6 August 2021

Producer Profile: Matthew Emeny

Matthew Emeny is a very Dyslexic, internationally accredited artist and theatre/film-maker. His productions have received awards and critical acclaim; including Sir Kenneth Branagh's Best Inspired by Shakspeare award, for Matthews's short film adaptation of Othello. His work is produced under the banner Calf 2 Cow and ranges from street theatre, outdoor events, horror plays, and immersive productions for all the family. His latest work includes The Garden Theatre Fest, a new outdoor venue in Bath, hosting six nights of outdoor theatre and The Wave, funded by ACE, a free street show supported by the Pound Arts. The Wave will tour festivals in 2022. More info at @Calf2cow across the socials, & Calf2Cow.co.uk

What was your route to producing? 

My best pal Joel Clements is a leading Tattoo Artists up in Leeds, we met as babies and have been best mates ever since. I guess I'm saying this as it sort of all started with Joel. At 10 years old Joel made Bookmarkers and I went around the school playground flogging them for 10p. We splashed the cash on hot chocolates and sweets. In our last years at school, we were sticking on little plays and music gigs and charging our mates a pound. Along with making fraudulent walking passes so people could escape school earlier, I sold them at £5 ago. Beers on me. I suppose I've been selling and producing Joel's art for a long time (Not that I knew it was 'producing'), so ending up producing theatre and film after leaving drama school was a given. After I left Bath Spa I decided to take the little show we did for our final piece, NightFlyer by Martin Malcolm,  to London. We did a night that sold out at the Tristan Bates, and then we transferred to the Lion and Unicorn in Kentish Town. Of course, we only made about £70 each for 4 weeks of work, but it was the start of a fire that kept on growing. With Nightflyers 5 star reviews under my belt, I moved on to creating the film Othello Noir. We won Sir Kenneth Branagh's, Best inspired by Shakespeare award. If Sir Ken thought I was alright, then hopefully other people will too. 

What are some key skills you have learnt along the way?

I am still very much growing as a producer, and every new production brings with it a lot of lessons to be learnt. July saw me spend 20 days in isolation, meaning I missed two massive events that I had been producing and directing. Without really knowing I learnt the importance of building a solid, skilled team around you, handing over responsibility and allowing the weight to be distributed. 

Another skill is learning not to fear the M word. Money money money. What a scary and dirty word that is. Especially when you don't start out with any, it can feel daunting to fundraise and knock on those doors. Getting investors seemed impossible. But I have learnt that getting told no won't kill you, it may hurt and make you cry, but you won't die. Get a yes, and it's the best feeling in the world. So now I have no shame in making those contacts, having chats with people, chatting about the biz, asking if they would like to back a project. I even have mates from Uni who are investing £250 here and there, every little helps. So if that 'Black Book', whatever that actually is, looks rather empty like mine, don't think it's the end. That's certainly the best skill amongst the many I have learnt over the years. It's really no different to flogging Joel's Bookmarks...

Could you explain a bit more about your bursary award for those thinking of applying? How have we split up the money awarded to support your career progression? 

The bursary has been a vital career step for me. Not only is it money, but it's also a confidence booster, it's a badge of recognition and a few months in new doors are now smoothly opening up that seemed locked. My bursary is supporting my next tour of The Wind in The Willows, touring outdoor spaces across the south of England. 

The money has been split up to help me manage this next stage of my career. My accountant fees have been covered for a year, and the fees for my website were paid. There is a pot of money to cover my time as I gear up for the tour, so I don't have to be dependent on that back payment after the tour. Allowing me to work less on other things, and focus more on my own progression. It has covered the fees to have an associate join me for a day a week, who has cracked on with all the admin, and venue approaching that, with dyslexia, is not my strongest skill set. Finally, it has given me some much-needed grant money to get Wind in The Willows off the ground.

My first tour, 14 days strong, venues selling out, couldn't have happened without this bursary. Even if you are not sure that Stage One is for you and perhaps, like me, you work in alternative spaces, apply away. I just can't recommend it enough. Total game changer.

What were you looking for in a mentor and how have you utilised this relationship?

I knew that I needed to have a mentor who was experienced in the regional touring sector. That was really the next step in my career, so asking Feargus Wood Dunlop just felt like the right thing to do. We sort of knew each other, but didn't.. I am a huge fan of New Old Friends as they are just next door to Bath in Frome, so it's the perfect connection.

Feargus has been great in making it clear that he is just a phone call away, or a text if he is on stage. He has helped me with budgeting as the money is getting a little bit larger, income forecasting and cash flow. All the things that are vital to commercial touring that I knew nothing about. He has looked over my tour pack and marketing and always gives friendly advice and ideas. I think we both have the same goals really, we want to make people laugh all across the country. So its a perfect relationship. And rather than just make it up and hope for the best, I can check in with a leading contemporary producer to make sure I'm not mucking it up! Also, we both write and sing the theme tune...

Your bursary focus is on producing commercial outdoor/immersive theatre. Could you explain a bit more about your goals with Calf 2 Cow?

My goal for Calf 2 Cow is to develop the company into a leading production house for outdoor and immersive work. When I say 'Immersive' that really just means alternative playing spaces. Old shops, buildings, anywhere we can put a show on and it's not a theatre. When I saw In-Yer-Face production of Trainspotting, that was it for me, I wanted to be putting work on in tunnels. Although I'm still very happy to work with theatres, just as producers we all have to find that place we feel the most comfortable and excited by. Turning up to a field, sticking a stage at the end of it, getting the punters to sit on rugs, whilst the local pub provides them with some tasty treats is what I call a good time. I passionately believe that the outdoor sector can be just as exciting as the venue experience in quality of work, and commercial value. Outdoor theatre doesn't have to just be dusty old classics, it can be exciting reimaginings, brand new tales, new writing, full of food and adventure! So as the new kids on the block, I'm excited that C2C can be a leading force of exciting new commercial outdoor/alternative theatre. Maybe the next Kneehigh....? That would be nice.









The Wind In The Willows, UK Tour

Get your tickets here: Calf2cow.co.uk/windinthewillows

Key Dates: 

Thorington Theatre (29th) Brand new outdoor theatre, it's epic!

Holburne Museum (Garden Theatre Fest, 21st August)

Closest to London, and a nice trip to the coast: Ropetackle Arts Center.

A summer afternoon in Wild Wood, while the animals sat, ate picnics and played with their friends, a mischievous ‘poop poop’ echoed in the trees.

Join Mole, Ratty and Badger in a floor stomping, live music, hilarious re-telling of this woodland adventure as they save Toad and his shiny new motorcar from deep trouble.

Award-winning theatre company, Calf2Cow, brings you the outdoor theatrical experience of the summer in a retelling of Kenneth Grahame’s classic story: The Wind In The Willows.