On Saturday and Sunday, I attended The Producer’s Perspective SUPER CONFERENCE held at the SVA Theatre on 23rd St. It was a gathering of Broadway’s finest – led by Producer Ken Davenport. Here is his goal.
Here is a run-down of the sessions I chose and some of my cryptic notes.
DAY ONE – Five 45-minute sessions. I chose:
- Navigating the Collaborative Process – Creating New Works
The inspiration from this session was the confirmation that Theatre is a collaborative art form by its very nature. Bart Sher (Mockingbird) believed in the concept of “collective genius” where you recognize that what you are creating is much larger than you and it doesn’t completely belong to you. The collaboration also “establishes what the world is and what the world isn’t” which I thought was a great topic to use to establish the tone of the school year on day one. (Here is what choir is and what choir isn’t…)
This panel was particularly impressive; Andrew Lippa=Addams Family, Itamar Moses=The Band’s Visit and Bart Sher=To Kill A Mockingbird. Not too shabby.
- Getting Press for your projects and yourself
Where PR is concerned, it’s important to develop a vocabulary about the show being promoted because the public reacts to the show before they see it. ie-Dear Evan Hansen. Social media has changed everything because cast members can speak directly to their fans.
- Preparing your Pitch – The Art of Pitching Producers
Dori produced The Prom. Hal is producing Fiddler in Yiddish. Aurin is producing Evil and the Good Fight (TV). They were quite clear about the expectations of a producer; the project needs to be something that moves the Producer. It needs to be relevant to the times. It needs to be relatable on some level. Is it something A Producer would want to see and bring friends AND spend endless hours on? What makes the project unique and special? Is it a story that has to be told? AND, is this the production team that can bring it to life?
- Budgeting for Every Stage of Development
This was really interesting to me as I had no idea of the real money needed to mount and sustain a show. Two budgets need to be created – a Capitalization Budget which needs to cover everything up to the first preview (Marketing, Press, Scenes, Costumes, Light/Sound, Salaries for Stagehands, Musicians, Interns, Agents, etc.) and the Weekly Budget which covers everything after the first performance. When the investors put up their money, they want to know how quickly they will “recoup”. Many do not recoup 100%. Most houses budget at 70% weekly capacity. It took Beautiful one year to recoup for investors. Only 30% of B’way shows recoup their investors’ money. (Sad face)
Let’s say you have a show (project) and you would like to arrange for a “29-hour reading” now referred to as Tier 1. You need to have between $35,000 and $50,000 on hand to pay for that single week and that is bare-bones…chairs and stands. Tier 2 gets you two weeks and actors off-book and Tier 3 gets you 3-8 weeks of staged rehearsal, choreo, actors who are paid $1250 per week and you’ll need to have between $350,000 and $500,000 on hand to pay for it. That’s real money!
Once the show opens, it needs $800,000 per week in ticket sales to run (one thought). The theatre gets 7% weekly for labor, stagehands, ticket takers, etc. 4% pays the credit card companies. Then there is the matter of Royalties-35% of profit goes to the royalty pool. If the production is adapted from a film, then 42-44% will go to the weekly Royalty Pool.
A Musical can cost anywhere from $575,000-1 million dollars a week to run(a second thought). Orchestra can be $100K a week. It was good to hear that there are NO RECORDED TRACKS on BWay. It’s all live musicians!
- Raising Money for your Show at all Stages of Development
Tom Kirdahy=Hadestown, Little Shop Revival. Mara = The Inheritance. Wanna’ invest in theatre? Accredited investors have 1 million in assets or make $250K a year. Money Bundling Groups are governed by 1 person getting 5 people to invest 50K. And, there’s Kickstarter. I sat near a gentleman at lunch who was an investor and he told me the minimum was usually 25K and that in 5-6 shows, he’s recouped on 1. You need to know you may never get your full return when investing in a show.
- Casting Superpowers
Probably the most interesting session for me. The casting agency is charged with fulfilling the creative vision of the Director. They try to get as close to the story you want to tell through their casting choices. These choices need to bring characters to life. Thoughtful casting takes time – going after the right people. Directors need to approach their casting agency as if they were “dating”…it’s a relationship that requires honesty and trust between both sides.
Research these agencies. If you see that they are casting specific roles (Christine in Phantom) and you think you are right for the part, CALL THEM to ask for an audition.
To the Potential Actor:
- Educate yourself about the Casting Director – the Director wants to find YOU!
- Reach out to them. In your email…”I’ve seen some things you’ve cast”…and name them…
- Explain why you think this Director might be interested in seeing you?
- State “I like the message of the projects you’re producing and I think I’d be a good fit for your work.”
- They all said – BE KIND (in auditions) and SHOW UP AT THE TABLE-IT’S TIME!
Attend open calls for agencies for which you’d like to work.
- Securing Rights
Secure the rights FIRST! You need the rights to produce anything! As a start, find really good source material that others aren’t after to tell your story. The current jukebox musicals needed major rights clearances. If you are synchronizing music to an image, you need rights. Ted Chapin=rights to all things Rogers & Hammerstein and Irving Berlin.
Wanna’ know the background to a song—song meanings? www.songfacts.com
- What do critics look for in 2019?
This was interesting as the moderator’s first question was – What are you NOT looking for in 2019? The answers – Bio Musicals, Jukebox Musicals, 2-part 8-hour productions (Harry Potter!) and Premium Pricing! Adam = TimeOut New York. He sees 6-7 shows a week and reviews the higher profile shows. Michael=Radio 1710 WOR he used to work for the POST but they no longer run a theatre section – he’s now on the radio.
The closing 45 minutes was a keynote by Stephanie J. Block, who just won the Tony for CHER. She was the highlight! Completely unscripted and speaking from the heart. Some of her pearls of wisdom included…”NO is a complete sentence.” (loved that!). “When you say Yes, it’s “Yes, and …” If you are rejected, you can cry for a minute…The phone may ring tomorrow – ARE YOU READY? (when the phone rings for the next opportunity). When you are in an audition/casting situation and you don’t feel right, be truthful with yourself and say “Thank you. I’m not supposed to be part of this team”. She really really felt that there was a greater universal power that would reward you for your choices – at least they had for her.
Thanks, as always, for reading.