What running a red light taught me about Producing.

I used to deliver pizza for Domino’s Pizza.

That was my high school survival job (aka how I afforded to take my high school sweetheart to Riverside Park and Billy Joel concerts).

It was a pretty cool job back then, actually.  You were making cash money, and spent most of the job cruising the streets in your car, listening to your favorite tunes (of course I was blasting the complete symphonic recording of Les Miz while my co-workers were listening to MC Hammer).

One day, I was cruising down Pleasant Street in Southbridge, MA with two pepperoni pan pizzas in the passenger seat, singing along to “The Confrontation” at the top of my lungs (That’s right, Jason Segel and NPH – I can play both parts simultaneously!).

And I ran a red light.

That’s right.  You think texting and driving is unsafe?  Try Les Miz-ing and driving.

I can joke about it now, but it was pretty scary, and I came about 10 feet away from getting blindsided from a car coming the opposite direction.  That’s right.  Just a couple of seconds difference, and I wouldn’t be blogging to you today.  And the world would never have had The Awesome 80s Prom.  (Oh those poor girls from Long Island!)

It was scary enough that after the honking that woke me up from my Les Miz hypnosis, we both pulled over.  And I was panting pretty hard.  I think the pepperonis were scared right off the pizza.

And then I heard a door slam.  And two massive, tattooed and POed dudes wearing the same color bandanas stepped out of their car (back in the day – Southbridge had been known to be a little “gangy”).  I thought about rolling up my window. I thought about calling the police – and then remembered cell phones weren’t invented yet.  I thought about driving away.

And then I stopped panting, opened my door, stepped out and walked right over to their car before they could even get to mine.  And before they could even open their mouths, I said . . .

“I am so sorry.  That was 101% my fault.  I had my music too loud.  I am so so so very sorry for scaring you like that.  I just screwed up.  Are you two ok?”

They stopped.  Stammered.  And then said, “Uh, yeah.  We’re ok.”

“Seriously, I effed up.  Man, I am so very sorry.  So sorry.”

(Remember, I was wearing a really ugly blue/orange Domino’s shirt and 10 cent hat.)

“Well . . . uh . . . well . . . be more careful next time.”

“Of course. I’m actually going to drop this order off and then take a break.  I’m sorry.  Actually, would you like these pepperoni pizzas?”

They refused the pies, got back in their car and went on their way.

And I went back to my car and started panting again.  I had escaped death.  Twice.  (Long Island girls rejoice!)

How did I do it?

I knew I effed up.  I knew I was in the wrong.  So I did damage control and issued a preemptive strike of an apology before they had a chance to get really, really mad.

As a Producer, you’re going to screw up.  As a PERSON, you’re going to screw up.  Man, I’ve effed up about seventeen times already this week (that’s number is probably around seventy times if you ask my new bride).  But what I’ve learned is to check my ego and understand that making mistakes is part of being human.

So if you run a red light, don’t come up with excuses, or blame it on someone else.  Suck it up and say you’re sorry.  That’s the only way that you’ll be able to get everyone on your team to “deliver.”

 

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What the NYC Marathon Runners taught me.

In case you didn’t see the swarms of people with aluminum foil wrapped around them yesterday, the NYC Marathon was held this weekend.

The marathon is one of those weird periodical New York tourist events where thousands upon thousands of people descend upon New York City . . . and none of them go to see a Broadway show.

Shows are always trying to come up with new ways to get the marathon participants to run up to the box office, but it never seems to work.  Take the marathon, add in Halloween and sprinkle in a little Daylight Savings Time ending, and you have a horrific week.  (Don’t believe me?  Just wait a few hours for the grosses to come out on this very blog.)

Unless you’re a pasta shop, or, well, the manufacturer of those aluminum foil capes they wear when they finish, odds are you didn’t have a good weekend.

But those marathon runners sure did.

I watched them exit Central Park on my way to work, getting cheered on by their friends, getting ready to cross their finish line.  They were beaten up, but smiling.

For a second I thought, “I could never run a marathon.”

But then I looked a little closer. There were all types of people about to complete their 26.2 mile journey.  And they weren’t all the perfect example of a runner.  Some had a few years on ’em.  Some had a few extra pounds on ’em.  Some had awkward running styles.  But they were doing it.  They were running a marathon, and about to finish.

That’s when I realized something . . .

Why sure, I’m eating Jiffy Pop popcorn right now with a side of Swedish Fish.  And sure, golf is the only real workout I get.  But as I looked at those runners I realized that if they could run a marathon, I certainly could.  I just need to train.  To practice.  But more importantly, I needed to want to run a marathon.

I can run a marathon.  I just choose not to.  Big 26.2 mile difference.

So many folks start off conversations with me (including clients that come to me for consults) by saying, “I can’t produce this show,” or “I can’t write this.”  It’s just not true.  You can.  If you want to.

And look, this isn’t self-help, motivational, psycho babble BS.  This is simple facts.

Whatever you want to do, other people have done.  And I’d bet that you’re at least as talented, smart, and passionate as half of them.

If they are doing it, surely you can.

And it doesn’t matter if what you want to do is produce something, write something, or become a heart surgeon for G-d’s sake.  You just have decide you want to do it, then just like a marathon, take it one mile at a time.

(Ironically, the hardest part of running a marathon isn’t actually running the marathon, it’s deciding you want to.  Once you figure out what the marathon is in your life, the rest will just fall into place.)

 

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I want to retire . . .

. . . a phrase.

Just like Blue Man Group held a funeral for the 80s I think it’s time we pack up a certain phrase, put it in a box and never utter it again.

That phrase?

“Outside the box.”

Admit it . . . it’s kind of cliche now, isn’t it?

I first heard it over a decade ago to describe unconventional thinking.  And now, because I’ve heard it so often, it is starting to sound conventional.  It’s true – saying “outside the box,” has actually become inside the box!

So it’s time to euthanize that hackneyed phrase and bury it.  Are you with me?

But that’s not all we can do.  Oh no.  We don’t just kill things here.  We have to create something too.  So we have to come up with something better – something that describes what is required of artists and entrepreneurs in the 21st century.  Ten years ago we had to think outside the box.  Today we need to . . .

What?  Create a new box?  Color outside the lines?  Think like we dream?

Come up with something in the comments below and maybe you and I will originate the next “box.”

Because making something new, versus using something old, is so much more interesting, so much more fun, and so much more rewarding.

 

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Why there is a fine line between hatred and respect.

Here’s something I’ve heard a lot of in Producers’ and GMs’ offices through my career.  “Ugh!  I hate that INSERT NAME OF AGENT/LAWYER/MANAGER.”

Usually, what that translates to is, “Ugh!  I’m not getting what I want from that INSERT NAME OF AGENT/LAWYER/MANAGER.”

And for the record, when I worked for an agent, I also heard the converse statement of “Ugh!  I hate that INSERT NAME OF PRODUCER/GENERAL MANAGER!”

Same translation, of course.

When you’re in any negotiation, it’s important to remember that the person on the other end of the talks is doing their job, which is to get the most for the person they represent.  Just like your job as a Producer or a General Manager is to get the most for the people you represent (your investors). And if you find yourself “hating” the person you’re dealing with . . . ask yourself, is it because they’re just doing a very good job for their client?

Usually, it is.

If you can acknowledge that your anger is actually a form of respect for how good that individual is doing for the other side, you may find yourself able to close the deal faster, and more efficiently.

Respect is a much better way to make a deal happen.  Anger, on the other hand, can be very expensive.

 

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5 Takeaways from the latest Get Your Show Off The Ground Seminar.

Two weeks ago, on one of the last beautiful days of the summer, eight passionate peeps sacrificed the sun to get together with me and work on something that would keep them smiling through the dark days of winter:  their project!

That’s right, it was my Get Your Show Off The Ground Seminar!

And it was a great one.  We had discussions about networking, about how to fill the seats of your showcase with Producers, and we even had a comic book superhero make an appearance.

As usual, my trusty associate, Kayla, jotted down some of my Kenisms throughout the seminar so I could post them here.

Here are five takeaways from the seminar, that hopefully can help you as you endeavor to get your show up on its feet:

  • Using a video of your show to try and sell it to investors and producers is like using a screwdriver to hammer in a nail.  It can work, but it’s not the best tool for the job.
  • When trying to get an investor to invest in your show, think like a drug dealer.  Give them just a little taste, so they come back to you wanting more.
  • Investors look for a reason to say no – so don’t give it to them!
  • The best thing about theater is that you can constantly make it better.  The worst thing about theater is that you can constantly make it better.
  • Think you need a new writer for your show but afraid to give up that much control?  Sometimes, you don’t need to give up your baby for adoption if it’s a little sickly.  Just bring in a doctor.

Want more takeaways?

I just compiled a free Ebook of the My Top 50 Tips from all of the Get Your Show Off The Ground seminars that I’ve taught over the last 6 years.  Get all 50 here.  I guarantee there is at least one takeaway that suits you and your show.

And if you want more info on the seminar, including how to register for the next one (December 13th!), click here.  There are only four slots left so register today.

And get those free 50 takeaways here!

 

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

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