Praxis Theatre is currently on hiatus! Please find co-founders Aislinn Rose and Michael Wheeler at The Theatre Centre and SpiderWebShow, respectively.
March 10, 2009, by

Canadian indie productions get slick on YouTube

After scouring the internet for good uses of YouTube videos to promote Canadian theatrical productions, one thing became crystal clear: Indie companies have this scene locked down! No venued or commercial companies we found really had anything worth posting in this format.

Give it time. The mainstream takes time to co-opt new forms, but they invariably get around to it. It has likely not sunk in that people who watch YouTube promo clips are the NEW audience for theatre and they are still milking the OLD one.

Here are some fine examples of the use of YouTube videos to promote indie productions:

Experimental Indie

Dedicated To The Revolutions
Small Wooden Shoe

Classical Indie
Theatre for Young Audiences Indie

What do you think? Is this the new cost effective way to promote a show, or just a fun hobby for artists with too much time on their hands? Do these clips make you want to see these shows, or are they just entertainment unto themselves?

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  1. Murph says:

    And we created this video back in the Fall. It got quite a bit of mileage in terms of building advance buzz.

    We shot more footage for a series of interviews with the actors, but never had a chance to edit it before we opened.


  2. Anonymous says:

    IMO, theatre companies who fail to go YouTube do not deserve a future.

  3. Michael Wheeler says:

    @ Murph: Thanks for the link Michael! I would put your video in a different, and I would argue, less marketing oriented category. The three videos posted seem to be more informed by film and movie trailers in terms of their composition. They all make an “argument” about the value of experiencing the live product.

    The Crackwalker video is rooted in theatre, exploring the people and elements that work to create a theatrical production. More substance and a little longer. It makes an “argument” about the value of the ideas and people behind the production.

    But what do I know, I’m always getting into arguments…..

    @Anon: It is a self-correcting market. Film it and they will come.

  4. Amanda says:

    Although I’m very open, even eager, to be proven wrong, I definately hold to the idea that trailer-like videos don’t make a good argument for the value of the experience unless you are already a pretty experienced theatre-goer and can discern the visual vocabulary of the theatre through the video. I think, if someone is pretty much untouched by theatre, those kinds of videos have a real risk of just looking like bad film. To be totally honest, I’ve never seen a TV commercial for theatre (all Mirvish I guess…) that didn’t seem pretty lame, even when I loved the show.

    I’ve always thought that interviews with artists, incorporated with a few production elements (pictures, scenes, music, ectra.) like the Crackwalker promo is just a much better argument for the experience, for sharing the physical space with the art. As a marketer, I’d always choose to devote my time to the kind of video that I think makes the stronger argument for coming out and purchasing the experience 😉

  5. Michael Wheeler says:

    This is really interesting to me as I think it touches on a core question of theatre marketing. Marketing to “theatre people” or not?

    Michael’s video would definitely be more effective as a marketing tool on me. Probably for most people who read this blog. But I don’t think it would work nearly as well to attract new customers… Probably the Cranked one would be best. It’s like 8 Mile live!

  6. Amanda says:

    Oh, the elusive new customer… they’ve only become harder to understand lately. You might be right about the uninitiated being less enticed by the behind-scenes-stuff, but I’m not sure.

    I totally agree that the Cranked one works. The view count suggests it’s the top pick of viewers too, but I think one of the reasons it works it that it has an atheistic and set up that’s really familiar as film. The one guy at the mic rapping/the stand up comic thing. You can turn on the TV, flip for a little while, and probably find that. Just like you said, it’s very 8 Mile Live. So it’s playing to a strength.

    I have to say though, I think Centaur Theatre is doing some neat experiments with this. Although they don’t put them as predominately on their website as I think they could (maybe they also see them as more of an insider thing, then something to use in marketing to the new peeps.)
    You can watch the Skydive video here.
    and the Doubt one on the right here.
    But they aren’t on YouTube 😉

    Citadel Theatre also did this interesting one for Scorched, again, not featured too hugely on their website but it’s right here.
    And they did a whole slew of video interviews for Pride and Prejudice here.

  7. MK Piatkowski says:

    For me, videos don’t make me want to see a show. I use them to get a closer look at shows I’ve already decided to see.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Good point. I think innovative theatres need to find a way to push their vids onto other sites: ie. ones that cover news, tourism, general arts, culture, local affairs, etc etc.

    … And offer NOT “insider” content, but stuff that will draw in a whole new demo.

  9. Amanda says:

    What sort of content do you think will draw in that whole new demo?

  10. MK Piatkowski says:

    One thing I’ve just noticed is that all three of the shows in the post are remounts so they have existing performance footage to work with. So where does that leave companies mounting an original production? Do you really want rehearsal footage? If not (and I wouldn’t), it would seem that Michael’s approach is the way to go.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Amanda, you’ve asked a very good question and it is best answered by a clever and resourceful brain (maybe that’s not me!). Offhand, I would suggest video content that does not take the viewer’s interest for granted, but earns it with surprising, compelling strategies. I’m talking about advertising here. I’m talking about “hooks”, I’m talking about launching viral phenomena that can be traced to the show in question; there’s no limit if you have the imagination. What I’m not talking about are passive video clips that show what a company is up to, but offers little enticement to an outsider to actually bother showing up. Most theatre companies are so far behind the 8-ball on this front, it’s sad.

    My advice to hot ambitious theatre up-and-comers: hire a vlogging visionary and go wild.