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Meet the Project Summer Edition: Knife Edge Productions

Each month we will feature one of our fiscally sponsored projects who have been successful at using our program to advance their art/cause/career. This month’s featured project is Knife Edge Productions.

For many, the summer is a time when the many competing demands on one's time and attention start to slow down. We hope this is the case for you as well. If so, these next few months present a great opportunity to do some serious thinking about your arts business and how to improve upon it. It never hurts to revisit some of the basics - like making sure you're presenting a strong professional identity to your potential patrons, funders, and the rest of the outside world. There's a great course on Fractured U. called Professional Identity: Demystified that I would encourage anyone who is interested in this topic to review. We decided to ask Neil Holland of Knife Edge Productions, hot off their recent production of OWNED by Julian Sheppard, some questions about this very important aspect of starting and running an arts business. Here's his feedback.


Why did you decide to start a new theater company?

It started from a very simple place. I was a big fan of the play "Red Light Winter", by Adam Rapp. I had worked on a scene from the play in Master Class with Bill Esper at the William Esper Studio in 2007. In 2008, me and a couple of other Esper grads connected and decided we'd like to put the play up. So, Knife Edge Productions really just started with that. At the time, I was not really thinking beyond that. I just knew I wanted to produce high quality work, that I was extremely passionate about and that would continue to push the boundaries of theatre. After the success of Red Light Winter, fellow William Esper Studio graduate Don DiPaolo and critically acclaimed director Sam Helfrich joined me at Knife Edge Productions to form a very unique and passionate triumvirate that would take Knife Edge Productions to the next level. In 2011, after two years of fundraising (in which we raised $35,000) and collaboration, Knife Edge Productions staged a critically acclaimed Off-Off Broadway revival of Stephen Belber's Tape. In 2012 we commissioned Drama Desk nominee Julian Sheppard to write us a play; Owned which went up April 26th - May 11th 2013 at the TBG Theatre in midtown Manhattan. We also raised $35,000 for this production. We even produced a web series, "Guys in a Hot Tub Talking" which had a successful first season. We are now looking at doing a pilot for the show.

At what stage in the start-up process did you feel ready to begin soliciting donations to support your work?

We seek donations on a project-by-project basis. So it is just matter of having a very clear plan for what we want to do, and what we will do for each production. The last thing we want is to go to our base without a clear sense of self, a clear sense of purpose. We want people to know that when they give money, they are about to become part of something very special, something they can be very proud of.

What are three questions that anyone starting a new arts business needs to ask themselves?

  1. Have clear message, a clear voice. What are you doing and why?

  2. How are you going to do it?

  3. Why should your audience be part of it?

What are some of the strategies you've employed to get your name out there during your start-up period?

Well, we are lucky enough to live in the age where we are easily connected across the world. Having an online presence is huge. We created a website. We utilized Facebook, both by creating our own page but also by having each of us promote it. We did the same for Twitter. Both me and Don DiPaolo, actors and producers, are personal trainers at high end gyms. So we took advantage of that. We let our clients at the gyms, who were big supporters know all about us. Sam, our director, is critically acclaimed and has many connections both in the US and in Europe. So it was just a matter of sitting down, and really figuring out what assets we had individually and as a group, and utilizing them.

Any advice for someone just getting started building an arts practice?
Just do what you love and what you are passionate about. Be true to yourself. And if you are actor, like me, don't do it because you want to showcase yourself. Do it because you truly love the work and want to move and affect people. Be relentless.

Knife Edge Productions has been fiscally sponsored by Fractured Atlas since August 2010. If you'd like to know more about them, you can visit their website here. For more resources about starting and running a business, there is great info available at the Free Management Library.