Fun on a Friday: Ever wonder what Marlon Brandon put in his Bio?

Sometimes I think choosing what to put in your bio for a new show can be more stressful than the opening itself!  Do you include that Off Off Broadway show?  Do you thank your parents?  Do you add a ILYKD???

A little known fact – the reason that actor bios in Playbills are so short is that every show gets a set amount of pages from Playbill for free, and once those pages are used up, the Producer gets charged.  Take a big show with a big cast, and a lot of Producers, and you’ve added an unbudgeted expense to your weekly nut.  No good.  And that’s why you see so many 30 word bios.  And that’s why so many people stress out about ’em.

A fun little website called Trivia Happy wondered if some future famous actors stressed out about their first bios, so they dug ’em up and posted ’em here.   Included were the likes of Al Pacino, Charlton Heston, John Travolta and .  . . Marlon Brando’s, which went something like this:

Marlon Brando (Stanley Kowalski) made his first appearance on Broadway three seasons ago as Nels in “I Remember Mama.” He went from that to a leading role in Maxwell Anderson’s “Truckline Cafe” when he was first singled out by the critics for his performance in the role of Sage. Also impressed was Guthrie McClintic, who chose him to play Marchbanks in Katharine Cornell’s revival of “Candida.” He next appeared in Ben Hecht’s “A Flag is Born.” Born in Omaha, Neb., Brando spent his school years in Evanston, Ill., California and Minnesota. The choice of the stage as a career had never entered his mind until after he had come to New York and spent several months engaged in such odd jobs as running an elevator and operating a switchboard. When he did decide to go on stage he spent a year studying with Stella Adler and followed that with a summer season of stock at Sayville, L.I. It was there that a New York actors’ agent saw him and helped him get his first acting job with “I remember Mama.

Read the other actors’ bios here.

And then start working on your bio.  And yes, include the Off Broadway show, your parents, your website, and ILY2.


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Sharing helps sell . . . with stats to back it up.

A great new study was released on Tuesday from ShareThis that “provides insights into the relationship between online sharing of movie related content and movie ticket purchases.”

The bottom line take-away from the study was that consumers who share movie content are 6x more likely to buy movie tickets.

In other words, people that share, buy . . . a lot.

What does that mean to you?  Well, it gives us a smaller target audience to focus on (especially if you have a small budget).  If this research parallels the theater biz (and I have to think it’s pretty close), then if you can find users that share theater content, they are going to be much more likely to buy a ticket to your show.  Simple.

And, more globally, if we can get people who aren’t sharing theater content to start sharing theater content, then they may start to purchase more frequently as well.

Good stuff, right?  Simple actionable items based on quality research.

As I said, this study just came out on Tuesday, but something tells me our smart friends at The Shubert Org and Telecharge got an advance peek because look at this new Telecharge website that I stumbled on today.  It’s called and it gives you points and eventually prizes for . . . yep, sharing content.  Pretty cool, right?  It’s a fantastic idea, although I still think an actual cash based affiliate program, like what has turned into the monster that it is, would be the best way to 1 – get Broadway content out in the world, 2 – sell tickets, and 3 – defeat scalpers.  (The Shubes are on a website releasing roll these days, with getting a release this week as well – which I think is an attempt to compete with crush

You can read the full study here.  But it all comes down to what your Mom taught you when you were two.  When people share, both sides win.


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3 Things to Learn from Netflix.

As I blogged about on Friday, Netflix dealt the mainstream media companies a major punch-in-the-face last week when their original series, House of Cards, was nominated for a Best Drama Series Emmy Award.

There are a lot of business lessons to be learned from this Netflix story – in fact, Netflix could probably make an original series about what they’ve done over the last two years – and they’re on such a roll, it would probably be nominated for an Oscar (you can bet movies are next in their developmental line up).

But here are the top three things I gleaned from this story about original stories.

1.  What goes down can come up.

One year ago, NFLX stock was trading around 50, after falling from well over 200.  People were writing it off.  The mail order DVD business was dead, people screamed.  Because DVDs were dead.  Then the CEO made a series of pricing and press gaffes that POed a lot of customers, including me.  iTunes and Amazon were drooling, hungry to scoop up all the biz.

One year later, that stock price is back over 250.  That’s right, had you bought back then, you would have made 5x on your money.

Businesses, and shows, go through cycles.  You just have to learn how to adjust and re-invent yourself along the way.  That’s harder in the theater, but still possible with new cast changes, new marketing looks . . . and . . . what if you even made a change to your show?

2.  You get what you overpay for.

House of Cards cost Netflix $50mm per season.  And they greenlit two seasons at once, at a time when they weren’t rolling in cash!

They were in-it-to-win-crush it.

Now personally, I love to save me some money.  I also love finding new and hungry young talented artists.  But sometimes, especially when you are entering unknown territory (like developing original television programming), it’s important to get the best, and cut no corners when you do.  Spacey is expensive.  Fincher is expensive.  The rights to the British mini-series on which the show is based were expensive.  But all those things are also awesome.

House of Cards was a win for Netflix before it even began.  When it was announced that Spacey was doing television, and it was on Netflix, people took notice (and the stock price jumped).  And then the show delivered.

It’s tempting to cut costs when your business back is against the wall..  But sometimes that’s when you have to double down, especially on talent.

3.  Content is the once and future king.

You want to be successful?  You want to turn your company around?  You want people knocking on your door asking you what’s next and paying you more for it?  Create original content.  Netflix had been distributing other people’s content for years.  And obviously you can do well with it.  Look at Roundabout, for example.  The revival market has been amazing for them (so amazing, they’re even going to revive their most successful revival this winter when Cabaret returns).  Or look at Barry and Fran Weissler – who’s better than them at producing revivals of musicals? (Chicago, Pippin, Grease, etc.)  But nothing, nothing, trumps creating something brand spanking new and then owning it.


The future of Netflix isn’t all rainbows and puppy dogs just yet.   But their turnaround story is something to marvel at and learn from.  Just imagine that you were that CEO just a year ago, staring at that $50 stock price and making a $100mm big bet on something that you were just giving away to subscribers?  How would you feel?

I’ll tell you something.  Unfortunately, there will come a time in your producing career (or acting/writing/tomato plant growing) when you will know that feeling.  It happens to all of us and it will happen to you.

What you do with that feeling is what separates the Producers from the Boys.


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Google makes surveying your audience easier.

Give Google enough time and they’ll figure out a way to beat just about every competitor out there (except for Facebook, of course . . . that Google Plus just doesn’t seem to be taking off).

The latest Google product to get me all hot and bothered is Google Consumer Surveys.

If you’ve been reading this blog for longer than, oh, a day, then you know I love research like Mama Rose loves her Dainty June.  Too many decisions are made in this business by folks sitting around an ad table (who probably haven’t purchased a theater ticket in the last decade), without consulting the people that actually have to figure out how to get a babysitter, how to get the best seats, and how to afford our high prices.  (I just talked about this subject in this blog a few weeks ago.)

Well, like Superman to the rescue of a cat stuck in a tree, here comes Google with a survey design tool (not unlike Survey Monkey or Wufoo), that when combined with the Google network, allows you to actually find your customers!  Yep, forget me running to the TKTS booth to find out what the word Broadway means to theatergoers.  Forget me having to worry about how to collect enough email addresses from theatergoers so I can find out if 7 PM curtain times have an effect on Tuesday night theatergoing (not as much as you’d think) . . . . now Google has come up with a way to reach those theatergoers directly and online.

I’m excited.  You should be excited.  Because while gut instincts go a long way in this business, there is nothing better than being able to talk to the people that buy your tickets.

Oooh!  And I think I just came up with my first idea for a survey!  Stay tuned!


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5 New Things About My Blog

Well, what do you think?

If you’re looking at this blog online, you’re looking at a whole new look.  (If you’re reading this via email, then you’re also seeing a new look, but click here  to see the total new PP experience.)

Since it’s Spring Cleaning time, we thought we’d give my blog a wet-nap and clean her up a bit.  Truth is, we’ve given her a little master-cleanse as well, to flush out her insides to help your online experience even more.

Here are five new features about the design that you may/may not notice:

  • We’ve made the switch from TypePad to WordPress.  Sorry, TP, you served me well, but I fell in love with WP when I wrote my Godspell Blog, and it can do things you can’t.
  • All upcoming seminars are in one easy-to-find place, right to the right.  I received a bunch of emails from people who missed seminars just because they didn’t know when they were.  So here they are, for all to see.
  • There’s a menu bar at the top, which includes some of the previous design’s most popular links.  Also, check out the search box.  Want to read blogs about “crowdfunding”?  Just type budget in the box and away you go.
  • The “Leave a Comment” button has moved from the bottom of the entry to right underneath the headline.  So check it out and click it often.

And finally . . .

  • I finally got rid of that photo of me with the ripped jeans-look from like 2005.  I went with the navy jacket/white shirt.  I figure that can never go out of style.

Let me know what you think of the new design and the new experience!  Click that comment button (on the headline, remember?) or drop me an email to give me any feedback and we’ll continue tweaking the look as we go.

And just like a show in previews, we’re still working out our kinks, so if you notice anything that isn’t quite right (or want to suggest something to make it better), email me and let me know!

Now that we’ve got a new look . . . it’s time to come up with some more new ideas for the theater.


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