Have the rights to something right now (including subsidiary)? You MUST read this.
There’s a lot going on right now.
These days, most TheaterMakers I talk to, from Producers to Writers to Theater Companies, are scrambling like a quarterback with a 350-pound linebacker in their face. We’re all trying to figure out how to get to next week, never mind next year.
And because we’re busier than ever (anyone else feel like they are on a stationary bike pedaling like crazy but still stuck in the same spot), there’s something I fear is getting lost in the COVID-19 shuffle. (Please, for the love of Pete – no one create a TikTok dance called The COVID-19 Shuffle.)
What are TheaterMakers not thinking about?
Everyone’s rights . . . to everything.
See, the theater has shut down. There’s nothing we can do about it. But if you are a Producer, or Writer or Theater Company or any kind of TheaterMaker and you have the rights to something? That rights clock is still ticking. Tick, tock, tick, tock. (That was a clock reference, not another Chinese-run-social-media-company reference.)
Need some examples?
Producers, you spent a lot of time and money producing a show on Broadway or Off Broadway. That show closed. There’s a 80% chance you did NOT make your investors’ money back. You hope to scrape something back for those investors over the number of years they earn a percentage of the author’s income from stock and amateur productions, high school productions, etc.
For 12-24 months of that time, there may be NO theater produced.
You lost 12-18 months of income (as of now). And there’s an 80% chance that income is reducing a loss, not making anyone profit. And you lost it through no fault of your own.
(This example also applies to Theater Companies out there who have commissioned a piece and earned a share of subsidiary rights for a certain number of years.)
To the Producers, Writers, Actors, etc, who have optioned a piece of intellectual property to adapt it into a play or musical. You have a limited period of time to reach certain benchmarks, including production per your agreement.
But you can’t get a production. You can’t even get in a room for a workshop or a reading.
You’ve lost 12-18 months of development. Through no fault of your own.
And in the Option case, that 12-18 months (as of now!) could be your entire option period! So at the end of this dark period on Broadway (and beyond), you could lose your rights and your investment to date.
And there are more. If you have the rights to anything, you are losing value with each passing day.
What do you do?
It’s simple. Contact the reps for the rights holder or the rights holder themselves. Explain the situation (which should take about 30 seconds before they cut you off and say, “I get it.”). Issue an amendment to your contract. (I suggest suspending and extending the contract for the period of time from the day Broadway shut down to the day the first show goes back.) And rest easier knowing that you will pick it back up, where you left off, not 12-18 months behind.
If, for some bizarre reason, the rights holder or representative doesn’t “get it” and puts up a fight? Well, that’s not someone I’d want to work with again. Ever. And I’d probably drop the project and let them seek other opportunities right now (“Good luck!”).
Because this is a “duh” deal. And right now, we all need to work together to make common-sense arrangements for these uncommon times.
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If you want more tips like this on making theater in the new world from people much smarter than me, you must attend this.