Think about the ‘whys’… why do you want to take your work abroad, what are your reasons? Why now? Why you and why that particular piece of work?
know what you have
What is unique about you, your company and your work? Find and identify your USP and work with it. Bear in mind too that international promoters are looking for things that they haven’t already got, not your interpretation of what they already have; “Do German audiences really want our interpretations of Nietzsche?” probably not.
expect nothing, assume nothing
Don’t set out with the same expectations you have grown comfortable with from UK touring. From country to country the notions of health and safety, technical support etc. differ greatly so expect nothing and be prepared for all eventualities. Be realistic and be flexible. Do not make assumptions either about who your audiences will be; the average theatre go-er in Russia may not be who you expect. On that same note, don’t make assumptions about where your work is perfect for, as you will almost always be surprised by the reality. Be aware too that international touring happens on a completely different timescale to what you may be used to so expect a slow burn as conversations may take years to develop into fruition.
You are the best advocate for your work, and it is you who needs to do the legwork. Other organisations can support you but it is you and only you who can build those connections with international venues and promoters in order to start the proverbial ball rolling.
Be aware of business talk, think about you and your work in terms of ‘trade’ and ‘export’ and be prepared to run like a business. On this note, it is important to build and solidify your home base before embarking on international touring. Nurture and build those relationships at home to ensure a solid springboard to embark on international touring from. Remember to be entrepreneurial, open minded and think outside of the box; for example, the key to international touring doesn’t necessarily have to be through arts organisations; have you looked into educational charities, does your work tie in with their ambitions? Remember too that international touring should always be in addition to your other touring work and not instead of, so does your company have the capacity to accommodate both?
the heart of the matter
Be aware that there may be other agendas afoot socially and politically. British Council for example may have a particular remit or agenda that they are looking to fulfil and your work may fit in with that, so don’t just quote your flyer blurb, talk about what your work is really about and the social and political threads that string it all together.
Always bear in mind the cultural context of your work as many things can get lost in translation (both visual and verbal) and may be interpreted very differently to how you intended!
it’s not just about selling a show
Don’t be fooled, the international streets are not paved with gold so do not enter into the international market expecting pots of it around every corner. International touring is as much (if not more) about the process of collaboration and exchanging ideas as it is building your international profile. It’s about developing your ambitions as an artist and the opportunity of seeing your work through the eyes of other cultures.
getting to know you
Build relationships and get to know promoters as people, not just as a potential booking. As pointed out above, this isn’t just about selling work so don’t just pitch at people, get to know them. You’ll find the doors will open all the more widely by doing so.
It’s not a competition between you and other UK artists; that is neither a helpful nor productive attitude. Working together as a UK network will garner more relationships, more communication and therefore better results. Be supportive of each other and share contacts and opportunities. If you’re not right for an opportunity then recommend someone who is, that way you’ll build trust and a relationship with that promoter and that dialogue may develop into future collaborations.