I found a great writer. Now what do I do?

Yesterday we talked about where you can go to find writers who will put your idea for a Broadway or Off-Broadway (or Off-Off Broadway) show on paper.

But once you find that writer (or writers), then what do you do?  Here are four tips on what to do with that writer once you find him or her.

1.  Think twice.

The first thing you should do before jumping into bed with a writer is to give it a second thought and get a third opinion.  You’re marrying this writer.  Sure, you can always get divorced (see below), but that’s just going to make things more difficult later on (and more expensive), and more importantly, it’ll slow down the development of the piece.  You want to make sure that this writer is exactly what you are looking for. Don’t compromise, especially if the idea for the show came from your head.  It’ll drive you crazy to sign somebody up only to find out that he/she is not as passionate about the idea as you, or if they want to take it in a different direction than you do.

2.  What’s the deal?

Are you commissioning the writer?  In other words, are you paying him or her a fee to write your idea?  Upfront commission fees can range from a few hundred bucks to several thousand, depending on the reputation of your writer, and how badly they want to work on your project.  Commissions are especially common in the non-profit world, but creative commercial producers can and should use this tool as well.

When you do commission a writer, make sure you protect your creative contributions as well.  Most playwrights are going to ask that they own the final product (unless you can pay a significant upfront fee), but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get a piece of future income due to the writer(s) (and perhaps a credit as well) for being the creative impetus for the project.

Maybe you don’t want to commission, but instead you want to collaborate, which will put you more into the creative mix.

(Red Flag Alert:  When negotiating, be wary of writers who are only after high up-front advances or fees.  Sometimes this is a sign that they are not as interested in the project, and that they don’t believe that they will see a lot of long-term royalties (which is why they want guaranteed income up front)).

There are a thousand different ways to get a writer on board, and I strongly recommend you speak to a lawyer or someone who has hired writers before to get an idea of what will work best for your unique situation.  At  the end of the day, you want a deal that works well for both parties.

And don’t just try and get the writer to sign on board for nothing.  Giving people a little money makes them feel better about working on a project, and also makes them more beholden to their boss (that’s you!).

3.  Set deadlines.

Establish clear deadlines from day one for the development of the piece.  When is the first scene due?  When is the first Act due?  Completed script?  First reading?  Map out a developmental course, have the writer agree to it, and then make ’em stick to it.  Sure, you may have to adjust deadlines along the way, but having a mutually agreed upon plan will guarantee that more work gets done, and faster.

4.  If it’s not working out, make a change.

If the script isn’t coming together the way that you had envisioned it in that theater in your mind, then fire the writer, and move on.  Yes, it may cost you some bucks . . . but how much will it cost you in the long run if the idea that gets on stage isn’t the one you wanted written?  Now add in the mental anguish and more you’ll experience by working with someone for years when you don’t see eye to eye.  Now that’s expensive!  This is where theater producers need to be more like movie producers.  If the writer isn’t working, then find another one.  Period.  You owe it to your idea.  If you don’t make that change, you’ll always wonder what if . . .

Finding and hiring a writer is hard.  It’s one of the hardest things that a creative producer will ever have to do.  But it should be.  Because it’s the most important thing a creative producer will ever have to do.

It’s like building your dream house.

You can find the lot, and you can list all the features that you want . . . a big porch, a 3 car garage, a jacuzzi tub.  But it’s up to someone else to build that house, make sure it’s aesthetically pleasing, and make sure it doesn’t fall down after a few months.

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

This past Saturday, a bunch of super-passionate peeps of all different types, from producers to writers to producer/writers, etc., joined me for my Get Your Show Off The Ground Seminar.

We had a great time, and I have to thank all of my participants for their creativity, ingenuity and their desire to do what we all do.  There were some great (and I mean really great) projects that came from the minds of these folks.  And I think we did a great job incubating them all.

We talked about finding investors, getting rights, the pros and cons of festivals, the benefits of a lawyer, determining your hourly value, and much much more.

To give you a sample, here are five quickie-takeaways from the seminar:

  1. You are what you say you are.
  2. People don’t invest in projects, they invest in people.
  3. Birth your baby.
  4. Diversify your producing programming.
  5. Never wait.

If you missed out on this seminar, don’t worry, I have just scheduled my next seminar for Saturday, June 19th.  That date may seem far off, but it’s coming sooner than you think, and because of how quickly my last seminar sold out, I strongly urge you to reserve now (I picked a June date specifically for those of you planning Fringe or NYMF style productions this summer/fall.  Your shows should be heating up at that time.)

For more details on the seminar and to book your spot today, visit my Seminar page here.  (There are also some testimonials from some of this past week’s participants, so you can learn what they thought directly from them!)

Thanks again to everyone that participated this past Saturday!  I expect great things from all of you, so go get ’em.

For the rest of you out there looking to get your show off the ground, I’ll see you at the next seminar!

Get Your Show Off The Ground
Saturday, June 19th
10 AM – 6 PM

Book today by visiting here.

 

 

Please call your lawyer. Part I.

A friend of mine was cutting a deal with a promotional partner recently and when he received the contract, he told the potential partner that he’d be get back to him after his lawyer reviewed the paperwork.

The partner told him not to bother and squashed the deal, for the sole reason that my buddy wants to spend his own money on a second set of legal-eagle eyes.

My friend was thrilled . . . because he knew right away that this was not a guy to do business with.

Anyone that gets skittish when you want a second opinion is someone you should be skittish about.

I cut creative deals on my shows.  Before I do, I make it a point to encourage the other party to speak to their agents, their lawyers, their pet hamsters, whomever, before they sign on the dotted line.

By encouraging people to get a second or third opinion, they’ll trust you more.

And at some point when a discussion comes up about a clause in the contract and they state that it wasn’t explained to them properly . . . well, they can’t point the finger at you.

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