What should a Producer study? A Producer’s curriculum in detail.

I got an email from a college student this week who knows she wants to be a Producer.  There’s no question about it. She’d declare it as a major . . . if she could.

Her school has a theater major and a business major but it doesn’t have a “producer’s track” . . . and not many do.  Even my alma mater only has a minor (and until we can turn Producing theater into a more stable and viable career choice, I’m not sure many will).

Since her school hasn’t spec’d out a plan for producers-to-be, she asked me what I thought she should study on her way through school.

As I’m sure you can imagine, I’m a big pusher for producers to take standard business courses as they’re coming up, from accounting to marketing to contract law (and there are still times I wish I had taken a few more myself).

But mostly I advised this focused young woman to take theater classes.  I told her to take a directing class, with people that want to be directors.  Take an acting class with actors.  Take a writing class with writers.  Take a design class with you-know-who and so on.

These are the people that are going to be on your team in the future.  Learn their language.  Learn what makes them tick.  Learn what they want out of a show.  And by doing so, you’ll learn how to help solve their problems.

Theater is one of the most collaborative art forms there is, and part of a Producer’s job is to make sure those collaborators are working at their absolute best with each other throughout the long process of developing and putting on a show.  By making an effort to learn their craft, and by understanding more of what they go through on a day-by-day basis, you’ll be able to earn more of their respect . . . and you’ll be able to help them do their best work.

Oh, and another part of a Producer’s job is to be able to spot talent.  By sitting in these classes, you’ll have the inside scoop on tomorrow’s superstars.

That’s right . . . the next Tony Kushner, Joe Mantello and Al Pacino are sitting in a class somewhere this very second.

By sitting among them, you’ll be able to spot that talent, and snatch them up for yourself . . . before I do.

(And for those of you out of school?  All of this still applies.  There are umpteen classes for theater artists all over the country, and even online.  And great business classes, too.  There’s no excuse to not know anything anymore. It’s all in front of the screen you are staring at right now.)

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Why producing is like learning a language.

Another question came in from a reader recently asking me what books they should read, and when they should get an office, and what next steps they should take in order to become a Producer.

While I do have some recommended reading to the left (and I’m going to add this classic soon), here’s the answer I have for those of you looking to learn how to Produce.

And surprise, surprise, it comes in the form of a story.

I’m going to Italy for the first time in September (to see My First Time, actually), so I was looking at getting a book on tape, or maybe even one of those Rosetta Stones that they sell at the airport to see if I could pick up any of the language.

I mentioned this to one of my investors recently, and she told me that her son was fluent in Italian.  “Really,” I asked, “How did he do it?  Rosetta?  4 years in High School?  Private tutor?”

“No,” she said.  “He spent a summer there after his junior year.  He came back speaking better Italian than Pacino in The Godfather.”

In other words, there is no education like Immersion.

No book is gonna teach you the best way to ask where the bathroom is. You know what will teach you?  When you have to pee like a race horse and you’re standing in line to see The Sistine Chapel and you can’t find the porta-potty!

And nothing is going to teach you how to produce better than finding a project, immersing yourself in the production, and getting it up, no matter what.