once it’s written, you then need to get charts done for the music, engage a musical director, find the musicians, rehearse, keep tweaking and re writing.
Then you do a launch night where you can test the audience and how it runs in a real situation.
HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN A WORK IS READY FOR AN AUDIENCE?
Sometimes you don’t know. I always do a launch preview night with friends etc., so we can get a feel of the whole package. A show is not a show until you have included an audience. So these nights are vital and often you go away and do lots of small changes. Plus having an exceptional talented team of people on the same page is essential. You need a great team behind you.
WHAT’S INSPIRING YOU CREATIVELY AT THE MOMENT?
Passion and love. It could be for someone or something. But it’s at the backbone of everything I do. I’m inspired and rejuvenated by the passion and excitement about things. Plus I genuinely like to help support the creative arts, employ artists and keep the whole thing turning. I want everyone to do well from the shows: Me, my artists, the venue. Everyone has to win and everyone needs to be on same page with trust and ideas. It’s what makes life, business, and relationships work.
WHAT’S COMING UP NEXT? ANY NEW PROJECTS IN THE WORKS?
I’m developing more of The Rockumentary Series of shows. From collaborations with others to my own ones. My next show that I’m writing is The Poets of Peace and Protest.. It’s about all the music that defined generations regarding big social impacting life events e.g The Vietnam War, Civil Rights Movement in the U.S, Woman’s Lib, Gay Rights.
The music from those times is amazing and the stories inspirational. I need to get cracking on that, it’s a big project this one. Lots of research needed. Facebook is so distracting to a writer and so is my grand-daughter!