PAYING FOR IT – PART I
ONCE YOU CHOOSE THE PLAY to produce, there comes the question of paying for the production. Where do you get the money? Do you bankrupt yourself like Michael Keaton’s character in Birdman? It worked for him, though I wouldn’t advise it. From going into debt, to stolen money to crowdfunding, there are several ways to make your show happen.
My first thought was to ally myself with a theatre company because doing so would help spread out the risk, the costs and the workload. Theatre companies often join forces to co-produce with individuals and other theatre companies. They need shows to fill their theatres and plays in which their members can perform. It’s a win-win. But of course it depends on the company and the productions. And there’s always a trade off. You may need to cast the company’s members in your show, which may not be in your play’s best interest. Neither you nor the company will get everything you want but when it works, it works great.
In the early days of Villa Thrilla, I had a theatre company interested in a co-production. We spent months trying to agree on the details: How many company members would I need to cast? Who will be responsible for what portions of the budget? Who would direct? Sadly, we couldn’t come to a meeting of the minds on much of anything and we parted company. I didn’t want to hand off a lot of important decisions to someone else whose opinions, though valid, were so divergent from my own. Unfortunately, this decision came late in the day, leaving me with a rented theatre space and not a lot of time to put the rest of the elements of the production together. I worried whether I’d made the right decision in parting ways and I almost bailed on the project out of fear I couldn’t pull it off on my own. Ultimately, though, I forged ahead, somewhat blindly.
If offered a co-production, explore it. Because doing all the work yourself requires not more money, more time and lots more effort, some of which in retrospect, I’d like to have back. But if you go this route, make sure before you get going that both you and the company share a vision for the show and that you are clear about what elements you and they will each be responsible for. And write it down! This is a contract and best not left to a verbal understanding.
If you either don’t have or prefer not to work with a company then you’ll need to come up with the money on your own–from finding an outside financial backer like a rich uncle or through donations and crowd funding, which will be the subject of the next post.