Backstage and Beyond - Sarah Fortescue, Marketing and Development Manager
Welcome to Backstage and Beyond, a series of interview in which we talk to theatre industry professionals to find out more about their jobs. Everyone knows what an actor does, but it takes a lot more than just the people on stage to make a show. Please join us as we quiz people in all sorts of cool theatre jobs on their work, what it involves, and how you could do the same. Our next guest is Sarah Fortescue, who has been working as Marketing and Development Manager with Cheek by Jowl, an internationally touring company who perform in English, French and Russian.
Can you explain to us what exactly your job involved?
My job was 50% marketing and 50% development. For marketing, it would mean planning a campaign around a new show - where would people hear about it, what would we like them to know about it, what would the poster or trailer look like? It also meant making that campaign happen, so everything from planning and budgeting social media to hiring and briefing freelancers, like designers and videographers. For development, this is either contributing to Arts Council applications and applying to Trusts and Foundations, or managing individual donors by planning big events or international trips
How did you come to work in this position?
I had previously worked in a similar role in the third sector. While I was working at that charity, I realised that I'd like to step back into theatre. So I joined the National Youth Theatre on an intensive six-week course. This was primarily acting, but it showed what other careers were available as well. Then I began an MA in Theatre Studies at the Central School of Speech and Drama. It was at the end of my MA that I saw the position advertised and applied for it. Theatre jobs are competitive and also quite rare, so finding a job that matched my experience but in an industry that I loved was a great way to get in.
What does your daily schedule look like in a job like this?
My job had a dual function, marketing and development, so it was quite varied. A typical day could be scoping out new trusts and foundations to apply to for funding, then planning a donor event for our individual giving scheme, and working on specific marketing for a show. This would mean jobs like gathering quotes from international venues, translating them and sending them out in a newsletter, on social media or directly to other venues on the tour.
What were the best parts and the worst parts of your work?
My colleagues were amazing. In theatre, you will naturally find that everybody wants the show to do well, so everyone is passionate about what they're doing, and your greatest interest is automatically shared with the people you work with. I enjoy anything creative, so planning trailers and writing copy for a show were the best things about the job. Development is by far the trickiest - it is almost inevitable that you will frequently be rejected, and sometimes that can be hard to take.
What advice would you give to young people who are interested in going into your line of work?
Be clear about why you want to do it, and only do it for a company whose work you are passionate about - and that is the case for marketing or development. You can't sell a show, either to audiences or to donors, if you don't really, really like the work!
What is great about working at Cheek by Jowl?
The best part of the job for me was working on the livestreams - bringing theatre to a screen is a miraculous thing! When one of our shows made it to the BBC, it was a very special moment. Live and recorded theatre are incomparable, of course - but to see an entire Shakespeare production on iPlayer with so many people being able to watch from their living rooms was amazing.
What’s next for you?
I'd like to do more producing, while staying involved with livestreams. I got into marketing because I love writing, so I am also going to explore that.