There are many reasons why we need a producer’s organization.Â Â They range from collective bargaining, a trade organization, someone to brand us, management of a better business bureau of theater, etc.Â But there’s another important need here: the need for us to take care of our new producers.Â Especially the producers who don’t really even want to be producers.
In Los Angeles it’s very common to find a person producing a show because he or she wrote, starred in, or directed it.Â Â AÂ few weeks agoÂ I received a phone call from one such “producer by default” who was in the middle of an 8-performance run of a show that he wrote.Â He called me looking for advice on how to fill his theater with paying patrons and get the word out about his play.Â Unfortunately for him, he had spent little to nothing on marketing and PR.Â Â Given his limited budget and where he was in the run, there wasn’t much I could tell him.Â With so little time left, even if he managed to somehow come up with 10-20K for a marketing campaign, there would have been no way to make it back even if he sold out his remaining 4 performances.Â I told him that all he could really do at this point would be to offer “pay-what-you-can” and discounted Â tickets through facebook and similar channels. Maybe he could try buying one e-mail blast from a marketing agency.
Of course, if this producer had called me before he started his run my advice would have been very different.Â I would have told him to budget for and hire a top quality PR company and to put aside money for a marketing campaign.Â We could have talked about goals and the results he wanted to see come out of his production.Â We could have tailored his budget and spending in order to achieve those goals, or change the goals to fit the parameters of what he could afford.
This story is so common in LA.Â So many writers/actors/directors produce their own work simply so that they can work as a writer/actor/director.Â But so often they don’t know how to produce. Worse yet, they don’t end up producing at all, but rather, begrudginglyÂ managing the production.Â Producing is not easy, and neither is directing, acting, or writing.Â And when you do two (or more!) at the same time it’s even harder.Â Especially when you really only want to be directing, acting, writing- not producing.
One of the underlying problems this creates is that many shows, often referred to as showcases, are produced in the same theaters as bigger shows that are not showcases.Â When these showcases are produced poorly or mismanaged, they tend to reflect poorly on the quality of that particular rental theater (not to mention reflecting poorly LA theater as a whole). Unknowing patrons do not distinguish between a showcase and higher quality productions.Â Â Because of this, for those of us who are not producing showcases, it is in our best interest to mentor, support and work with people who are producing showcases.Â We need to help them produce smartly, efficiently, and realistically.Â Because at the end of the day, their product reflects on our product.
A producer’s organization could help foster and nourish these types of relationships between producers. New producers could join the organization and gain access to resources, support and advice. Â We could create databases, helpful guidebooks and producing templates.Â We could explain the way budgets work, not to mention de-mystify ROI’s and recoupment schedules.Â We could teachÂ best practices for marketing and PR, andÂ we could help new producers identify when theyÂ need a lawyer, accountant, and bookkeeper and when they don’t. Â This collective knowledge base would be more than just a phone book of designers and rental theaters.Â It would be a network of real people with real experiences who can really help.Â And if a new producer needs further help, we could provide a list of producers for hire (or general manage).
It’s silly for every new producer in town to have to reinvent the wheel.Â Â And itsÂ damaging to all of us.Â Why not help each other along the way and in so doing, raise the bar on theatre in Los Angeles as a whole?
Reposted from http://rickculbertson.com/
Feature image of Rick Culbertson and wife Erin Kambler.