Q: What do Off-Broadway and Independent Film have in common?

A: Almost everything.

Here are some common (but admittedly general) characteristics that could be used to describe both Off-Broadway and Independent Film:

  • Lower budgets
  • Original works
  • Emerging artists
  • Risk-taking
  • Artistic
  • Celebrities
  • Etc.

So if they are so similar, then why oh why does Independent Film have such a better rep than Off-Broadway (besides the obvious “off”-in-the-title issue)?  I guarantee if we had done a one-word survey on Independent Film, it would have a lot more positive associations than the Off-Broadway associations we talked about yesterday.

Two things changed the face of Independent Film in the last two decades:

  1. The democratization of production thanks to new technology (digital cameras and digital editing allowed anyone to make a movie inexpensively).
  2. Indie Films compete side by side against their mainstream counterparts for awards – and often beat them.

How can we use these examples to better Off-Broadway?

  1. If I were an Off-Broadway Producer or member of the Off-Broadway Alliance (oh, wait, I am), I’d be looking at how we can use technology and our new DIY world to reduce our costs, while maintaining high-quality productions.  Off-Broadway shows can’t be produced like mini-Broadway shows.  They have entirely different economic models and therefore have to be built differently . . . and today they can be.
  2. I’d also be lobbying the Tony Awards for some sort of Off-Broadway recognition.  While we’ll never go head-to-head (nor should we, Drama Desks), partially because unlike film, we “graduate” many shows to Broadway and therefore Tony eligibility, Off-Broadway deserves a piece of that big night.  Why not a citation for a production or an artist or a theater company?  There’s a Tony for regional theaters, why not one for Off-Broadway, which I’d bet has been responsible for more eventual Tony Award winners than regionals.

Somehow, somewhere, Off-Broadway got a bad rep (and yes, it has to do with the name).  What should we do?

Over the next ten years, Off-Broadway’s goal should be to change its brand to exactly that of Independent Film.

Otherwise, as films get even easier to produce and distribute and therefore appear in theaters, on computers and on iPhones with even greater frequency, people may just decide to go see a movie instead of a show.

What a difference a year and a half makes at Hair.

Ok, it’s time to take a scroll down blogger lane to re-read this entry I wrote in August of ’08, after I attended a production of Hair in the park, pre-Broadway.

The entry is about how I got busted by Tibor, the fascist usher, for taking a still photo on my iPhone of the post-curtain call dance party.

Read it, then come back.

Now, jump into a time machine to present day and read in this New York Times article how Hair just jumped from the ’60s to 2010 by striking a radical agreement with the unions that allows the show to shoot the dance party on video, and then post it on their website for sharing, and tagging, and more, oh my!

Unique events are what is working on Broadway.  Hair just took its most unique quality, and bottled it up for everyone to see and share.

Super shout-out to Joey Parnes, the GM who fought for this, the Unions, for understanding that giving up a little control gains us so much more in marketing and therefore future employment opps, to the Producers for the big five-figure investment, and to Damian Bazadona and the guys and gals at Situation Interactive, for continuing to push our industry to utilize technology to solve our marketing dilemmas.

Oh, and one more shout out . .

Take that, Tibor!  Na-na-na-na-na-nah!

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