Why a bump is a like a breakup.

I took a call today from a producing peer who was having a serious issue with a project.  After a heck of a lot of work (a couple of years, actually), the show just blew up.  It was nothing he did.  It was beyond his control.  It was just . . . over.

He was pretty upset.  And deservedly so.  He even said a few things like, “I don’t know if I can go through this again.  I’m giving up producing and going to law school.”

If you’ve been working in this biz or in any biz, then I’d bet a billion buckaroos that you’ve hit a similar bump in the road along your way, and you’ve probably considered law school . . . or your equivalent . . . as well.  I know I have.

And as I explained to my buddy that as hard as it was for him right now, he’d eventually get over it, and find another project.

Sound familar?

If you’ve ever been through a breakup, you’ve felt the same way and probably heard similiar advice.  Because when you’ve just lost something you loved and are miserable, it’s hard to think that you’ll ever come out on the other side.

But you do, don’t you? Eventually, it clears, and you move on, and you when the time is right, you meet someone new.

So, the next time you’re having a crisis with a project–something that you can’t see yourself getting through . . . remember that time you got dumped . . . and how you eventually got over that too.

 

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FUN STUFF

– 29 Days to Godspell!  Read the day-by-day account of producing Godspell on Broadway here.

– The next Get Your Show Off The Ground seminar is on 9/17.  Only 2 spots left.  Register today!

What if we had a S&P for Broadway?

Here’s a biz idea for some budding entrepreneurs out there: create an S&P for Broadway investments; an “official” ratings board that grades investments on the same AAA scale that screwed the financial markets this week.

I have consultation clients that come to me all the time asking for my “yea/nea” vote on whether they should invest in a show that they’ve been pitched.  I spend time with the financials, research the show’s history, the creative team, etc. and apply all of the tactics I teach in my Broadway investment seminar and then give my consensus.

But what if there were an independent entity that offered a more formal grading system?  This “S&B” would have a General Manager, a Marketing expert, a Director and maybe a Casting Director on its board, and they’d scrutinize the show in their areas of expertise and offer up a quantitative grade.  If you were considering investing, you’d pay a small fee for the “research report” and its grade.  And then you’d use that info to help make your decision.

Something that is as artistic as the theater won’t be as easy to assign a grade to compared to something like debt.   But it would still be possible.  The margin of error would just be greater.  And you’d still have to use your gut when making that final leap.

But I’d bet that fewer bad investments would be made, which would be beneficial for us all.  The fewer people that lose money on Broadway, the more people there are to put money in shows in the future.

It wouldn’t be easy for those shows that get stamped with a mediocre grade, though.  There’d be some pretty angry producers out there, I’m sure.  Especially since ratings entities like this one could be wrong.  It happens.

Just ask the S&P.  Remember when it gave an AAA rating to mortgage derivatives?

 

(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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FUN STUFF

– 64 Days to Godspell!  Read the day-by-day account of producing Godspell on Broadway here.

– Enter to win 2 tickets to The Unauthorized Autobiography of Samantha Brown!  Click here.

 

We’re a business of freelancers.

A friend of mine produced a Broadway show this past spring, and we recently got together to trade stories.  When I asked him how it went, he said, “You know that expression, being shot out of a cannon?  Well, everything happened so dang fast, I felt like we were shot out of a cannon that was attached to another cannon!”

While his opening went pretty well, he went on to talk about how hard it was to get things moving quicker during the years of development, no matter how much gas he tried to pour on the creative fires.  And then, once they were within striking distance of the opening night, it felt like they were so rushed, he was concerned they were going to make mistakes and risk all the hard work they had done.

Why does Broadway have to feel so rushed, he wondered.

So I started wondering the same thing.

There are a lot of factors that contribute to the fevered pitch that all shows feel as they get closer to the finish line.  If producing a Broadway show were a marathon, we’d all be slow, slow starters with a heck of a kick.  One of the reasons is that finding a theater can be so difficult; it’s hard to make something feel real until that phone rings from one of the three theater chains telling you you are in.

The other reason is that all of the individuals that make up the staff of a Broadway show, from the director to the actors to the company manager to the assistant set designer . . .  are all freelancers.  And that means they have to go where the money is, and when the money is.  So while you’re working on developing your show, or trying to do pre-production, they may be in pre-production or tech rehearsals or auditioning for another show.  It’s hard to get them to focus, for obvious reasons, until they have to or are paid to.

And it does feel like lately people are trying to rack and stack more projects than ever.

What’s the solution?  Well, we could pay our folks more money to be more exclusive . . . or we could put people on staff instead of hire them project by project.

Yeah, and maybe there will be a revival of Moose Murders starring Hillary Clinton and that guy who played Urkel.

We are an industry of freelancers, and that ain’t going to change.  As a Producer, you need to realize it and learn how to manage it, to make sure your show is prepared to run that marathon and sprint like a mo-fo those last 1000 meters.

Because, after all, Producers are freelancers too.

 

(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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FUN STUFF

– 66 Days to Godspell!  Read the day-by-day account of producing Godspell on Broadway here.

– Enter to win 2 tickets to The Unauthorized Autobiography of Samantha Brown!  Click here.

 

Life is an open book test.

On a Friday afternoon during my first few weeks as an Assistant Company Manager at Show Boat back in 1996, two firemen came up to our office at the Gershwin theater and said there was a water main break nearby, and there might not be water servicing the building for the next 8 hours.

We had a show in 2.

The firemen made it clear. No water?  No show.

Uh-to the-oh.  We were sold out.

About 30 minutes later the situation resolved itself, so all was good.

But my boss later asked me what I would have done if he hadn’t been around to deal with the issue.  I told him I would have called the GM and the Producer and kept them abreast of the situation, etc.  I told him I would see if we could hold the curtain to give the firefolks more time to fix the situation, etc.

He told me all of that was correct, but he said that I forgot to call a few more folks.

“Who,” I asked.

“Ken,” he said.  “You’re not the only Broadway show in town.  There are a ton of other theaters nearby, and they all have shows tonight too.  And you know most of the managers, right?  Call them.  Find out what they are doing.   Use our network to make sure everyone is taking similar actions.  Imagine if you decided to cancel the show, and you find out that the show down the block found a way around it.  Remember, life is an open book test.”

I was reminded of this concept today because I was faced with two different paths to take with an issue on one of my shows.

Thankfully, because of the lesson of the firemen, I knew to use the network of people I trust in the biz to listen to my problem, hear my proposed solution and and then offer their honest expert and objective opinions on what they would do in a similar situation.  I’m not talking about “Yes” men or women. I’m talking about people that would poke and prod me like a lawyer taking a deposition.  I want people to challenge me.

I have five people on my speed dial that I call in situations like this.  And even when I hear things I don’t want to hear, I’m always glad I called.

If you don’t have a a network of “shows down the block,” then you should get one.

Because doing business in a vacuum . . . well . . . it sucks.

 

(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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FUN STUFF

– 69 Days to Godspell!  Read the day-by-day account of producing Godspell on Broadway here.

– Enter to win 2 tickets to All New People by Zach Braff Off-Broadway!  Click here.

 

What every regional theater should have.

I was asked to speak at the Arizona Presenters Alliance annual retreat yesterday and during one of my sessions, which I call, “Stump The Marketing Guy!” (I offer a $100 prize to anyone that can give me a problem that I can’t find at least one action-item solution for), I was asked what I would do to get more young people to the theater.

I offered some of my standard solutions like 1) create a “young patron’s circle” whose job it is to find more people like themselves, 2) offer young theatergoers a free ticket if they bring someone under 30 with them to a show, 3) program more entertainment geared for the 20-something crowd, etc.

The person who asked the question was a young one herself, so I asked her, “Why do you go to the theater?”

“I was exposed to it by my parents when I was young.  I fell in love with it.”

Not coincidentally, that’s my story too.  And it’s a lot of people’s stories who love theater . . . golf . . . fashion, whatever.  Hook ‘em as a kid, and you might have ‘em for life.

So, while my above suggestions were potential quick fixes to their problem with the young’uns, I also gave them a bigger long term solution that I suggest for every single theater out there.

Every single regional theater should have shows just for kids at some point in their season, and as often as possible.  I’m talking Cinderella, or Freckleface Strawberry or anything with Bears.  The production values don’t have to be high.  Kids don’t need falling chandeliers.  And parents don’t care either, they just need something to do with their kids on a Saturday that doesn’t involve the television.

This is going to be some work, and some money as well (but not as much as you’d think), but the potential long-term benefits for your theater and for the theater in general are enormous.   And you can put your interns on it, or partner with a local community theater, but make sure you have live theatrical entertainment for kids today, so that we have audiences for tomorrow.

 

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

—————-

FUN STUFF

– 70 Days to Godspell!  Read the day-by-day account of producing Godspell on Broadway here.

– Enter to win 2 tickets to All New People by Zach Braff Off-Broadway!  Click here.

 

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