We had the privilege of chatting to Drew Bakker from &SCENE about starting a business during the COVID-19 lockdown.
&SCENE aims to connect and inspire entertainers and creatives with their audiences in an innovative new way through incorporating live streaming technology on an online network. With over 400 hours of live streaming shows, &SCENE is committed to bringing viewers quality programming, with hit shows ranging from chats to workouts, masterclasses to yoga, family programming, dance classes, magazine shows and everything in between.
ONE Can you tell our readers about &SCENE and how it started?
&SCENE was born out of a need for a dedicated online streaming platform to support artists and give them a space and voice early on in lockdown. It built our mission statement: “[We are] always evolving, &SCENE, in the true spirit of innovation, aims to continue to be on the forefront of live streaming content creation.” We are driven by innovation, imagination and inspiration. Now at 400 streaming hours (and counting!) later, we’re still going strong.
TWO What type of content does &SCENE curate and produce?
We’re committed to quality programming and we’ve got something for everyone! The day starts with Weekday Workouts (yoga, pilates and workouts), followed by Actors Studio (with special creative wellness and industry masterclasses), &SCENE Family (featuring a one-way trip back to nostalgia taking your kids back to the storytime you grew up with from Delia Sainsbury) Afternoon Chat (with shows for everyone!) and Primetime, most recently featuring our awesome interview series SPOTLIGHT ON! … and it’s all free!
THREE What has been the most difficult part about starting your business during lockdown?
Adapting. An early quote that keeps me focused is “when nothing is for sure, anything is possible”. It empowered me early on to learn and grow and to embrace change. It’s hard when you come out of the “eight shows a week” world where we rehearse the variables out. In streaming, variables are the constant. “Live” is what we do as theatre artists. No two shows are ever the same. Live streaming is just an extension of that.
FOUR What has been the best piece of advice that somebody has given you about starting a business?
Think about the “we”. I had it on a card over my desk for months. It took a while to break the “my” and “me” and it’s now in my blood. Any business succeeds and fails as a team. We’ve really invested in an incredible team that I honestly don’t know how we could have ever done without. They’re family, friends, colleagues and our greatest asset.
FIVE You and your husband Rowan Bakker are incredibly versatile. You are both musical directors, producers and artistic directors. How do you manage to balance all these different projects with such ease?
I’m so lucky to have a partner, in the truest sense of the word. He gets it, intrinsically, and we’re a team who anticipate each other’s moves and having that support system is vital. As far as projects, throwing ourselves into projects is the nature of theatre people. We’re in the business of real-time problem solving, usually in a packed theatre. There, every show requires you to get into the head and world of the score and production. We live that truth for the whole run. Streaming is the same for us. Plus, you can’t beat the commute to work.
SIX &SCENE has been set up as an online platform during lockdown, are you planning on continuing operating once theatres reopen?
One. Hundred. Percent! Saying that, I’m not 100% what we’ll look like, but that’s the beauty of the platform we’ve created. Change is part of our DNA. We stand behind live entertainment and think there’s a beautiful space that has grown from lockdown between the show and its audiences. That’s where we are. We’ve gotten pretty great at it and are excited to be offering our streaming services to events and businesses to “leave the driving to us!”
SEVEN What is your vision for &SCENE, and how do you see it being different to theatres who have started putting content online?
We want to be on the front-end of streaming. We’re not competing with live shows. We’re complimenting them. We can’t wait to see theatres embrace streaming as a means of connecting with their audiences, peeking behind-the-curtain and embracing the two together moving forward. Supporting artists has always been important to us. We’ve been proud to help raise quite a bit for industry professionals in need. If they are streaming performances, awesome. Book. Blessed are those who hustle.
EIGHT What has been your highlight since launching &SCENE?
Memorable moments? Pick one! The tears? The laughs? The hard calls? The celebrations? Watching crazy ideas work? Watching crazy ideas not work? It’s all a learning curve. It’s been my lifeline. It has changed and challenged me as a producer and creator … plus having my hero Marc Shaiman on our first major broadcast wasn’t too shabby. It’s just been up from there!
NINE What advice can you give to budding entrepreneurs and producers within the theatre industry?
Shark Tank should be required viewing for life. Entrepreneurship is sexy. Fall in love with your ideas. Learn how to sell them. When we started &SCENE, the first people we reached out to for hosting shows were the hustlers! They were already doing it. They are the people I want to work with, empower and support. Thinking about it? Do it! Have a crazy idea? Go for it! What’s the worst thing that could happen? Trust that tiny voice. Your instinct is worth a million bucks.
TEN COVID-19 has pushed theatres and production companies into the digital space. How do you think this has and will impact the South African theatre industry?
Innovation is exciting. When you meet a challenge, you have two options: meet it or run from it. Technology and theatre have had a long-standing feud and it’s needed a shake-up. The best part of this whole experience has been watching theatre-makers and producers embrace digital. It’s here. It helps connect us to our audiences, more now than ever before.
A final note from &SCENE
&SCENE would like to thank you, the viewers, truly. They appreciate every single comment, like, view, donation and share. You are why their team and hosts work tirelessly to bring these shows to life. They have had such an incredible response from artists, guests and viewers and truly appreciate the support.
To their &SCENE family, their hosts and producers: you guys are their heroes! Keep telling your stories and speaking your truth! &SCENE has got your back.
To their loyal viewers: Come crash a class. Come learn a new skill from industry leaders. Try something new. Open your mind. There is a place for you in our inspiring community.
Go give &SCENE a follow because they have some really exciting news coming out next week that you definitely won’t want to miss. (Did someone say a third place you can catch their shows?) Plus, they are about to announce two brand new innovative ways to experience &SCENE. Keep an eye on their socials!
If you want to find out more, follow &SCENE:
Interview by: Michaela Tobias (Plug In Theatre Intern)