As we rise to the challenge of a new normal way of life in the midst of a global pandemic, we are seeing more clearly what needs to change from our pre-COVID-19 society. In 2020, artists from across the globe found unique ways to continue showcasing their work. Art has never been more imperative. It was during these uncharted times that we decided to embark on a journey of digital entrepreneurship. Alfaaz was born from an idea to build a theatre platform that would help nourish, nurture and equip freelancers with a body of work they could be proud of. Given the nature of the times, we focused on showcasing our work on digital platforms. There is no replacement to the feeling of watching a play live but our intention was to bring theatre to the comfort of people’s homes until we can return to the stage. The raison d’etre of Alfaaz is to give voice and a reason to many who felt disheartened due to the closing of theatres and other creative establishments.
With our respective experiences, we realized that our vision for the platform was identical. We, the co-founders Yamini Joshi & Evita Marie Marques, placed importance on equality and professionalism. Thus, since day one of its inception, the administration of Alfaaz has been maintained like a corporation. While the spirit of theatre drives us and motivates us, it is important to have guidelines and a structure in place because the creation of art and distribution of it are two very different things. There are a few reasons why we believed doing this would help us in the long run.
● The Why: Knowing exactly why your work/company should exist is precisely what drives the core of what you create. For us, understanding the reason to carve out a space for Alfaaz helped us be serious about the people we wanted to reach and the kind of impact we wanted to have. This also helps set things in perspective and we believe it’s important as creators to look at the process of creation sometimes a bit dispassionately, and acknowledging what you bring to the table. There are amazing creators out there but what separates the best from the good ones is their sense of purpose.
● Database: Keeping a record of the performers who approach us, whether for a query or for actual work, has enabled us to study the creative market and draw inferences about people’s access to opportunities, audience interests, growth strategies and more. While creativity can flow, admin skills are important to understand who is interested in working with you and what kind of audiences the platform is attracting.
● Representation: As part of Alfaaz’s mandate, the qualities of transparency, non-discrimination and solemnity are woven into the fabric of our universe. We take every submission at Alfaaz very seriously, trying to give a chance to as many artists as possible. Especially in times when it’s difficult to search for work, we would like to not represent just one kind of voice but be graced with multiple perspectives. For other creators representation can mean identifying the message you want to put out, either as an artist or through the work you do.
● Archiving: In the creative space, there is an abundance of work that gets misplaced, forgotten, or worse – ends up getting remade by another entity. Archiving every single piece of work created by the platform helps us secure it for future referencing and usage.
Much has already been said about how one can make it in the world of performing. The phrase “make it” has in fact created a false narrative among artists. Most feel that some kind of hustle is required to be of a certain quality performer or creator. So many people focus towards this certain flag post without accounting for the foundation that builds a long lasting career in the arts. Some call it discipline, we prefer to use the term Professionalism.
Unfortunately, professionalism can quite often be overlooked, whether you belong to the performing or production management end of the industry. Why, you may ask, should this be such a stifler? The answer is simple: Performing is a collaborative process. A solo dancer cannot function without a light and sound designer. Similarly, an actor cannot deliver his/her lines without the effort of the writer, director, stage manager or costume designer.
Let’s put this a little more into perspective: If a team member misses the deadline of making a prop list, the producers cannot account for it in the budget, the director cannot block his scenes and an actor will have to wait longer until he/she can prepare fully for his/her character. This delay makes all other deadlines go haywire.
The moment we realize that we’re a part of a sum, we start aligning ourselves to the greater purpose i.e, the show/the story. Imagine if every single person on a crew did this. So much time would be conserved and the ripple effect would be absolutely minimal. For the same reason, the hustler attitude cannot always bring quality performances. Trust the process but also respect the people involved in the process. Most creators shy away from adding “corporate templates” to art because it might curtail the larger creative vision. We believe what it actually does is hold people accountable, responsible and also respectful of each other’s craft. Creativity is a garden and the different kinds of foliage are what make it so interesting to play with.
An added reason to prioritize professionalism is to be the kind of person/ organization people want to work with again. For that to happen, putting your best foot forward at all times is a non-negotiable. Make a portfolio of your work, interact with experts in the field, read further about your interests, and lastly keep practicing. You may have heard it a million times but there is no alternative to putting in the work. Prioritize working effectively over simply working hard.
The reality of our times has surely changed. And with it perhaps our thinking should evolve. The lack of a proper structure in the arts is one of the main reasons why the industry is suffering. There is no data on paper to gauge the potential that exists in the country. Start at a micro level by bringing some kind of a system in place for yourself and then extend this habit to any organization or team you may work with. The lessons in the pandemic have taught us that while the creative arts are crucial, for our sanity and for it to last effectively for a long time, we need to structure it.