What does a Broadway Producer do? Over 100 Producers respond.

I got an email a few weeks ago from a high school student with the simplest question ever.

“Ken,” she typed, “Can you tell me . . . what does a Broadway Producer do?”

I try to answer all of my reader’s questions, but I have to say, I was a bit overwhelmed at the thought of trying to answer this one.  First I thought about directing her to my Producer Mission Statement.  Then I thought about trying to come up with a list of my day-to-day duties on a show.

But then I remembered how different every single Broadway Producer I know is . . . and how each one of them focuses on different areas of the biz, depending on what they know, what they love, and what they do best.

So, rather than come up with a long-winded answer of my own, I decided to come up with a Wiki answer to my reader’s question.  I went to my Broadway League brothers and sisters and asked all the Broadway Producers I know to answer my reader’s question in one, short sentence.

And now, right here, I’m going to list all of them.  Put them all together, and that’s what we do!

I promised all the Producers on this list to keep it anonymous, but I will say this . . . there are some heavy hitter answers below.  There are more Tonys on this list than at a West Side Story reunion.

Enjoy the answers!

– – – –

Question:  What does a Producer do?

– Have fun while keeping all the balls in the air until we open.

– Producers do everything!  We are the bank, the therapist, the negotiator, the scapegoat, the creative, and we rarely get credit! I should add its awesome. Because I think it is.

– Getting everyone to do what I want done while making them all think it was their idea.

– We manage the business behind the show.

– Create solutions.

– Producing is the art of saying yes judiciously and no politely.

– Look at a blank slate each morning and figure out – “what has to happen next” – and then make it happen.

– What do I do?  Emails… decision maker and cheerleader.  (mostly emails)

– Producers inspire others to be as passionate about the project as they are.

– Encourage and foster excellence for the purpose of optimizing profit and art.

– We raise money for projects we have faith in and then try our hardest to repay all of those wonderful investors who have had faith in us (hopefully with a profit).

– Make ideas real.

– Create/ facilitate product, then get butts in seats.

– Find the right project.  Raise money.  Hire the creative team.  Raise money.

– It’s a lot of blocking and tackling, with the occasional touch down.

– Partner with the best creative team and let them work their magic!

– Pray.

– Create a safe space for new art to be born.

– Everything but act, write, direct or design . . . In other words, everything you wouldn’t hire someone else to do.

– Deliver an engaging production that appeals to the widest possible demographic.

– Encourage, empower and embrace.

– Create a collaborative, focused, dynamic and exciting team-working environment where everyone shares a common vision for the material.

– How about “everything.”

– I don’t UNDER spend or OVER spend, but WISELY spend every dollar avail on creative advertising and marketing.

– No matter how difficult the biz may be, I always remember the passion which enticed me to be a Producer in the first place.

– I try each day to prove I am the natural heir of Max Bialystock (to collect the royalties he amassed).

– I would say my greatest challenge as a producer is putting together the right team (director, choreographer, music, lyricist, etc).

– Create a safe and supportive environment for artists to make magic.

– A Producer is a midwife for writer(s) and the creative team. .

– To make the impossible possible.

– Assess, finance, assess, stay out of the way.

– Make the best art possible with the available financial resources.

– Find works and artists you feel passionate about and to put them on the stage.

– Realize the world of the play.

– Passionately advocate for the creator’s vision of the play and the investors’ right to recoup their investment.

– A Producer does whatever needs to be done, from A ( finding the property ) to Z (making sure the johns have enough toilet paper).

– Producing is the art of making the deal.

– A theatre Producer manages the collaborators of the most collaborative art form that exists.

– The three F’s:  FIND IT (the show), FUND IT, FILL THE SEATS (preferably with paying customers)

– Create an experience for an audience they never knew they needed.

– Guidance Counselor

– Visionary.

– Advocate/ambassador, sounding board.

– A producer coordinates all aspects of the project and hopes the people he or she picks does the best job possible creating his vision while at the same time getting the most bang for his buck.

– Deal with the people who invest that think they know more than we do re: advertising and everything else.

– Maintains the connection between “show” and “business.”

– Raise money.

– I hold a lot of hands and smile & agree with everyone.

– The Producer is the mother that nurtures the baby until it grows up!

– A benevolent (collaborative) Dictator.

– Make their dreams come true.

– I don’t believe that any writer, actor or director has ever made a live stage event happen.  Without demeaning the incredible talent that the team brings to the table, without a Producer wanting to see the product, nothing would ever get on stage.

– In my view, the Producer is the project manager of the show, who also acts as the CEO/entrepreneur.

– This is a big topic and not one I am comfortable addressing with a sound bite.

– Identify the project, the creative team, and get out of the way.

– I bring together all the resources necessary to transform an intangible idea into reality.

– Support the general partners.

– I often say the Producer is “The glue that holds it all together.”

– A producer ensures that: the show is good, sells well, and runs smoothly and…remains calm.

– Have a vision and find the right team to execute it.

– “Put it all together.” (to borrow, if I may, from Sondheim)

– Producing is keeping the ball moving down the field until hopefully, you help to allow the entire team to score a winning goal.

– Discover & nurture new works, try and keep everyone happy, create a “family”

– Keep myself constantly inspired by reading everything I can get my hands on.

– Make shows happen

– A producer produces.

– Get the show on.

– Choosing what to produce is the most important decision a producer makes.

– To present a writer who is able to spark the thoughts or feelings of an audience in a fresh and unprecedented way.

– If a show is the equivalent of a small company, the producer is its CEO.

– A producer is like the CEO of a company: hires and fires everyone and most importantly, makes sure everyone’s paycheck clears at the end of the week.

– Develop great work and persuade audiences to buy tickets to it.

– Keep the herd moving forward

– To me, producing is development and marketing.

– My response to this often-asked question is that producing each new show is like starting a business – you have to raise the money, hire a business manager (GM), raise money, hire an attorney, raise money, hire a marketing/advertising/promotions team, raise money, hire a director, raise money, select and hire a design team, raise money, deal with the unions and raise money, etc.

– Oversee the financing, marketing and creative process to deliver a show that connects with audiences.

– My first reaction to your question is one word: “nurture.”  Actually, it’s just like mothering.

– Identify the kernel of greatness and execute a vision for making it so

– A producer is (among so many things), both . . . the owner of the sheep, and their border collie.

– Oversee every element both creative and financial

– A Producer is ultimately responsible for everything, but actually does nothing.

– A Producer always keeps the lines of communication open so that artists, management and money are unified around the same vision.

– Strike a balance between artistic vitality and commercial appeal.

– All encompassing; responsible for every detail

– Maintain an environment where your creative team can do the best work they are capable of…

– Focus on the product, not the money. If the product is really good, the money will find you.

– Happily enabling artists to execute their visions.

And lastly, I’ll include one longer answer on this subject because this guy agreed to go on the record with his answer, and because, well, this guy just has a certain way with words.

A producer is a rare, paradoxical genius: hard-headed, soft-hearted, cautious, reckless, a hopeful innocent in fair weather, a stern pilot in stormy weather, a mathematician who prefers to ignore the laws of mathematics and trust intuition, an idealist, a realist, a practical dreamer, a sophisticated gambler, a stage-struck child.  That’s a producer.

– Oscar Hammerstein II
Thanks to all the Producers that participated!

– – – – –

Get more knowledge about producing, monthly newsletters, and webinars—like Producing 101, plus a Tip of the Week email, when you join TheProducersPerspectivePRO today.

Join the club here.

Get Your Show Off The Ground Seminar – It’s baaaaaack!

It seems like just last week it was a freezing cold Saturday in January, when a group of 20 uberly-passionate producers, writers, directors, and more joined me for the first Get Your Show Off The Ground seminar.

We had a blast discussing everything from music rights to how to raise money to how to market with no money.

And most importantly, everyone walked away with specifically personalized action items to help launch their great ideas.

Since it went so well, we’ve decided to do it again!

The next Get Your Show Off The Ground seminar will take place on Saturday, June 19th, from 10a-6p in New York City.

I’ve timed this seminar so that all of you with shows in the Fringe, NYMF, Midtown International, etc. can meet with me (and many of your peers) to troubleshoot some of your specific festival-related issues before you get too deep into production.

And remember, I guarantee you’ll be in a better position with your show after the seminar than before.

To learn more about the seminar and its structure, and see what past participants had to say, click here.

To reserve your spot, click here.

Important note:  In order to ensure that everyone gets a solid amount of individual attention at the seminar, I have to limit attendance to only 20 people.  Many of the slots for this seminar went to folks on the waiting list for the last seminar, so I encourage you to reserve quickly, as the seminar will sell out.

See you at the seminar!

Get your show off the ground today!  Click here to reserve your spot now.

What does a director do after opening?

A reader recently dropped me an email asking what a Broadway or Off-Broadway Director’s responsibilities are, after a show officially opens.

While it may seem like a Director’s job would end as soon as that opening night party kicks into high gear, in actuality, the gig just morphs into something different.

There are replacements to cast, and understudies to train, and Tony Award numbers to plan and stage.  There is (hopefully) talk of a tour or two.  There is press to do.

But one of the most important jobs a Director has after opening is making sure the cast keeps delivering their opening night performance night after night after year after year.

Because over time, without anyone even noticing, things have a way of shifting ever so slightly from where they started, whether you’re talking about a cast’s performances or a mountain range!  It’s no one’s fault.  It may not be on purpose.  It just happens naturally, whenever the same thing is done night after night after year after year.

Think about it like this . . .

In the morning, you put on a pair of shoes, and lace them up good and tight.  If you walk around in those shoes all day long, by the end of the day, those laces are going to loosen up some.  It just happens.

And at some point, before they become untied, you’re going to have to bend down and lace them up super tight again, right?

That’s what a Director does after opening.

He tightens up a show’s laces.

Someone that you don’t know may want to give you money for your project.

One of the most FAQ I get is “How do I raise money for my show?”

While raising money seems like one of the greatest challenges you will face, it’s not.  Creating a great show is a lot harder than raising money for it (and if you do the creation right, the raising part will be easier than passing Obama’s Health Care plan if Scott Brown wasn’t in office).

Raising money takes creativity, like our ladies involved in the “Producer Off” (who, by the way, lost a pair of oven mitts last week . . . it’s getting steamy over there).

There are people out there that will fund anything.  Think about it.  Imagine the worst show, the worst art exhibit, the worst book, restaurant, movie, product, etc. that you have ever paid for.  Someone invested in it or donated to make it happen.  And if those crap-tastic things can find funding, certainly you can, too!

I call this The Moose Murders Factor.  And I remind myself of this mantra whenever I start searching for the right people to invest in my shows.

They’re out there . . . you just have to find them.

Here’s a website that’s trying to help folks like you find funders.

It’s called Kickstarter.com and it’s a self-proclaimed “funding platform for artists, designers, filmmakers, musicians, journalists, inventors, explorers . . . ”

Here’s how it works:

You post a project with a fundraising goal.  People see it (and you push people to it). People fund it, sometimes a dollar at a time.  You reach your goal, you get the cash.  You don’t reach your goal, you get zilch (this more or less guarantees the funders that your project will be completed).

Pretty simple, right? (You can read more about it here.)

The biggest catch is that Kickstarter isn’t open to everyone yet.  Projects are accepted by invitation only.  But, it was founded by a guy in Brooklyn, so I figure if we can’t find some invites, we can all just go bang on his door until he spreads some love to Producer’s Perspective readers.

My only other annoyance?  Theater isn’t a category/tag.  While you can post a project about anything (and there are a few theater projects on the site), you can’t filter by it.  Once again . . . dude, you live in Brooklyn, there are a zillion theater peeps living seven to a room just a few blocks from you.  Help ’em out!

And if we can’t get some assistance from KS, maybe one of you entrepreneurial web geniuses out there will start your own version just for the non-profit performing arts.

Because Moose Murders got money.  So can you.

Need more tips on how to raise money for your project?  Click here to read all my best practices.

What should a Producer study? A Producer’s curriculum in detail.

I got an email from a college student this week who knows she wants to be a Producer.  There’s no question about it. She’d declare it as a major . . . if she could.

Her school has a theater major and a business major but it doesn’t have a “producer’s track” . . . and not many do.  Even my alma mater only has a minor (and until we can turn Producing theater into a more stable and viable career choice, I’m not sure many will).

Since her school hasn’t spec’d out a plan for producers-to-be, she asked me what I thought she should study on her way through school.

As I’m sure you can imagine, I’m a big pusher for producers to take standard business courses as they’re coming up, from accounting to marketing to contract law (and there are still times I wish I had taken a few more myself).

But mostly I advised this focused young woman to take theater classes.  I told her to take a directing class, with people that want to be directors.  Take an acting class with actors.  Take a writing class with writers.  Take a design class with you-know-who and so on.

These are the people that are going to be on your team in the future.  Learn their language.  Learn what makes them tick.  Learn what they want out of a show.  And by doing so, you’ll learn how to help solve their problems.

Theater is one of the most collaborative art forms there is, and part of a Producer’s job is to make sure those collaborators are working at their absolute best with each other throughout the long process of developing and putting on a show.  By making an effort to learn their craft, and by understanding more of what they go through on a day-by-day basis, you’ll be able to earn more of their respect . . . and you’ll be able to help them do their best work.

Oh, and another part of a Producer’s job is to be able to spot talent.  By sitting in these classes, you’ll have the inside scoop on tomorrow’s superstars.

That’s right . . . the next Tony Kushner, Joe Mantello and Al Pacino are sitting in a class somewhere this very second.

By sitting among them, you’ll be able to spot that talent, and snatch them up for yourself . . . before I do.

(And for those of you out of school?  All of this still applies.  There are umpteen classes for theater artists all over the country, and even online.  And great business classes, too.  There’s no excuse to not know anything anymore. It’s all in front of the screen you are staring at right now.)

If you are looking for a Master’s Degree level of information about producing, I encourage you to join The Producer’s Perspective PRO right now! When you become a member of PRO, you’ll not only be a part of an exclusive community of 200+ Producers, Writers and PROfessionals, but you’ll get access to my complete Training Course Library with over 16+ Producing courses available right now, and 4 new courses released each month!

To join The Producer’s Perspective PRO now for just $27 your first month, click here. And at $27 it’s a whole heck of a lot cheaper than a Masters Program!

SIGN UP BELOW TO NEVER MISS A BLOG