Thursday, January 19, 2006

More Little Producer Lessons

I've had a couple days for things to set in since we did the show. I have a new viewpoint on some things, and I've gained a better appreciation for what they've done in some past shows I've done.

1. Limit the number of complimentary tickets. I would love to do this for free and have all of the people I've ever met come to my show for free. The problem is that art costs money. We have to cover theatre rental costs, promotion, props and a cast party. If I were independently wealthy, I'd just throw money from my coffers to handle all of those things. But I'm not. And it's unfair to give someone something for nothing because it devalues the thing that you gave, and it makes the receiver feel like they can't contribute back to you. (Ever get a groovy Christmas present from someone that you got nothing for? Feels kinda crappy.) In the last show I did, everyone was limited to one comp ticket each. Makes sense since there were 15? people in the cast and the producers had to be able to cover their costs. I'm pretty sure they didn't make money off that show, even by limiting comps. Every night in the theatre costs money. I have friends who do an improv show locally. Even though I'm friends with them, I still have to pay when I come to see the show. I may get a little discount, but I still pay to see it, and I don't feel bad about it. We gave each cast member the option of getting in three people at half-price in lieu of handing out comps for friends and family. With two nights and 48 seats available per night, we have to be able to cover the cost of the show. Tons of comps won't contribute to that.

2. If you really want to offer comps, make them for the first weekend of the show. This is something I've come to appreciate. The play I did where I met most of these ladies, Diary of a Catholic School Dropout, had a cast of ten girls per show. Layon Gray, prolific writer and director of Diary (, has had this show running for a couple years. He recasts every six weeks and remounts the show. I don't think a week passes when Diary isn't running with some cast or another. In a 45? seat house, that would be a lot of comps, especially if he let all the old cast members come to a future show for free. He offered all of the girls in my cast the opportunity to come to see the opening night of the following cast's show for free. Very smart. I couldn't make it because I was in another show, but I see how brilliant that was. We had half the house full on our opening night of Torrid Affaire. We had maybe twelve people on our opening night of Diary. Filling out the house with people from the last show gives a warmer opening. When we do Sonny, I think we'll offer the cast of Torrid Affaire free admission on opening night. It will help fill the house and generate goodwill.

3. You should get something in exchange for industry comps. I want people to see the show and give me a job. That's half the reason I'm busting my butt on this show. But if I'm letting them in for free, I should at least have a business card or an address so I can follow up with a postcard and say, "Hey, how'd you like the show?" There are probably industry people out there who don't want to be bothered by ever actor they ever see in a play. I understand that. If they don't want to be bothered, then paying for a ticket would be worth the hassle. If they want to play the "I want an industry comp" card, I'm down with that so long as I can promote my future work to them. Layon wanted industry people to show their business card. He said that industry people are the ones who can give you paid work, not your friend who might shoot a short film in his basement over the weekend. Makes perfect sense to me, especially now that I'm a producer. I want my actors to be able to follow up so their careers can boom.

4. Don't hold the show for more than ten minutes past the scheduled show time. I know it's Los Angeles and there's traffic and all kinds of reasons for being late, all of which can be very valid. But let's face it, people will show up on time for the movies even if they miss the previews. Not everyone on our reservations list arrived by 7:10 PM, but we started anyway. Audiences need to be trained to give as much respect to theatre with LIVE performances as they would give to a PRE-RECORDED film.

I'll share more lessons as I learn them. I know Sonny will be a much saner experience for me.

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