The highly creative Emelie Bergbohm on the value of being independent
I formed Bohm Bohm Room six years ago when I started to work as a freelance producer in theatre. From a young age, I was motivated to work independently on cultural projects. I was inspired and influenced by the indie record label business, as well as bigger organisations like the Swedish National Touring Theatre and initiatives by the youth culture festival community in Sweden. Over the years, Bohm Bohm Room has grown and is now a platform for innovators and interesting artistic voices within contemporary dance, music, performance, theatre and new technology.
My mission is not to pack all my collaborators and artists in under the same roof, nor to present them as a part of a roster. Instead, I’m more interested in working closely with each of them. I also have a great belief that no art form or expression is too small or difficult; it’s all about communication and creating a good environment for openness and curiosity.
Time is a big challenge when it comes to taking care of creativity: we live in an age fixated with productivity and profit, and this of course affects us as humans, artists and producers. In order to create as much space for creation and production as possible, I try to form routines for my artists so that they can get things done without losing focus.
One of the biggest challenges in my business is building an infrastructure for touring. For example, in the Swedish dance scene many companies can’t tour until they have premiered their new work. But then once it has premiered, setting up the tour takes too long, and the work ends up being wasted. So I try to have an existing model in place that means touring can be organised efficiently, avoiding that gap.
To help with this I am building my team, and just added Annie Kay Dahlström as a producer. Our sector is always in need of good producers and now seems like the right time to expand. In the future we will build our own projects from the ground up; these could be events, encounters or even making our own publications.
I’ve heard a lot of opinions about my choice not to stick with one genre. People have told me that if I don’t choose one art form or field, my work won’t create a clear approach. I have also heard that if I don’t specialise in either music or dance, I won’t make a lifelong network. But my direction is different and I decided long ago that I shouldn’t listen to all these voices. The producer role is dynamic, and this is what makes me feel dedicated and enthusiastic about being a manager.
Another aspect of working with a broad range of artists is that they don’t compete with each other, which means that they can collaborate financially and creatively. I definitely see some synergistic effects arising from having a broad network. In fact, I think this artist-driven production model is one we will see more and more in the industry. Only today I had a meeting with a dancer and choreographer who also produces her own work. It’s a statement by her and her colleagues, and they support each other with production-related issues.
I showcase my work, and that of my artists, through my website. I use it as a portfolio of performances and projects that I’ve been involved with; it’s about creating a curiosity, but for me it’s not about selling.
As a manager and agent, you are everybody’s friend and enemy at the same time – especially when it comes to promotion. So my strategy has been to be open, and for that, it needs to be clear who I am and what I stand for. It’s about building trust with both audiences and colleagues.
Bohm Bohm Room doesn’t receive any governmental support to run the organisation itself, but most of our artists are funded by subsidies or income from touring. Our productions mostly tour to festivals and venues that are funded by the public sector, so very little money comes from the private sector. Some of the artists I work with also receive three-year support agreements from local government, which makes it easier for us to plan how we can distribute our work and resources.
2015 is an exciting year for Bohm Bohm Room, as we will be launching several new productions within the fields of dance, music and experimental theatre. A good example is LIAISON, which is to be an encounter between dance, music, film and various other performing arts genres: over four evenings at the Kulturhuset City Theatre in Stockholm this April, various artistic voices will be given space to reference each others’ overlapping questions, interests and worlds.
The festival is an initiative of the choreographer and dancer Jefta van Dinther, with myself as project leader. We will also complete work on a new dance film made by another choreographer, Virpi Pahkinen, which we shot last year in a pink salt desert in Argentina. The composer Jesper Nordin is currently working on his IRCAM commission for Ensemble TM+, to be premiered at ManiFeste 2015 in Paris this June.
Jesper and I will also continue to develop the platform for the music app Gestrument and release a 2.0 version of it, together with some new music apps (we just released ScaleGen, a scale generator and editor). Besides this, the productions we have on tour will meet audiences not only in the Nordic countries, but also in other parts of the world including Lebanon, South Korea, Mexico, Chile and Japan.