8 Tips on Taking a Show to Edinburgh Fringe Festival

8 Tips on Taking a Show to Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Insider Advice from Scenographer and Production designer Anna Driftmier


When it comes to Edinburgh Fringe Festival, TAC Member Anna Driftmier knows a thing or two, or three… or four. Having gone about six or seven times (we’ve lost count, but what does that matter?), this year, Anna is production and costume designing an opera called Dead Equal, premiering at Summerhall’s Army@TheFringe. Dead Equal is an opera about Flora Sands, a nurse in WWI who finds herself in Serbia, becoming the first female British soldier, and achieving the highest military medal within the Serbian army. So what is Edinburgh Fringe actually like from a scenographer and production designer’s point of view, who has done a couple of rounds, and who has started from designing in caves to designing at an Army Reserve Center? Here’s 8 tips we’ve gathered from Anna to help you understand how you can bring your work to Edinburgh Fringe the right way. 

1) Know the 5 basics

  • Even though there are hierarchies among venues, stick to your guns and choose the venue that is going to best serve your company, your show, and is a space you know you can fill.

  • First week of the festival is when programmers come to program their venues, so do your research to create that target list, and make that first week about getting those programmers to your show.

  • When a really good show happens, rumor will spread.

  • The trends of the festival are always changing. Watch what people are doing, and then do it better.

  • Fringe is a Visa Free Zone. Woot!Woot!

2) Play Reviews

Know that you need to do a little double checking when it comes to a review. In general, a three star review is bad, a four star review is ok, and a five star is good. On the other hand, if you get a three star from The Scotsman, that’s good, a four star from The Scotsman, that's great, a five star from The Scotsman, that’s impossible. When you get your reviews, do your homework, and figure out whether or not it is a reputable source and use it to your advantage on publicity.

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3) Publicity

DON’T SKIMP OUT ON GOOD QUALITY PAPER! Yes, flyering is tedious, but it is the first thing people are going to be seeing (and holding) of your show. Good paper and a catchy image will tell people how much commitment you have put into your production, and they WILL decide, just by holding your flyer, whether or not they would like to see your show. When you start out, print 10,000 copies. Once you get that five star review from a reputable source, go back to the printer, and print out flyers with that review big and bold, and redistribute your flyers. If you have good paper, a good image, and a good review, people will get curious about your show. Speaking of curious, when the weather is good, let people catch you walking to your venue in costume. Getting actors to flyer along the way to their venue while in costume is a great formula for drawing a crowd. Also, be open to two-for-one and comp tickets. You’re there for three weeks, so take advantage to fill your house when you can.

4) Staying Healthy Matters

Yes, the beer is good AND cheap, there’s people from all around the world that you want to hang out with all night, so many temptations! Do what is right by your show, your team, your work, your sanity, and rest when you can. Try not to go out drinking every night. Try not to make things weird by sleeping with people in your show. Again… three weeks. If you can, get away from the chaos by making trips outside of the city. Anna recommends Blackford Hill, The Contemporary Art Gallery, or Water Leith Walkway. Take advantage of recharging whenever possible.

5) No, doing Fringe does not get easier after 6 plus years.

You’re skill set will improve, your network will grow, but Fringe will always be an overwhelming amount of flyering, performing, drinking and repeat. Usually, the people who have done Fringe for a while say that this year will be their last year, then they find themselves in the circuit once more. There’s a lot that artists have to sacrifice for such a quick turnaround. Also, a big thing people don’t realize is that you may not get people to your venue. You can be spending your three weeks performing with only four people in your thirty person house each night, and in that sense, you can feel demoralized. Not to mention you will be losing money if you’re not getting people in your seats. Some people have been successful during their first run at Fringe, but come back the next year and received barely any reception. Every year is different and every year is a challenge.

6) When in doubt, use this opportunity to network.

If all else fails, and you’re having a terrible run at the festival, you always can profit from networking. Anna has kept in touch with several of her Fringe collaborators. From her very first Fringe, she has built her network to the point where she is working at venues where she is well taken care of, and allows her to come in and create elaborate sets and costumes. Have a specific goal in mind when networking as well, whether you’re looking to grow an international reputation, gain collaborators you never knew were that close to you, or finding a partnering company. Don’t walk away empty handed, get a contact in your pocket.

7) Be realistic

Edinburgh Fringe has a long history and a large reputation, but don’t get lost romanticizing about it. The less time you spend on romanticizing, the more time you can spend strategizing on getting your work seen.

8) Don’t store things in caves and don’t glue your set pieces together.

Just don’t do it.


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Daryl Bunyan