Last week we talked about Starting out a Steampunk clubs in your area. Some people are interested in taking the next step and form a troupe. A Troupe was defined as a group that is created with a specific goal in mind. Someone wants to form a band, a comedy group, a crafting business, or perhaps tour conventions giving speeches and doing panels. Troupes often have limited membership and are invite only.
In order to discuss many of the specific needs of a troupe I asked Trip Hope (Executive Producer for the League of STEAM, Producer of The Human Race) to offer some suggestions on what people should consider when trying to turn a collection of individuals into a unified Troupe.
Team up with talented and passionate people. Find artists and performers that make you say, ‘Wow! That’s incredible! How did you do that?!? I want to work with you!’ Seek out people more talented than yourself!
Remember that when forming a Troupe you’re forming a group to work with. You might be proud of your creative endeavors but there’s always someone out there who might have other, just as creative ideas. They might even look at things in a way you haven’t and come up with a better solution. Even Monty Python was written by a group.
Make sure you’re doing something you love.
Very few people like to work. That’s not to say they’re afraid of it, or don’t like their job. When trying to do something creative it’s best to make sure it’s something you enjoy. Nothing will turn your great idea into a downer faster than doing something you do not find fun. You’re more than likely not going to make enough money in the beginning to keep you motivated if what you’re doing feels more like work than a labor of love.
Create a business plan & an IP to protect your company.
Most Troupes have the goal of making money. Be it on the promotion of an intellectual property, or the sale of goods, you’re hoping to earn some extra coin while having fun. There are a lot of people out there who will gladly take your ideas and use them for their own if you’re not careful in how you structure your group. Look into copyrighting ideas, names, and specific things associated with your brand. Understand that you cannot copyright or trademark everything, but protect what you can to ensure that you’re the only one who will see the fruits of your labor.
A good example is The League of STEAM itself. They had people take their logos and concepts and claim it as their own at conventions to try to profit off the work they’d already put in. Thankfully they’d taken the steps necessary to ensure that they owned the brand and could make others stop using it.
Reach out to Steampunk artists & any other artists you love. Ask for their advice and help. Most artists are very welcoming!
Steampunks are a friendly group for the most part. Easily 90% are happy to offer advice and suggestions if you ask them questions. Some are even willing to work with and collaborate with you if you have a well thought out idea. Just remember to be polite and to give credit where credit is due. Be understanding if there are certain things they cannot do or do not want to talk about. Make sure to return the favor in the future as well.
Go to Steampunk conventions, Makers’ Faire, & gatherings of creative types! Find inspiration.
People get inspired from all sorts of places and all sorts of ideas. Going out to mingle with other people is a good place to start. In a lot of cases large gatherings like this are a fantastic place to get feedback for your ideas as well. Be careful not to steal the ideas of others, and if you do get inspired by someone’s work make sure you put your own twist on it. Many of the artists and makers will also have techniques and suggestions that could help you, or provide you with props and costumes if you’re a performance group.
Assess your strengths and build on them. Identify your weakness & try to improve, or find someone to fill the gap.
Be honest with yourself on both. Sometimes it can be hard to hear the truth on where you might not be as strong as you think you are. Keep an open mind when building your Troupe and assigning duties. Bringing in other people to help cover areas is usually a good idea as well; just make sure they’re on board with your group’s ideas and direction. Flexibility is very important to finding success.
Let the world know who you are through social media.
The old saying in real estate was “Location, Location, Location,” Thankfully with the Internet that’s not quite such a problem anymore. Make sure to use all available social media to your advantage. Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pintrest, G+, and even the Steampunk Empire are all tools to use, and largely free and easy (Mostly).
Be unique, creative and fearless.
Let your voice be heard in your creation. Just because what you’re doing might be similar to someone else’s work, it’s still your work that’s being done. You do it a way that no one else does. Don’t be afraid to share your talents with the world.
Represent the Steampunk community well, but don’t be afraid of the mainstream. Mainstream audiences think Steampunk is cool too!
There are several Steampunk businesses and performers who catch mainstream and media attention. While they might not always understand our subculture they are still intrigued by what they see and want to know more. Give them a good impression and make sure to stand up and be proud of being Steampunk. Also, use all the free publicity mainstream media has to offer if given the chance.
Never let ego get in the way! Work as a collective and be very good to everyone who works with you.
This is pretty much self-explanatory. If something does happen make sure you take a step back, assess, and then come back to talk about what happened. Most disagreements can be worked out. Being at least polite and respectful should be a given anyway.
Unless you’re very lucky, most successful businesses take 5 – 10 years to build, so don’t quit your day job, but don’t give up too soon if you think you have something special.
You’re not going to get rich doing this. Even the most successful of Steampunk bands, crafters, and business people still have to work hard every day in order to make sure they maintain their success. Many well-known acts still continue other careers to help put food on the table and fund their activities within the Steampunk community.
One other bit of advice I’d offer is that a troupe should have a unified purpose and mission statement. You should start out knowing exactly what you want to do, even if you’re not entirely sure how to do it. A specific message goes a long way into helping to focus everyone on the end goal. Even if you never really reach that final destination, it makes the journey easier in case there are any bumps in the road. Make sure to start with this mission statement, even before coming up with things like names, props, and costumes.
Make sure you have rules as well, and stick to them. These should talk about new people joining or leaving the Troupe, how to decide on when and where to spend money or time for an event, and what to do when faced with unexpected issues. Rules can be changed, but when they are in place they need to be followed. There’s no reason you have to let someone’s new significant other into the group just to appease them, for instance. Money decisions also need to be made by the Troupe, and having guidelines for this is advisable.
When you’re starting out your Steampunk troupe it will be a lot of hard work and long, sleepless nights. You might even have to put yourself into some debt to get things started. Go in with a plan and a cool head and you’ll be able to triumph over almost any problem that life throws at you. Strength of character and resolve will go a long way to helping you get your dream off the ground.
Lastly, remember to have fun while doing it! If you’re not having fun, why are you doing it?
Thanks again to Trip Hope for helping with this entry!