6 Tips on Successful Artist Collaboration

The deeper you trek into the wilderness of an artistic career, the more likely it becomes that you will have to actually collaborate with other artists. (Hint: This trek will take you approximately five seconds and will snowball from there for the rest of your life. Or until you retire permanently from the arts and become a full-time hermit).

From you garden variety gig work to creating your own content, solid collaboration skills will up your game as an actor and artist. It will help you get hired and rehired, help you know who to hire, and increase your longevity in the industry. It is a skill set not to be scoffed at.

Whether you’ve never had to share space for your artistic vision before, or you’re old hat and your last nerve is being tried, here are some tips to get the ball rolling on a successful collaboration process.

  1. Communicate. Honestly, if you do nothing else, do this. Especially if you wield any sort of authority in your given project, this will save your life. Read your emails twice through and respond quickly and thoroughly to each part. Check and confirm all particulars. Check in with each party throughout and gauge satisfaction. Be efficient: make sure you are contacting appropriate parties with your questions and don’t double ask unless there are new cards on the table. Be honest, specific and proactive about expressing your artistic needs. If you feel that you have trouble with diplomacy, now is the time to start checking the language you use. Be aware of the impression you make on others.
  2. Choose your battles. In no collaboration can all parties be happy all the time. Prioritize your artistic needs and don’t waste time fighting over details that don’t serve your core goals. Before you start any project be honest with yourself about what is most important to you. Before you spend time and energy, and risk relations fighting for a particular, ask yourself how crucial it is to your top priorities.
  3. Learn how to compromise. If that battle is worth fighting, however, learn how to be flexible in your expectations. Not every victory is going to look like you thought it would. Remember that most projects are successful when each aspect is balanced, so be generous and thoughtful in your compromises.
  4. Keep the big picture in mind. It’s easy to lose perspective and start fighting for your personal passions, ego, insecurities, etc. When you start feeling overwhelmed, go back to the heart of the project. What is most useful for the artistic venture as a whole? Fight for that before anything else.
  5. Know what you’re representing. In a similar vein, once you agree to be a part of a collaborative effort, you have a responsibility to represent not just yourself as a single artist, but the team of artists with whom you are working. Remember this when you’re communicating with other members of your project, and especially when you are talking about the project to outside parties. A successful collaboration has, at its heart, a focused message and distinct voice. Think about how you can strengthen that.
  6. Personalize the project. So, a lot of successful collaboration depends on managing, anticipating and bargaining with the needs of others, but there is a reason you specifically are part of any given project. Don’t be afraid to contribute, challenge, and let your personal brand of artistry shine. Your perspective is valuable, and if you can learn to manage it within the context of a greater effort, you are setting yourself up for success.

We’re all storytellers in this business. Stories generally involve more than one person. If a story is worth telling, it will resonate with a great many people. Figure out to whom the story belongs and for whom it is meant to be told. If you and your team can agree on that, you’re well on your way to a successful collaborative experience.


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Rachel Rachel Frawley is an actor living in Atlanta. She holds a B.F.A. in Theatre from Michigan State University (with cognates in Music and Professional Writing) and is an Apprentice Company graduate from the Atlanta Shakespeare Co. She also works as an education artist for local theatres, which have included the Shakespeare Tavern and Aurora Theatre. For more information, visit her website at www.rachelfrawley.com

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