Sunday, January 08, 2006

Little Producer Lessons

I'm producing my first play. Andrew wrote it, I'm in it, and I'm producing it. There were things I expected, like the theatre costing money and having to do promotion and trying to coordinate rehearsals for six actors and a director. But I'm learning things as I go through this process that, I believe, can save others some trouble and I know will save me stress when I go into production on films and webisodes.

1. Always always always hold auditions. I love the cast, but if we had held auditions in the beginning we wouldn't have had to replace two very dear friends when the rehearsal and performance schedules didn't match up. If we had seen at least two people for every role in the beginning, I think the rehearsal process would've gone smoother.

2. It always costs more than you plan. We knew we'd have some expense for the theatre, promo, and a few props. We didn't realize we'd have to pay for light trees for our photo shoot or rehearsal props and little things for the process. We lucked out in that we had rehearsal space available and we got a great deal on the theatre. We still haven't picked up a couple of costumes that are used as props in the show, and we've borrowed and used our own stuff as much as possible to keep the costs down. The biggest expense is the promotion. I used Evite for friends and family. I printed up and mailed color postcards. Now we have to do a few posters.

3. Never expect anyone to promote your project besides you. Andrew and I have strong interest in getting this show seen and making back some of the money it cost. While I'm sure the actors want to be seen, I've been in shows where the actors didn't start promoting until the second or third week because they didn't think the show was ready to be seen. Hell, I've been the actor who took my allotted amount of promo and left it in my trunk so only one or two fliers were posted. I've also been in shows where the actors didn't promote at all. In low budget theatre, you have to promote the hell out of your project any way you can. I have appearances to make where I hand out promo, and I'm hitting local coffee shops where industry people hang out so I can poster those places. Andrew sent out press releases. But relying on other people to promote the show doesn't work.

(As an actor, I've followed the same datum. I never expect anyone to promote my project besides me, even if I'm just an actor in it. I want to play to a good audience, so I have to take responsibility for filling the house. I send out postcards, pass out fliers, and send out Evites when I'm just an actor in a show. If I've got a great role, I want people to see me. I can't expect the director and producers to promote my work and get people to come to just see me. That's my job as an actor.)

4. If you're involved in the creation of the project, make sure there are no unnecessary characters. I was fortunate enough to work on the story and the editing for Torrid Affaire with Andrew. We went with the absolute minimum number of actors we could have and tell the story, which is six. There are a lot of problems with having too many people. If you're operating on a shoestring budget, your people aren't getting paid for their work. You have to give them enough to showcase their talent in the time they're onstage to make it worth their time. If you're shoestringing it, you're not going to have the moolah to pay for lots of assistants, so you'll probably wind up doing most of the coordinating and chase-up. With six actors, it's been a little crazy trying to get everyone in one place ready to start on time, especially with a rash of winter illnesses working their way through the cast. If we had twelve actors, I would vomit with rage daily because of all of the "I'm gonna be late" calls. (As an actor, I've done this myself. It's true.) I think our next piece is going to be whittled down to four actors. Smaller groups are easier to coordinate and control. These guys are great, but it's a bit more randomity than I expected with this show.

This show has been very fun to do. The script is amazing, and I've got a lot to play with as an actor. It's a little different being on the other side and producing. I can see what problems I've given to directors and producers in the past, and I can see why they maybe seemed a little dispersed. I'm SO glad I'm cutting my teeth on a play instead of some big budget thing.

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