Hollywood Producers come a marchin’ in.

The NY Times scooped me this past week, with an article or two that I’ve been thinking about doing myself:  the influx of Hollywood Players to the Broadway Producing game.

While we’ve always had bicoastal folks up in our biz, it does seem like more and more of Tinsel Town’s major shakers are becoming more and more active and seizing more control.

As the articles discuss, folks like Scott Rudin, Harvey Weinstein, and Paula Wagner aren’t just putting money into shows anymore.  Uh-uh.  They are looking to do the same thing they did in Hollywood to great acclaim . . . originate shows and run them, and they’ve got the cash and the contacts to do it . . . and do it well.

I’m a fan of this influx.  Hollywood, while not without its, ahem, idiosyncrasies  is a bigger business than ours, with some of the same issues (they don’t sell their tickets or own their customer database,  they have heavy union involvement, etc.).   And frankly, because they’re dealing with bigger $$$, they  do a lot of things better than we do (testing of material and marketing, consumer experience in the theater, etc.), and I’m hopeful that our new and old Hollywood friends can bring some of those nuances to our ad meetings.

But all these players making the pilgrimage from left coast to right made me think . . . why doesn’t it happen in reverse?

When was the last time you heard of a successful Broadway Producer going out West and making it big in Hollywood?

Why sure, H-town usually lets the Bway Producers have some credit and maybe a bit of a say in movie versions of the musicals that they’ve put up, but do they let us run the show?

It’s partly because of the studio system, which has more of a closed door policy than the ol’ Great White Way.

And it’s partly because Broadway is more like the independent film biz, not the studio biz.  Anyone can do what we do, if they’ve got the passion and the backing to do so.

And that includes you, by the way.

Still the question is . . . why aren’t more of us entering the independent film arena?   Producing projects between 5 and 25 million bucks?  We can raise that, right?  Certainly we can learn how to navigate those waters.  Yet we don’t (or we don’t do it well, because I haven’t seen any big Bway players up there come Oscar time like I do the Hollywood players come Tony Time.)

I’m not sure of the answer here, other than the simple one . . . we don’t want to produce movies.

Because everyone knows Broadway, while maybe a bit more challenging, is a heck of a lot more rewarding . . . and is a heck of a lot more fun.


(Got a comment? I love ‘em, so comment below!  Click here then scroll down to say what’s on your mind!)



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  • Kane prestenback says:

    Here’s an example of a NYC playwright and producer going the independent film route: http://www.albumthefilm.com/ .

  • I think it is the simple answer this time.

  • Terrence Cranert says:

    In the old days it was always right to left. As a writer I prefer the control offered ny Broadway. The studios would buy the rights to the Mins Lisa and either shelved her or add a mustache. The true artist is seeking substance over spectacle. Especially musicals are better suited to the stage. Aside from Chicago,when was the last decent live action musical?

  • Rob says:

    Makes me think about one particular time it was done successfully… and it didn’t involve a musical. In 1978, David Mamet’s Sexual Perversity in Chicago was produced at Chicago’s spanking new Apollo Theater, built by two burgeoning twenty-something theater producers, Stuart Oken and Jason Brett. Several years later, they decided to head out to Hollywood and ultimately produced a hit movie based on the play. The film, retitled “About Last Night” because movie theater owners could not or would not advertise the original title, starred one of the cast members of the Apollo play, Jim Belushi, in addition to Rob Lowe, Demi Moore, and Elizabeth Perkins. I understand that a remake is in development right now, for which the original title will be restored. (This brings to mind another burning question — can anyone tell me why films are “remade” while plays are “revived”?)

  • TrevorC says:

    “Hollywood producers may come marching in but, are they really in step”

    Harvey Weinstein has poured a lot of time, money and effort into creating a new musical in England “Finding Neverland” – based on his earlier film but it would seem that not everything that works in Hollywood works quite so well in music-theater in pre-West-End development.

    Many of the critics and reviews of the show – directed by Rob Ashford – focused on some of the significant first act structural problems and Harvey himself is on record as saying:

    “Everyone pretty much concurred that it’s Act I that needs fixing, the first 20 minutes especially, as we figure out the best ways to introduce the characters, set up their relationships.”

    So one of the top film producers assembles a great cast, a great creative team, top score and spends oodles of money on the set and staging and, still, the show goes out with the first act, allegedly & seemingly, in tatters lacking focus and cohesion – basic drama school, first-year stuff surely.

    They may have the money and the muscle but do major league Hollywood producers really have the sympatico, ability to listen, and all the answers – or any of them – when it comes to understanding what makes a great Broadway and/or West End show and how truly collaborative it needs to be to be a hit, a success even.

    How many experienced theater people, one wonders, were not listened to before the curtain went up on the previews at The Curve in Leicester.

    It’s all very well bringing in the big money and using that to seize control but it’s important to know what to do with it when you’ve got it otherwise the learning curve can be expensive and embarrassing.

  • Derek says:

    This is the blog post I was waiting to see. From my own experience in the film industry, I would say that
    YOU, Ken, would make a brilliant film producer. Your approach is exactly what is needed to make successful feature films, no doubt about it.

    But for anyone wanting to learn the nuts and bolts of film producing do yourselves a favor and sign up for Stacey Park’s free newsletter at her site www Film Specific(dot)com for a stunning education in independent movie making.

  • Bob Degus says:

    Ken, I’m a Los Angeles based Film Producer and Director, and I’ve followed your Blog for some time now. I am grateful you take the time to do it.

    Your question about why Broadway producers don’t attempt to make independent movies, got me to thinking, and may be answered in why a few of us in the movie business long to work in theater.

    I think the appeal that “the theatre” holds for us “in movies”, is theatre’s honesty. It’s easier to cheat in movies. There’s take 3, 4 and 10, and then we build a story and performance out of the best pieces.

    Theater you can’t do that.

    Secondly is the theatre community. This is so striking to me and it is a fundamental difference between film and theatre. I think people do theatre for the love of it, and the reasons are different in movies. For instance, I was stunned to learn of the Broadway tradition where the existing running shows all welcome the newly opening show with a cards signed from the existing cast and crew. There is nothing like that in movies. Nothing.

    Movie are a far more selfish business. Swimming with the sharks – as they say.

    Look at Jordan Roth’s brilliant acceptance speech for Clybourne Park. And compare that to the Oscar speeches. In fact, look at most of the Tony speeches, in comparison to the Oscar speeches. The Tony speeches have heart. It’s rare that Oscar speeches do. What does that say?

    Theatre is about something larger than one self, movies are more about, at most, the individual film or the individual career. There is not a respect or reverence for the art of moviemaking in the way there is for theatre. Face it, when you perform in a Broadway show, on Broadway, you are performing in a building that Broadway legend A, B, C and D performed in.

    It’s different in movies. Few here care that this was the stage where Chaplin, or DW Griffith made his movies, and fewer still, even know who DW Griffith is.

    I regularly serve on the Oscar Foreign Language Film, Short Live Action, and Short Animated nominating committees. And while I am very proud of the care and integrity those of us on theses committees diligently put into our nominating selections, it is NOT a community in the theatre sense. We do NOT meet the artists who made those films, and probably never will. Thus, we know their films but we do not know the people.

    So the human connection that is fundamental and essential to theatre existing does not exist in the same way in filmmaking.

    Finally, in theatre, it is about the playwright. In film, who can even name the screenwriters? And only in the past decade are screenwriters even contractually guaranteed the right to visit the set. Imagine the playwright not being allowed in theatre rehearsals! Even more to the point, in Theatre is it ultimately about the actors and the art and craft of acting. They carry the show night after night. In film, we all know what Mr. Hitchcock said about actors and cattle.

    Thus, since Broadway producers, by definition, must be very adept at the hard job of raising money, I suspect if you actually DO raise the money, what would you rather do? Theater? Or film?

    I think you are right. You will do what you love. Theatre.

  • Dear Ken,
    I appreciate your raising the issue of independent filmmakers. As the producer of an indie feature, “A Wake-up Call,” I’m hoping to incorporate some of your community-minded financing ideas. I’ve written a blog about why I believe there are so few women film producers. Hope you enjoy it.


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