While others open their doors for material, we close ours.

A major regional theater recently announced that they were no longer accepting open submissions from playwrights.  The theater was aboveboard honest about their new policy, stating that it was not only too expensive to process all those scripts, never mind have them read . . . but that it was also just not working.  Open submissions weren’t leading to productions . . . so why not put the time, energy and dollars behind the playwrights the theater had already decided to support.

Their arguments made total sense.

Then, a friend of mine from the TV world told me about the new Amazon Studios.  Haven’t heard about it?  Click here.

First thing you’ll notice is the giant welcome mat Amazon rolls out for anyone out there:  “Welcome Series Writers and Creators!”

See, Amazon is on the Netflix track . . . they’re looking to create and produce original programming for Amazon Instant Video (and with the data they are sitting on, expect a hit sooner rather than later).  But rather than waiting for agents to submit their clients, or rather than commission the A-listers in Hollywood to create something for them, Amazon is crowdsourcing their content. . . and opening their doors wide for anyone . . . even you . . . to submit their idea for a show.

Interesting contrast between the two worlds, isn’t it?

I realize it’s challenging in today’s market to sift through script submissions.  It’s like panning for gold.  And there’s a lot of mud before there’s a nugget.  And yes, the TV/Film economic model gives them a greater incentive to have policies like Amazon’s.

But I believe as an industry, we have to find a way to do it.

We accept open submissions at my office.  We don’t have the budget for a full time person to read the hundreds of scripts that come in.  That’s why we developed our script coverage service . . . to give people a quick way to get their scripts read, and to generate some income to pay a part time person (better than nothing!).  That’s also why we have our 10 Minute Play Contest and some of the other initiatives we have for new writers.  We have script reading parties where everyone in the office grabs a script.  We do whatever we can to try and get to them.  It doesn’t happen overnight, that’s for sure.  And we can’t respond to them all.  But we try.

If you’re in a position to accept submissions, I suggest you open ’em up.  Oh, and don’t let the lawyers tell you that you can’t.  Your lawyers work for you.  Tell them you want to do something and tell them to figure out how to do it.

Because if we continue to close our doors, you know what happens to the new, exciting, untapped, and undiscovered talent out there?

They run to Hollywood Amazon.


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  • Couldn’t agree more, Ken! That’s why I have an open script submission policy myself. Surprisingly, I’ve only received 2 scripts in the past year…

    • Felicia says:

      I’m sure with this post you’ll get many more, Alex — including my current works-in-progress, once they’re completed. Thanks for posting! And thanks Ken, for making things happen just by writing your daily blogs. They, and you, are very much appreciated.

  • George Rady says:

    Another fascinating Blog Post that gets right to the heart of a problem for Producers who are – specifically – interest in doing their OWN work… or work that is within a certain style (or political/social agenda… as has been mentioned before….)

    The problem with the Open Submission is that it fails in both extremes (and I really don’t thing it has much to do with the quality or commercial potential of the piece.)

    Theatres that are generically open to New Works are so open that they really do not have a focus and you have a better chance of hitting the side of a barn with a shovel than pushing your script into a pile that makes a pin look significant. Waste of time – so why bother accepting new works when you now you have no real interest in new works (unless they are “old” in your onw mind? Or, worse, you have nothing specific in mind when it comes down to specifics….)

    On the other hand – and far more likely the case – say you have a work that really matches up with the stated Mission Statement for the Theatre Company. Think about that… people banded together because they have a tightly shared vision of what should be produced… well, why wouldn’t they have ALL the material they want – already in that core group? Why would they be interested in an “outsider” busting in on their game? And, as Hemingway used to say when a novelist asked to read his work “I probably won’t like it – and if I did – I’d be envious that I didn’t write it!”

    So, I really think that IF you have a specific idea about what Good Theatre is all about… after you write the script… produce it yourself! Don’t even waste valuable time submitting it to theater companies who have NO interest in expanding the roster by which they identify each other as – part – of their own comunity. Form your own company. And IF your work or even ideas have merit, they will find advocates… and if not… well, there are only so many baseball players who are in the Show!


  • Ed says:

    I totally agree with the “get it done” sentiment. I am managing director of a small community theater in Connecticut and we make a concerted effort to produce at least one new work each season – it’s tough – we received over 400 submissions last year. We’re still reading them and we’re convinced we’ll find the gems in the pile!

  • George Rady says:

    Video over the Web is a different animal…

    Live Theatre has a very limited audience and a very limited upside. You are either going to win in NYC or you are going play in smalller ponds… and – there – the audience you need to win over is between 65 and 100 and mostly ladies… even the guys only go because they are at that state in Life where it’s not worth arguing anymore… so they go along to get along and many regional theatre companies squeeze out a modest income… but again NOT by doing New Works!

    But Web-casting is a OPEN Field!

    Even more so that Broadcast or Cable TV or Hollywood. Think about it – when the Credit Crunch hits – few Investors are going to risk millions on films and the whole ad paradygm will be turned on its head when disposable income will be restricted to necessities. No (or fewer) Ad dollars… less and less broadcast and cable television.

    But Net Webisodes are being delivered to PCs, TVs, phones, Pads… and for a FRACTION of the cost of what had been delivered over media that could be controlled by fewer distributors.

    More importantly, as the audience of Live Theatre and Opera is literally dying off… the audience for Web-isodes is young, web savy and quite frankly bored by a lot of what is offered by the established production platforms… Films Execs and Ad Execs DROLL over a five minute video clip that gatheres millions of hits…. but they will not be able to capitalize on that content and delivery w/o insulting the audience with a “fee” or “commercial” – it goes agains the whole BEAUTY of the new medium.

    So companies like Google and Amazon and are starting to realize that their niche is… supporting producers of content to host their work on the platform that is the most…


    These is a demographic game changer that No One will have a handle on… until the game plays out!

    But even a rusty old Live Theatre guy who thinks mics are for wimps! I am starting to try and wrap my head around this phenomenon… and see it I can fit my work into some new pattern…

    One thing – though – I read a study by the Guthrie Theatre that surprized me… Theatre goers DO NOT watch video clips on Theatre Company Websites, let alone base ticket purchasing decisions on whtether they like the clip! I was shocked… but then it kinda made sense… these Websters are NOT in the audience and the “Blue Hairs” go regardless of what may be on the web… if they even use the web for anything more than to check the weather and stocks…


  • Zanne Hall says:

    Terrific advice!

  • I thought I should give it a shot / go !

  • whole of the UK but of course most of our work is in London .

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