A Question from a reader: “What happens if I flop?”

I was speaking to a class at Columbia today, and right after we solved all of the problems of producing on Broadway, I got this question:  “What happens if my first show right out of the box is a flop?”

I’ve gotten this question a few times before, and frankly I remember asking it to myself.

The first “anything” always seems to have more pressure, higher stakes and oodles of anxiety (shoot, I made a show about one of those firsts).

So what happens if your first producing venture doesn’t work?  Does that mean you’re dead in the H20?  Does that mean you hang your head and go back to WhereverYou’reFrom, USA to work at the local bank (if it hasn’t gone under)?

You can, I guess.  Or you can do what I do.

Whenever I feel nervous about failing with a show, I play a game called “FIND THE FLOP!”.

Wanna play?  You can’t win an iPhone with this game, but you can win some confidence and perspective.

Here’s how to play:

  • Go to ibdb.com.
  • Search for any producer that you admire and respect.
  • Scroll down and look at the beginning of their career . . . and FIND THE FLOP!
  • Then scroll UP and look at what they’ve done since then.
  • And then ask yourself your same question that got you to this game and you have your answer!  By the way, this game works great for every industry – look at the flops of Lincoln, Gates, Truman and Disney in this article )

One of the hardest things about being a theater producer ain’t union deals or authors agreements, or even the New York Times.  The hardest part about being a producer, or any business owner, is that we hire ourselves.  So if we fail, we’ve got to get up and do it again, because no one is going to do it for us.  If we don’t hire ourselves, then we don’t work.  And we have to find something else to do.  Or we don’t eat.  Period.

How do I stay motivated to hire myself?  (Can you smell a sports story coming?  Here goes . . .)

Baseball players strike out all the time.  And even if they “backwards K” three times in a row, if the team cycles through the lineup, they have no choice but to step back up to the plate again.  It’s how the game is played.

So teach yourself that you have no choice.  You’re a producer. It’s what you do.  If you had a choice you’d be doing something else.  You don’t.  So call me “Coach” if you want, but I’m not pulling you from the game.  You’re staying in, flops or not.

And have confidence that if you take enough swings, sooner or later you’re gonna hit one out of the park.

Comments
  • And to take the enclose image to it’s logical conclusion:
    Don’t be the Royals.
    Take an honest look at what you’re doing and decisions you have made, and why they didn’t work, And Fix Them.
    And don’t blame not having enough money for your leaving a broken system in place season after season.
    Thanks be that we’re almost back to baseball…

  • Great persepctive today Ken!
    I am a new producer, new organization with the mission to promote disability awareness and social justice through the arts and education. Our first production is June.
    Nervous, excited – well “excited AND scared” !
    But so grateful to be doing something that means something
    And I think for me, for producers in general, we need to find the meaning in our projects in order to keep on keeping on.

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