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Knowledge management in student drama crews [Arts & culture in KM part 13]

This article is part 13 of a series exploring arts and culture in knowledge management.

Currently, student theatre crews are mainly composed of undergraduate and above students majoring in film and television. In this type of crew, all of them are students, from the creators (producers and directors) to the actors and crew. Many of them are involved in filming for the first time, and therefore lack organisation and experience, which leads to a series of problems, thus greatly reducing the efficiency and results of filming.

Problems in student drama crews

1. Difficulty in matching personnel within the crew

Although there are many students from related majors (choreography, acting, photography, choreography) who need to participate in student theatre productions every year in order to accumulate practical experience, the information about theatre productions often comes from their classmates and friends, as well as from their limited social media circles (in fact, there is a tradition of younger students and older siblings providing each other with theatre productions within the faculties and departments of the arts). Such a traditional way brings some disadvantages: On the one hand, actors and staff can’t find suitable scripts for themselves; on the other hand, creators can’t find actors and staff suitable for their scripts. As an artistic act, filming involves human participation and subjective play. Therefore, the “unsuitability” here is not only reflected in the difficulty of coordinating the shooting time, but also in the conflict between the aesthetics and artistic styles of the actors, staff and creators1.

2. Limited choice of shooting scenes

Scene is an important part of film and television drama creation. The current lack of a summary of the shooting scenes has led to the fact that the crew mainly relies on limited personal experience in selecting scenes. The range of scene selection depends on which places the students have been to. This has an adverse effect on the overall effect of the film presentation.

3. Lack of sponsor matching channels

Many on-campus student theatre groups need a lot of financial support, and some subjects even require millions of investment. Relying on the financial support of the creators alone is difficult to cover the overall financial needs, and at this time many theatre groups will want to seek the help of sponsors. However, most of the students are inexperienced and do not know what brands to seek sponsorship from, nor how to seek sponsorship from these brands.

4. Lack of communication within the group

As student theatre groups are organised on an ad hoc basis, most members of the group are unfamiliar with each other’s working styles. Also, many of the students lacked the experience of filming as crew members, which left a lot to be desired in terms of advancement. However, because crews need to compress filming time to reduce costs, there is often a lack of opportunities for offline face-to-face conversations. Many crews also stayed up all night to shoot in order to quickly finish the film, and many tired crew members would just let it go and give up on communication. Moreover, when verbal comments and suggestions are made, there are no written records or mature procedures to deal with them.

5. Lack of creative experience

For students who are new to film and television practice, both the work of producers and directors, as well as the work of actors and crew seem to be rusty. Theory is important, but when applying theory to reality, it cannot be applied rigidly. Here the help of human experience is needed. For example, how to write a subplot, what kind of lighting should match the mood of the characters, how to operate a radio to collect the most complete and pure human voice, etc. The teacher teaches, and the experience of those who have gone before us is also important2. Teachers not only teach the limited content of the previous generations, and most of them are explicit knowledge, tacit knowledge is especially valuable at this time.

Source: Frank Bandle on Pixabay.

How knowledge management can solve these problems

1. Create an online knowledge base of theatre group resources

Firstly, categorise the actors. On the one hand, actors are classified and labelled according to their age and type of roles through the dimensions of their own performance experience and self-identity. For example, if an actor thinks that he or she is suitable to play a quiet and introverted character in his or her 30s, and the type of character he or she has played before is a cute and lively character in his or her 20s, then he or she will be labelled as “Experience: Cute, 20s” and “Preference: Introverted, 30s” at the same time. “. On the other hand, the actors themselves label their free slots and update them in real time to reduce ineffective communication due to schedule conflicts. All the tags are categorised and put into a pool of resources to serve the search engines where conditions can be set. When a director or producer selects actors for a role, they can use this search engine to search within the pool. For example, if the three conditions “1 January 2024 – 20 January 2024”, “gentle” and “30 years old” are checked, the search will be done. For example, if you tick “1 January 2024 – 20 January 2024”, “Tender” and “30 years old” at the same time, the corresponding actor’s profile card will be popped up. The creators can communicate further according to the contact information on the profile card. Similarly, the same procedure applies to staff matching, venue principle and sponsor application.

It is important to note that the resource library needs to be updated in real time by multiple parties. This is because many of the resources are uncertain and are subject to change at any time. If not, this resource library will lose its ability to utilise the resources efficiently.

2. Establish a shared editing system within the group

This system is a tool for effective and efficient communication within the group, in a form that can be likened to the current Internet sharing of documents. There is no limit to the content to be shared, the basics are daily scripts, costumes, make-up and props information and group members’ opinions and suggestions on scripts and shooting methods, in addition, each theatre group can add or reduce the content categories according to their own actual situation. It is important to note that the system requires a dedicated team member to ensure effective communication. In a student theatre group with limited staff, the most appropriate person to take on this role is the scene manager. It is important to check, respond and deal with the situation in a timely manner.

3. Offline communication and sharing cafe

Conducted in the form of a knowledge cafe, it fosters a culture that encourages sharing. The main body of the exchange and sharing meeting is diversified, either between seniors and juniors, or peer to peer sharing. We get together offline regularly to share the lessons we have learnt from our previous filming sessions, and to grow through mutual learning. The “invisible” meaning of art collides in face-to-face communication and interpersonal communication.


Student theatre groups face many challenges due to limited experience and funding. Knowledge management can provide concrete solutions to these problems. On the one hand, it is the management and co-ordination of basic information and data, and on the other hand, it is the sharing and transmission of tacit knowledge such as knowledge and wisdom. Knowledge management empowers the development of student theatre groups through resource integration.

Article source: Adapted from Knowledge Management in Student Drama Crews, prepared as part of the requirements for completion of course KM6304 Knowledge Management Strategies and Policies in the Nanyang Technological University Singapore Master of Science in Knowledge Management (KM).

Nanyang Technological University Singapore Master of Science in Knowledge Management (KM).

Header image source: stokpic on Pixabay.


  1. Gonzalez, J. B. (1999). Directing high school theater: The impact of student-empowerment strategies and unconventional staging techniques on actors, director, and audience. Youth Theatre Journal13(1), 4-22.
  2. Aden, C.M. (1997). Director’s Notes, Drop Dead. Parkland College Theatre.
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Jia Xinyi

Jia Xinyi, a graduate of Tianjin University with a bachelor's degree, currently pursues postgraduate studies at Nanyang Technological University. With four years of experience in student drama groups, she has been involved in various roles both on stage and behind the scenes.

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