There’s no “wait” in negotiate.

Negotiations in the theater shouldn’t take very long.  Jobs aren’t as common, so most Artists want to find a way to take the gig.  And most Artists have such specific talents that Producers want them and only them.

It’s the best of all possible negotiating worlds, because both parties want it to work out.

So what takes so dang long?

There’s posturing involved, on both sides, of course.  And the “game” of negotiating, which I think some people just play like it was newly released for Xbox.  And then there are the parties out there (and you know who you are, because I’ve probably told you so) who simply just don’t return phone calls.  (Do you know how much faster projects could happen, and people could be employed if phone calls were returned faster?)

But again, at the end of the day, both parties want the negotiation to work.  And that means the negotiation shouldn’t take weeks, or days . . . at most, it should take hours.

So, I’m proposing a new form of negotiating actor/director/designer/etc. contracts.  Rather than email, rather than phone, I suggest that the next time you have an artist you want to employ, and you know wants to be employed, you arrange for that negotiation to happen in person.

That’s right . . . you and the agent sit in a room.  And you make your offer.  And that agent leaves the room and takes that offer to his/her client (who, in the best case scenario is in the next room, but could be on the phone/skype/etc . . . as long as he/she has carved out this time as well to be exclusively available).  And then the agent comes back with his/her counter.  And then you counter, and so on and so forth.  Like a union negotiation that is up against a time line.

And there’s the rub . . . you set a timeline.  You announce at the beginning, “I want your client to work on this project.  You are here because provided we reach agreeable terms, your client wants to work on this project.  So lets figure out those terms by X:XX o’clock and save us all time and energy, so your client and I can spend more time making the project the best it can be.”

If both parties agree to this simple style of negotiation, I bet you’d be out in 2-3 hours max.

There’s just no need to draw these things out.  It only frustrates both parties, and has the potential of slowing down why we all got into this business in the first place – the creation of great theater.

There is no “wait” in negotiate.

There is an “i-ate” in negotiate, so I guess that means you can serve lunch or snacks during your session.


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  • As a graduate of the Cornell College of Industrial & Labor Relations I APPLAUD YOU for this blog. When I produced the unions helped me. Being a member of AEA didn’t hurt me either. You’re so correct when you say both sides want it to (need it to) work.

  • Sue says:

    But there is an EGO in negotiate.

  • This blog post is way off. Whatever time you are spending is NOTHING compared to time most artists have spent working to get the attention of producers. If you don’t want to wait so long get lesser known artists. But Broadway producers stopped doing that years ago. It’s so sad. If West Side Story or Gypsy were getting produced today, Stephen Sondheim would have never been asked to write for it.

  • Katherine says:

    You, Ken Davenport, have a wealth of Common Sense! I so enjoy your observations sprinkled with your humor. You’re on the money: the drama in these negotiations is misplaced – it should be on the stage, not the office.

  • Katherine says:

    You, Ken Davenport, are a wealth of Common Sense! You are so right – the drama belongs on stage, not in the office.

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