Producer Profile: Liam Gartland
Ahead of our Autumn Bursary applications opening in a few weeks, we sat down with Liam Gartland, one of our Bursary winners from Spring 2022 to chat about his producing career, how he got started and how the Bursary has been beneficial to him.
Liam is a commercial theatre producer based in London. In 2021, Liam was named one of the ‘Rising Stars of the West End’ after producing a sell-out one night concert of Drew Gasparini’s ‘I Could Use A Drink’ at The Garrick Theatre.
In 2020, Liam co-founded The Grad Fest, an award winning company providing performance opportunities and support for recent theatre graduates. The Grad Fest were awarded a 'ONEOFF Special Award' for their dedicated work through the pandemic supporting theatre graduates and were nominated for the 'Recognition Award' by Industry Minds.
Liam went on to set up his own commercial production company in 2021 and has produced; LIFT (Southwark Playhouse), Tell Me Straight (King’s Head Theatre) & A Song For Christmas (Actors Church). His next project Daddy Issues (Seven Dials Playhouse) opens in October (Tickets available here).
What drew you to become a producer? What elements do you enjoy most?
Producing was never a role I understood until I realised it had been something I was doing from such a young age. It was only when I graduated into a pandemic that I wanted to continue creating. So I set up an online fringe festival for all the graduates that had lost out on opportunities. This was an idea that I thought only a couple of my friends would take part in and all of a sudden I had 550 graduates in a two week long fringe festival over zoom. I still didn’t really know what I was doing! Once this has all ended I wanted to keep doing more and it was only then that I started researching and contacting producers to chat. As I began to understand what this role was I knew this was the right path for me and I had to start now!
I enjoy all the elements, most of all I love that I am constantly learning new things. It takes a mountain of people to put on a production and not all the time does everyone understand what each role entails. I am a people person so I think being able to talk to so many different people every day and understand their specific craft even more is a great part of the job.
What is your definition of commercial theatre? What motivates you to produce commercial theatre?
Commercial theatre to me involves two attributes, risk taking and self belief. With both of these in place I feel that the dread of ‘raising the investment’ is taken out slightly and you become more aware of why you are doing it instead of how you are going to do it.
Commercial theatre can happen on any scale whether thats West End or a small scale fringe production, its about making a production have financial viability and create a budget that allows a financial return. You also need to find a projects that you think audiences will like, look at your target market. If nobody is going to buy a ticket, how are you going to make profit?
As an independent theatre producer, working for yourself isn’t always easy and I think that is why motivation is key. If the production you are working on doesn’t make you want to ‘get up and start work’ then it may not be the right project for you.
What’s the best piece of advice you have received as a producer?
Empower the people you employ. Once you’ve appointed your teams let them do their jobs. If you’ve got your appointments right then you will have a selection of people whose abilities far outweigh your own – and the best thing you can do is to make their job as easy as possible.
How has the Bursary award supported your career?
The bursary has been so beneficial for me this year. As I went on to produce my biggest and most ambitious project to date, I knew that I needed time to focus and not get distracted by other jobs. Having the financial support meant I could spend time building my company, the production and more importantly my network.
What do you have coming up next?
We have quite a few exciting projects over the next year and a half including Lewis Cornay’s one woman show ‘Daddy Issues’ which will be playing at the Seven Dials Playhouse in October for four weeks and the European premiere of a Broadway musical. I hope to keep building the company strength by strength and continuously challenging myself with more ambitious productions.
You were chosen to take part in the NY Exchange this year as well. What are you most excited for in NYC?
I am so excited to be heading to NYC with the Stage One cohort. It will be an invaluable experience that I am lucky to share with another 12 producers. I am excited to see lots of shows, network with producers (after 3 years of zoom) and learn more about the producing landscape on the other side of the pond.
Do you have any advice for people looking to apply for a Bursary award with Stage One?
No matter what, keep trying! I applied for the bursary three times before I was successful and each time I learnt more and more about why I needed the bursary and when the right time was for me to apply. It is an amazing scheme which I would recommend to anybody who needs support whilst starting out as an independent producer. But always remember, its a marathon not a sprint.