Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Start Small, Think Big: Producing Indie Theatre Productions With High Standards

By Victoria Muzzio

Tom Viertel of the Commercial Theater Institute and Shay Gines of the Innovative Theatre Foundation came together for a course on Indie Theatre Productions at the Anne L. Bernstein Theatre on Friday, June 9th. There were eight sections presented by nine people who gave advice, experience, and a basic pathway for those interested in learning how to efficiently produce theatre on a limited budget.

Erica Rotstein from Broadway Across America & Amy Ashton from Colt Coeur

When diving into a career in the arts, you need to first make sure that you’re passionate about your work because it is not an easy industry, and success does not happen over night. It is so necessary to do it for the love and expression, not just the rewards that you wish to reap. As an audience member walking in, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect from this seminar because my focus was always on performing or assisting in various technical jobs. By the end of the day, I gathered that there would be good runs and bad runs in theatre just like there would be good days and bad days in life no matter how passionate you are or how well planned it all seems. However, this seminar essentially gave its audience a checklist to keep a production on track and running as smoothly as possible to avoid a huge crisis.

Passion is key, yes, but it is unfortunately not enough to bring art to life. Here are some ways you can begin your production process in NYC:

Tim Errickson from Boomerang Theatre Company
 1) BUDGET! This is extremely important because without funding, it is nearly impossible to produce a show worthy of any revenue. Keeping in mind that every show will vary in how much it needs to be a success, create a business model. By creating a business model, you are essentially finding ways to fund your show and there are many different ways, so don’t settle until you thoroughly research and figure out what is best for you and your business. There are legal and non-legal entities. For example, an LLC is a corporate legal structure that gains funding through investors. It also ensures protection on any personal funds outside of your business in case of liabilities or debts. A non-profit, on the other hand of the legal spectrum, does not accept investors because it instead solicits donations and grants. While you are granted some sort of protection from tax and liability issues, it is best to seek a lawyer's advice on the specifics. As far as non-legal entities go and an extremely uneasy way to proceed is as a Sole Proprietor. Responsibility for debts, as well as the actual funding lies on the person who owns the business. Along with all of this are Fiscal Sponsors. This is when you go under a larger organization; however, applying for a sponsorship is very rarely given to individual artists and small companies in NYC.

2) GATHER YOUR RESOURCES! While the arts can seem like a tough place to start, there are a multitude of organizations looking to support or service your business and watch it succeed. I personally believe that research is an important start because here you will find organizations with additional resources that have access to the best of everything on a budget from funding support to performance spaces to costume shops, and so on. This is also where you can begin to find off-stage help (stage management, etc.) and eventually on-stage talent. For example, websites like Backstage and Actors Access are very easy to navigate and can be used to find the necessary help with your production.

Heather Cunningham from Retro Productions

3) SET THE SCENE! What I mean by this is to find a home for your production. It is so easy to google locations and read an inaccurate yelp review. Get on location and support local theatre. By going to shows with a similar vibe to the one you hope to produce, you not only get to see the space for yourself, but you also get to meet the staff and more often than not make a connection with other artists in the community. It is so crucial to find a destination that not only meets the requirements for production but also meets the requirements for a delightful experience by the audience. Getting on location will assure you that everything is up to standard.

4) CONTRACTS! When the time comes that you begin looking for talent and a production staff (director, stage manager etc.), you will find that there are many rules to be followed whether they are hired as union or non-union. As a beginning producer of a small production, it is rare to be able to offer a whole lot but regardless of that, you will want to make sure that there is a contractual understanding of what is being offered in return for the others' work. It protects you, your business, and the production but it also offers no surprises and keeps things afloat.

Kevin R. Free

5) MARKET! MARKET! MARKET! NETWORK! NETWORK! NETWORK! Promote your work and sell tickets by researching various marketing plans or creating your own. Strategize based on results and further implement successful ideas into your plan to reach your goals. It is a fortunate era of social media take full advantage of it. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have grown tremendously and expanded within themselves as a major marketing tool. Create business pages, stay active online, and always interact with those liking or commenting on your page. Perhaps your show is coming up  create an event page on Facebook and send out invites, get creative with Instagram, and post sneak-peek photos, or post Twitter updates regularly and chat with others interested in the arts. This brings us to networking, which can of course be done to an extent online; but the best way to network is to get yourself to an event. There are always networking events going on for artists in the theatre community (CTI happens to hold them as well). This is a comfortable setting because you know there will be people with similar interests but it’s also a great place to get advice from those who may have been in the game a while longer than you, so be sure to ask questions. Another way to network is by regularly attending shows. While Broadway is wonderful, the best way to meet those who eventually make it there are at Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway productions. Support other small productions, and they will for sure support you!

I am a firm believer that what you put out into the universe is what you attract back in  this has to do with your work ethic and your attitude. You have to believe in yourself, your production, your team, and most importantly, you have to believe in the power of art and the effects it has on an inspired audience. Have the desire to inspire and work tirelessly because it all will come full circle. Start small but always think big because eventually your dreams will match your reality.

A huge thanks and credit to the speakers for taking time out of their busy schedules and sharing their tips on Small Productions: Tim Errickson (Boomerang Theatre Company), Mark Finley (TOSOS), Erica Rotstein (Broadway Across America), Amy Ashton (Colt Coeur), Heather E. Cunningham (Retro Productions), Morgan Lindsey Tachco (Creative Consultant, Performing Artist), Akia Squitieri (Rising Sun Performance Company), Nick Micozzi (Innovative Theatre Foundation), and Kevin R. Free (Actor, Director, Producer). I have gained a new appreciation for the people who work on smaller platforms in this huge community.

Akia from Rising Sun Performance Company

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

My Day at The Commercial Theatre Institute’s Indie Theatre Productions Seminar

By Victoria Fernandes

As a young person involved in theatre, my biggest goal is to learn as much as possible, whenever possible. This goal was certainly met at The Commercial Theatre Institute’s Indie Theatre Productions Seminar held on Friday June 9th at The Anne L. Bernstein Theater. With a variety of speakers from all over the Indie Theatre community, the day was jam-packed with information, all presented in a friendly and accessible manner.

Mark Finley, Artistic Director of TOSO

While the whole day was fruitful with information, one of the speakers that made a lasting impact was Mark Finley of TOSOS (The Other Side of Silence.) Through his years of creating impactful theatre that focuses on the LGBT community, Mr. Finley has garnered an impressive amount of knowledge about finding the perfect performance ppace for your production. Will your production have its own private 99-seat theatre, or will you opt for a more unconventional venue like a nearby restaurant or park? The options are limitless! Finding the perfect Performance Space is all about weighing the pros and cons, accessing the vibe and consulting with your budget. Fully equipped with important tips like reading your contract carefully, a plethora of valuable information was given, along with a number of resources.
Morgan Lindsey Tachco
Another speaker that was particularly informative was Morgan Lindsey Tachco, an NYC-based creative consultant and theatrical performer. With her 45 minutes, Ms. Tachco provided course-goers with valuable information about marketing. As someone who is particularly interesting in marketing, especially social media marketing, this session was both interesting and important. When marketing, it’s important to keep in mind, “Progress not Perfection.” The key to a successful marketing campaign is to use a combination of your online community and personal circle of friends and colleges to reach as many people as possible. Accompanied with your statistics of what has or hasn’t worked in the past, the marketing of your Off-Off Broadway production will surely be effective.

Overall, my day at The Commercial Theatre Institute’s Indie Theatre Productions Seminar was an informative and extremely necessary one. I know that the information I learned will carry me throughout my entire theatrical career, serving as a basis for the future.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Goodbye Dark Knight

"Of what use is a dream if not a blueprint for courageous action?"
                                   ~ Adam West 

"Hand me down the shark repellent Bat-Spray!"
                                  ~ Adam West as Batman