GUEST BLOG: A Day in the Life of a Broadway Publicist by Emily McGill

Ok, the title is a bit misleading as no two days are alike for a Broadway publicist, but a general idea of how we spend our time can be really helpful when you’re working with your rep or looking to get the word out about your own project.

From the moment my eyes flash open in the morning, I’m checking emails and Google Alerts (I prefer Talkwalker, but either will do) and catching up on the news.  As someone who works with and around the media, it is vitally important to know what is happening in the news cycle, what stories are being told, and who is telling them. A lot of my time is spent reading – whether it is news stories, information on a new show or project, or emails (there are a LOT of emails).

If there is an opportunity to tastefully inject a client’s project into the current news cycle based on coverage that is trending, we have to jump on it. Suppose your show tells the story of a timely topic, you need to leverage that into conversations and possible opportunities.

A typical day always starts with catching up on news, sharing coverage with clients, and reviewing my to-do list. Then I move on to writing media pitches to share with contacts that might be interested in telling a story about my client or calling a writer/editor/producer/journalist to pitch them. I can’t stress enough how important relationships are in this aspect of the industry (or, let’s face it, ANY aspect of this industry!). It is vital to get to know the people that you’re asking to cover your story. When you know what they cover and how they work, you are more likely to get a response, even if that response is a no.

In order to effectively do our jobs, we spend a lot of time cultivating relationships and networking. From coffee or cocktails with a journalist to lunches with a segment booker or producer to conversations with prospective clients, relationship building is vital to a press rep doing their job well. Equally vital is managing expectations. Every writer or producer believes in their show, you have to in order to get it up!  But the expectations of those who are most passionate about a show are not always realistic and so it often falls to your press rep to temper those expectations with a dose of reality. There are ways to do this gently, but ultimately it comes down to awareness around who in the media (and that outlet’s audience) will connect with the story and what that outlet is able to do with that story for coverage purposes.

I also spend a lot of time connecting with existing clients over phone, email or in person. They need to know that I’m out there advocating for them with the media and working hard to help them tell their story. It is important to update clients about conversations that I’m having with writers, editors, producers and journalists, or with other press reps in the industry who might be working on something similar (you never know when an opportunity for a trend story could appear, and by working with other reps we can help journalists formulate those stories).

Of course the exciting things like television appearances and opening nights and awards season events are what have the most visibility, but you don’t see all of the hard work that goes into making them happen. There are countless phone calls and emails and booking cars and writing memos and handling logistics and juggling schedules.

Broadway press reps also have responsibilities that many folks don’t think about. Has it ever crossed your mind who built that Playbill in your hand? (Yup!) Or who scheduled the production photo shoot, selected and refined production photos, or produced a b-roll shoot? We all know that ultimately – like everything else in the theatre – it is a collaboration, but the heavy lifting of each of these falls to your press rep.

At the end of the day, communication is really what we do. We communicate the story that a client has to tell with the wider world, we communicate the status of conversations to clients, and we communicate with audiences to help tell stories.

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Emily McGill is the founder of Press Play, a boutique public relations firm. Emily has represented the Tony Award-winning productions of A Raisin in the Sun starring Denzel Washington, Memphis, and Billy Elliot, as well as Disney’s The Lion King and Aladdin, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s School of Rock and CATS, George Takei’s Allegiance, along with the Broadway productions of This Is Our YouthRock of AgesGhostElf, and First Date. Since her start in theatre, she’s expanded out to other forms of entertainment including music, live entertainment, film and television, and corporations. Clients have included companies of all sizes (from Disney, HBO and Fathom Events, to Abrams Artists Talent Agency and BroadwayHD), individuals, musical acts, and male strippers. Yes, male strippers.

For more information, visit PressPlayPro.Rocks.

GUEST BLOG: Video Saved the Theater Star by the Vallés Brothers

It’s 2018. You need great video. Right. Now.

But why? Why great? And why now? To borrow that saying from the early days of film, let’s cut to the chase (and the stats).

Great, because over 500 million people are watching videos on Facebook every day.

Now, because a great video will make your show stand out regardless of its current phase of development, be it a crowdfunding campaign, investor meetings, social media marketing or B-roll footage for news outlets.

Whether on a Broadway budget or a church-basement-in-Soho budget, the way to get eyeballs on your show’s promotional materials for more than 5 seconds is with video.

So, who exactly is watching your videos? Yes, a viral video that racks millions of views is the Holy Grail of marketing tools, but pinning your hopes on that happening is probably not a wise business plan. The video you create will first be viewed by potential investors and avid theater fans that seek out special content about the ins and outs of the industry. It’s a narrower scope to begin with, but the great thing about having a solid video from the get-go is that, should it achieve viral status, it will henceforth convey a professional image of your show. The “money people” aren’t interested in seeing shaky, vertical cell phone video of a show where the bright lights blow out people’s faces and you can’t see the acting. Good footage will wow the folks who are in the best position to catapult your show to the next level.

And here’s the thing: video for your show doesn’t only mean video of your show. It means video of your rehearsals, interviews with the cast and creative team. Behind-the-scenes as they build the sets and costumes. All of this content can start generating a following on Facebook, YouTube and Instagram months before previews start.

But what’s involved in creating a great video, you ask? Start with great audio: bad video is unfortunate, but bad audio is unacceptable. If there’s a soundboard processing your live audio, the videographer should be able to plug into it to capture the actors’ clean microphone feed. Otherwise, microphones will need to be placed close to the performers specifically for the video. You can’t get good audio from the built-in microphone on a camera at the back of the performance space.

Speaking of which, make sure you allow enough room for the cameras on tripods at the back or sides of the venue. The videographer is often overlooked when planning the seating layout for the audience, leading to a last-minute scramble, reseating patrons minutes before the performance begins. Also, the videographer needs time to set up all the equipment and check sound levels before the audience enters.

A brief word about lighting. If your show is on a stage with theatrical lighting, you’re good to go. Stage lighting, in most cases, does not need to be enhanced when taking video. If you’re recording a rehearsal or a reading in a studio, the available overhead fluorescent lights (while not very flattering) are usually fine. For capturing interviews, however, the combination of a professional lighting setup and a visually interesting location will maximize the speaker’s impact and give your project much more legitimacy.

Unless you plan to ask your significant other to hold a Handycam for you (not recommended), be prepared to include videography in your budget. For a reading with a small number of actors, an elaborate multi-camera setup is not necessary. A few hundred dollars gets you a videographer with a good camera and a couple of well-placed microphones. This should be fine for capturing performers sitting with their scripts in hand. Conversely, if you’re recording a fully staged production, you’re going to want a variety of camera angles. It should include a wide shot of the entire stage, a medium shot following the performers, and a close-up of the actor delivering the lines. That’s certainly more expensive than hiring a solo camera operator, but it’s the best way to make sure your video doesn’t miss any part of the staging. Click here for a sample of a cabaret performance shot with three cameras (with over 64,000 views).

As you can see in the link above, a great video serves as a high-quality calling card. You reap its benefits long after the show is done, when you’re prepping your next one and beyond. People click on a video because it holds the promise of the unexpected. Make sure that when they do, they’re floored.

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We’re Tony and Jaime Vallés, brothers who’ve been working in the arts since the end of the last century. Ivy League grads, Eagle Scouts, fully bilingual family men. Our experience as screenwriters, stage actors and moviemakers gives our video work an emotional edge that’s hard to find elsewhere.

From corporate presentations to actor reels, live theatrical events to legal proceedings, human interest interviews to crowdfunding campaign videos: we plan, we adapt and we deliver.

Our home base is New York City, but we’ve taken our operation everywhere from Connecticut to Cancún. And we don’t just do video: we’re equipped for photography and graphic design, so you get a finished package, in either English or Spanish. Visit us atwww.ajvmedia.com to see all that we can offer.

GUEST BLOG: TKTS, Street Teams, and the $100 Million Market No One Knows About

Broadway continues to do big business and is only trending up, but there’s a segment of ticket sales that has largely been ignored. Pre-sales are guaranteed money in the bank (music to any Producer’s ear), but what if I told you there was another segment of the market that rakes in over $100 million annually for producers? I’m talking about same-day ticket sales at TKTS.

Run by the not-for-profit Theatre Development Fund, TKTS provides discounted same-day Broadway and off-Broadway tickets. It’s an iconic and vital part of the industry and is built into many theatre producer business models.

The most popular booth is in Times Square on 47th/7th Avenue, with satellite booths at Lincoln Center and South Street Seaport. Accounting for 12% of all tickets sold (Broadway League Demographics 2016-2017), this equates to over 1.4 million tickets and $104 million returned to the shows. That’s a lot of tickets.

And yet, promotion at these booths often comes as an afterthought. There is a captive market of up to 30,000 theatre-goers every week waiting to buy tickets, many of whom haven’t decided which show they want to see. A proper street team is a pivotal tool in getting these people into your show.

Broadway Crew is on the front lines, serving as the face of your brand and engaging with your customers one on one on a daily basis. People come to New York wanting to see the best live theatre in the world and TDF has done an amazing job in making TKTS the most visible source in the city for quality, discounted tickets. But a lot of the time these patrons have no idea what is playing, how everything works, or even what to see.

So what makes a good team? It’s so much more than just handing out flyers. It’s creating the proper soft-selling environment, determining customer needs, and recommending based on their pain and pleasure points. Not everyone is going to want to see every show, but the proper team can customize the pitch to the individual and find the parts of your show that appeal to them.

We founded Broadway Crew in an effort to elevate the street team and the same day ticket-buying experience. No one wants to be hard sold into something. They want to work together with a team member who helps them find their own way. The theatre-going experience begins the moment you decide to see a show and continues to the final bows. At Broadway Crew, we aim to make the decision-making process an enjoyable one, and we work hard to accomplish this every day.

In short, money spent on street teams is a tiny, but vital slice of your marketing budget pie. We’ve seen our clients returning 100x their investment in ticket sales. It’s a no-brainer, right?

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Sam and Jackson founded Broadway Crew in an effort to elevate the same-day ticket buying experience by making street teams into effective sales teams and prioritizing customer service and employee happiness. We want to do things the right way by making sure our employees are happy and our clients and their customers are happy. By focusing on people, everybody wins. Let us know how we’re doing! Drop us a line at www.BroadwayCrew.com or find us on Instagram @BroadwayCrew and on Twitter @BwayCrew.

GUEST BLOG: Get Woke to Three Accessibility Initiatives! By Lisa Carling

When I was 16 years old, I told my father (who was a Boston physician) that I wanted to be a doctor. “No,” he said, “a woman’s place is not in medical school!” I rebelled, naturally, and went into theatre, acting, divorce, raising a child and TDF where I’ve been happy for over 30 years working in the accessibility field.

It’s a good place to be, combining the opportunity to help others with a love of theatre. I’ve seen a lot of changes! TDF started doing Sign Language Interpreted Performances on Broadway in 1980 before I began; but since then, I’ve had a chance to launch TDF Accessible Performances for Students, 1995; Open Captioned Performances, 1997; Audio Described Performances, 2008 and Autism-Friendly Performances in 2011.

What’s even better now is seeing the industry take a pro-active role in making theatre more accessible for everyone.

If you, a family member or friend have a disability:

  1. Theatre Access NYC is the official website for accessibility information on Broadway, a “one-stop” comprehensive listing to assist theatergoers with disabilities in finding out everything they need to know in choosing a show. TDF launched this 2016 initiative in partnership with The Broadway League. You can search out wheelchair access, assistive listening devices, looping, captioning, audio description, sign language interpreting and autism-friendly performances. Last year, the Theatre Access NYC website saw 18,000 users. Wheelchair seating is the most commonly clicked accommodation filter. Captions come second. Come from Away is the most clicked page listing. Jersey Boys and Waitress are the most frequently used search terms. Check out the website here.

If you want to provide more options:

  1. GalaPro is an audience services app available at any performance that solves “on demand” requests for the individual ticket buyer with hearing loss who needs captioning or any person with vision loss requiring audio description. Periodically scheduled, live, open captioned audio described or sign language interpreted performances are favorites among their targeted audiences, but not convenient for someone who can’t attend when those services are being offered. By downloading the GalaPro app to your mobile device you can follow the show with pre-programmed captioning or pre-recorded audio description. Both services rely on voice recognition technology and sound and light cues for synchronization with the performance. Most Broadway shows now offer GalaPro, and it’s already heading out with several road tours. For more GalaPro information click here. To learn more about TDF Accessibility Programs click here.

If you want to feel like it’s “The Best Day Ever” because there is no other way to describe it:

  1. Autism/Sensory-Friendly, Relaxed Performances: Family friendly productions are easy winners and sure to sell lots of tickets. Shows with more mature content for young adults and older on the autism spectrum can be successful options too, with good preparatory material. Even a production that was at the top of the most requested show list by parents on our autism-friendly performance surveys, that in earlier years we might have felt wasn’t possible due to intense sound and flashing lights, happened! Consider the possibilities.

I’d like to close by sharing with you a remarkable start to TDF’s 8th season of Autism Friendly Performances on Broadway with an unforgettable matinee performance of SpongeBob SquarePants on Sunday, July 15, 2018, at the Palace Theatre. Everyone involved with this production went the extra mile to solve modification concerns and welcome an audience that all too often is judged for being different. From one mom: “It was the first time in nearly 10 years that we were able to attend a show on Broadway as a family” because everyone has the freedom to just be themselves. For a social media recap from cast member Kelvin Moon Loh’s Instagram takeover click here. For more information about TDF, Autism-Friendly Performances click here.

TDF, now in its 50th year of service, is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to bringing the power of the performing arts to everyone.  It does this with a variety of programs that expand access, cultivate communities and support theatre-makers. For more information click here.

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LISA CARLING, Director of Accessibility Programs at TDF, helps design and implement services that make theatre performances more accessible to people with disabilities on Broadway, Off-Broadway and nationwide. She runs a department that provides autism friendly, open captioned, audio described and sign language interpreted performances, as well as seating for theatergoers with mobility disabilities. The department assists regional theatres across the country in starting their own captioning and sensory-friendly programming and provides grants through a partnership with New York State Council on the Arts to state cultural organization for captioning events that are open to the public. As a speaker, she shares her experience in the accessibility field on theatre industry panels, at arts and disability conferences, special events such as BroadwayCon and the first-ever Broadway Accessibility Summit. As a consultant, Lisa serves on the Shubert Organization’s Audience Services Advisory Committee for implementation of the audience services app GalaPro that provides captioning and audio description to a theatergoer’s smartphone and sits on the Consumer Advisory Board for Bridge Multimedia’s OSEP Technology Access Project. For fun, in addition to marriage and grandparenting, she is an avid dahlia grower and member of the American Dahlia Association. Lisa holds an MFA from Yale School of Drama.

GUEST BLOG: So, What Does a General Manager Do, Anyway?: Part Two by Peter Bogyo

More than any other function, a GM’s primary responsibility is that of financial overview – the quantification, management, and forecasting of the show’s finances. During the production period, this involves keeping track of estimated budget expenses as they become actualized, and determining the net effect of all those variances on the budget’s reserve fund, which needs to be available not only by the first preview but also as of Opening Night. A cash flow chart is most useful for tracking these expenses.

At some point several weeks prior to the first preview, I will also begin reviewing the breakdown of advance sales, on a week by week, performance by performance, basis. By analyzing this, one can quickly see if a show is likely to break even in a given week, or which future performances may need some help – either thru additional paid advertising, marketing promotions, increased publicity, sending tickets to the same day, half-price ticket booth, or, last resort, by discreetly offering complimentary seats to carefully targeted audiences.

A helpful tool for predicting future weekly grosses is a ten week out gross projection chart. Essentially, the data from weeks that have already played out and their advance sales (broken down on a week-by-week basis leading up to the final week itself (six weeks out, five weeks out, etc.)) are used to forecast how a future week will perform.

Another statistic that is looked at constantly and minutely dissected is the daily wrap, a figure representing the total amount of ticket sales sold on a given day from all sales sources (box office window, telephones, internet, remote outlets). A wrap is broken down into all the possible types and prices of tickets that comprise it – full price, premium seats, group sales, coded discounts, etc. It shows you how well (or not!) different types of tickets are selling.

Budgets, cash flows, weekly advance breakdowns, gross projections, daily wraps – these are just some of the myriad financial reports that producers look to the general manager to provide them with. Providing all this information and analysis is the major part of the GM’s job. If a GM’s first duty is telling a producer how much a show will cost, one of his last duties is recommending that the show should close. This is not a pleasant task, but more than anyone else, the GM must be grounded in reality when reserve funds are dwindling and losses are looming. I like to joke that the main arc of a general manager’s job can be summed up with “This is what it’s going to cost; now it’s time to close.”

A play goes thru different stages in its life. Up till now, I have only discussed the earliest phases. But there are also important concerns a GM grapples with related to maintaining a healthy show, grappling with a declining show, closing a show, and tending to the ongoing affairs of a show in its life after Broadway. I discuss these at great length in my book, but unfortunately don’t have the space here to go into detail.

A GM has a symbolic, as well as a practical role – he or she serves as a kind of figurehead or leader, representing both the producer as well as the production on many different levels. A GM sets the tone of the working environment that is the show experience, both personally in his own office, and, by proxy, through the demeanor of the company manager who is the producer and GM’s daily representative at the theater

Finally, a GM performs a very important psychological role – his or her relationship to the producer is an intense one, full of confidences and trust. At various times, a GM serves as an advisor, a confidante, a therapist, a father confessor, a support, a protector, a cohort, a fixer and a bad cop to the producer’s good cop. The two parties typically speak on the phone and/or email each other many, many times a day, every day. Most producers feel they need access to their GM whenever anything important or urgent occurs, no matter how early or late the hour, or whether it is a weekend or a national holiday. As previously stated, one is on call 24/7.

General managing a production in the commercial theater entails grappling with an enormous number of complex, exciting, and challenging details. Not to mention some pretty colorful individuals! All these concerns and personalities need to be managed by an experienced, discerning professional. I hope, by now, you have been demystified as to what a general manager does, and can appreciate just how invaluable he or she can be for guiding and protecting both a producer and the multi-million dollar venture that is a Broadway show today.

For further information on me or my book, please visit www.broadwaygeneralmanager.com

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PETER BOGYO is a theatrical General Manager, Executive Producer, Producer of Special Events, and an Author.

On Broadway, he served as General Manager of LOVE LETTERS, starring Mia Farrow, Brian Dennehy, Carol Burnett, Alan Alda and Candice Bergen; THE TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL, starring Cicely Tyson, Vanessa Williams and Cuba Gooding Jr.; STICK FLY,  starring Dulé Hill, directed by Kenny Leon, TIME STANDS STILL, starring Laura Linney, directed by Daniel Sullivan, AMERICAN BUFFALO, starring John Leguizamo, directed by Robert Falls, A MOON FOR THE MISBEGOTTEN, starring Kevin Spacey and Eve Best, directed by Howard Davies, THE BLONDE IN THE THUNDERBIRD, starring Suzanne Somers; SLY FOX, starring Richard Dreyfuss, directed by Arthur Penn; FORTUNE’S FOOL, starring Alan Bates and Frank Langella, directed by Arthur Penn, and VOICES IN THE DARK, starring Judith Ivey, directed by Christopher Ashley.

Off-Broadway, his general manager credits include A MOTHER, A DAUGHTER, AND A GUN with Olympia Dukakis; Elaine May’s ADULT ENTERTAINMENT, directed by Stanley Donen; Jerry Herman’s musical revue SHOWTUNE; MR. GOLDWYN, starring Alan King, directed by Gene Saks; MADAME MELVILLE starring Macaulay Culkin and Joely Richardson; and THE UNEXPECTED MAN, starring Alan Bates and Eileen Atkins, directed by Matthew Warchus.

He has served as Executive Producer for the sold-out Carnegie Hall concert PIAF! THE SHOW, and for FIGARO 90210 at the Duke Theater on 42nd Street.

Peter is also a leading producer of benefit concerts and has raised close to a million dollars in the fight against AIDS.  For GMHC he produced the celebrated concert versions of Stephen Sondheim and Arthur Laurents’ ANYONE CAN WHISTLE and Cole Porter and Moss Hart’s JUBILEE, both at Carnegie Hall, and SHOWSTOPPERS!: a Salute to the Best of Broadway, at David Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center.  He also produced FIRST LADIES OF SONG at Alice Tully Hall for the Eleanor Roosevelt Monument Fund, which featured Rosemary Clooney, Marilyn Horne, Judy Collins, Barbara Cook, Lena Horne, Joanne Woodward, and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

He has unveiled three monuments for the City of New York, honoring Eleanor Roosevelt, Duke Ellington, and Antonin Dvorak, produced a memorial tribute to Herbert Ross, and oversaw the international entertainment for philanthropist George Soros’s 75th birthday party.

Peter is a member of The Broadway League and ATPAM, a Tony Award voter, and a graduate of Yale College and of the Commercial Theater Institute.  His book, “Broadway General Manager: Demystifying the Most Important and Least Understood Role in Show Business” is published by Allworth Press, and received critical acclaim.

Peter lives in Manhattan and upstate New York with his wife Ahna and their Scottish terrier Dickens.  www.peterbogyo.com

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