We had the privilege of chatting to Becca Hartle and Kimberley Buckle from Hatstand Productions about starting a business during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Hatstand Productions is a freestanding creative platform for eclectics to hang their hats. Their slogan is “here's WEAR it’s HAT.”
Kimberley (Left) - Photo by Lauren Buckle
Becca (Rigby) - Photo by Lucy Woolley
ONE What inspired you to start a business at the beginning of lockdown?
Before lockdown happened, we were those people who had a ton of great ideas and meeting after meeting about how we were going to start this production company, but couldn’t seem to find the courage. Lockdown was the push we needed. Maybe subconsciously we knew that we would need a lifeline if we wanted to survive lockdown and our fears would be more manageable because if we failed, we weren’t going to be too far from our beds or the chocolate cupboard.
TWO Why did you start a production company? What makes it different from other production companies?
Honestly, we both have felt a little on the outs of the industry, that we don’t quite fit in anywhere and that held us back a lot. We wanted to give ourselves permission to be us, make the stuff that we wanted to make, and to celebrate quirky artists. We’ve found that we are all weird in our own way, all of us, and that’s amazing. The big difference between Hatstand and other production companies is that we still have no idea what we’re doing!
THREE What is the inspiration behind the name “Hatstand Productions”?
We’ve found that if you work in the arts, it’s really difficult to put a label on your “job description”, because you are never just one thing. Teacher? director? actor? You don’t have to be just one thing. Be yourself and just put on a different hat. We all have a hatstand adorned with all the hats that we wear.
FOUR What experience do you have working in the performing arts industry?
Kim started out writing and directing her own work and has directed shows for festivals. She also teaches drama and musical theatre and has worked on school productions in the creative teams. She’s trying to get back into writing, but it’s a hat that has been gathering dust for a while and needs a little TLC.
Becca has been lucky enough to experience an array of different jobs after graduating. From musical theatre shows to children’s theatre to voice-over work and even managed to get a gig as a puppeteer on ZA news. Currently, she is teaching musical theatre.
FIVE “So… when are you going to get a real job?” is an amazing series on your social media platforms. We love how you suggest a dress code! Do you think it has helped curb the stigmatism of people considering performing to not be a real job?
Thank you, haha we do love to dress up! We’re not sure that anything will ever curb the stigma that artists are just lazy hobby chasers (Lady Gaga’s parents are probably still hoping she’ll get a degree in finance just in case). We think “muggles” think that we are cheating the system, or maybe they’re envious that we get to see our dreams lived out… who knows. We do hope that artists out there will put less pressure on themselves, and stop feeling guilty about loving their job. At the end of the day, you have to live a life that makes you happy. Plus, if having a “real” job means we have to be miserable then we’d rather have a “silly” job.
SIX What changes and shifts do you think have happened in the performing arts in South Africa, as a result of COVID-19? Do you think these are positive shifts, and do you think they are here to stay?
A lot of artists have been getting really creative with their work and the way that they are sharing their work. The truth is the world is shaken by this and we are never going to go back to normal. The arts have to find a way to survive in the new normal and creative thinking is key to its survival.
Something positive that has happened because of COVID is that there is a stronger sense of community and support amongst artists. We hope the experience of being kept away from our art has bonded us for the long run. Artists have always been living on the fringe of society, so we have to stick together and support each other.
SEVEN What has been the most important lesson you have learned from starting your own production company?
It’s extremely hard! We have had to become admin people, and we all know that artists should not be left in charge of planning. Aside from having to get more organised, we have learnt that the work is never over. There is always more to improve on, you have to be able to ask yourself “what isn’t working?” or “what could work better?” and then you have to adapt. You can’t dwell on negative feedback or mistakes, you have to move forward and keep trying. Then, when you find something that works, you have to ask yourself “now…how do I improve on this?”.
It’s also interesting because again, you are having to justify things to people. You tell them you’ve started this amazing thing, that took a lot of courage and time, and immediately you have to start fielding questions; What have you done? How many followers do you have? How do you earn money from this “little project?” The most important lesson I’ve learnt is that you don’t have to prove your worth to anyone but yourself. If something is adding value to your life and making you grow both as a performer and a human, then you don’t have to justify it.
EIGHT What advice would you give to other young womxn who also want to start a business?
Be yourself! You have to trust that your voice is worthy enough to be heard. If you know what you stand for and you know what you want to create, you have to just go for it! Don’t let people tell you what you should be saying or doing. Heed advise from people you trust and respect, but at the end of the day you have to be proud of your content. You have to love your work, you have to laugh at your own jokes, and you have to be moved by your own story. If people think it’s boring, or too loud, or stupid, then they don’t have to watch it.
Something that helped us take the leap is setting an appropriate deadline for yourself and making sure you don’t chicken out. Having someone you trust and someone who shares the same vision as you - who can hold you accountable when you need it and will hold your hand when you’re feeling low, is really helpful too.
NINE Do you think Hatstand Productions will continue when theatres reopen?
We would love to keep going! We are excited to see how our already existing projects will translate into different mediums. Our big dream is to reach a place where we are creating and producing our own productions. A bigger dream is that we will be able to produce the work of other artists that we would love to see flourish.
TEN What can our viewers look forward to in the future from “Hatstand Productions”?
Well… we have just started the second season of our interview show. We have some amazing guests lined up for that. We’ve just had Duane and Anton from LAMTA and the lovely Edith Plaatjies. We also have monthly virtual open mic nights - the next one is on the 15th of September. We’ve recently started creating our own short skits and sketches on our Instagram, which is equally terrifying as it is fun!
If you want to find out more, follow Hatstand Productions:
Interview by: Michaela Tobias (Plug In Theatre Intern)