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Producing…? Have I Lost My Mind?

April 10, 2012

I’ve always heard that it can be incredibly rewarding to stop “sitting around waiting for someone to create work for you” and to dive into producing your own work. I’ve also always considered myself to be a pretty smart lady and a proactive actor when it comes to creative career avenues to walk down. And I’m not a complete stranger to producing — I did co-produce a pretty lovely production of “Stop, Kiss” at Hofstra as part of my senior thesis project.

Please note my adorable husband in the middle of the back row. This was our one and only time on stage together.

Reasons this would be totally awesome:

1. It would be artistically thrilling, and that’s something that’s been lacking in my showbiz life of late

2. It would be a really great way to get my name out there more, hopefully garnering good reviews and getting some of the many industry people I’ve been painstakingly building relationships with to come see it

3. I already have a project in mind that would be totally amazing to work on, and I think would excite my fellow collaborators and audience members alike

4. I’m friends with so many talented people who could help give a beautiful artistic life to this project and have a chance to showcase their own work

5. The very idea excites me into potential action — case in point, I spent half the weekend researching theatre space rentals and successful indiegogo campaigns

Reasons that this terrifies me:

1. Money

I have absolutely no experience in fundraising (beyond the $1,000 or so that I raise every year for the March of Dimes Preemie Walk in honor of my little sister), and I’m not entirely sure how much support I could garner from my personal network.

I already successfully orchestrated our complicated and ridiculously fun wedding on a shoestring (for NYC) budget, which I feel has a remarkable amount in common with producing a theatrical performance. I really think the biggest difference is the money factor. Which admittedly scares me.

I guess the next step for anyone with half a brain is to reach out to my colleagues who have done this already and ask them for guidance and advice. I’m lucky in that regard — I personally know several people who have done this and done it well.

So, what do you think, green room peeps? Does this sound exciting? Or slightly terrifying?

16 Comments leave one →
  1. April 10, 2012 11:57 am

    My husband and I have been producing (and directing and acting in) community theatre in NEPA for the last 5 years. It is challenging, especially the fundraising part. We seriously fronted the money for our first show (a Shakespeare in the Park production of TWELFTH NIGHT) and since then have inched along on a shoestring budget, usually paying ourselves back with whatever we make and barely breaking even. (also – all our cast and crew are volunteers; we don’t get paid, they don’t get paid, but the show happens!) This year is our fourth annual Shakespeare in the Park production (ROMEO & JULIET) and we’re actively seeking advertising sponsors and production sponsors. For the two dinner theatre productions we did, we joined with a class from a local college who fronted the money and then received a return from our profits (went great the first year; a bit slim the second). There are a lot of ideas out there for making it work, and a lot of challenges to go with it. But I think if you love it, you can make it happen. So far we’ve never had to rent a theatre space (yay Shakespeare outside!), but maybe you can even find a space that will work out a deal with you. Keep us posted on how indiegogo works out; we’re looking into that or a kickstarter campaign for this year’s show as well. Best of luck!

  2. The Practical Artist permalink
    April 10, 2012 12:11 pm

    Hey Redhead, I’m sure you already know my answer for this [and, oh, lord, I think that picture was my Acting Finale performance before I fully “retired” and committed to producing & stage managing]. Answer – yes, it’s terrifying for money, but anything worth doing is difficult and worth fighting for. My best advice is to fully think out and budget and raise the money before setting anything like dates, performance locations, and times. I can’t tell you how many inquiries I get to co-Produce for first-time self-producers who haven’t thought everything through before they laid out the cash for a performance space. And these inquires have unobtainably high ticket prices from ignorant first-time producers who don’t fully understand the market/level and the specific “theatre scene” of where and what kind of theatre they produce. Always happy to share some advice in person too; but I can 99% guarantee that you will lose money on your first production. If you accept this going in, you’re better off. Now, by “lose” money, I don’t mean you’ll be necessarily out $2000; what I mean is that you should raise all of your money first [via personal investment, advertising, indiegogo etc] and then your ticket money will support your next production or reimburse your personal investment. It may cost [just general, fictional numbers here]: $5000 to produce your show and you only bring in $3000 in ticket sales; BUT if you have already raised the $5000 that you don’t have to pay back, than those $3000 can be used to pay your artists. Producing is one of the most gratifying things, but be careful not to outstreatch yourself and confirm your role in the production [I’ve worked as a Stage Manager with a lot of Actor/Producers or Designer/Producers or Director/Producers who allow one thing to suffer and therefore the entire production suffers… accept what your role will be from the get-go so that none of the necessary elements suffer because you are too burnt out; i.e. if you’re going to produce and be the main producer, your acting role perhaps should not be the lead role].

  3. The College Theatre Dork permalink
    April 10, 2012 1:35 pm

    I’m working to produce my first show too! So far, money hasn’t been an issue at all but finding people who want to do something besides acting…yeah, that’s great but I still need a music director/director/stage manager/technical producer before I can have you audition.

  4. California Triple-Threat permalink
    April 10, 2012 2:02 pm

    I think you should go for it! You never know the extent of your success until you try.

  5. April 11, 2012 10:14 am

    Thanks so much for the support, everyone! I’ll keep you posted ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. April 11, 2012 10:51 am

    I think this sounds both exciting and terrifying! But isn’t that something we, as artists, encounter on a regular basis? I tend to get very excited when I start taking steps toward a particular goal, but then freak out when I look at things down the long haul (and yes, money is almost always the number one reason I get scared.).

    When you have an idea for something such as producing, or even writing a play, you don’t neccessarily do it because you think it’s going to bring in the big bucks. You do it because you have a firey passion to see it done, or to send a message that NEEDS to get heard! Sounds to me like you have a passion to see this get done. Especially seeing as you’ve already started looking into spaces. So go for it Redhead! I’m excited for you, and can’t wait to hear how things turn out =)

  7. April 11, 2012 12:47 pm

    Practical Artist took the words right out of my mouth! She is SO right on. Read and re-read her post — and just when you think “I’ve got this” — go back and read it again! I’ve been producing for the past 3 years and I think your reasons for wanting to jump in are sincere – no doubt it will be a wonderful experience for you, your team and your patrons. I’ve been reading this blog and following your tweets for awhile now. I’ve received a lot from your contributions to our community and I will happily support your indiegogo campaign!

  8. April 24, 2012 9:09 pm

    sorry for the delayed response (my upcoming blog will explain!) But I wanted to just give you my two cents on producing. I’m glad it seems you are going for it. I think you will be a great producer-actor. From my experience the money wasn’t the hardest part. I mean, of course, you never have enough money, and constantly have to be budgeting, re-budgeting and fundraising. But at least, with budget, it’s just math. you have $10 so you can spend $10. You don’t have it, you can’t spend it. As long as you are realistic with your budget from the get-go and constantly (I mean, daily) stay on top of the budget, you can do it.

    For me, the hardest part of producing is being a boss. Because of course, I have wonderfully talented friends that I want to hire when I get some money. But then, I am a boss, paying them, and the relationship can get a bit tricky. What do you expect from them as an employee and collaborator? What do they expect of you the person who signs the checks and organizes their work time? It can be hard. I’m sure you will be great at this, but just a small caveat, don’t assume that everyone you work with will be on the same page as you are. And try to think of how you will handle this new phase of your relationship with people who are your friends/collaborators/fellow-striving-actors. It’s a challenge but one I know you can carry with grace.

    And of course, I must remind you to investigate grants for your project. It’s really not as hard as it seems, and please let me know if you have any questions!!

    • April 24, 2012 9:17 pm

      Tara, thank you so much for weighing in! Your opinion means a lot to me. You bring up a good point about having to play “boss” to your friends/colleagues, which will definitely be a tricky thing to navigate well. I briefly looked into some of the grant options, but found it to be simply overwhelming. Do you have any tips about good resources or places to start?

      • April 26, 2012 11:00 pm

        Yes, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council is a great resource, as is the Brooklyn Arts Council They both have lots of information for grants for individual artists.

        But I think a great place to start for fundraising is by getting fiscal sponsorship under a 501c3 umbrella organization. The Field and Fractured Atlas are two great organizations that do this.

        When you have the fiscal sponsorship you are then eligible for many more grants. In effect, it gives you non-profit status, under this umbrella organization, and so you are eligible for non-profit grants and also, when you do direct asks to individuals and organizations, you can ask them to give through the 501c3 so it’s considered a tax-deductible donation for them. It’s also a great way to take the uneasiness out of asking directly for donations from people… as you are asking they give to your project, through the non-profit organization.

        That’s just the tip of the iceberg, but I think if you check out The Field, especially, you will get a lot of useful info about fundraising and grants. Feel free to keep asking me if you have questions. ๐Ÿ™‚

        • April 27, 2012 8:18 am

          I will definitely be getting fiscal sponsorship (which I had only ever heard of because of your blog post about grants, so thanks for that!!) in order to make donations tax-deductible and be able to take advantage of resources like Materials for the Arts.

          I’m a little intimidated by the whole grant process and how long it can take, but I will definitely check out those websites you shared. Thank you!


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