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Top Tips for Writing Applications

Updated: Jul 30, 2021

By Tamsin Hurtado Clarke

Here at Popelei we have applied for many things; commissions, funding bids, casting calls, bursaries and more. We have definitely NOT won all of them but we have been successful with a few and feel like we might be getting better at them.

By far the biggest learning curve was receiving the 100+ applications for the Popelei Seed Commission - suddenly we found ourselves on the other side of the callout. After reading through all of the applications we realised there were a few common mistakes that a lot of people were making (and that we have definitely made too) and thought it fair to share so you can use as a checklist for your next application.

Here are our top tips - hope they help:

1. Read the breakdown of the commission. Is this definitely the commission for you? If you’re unsure, get in touch and ask.

Things to note about Popelei Seed Commission: it’s about female stories, performance-based work, projects and ideas at the beginning of their creative life, in need of collaborative artistic support and initial financial backing.

Use these things in your application. Answer in your brief how your project fits with the things they are looking for.

2. What information has the organisation asked for? Read and make sure you understand exactly and don’t go over their limit.

Things to note: they asked for a 1-page document with brief outline of the idea and why it’s important to tell that particular story, brief description of past work, ideal timeline.

Don’t go over a page. Keep it short and snappy. Answer the questions/points they have asked for. Tailor it for THIS commission. Refer back to point 1 and use those points to make your application relevant. Don’t cut and paste from other applications – make it relate to this commission.

3. Include HOW you will make this happen.

This was the best advice someone gave me. HOW will we do what we say we’re going to do?

Eg. I will use 3 performers and two stools. / We will use our knowledge of Lecoq movement to devise. / We want to use puppets because they can convey physical drama/pain in a new way onstage.

It can be brief but putting it into an actual context makes the idea come to life.

4. Grand ideas – little explanation.

Perhaps your idea is still so early in its development that you don’t know how you will make it happen. Then perhaps wait. Develop the idea in your head a bit more. Talk to others about it. There will be time and other commissions. Having one grand statement but no explanation about how the idea will manifest makes the application very weak.

Eg. I want to make a show about the patriarchy and how women have been left behind.

Great idea but HOW WILL YOU DO IT?

5. Spelling, grammar, presentation does matter.

It is very obvious when someone hasn’t taken the time to check over their application or hasn’t put much care into its presentation. It doesn’t have to be fancy – but neat and tidy and easy to read will go a long way. Make sure any links to external sources work.

You have one small window to impress, make it count. Make one good application rather than lots of sloppy ones.

6. Perhaps you did all of the above and still didn’t get selected.

Unfortunately, this is inevitable sometimes. There is nothing YOU specifically can do about it apart from keep going and keep applying!

Don’t be disheartened, especially if you thought that that particular opportunity was the one for you. CASA Festival rejected my Manuelita pitch the year before they accepted it. Why? Who knows. The following year I applied with a better, more formulated idea and it made it through.

Ideas develop and grow – let this reflect in your applications. Don’t throw old applications away. Come back to them and fill in the gaps as the idea progresses.


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