Thoughts on Boot Camp

I really feel like so many things became a lot clearer to me about how to do this during the bootcamp. Although I know it’s going to continue to be hard, I’m now confident that that is okay and that my team is definitely capable of pulling this off successfully. “If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.
— thoughts on our Producing Intensive from Shawn Nabors, producer/playwright/performer of Cake, our first show!

Thoughts on Boot Camp

It was so reassuring to hear so many different opinions from so many equally successful people: I love that there’s room for all in theatre.

At the end of the day, successful Broadway producers are just people. People with opinions, and friends, and babies, and jobs, people who love what they do and are successful because they are open to possibility. And you know what? I’m just people too. I could totally be that sort of people.
— thoughts on our Producing Intensive from Alex Bisker, producer/director of The Man With America Skin

#APBootCamp: Day 10

Well, now.  Here we are.  The Last Day.

We started off with Orin Wolf, Broadway and Off-Broadway producer/booker/general manager/theatrical Superman.  One of his first ventures as a producer was a $50K Off-Broadway passion piece, much like our teams’ work.  It was great to get the perspective of someone who had been directly in their shoes, soliciting money (in a pre-Kickstarter era) and pooling resources to get a show on its feet.  

And here are my Top 3 Orin Wolf Nuggets of Wisdom (just because he told me not to call them nuggets): 

  • In theatre, You’re selling a product with a subjective value and intangible proof of quality.
  • Theatre is a social business.
  • Don’t sell something until you have something to sell.

Our second session was a real treat, as we were joined by two producers from Araca Project 2011, Alex Alcheh and Matt Britten.  They frankly talked us through their missteps and successes, and proved to be much needed resources for the current teams to express their concerns/fears/terrors about the process.  A HUGE thanks to Alex and Matt for their time and honesty.

After lunch, we wrapped up with Beth Watson, an Account Supervisor at SpotCo.  We’ve had a lot of Marketing talk, so it was great to hear the differences between those jobs and Beth’s.  We talked through positioning a show and developing key art, and she had some very wise things to say about the advertiser/producer relationship (“The best clients are the one who trust us.”), which were helpful to all!

And that’s all she wrote!  Thanks for reading along, and be sure to review all the #APBootCamp tweets for more nuggets of wisdom from all of our speakers.  It was an exhilarating and exhausting two weeks; I hope all of our teams get lots of rest this weekend!  I’m going to spend mine figuring out what to write about now that boot camp is over…

Happy weekend!

#APBootCamp: Day 9

Only one day more!  Our penultimate day was jam-packed to say the least.  We started with Entertainment Law with Marisa Sechrest, EVP of Production and Business Affairs at Araca.  She gave us all an amazing directory of theatrical legal terms and talked through the (many) different types of agreements, and which are absolutely essential at any level.  There are a LOT of terms and Marisa did an incredible job of simplifying them down for us novices.  I think I finally understand royalty pools.

After a whirlwind with Marisa, we sat down for a production meeting! It was great to check in on everyone’s progress again, as so much has happened in the last two weeks.  Everyone is pluggin’ along and gettin’ excited.  Look for some major new videos/awesomeness in the coming weeks (and, if you haven’t already, check out this one from One Night Only and keep checking The Rescignos’ page for periodic new vids).

We took a nice lunch, which many groups used to prepare for The Big Pitch Day!  This afternoon, we were joined by Robyn Goodman, Joanna Hagan and Jen Namoff, who listened to each team pitch their show and gave individualized and group feedback on their presentations.  Danielle, Lisa and I were lucky enough to sit in on these presentations, and I have to say it was so wonderful to watch our producers talk about their projects with such poise, passion and professionalism.  The lessons learned over the past two weeks were put to use, to amazing effect.  Bravo!

The day ended with a little open forum, and a lotta party!  We had a wonderful launch gathering at Hurley’s, and it was great to unwind from our long days of boot camp.

One more day!  Friday starts out with one last Fundraising chat with Orin Wolf, followed by a panel of the Araca Project 2011 producers and finishing up with some Advertising words from Beth Watson of SpotCo.

Then I have to think of other things to write on here.  Uh oh…

P.S. Sign up for our mailing list!

#APBootCamp: Day 8

It is the HOME. STRETCH.

We started off today with Press Agents from two of the biggest PR Firms on Broadway: Tom D’Ambrosio (SU alum!) and Wayne Wolfe from The Hartman Group and Matt Polk (another SU alum!) from Boneau/Bryan-Brown.  Press is one of those things you (or at least I) think you know what it is, but the details are fuzzy.  Well, no longer.  We cannot possibly overstate how incredible this panel was.  These gentlemen took the time to go around to each team, listen to their 3-sentence “blurb” and give them direct feedback on their word choices and tone, and advise them on how to position themselves in the media.  WHAT?!  Literally priceless.  Everyone left with this invaluable knowledge and a lot of thinking to do.  Look for an updated “2012 Shows” page soon!

After a brief lunch, we were back with casting director extraordinaire David Caparelliotis of MelCap Casting.  We spoke a lot about the intersection of art and commerce, and the ever-blurring lines between the two.  David started working at the beginning of the “star casting” trend and has seen the shift in priority from an optimal angle.  He shared some insider views of the process and gave us a great glimpse into a different aspect of putting up a show, and showed how “creative” it actually can be.

We finished up the day with a session on Budgeting with Liz Halakan of Frankel/Green Management.  While a necessary beast, I don’t know that anyone thought this session would be wildly entertaining.  Well, were we proven wrong!  Liz did a fantastic job of bringing budgeting (a huge and totally terrifying thing) down to a completely manageable level.  And she busted out some TEACHING. TOOLS:

Incredible!  Line by line!  Once again, the teams left with a lotta notes and a long To Do list, but I think everyone was invigorated by such an exciting day.

Also, I know I keep harping on it, but really do check out the #APBootCamp tweets on our Twitter page.  You, too, can have access to this incredible vault of knowledge to absorb and retweet and argue about and disagree with and retweet.  I know.  It’s exciting.

Our penultimate day features Entertainment Law with our very own Marisa Sechrest and The Big Pitch Panel in the afternoon, during which our teams will pitch a panel of professionals and receive individualized feedback.  Exciting!!!!

#APBootCamp: Day 7

FINALLY.  MARKETING DAY.  Guys.  This day was my jamz.  So much so that I’m writing in first person instead of using “we.”  But seriously.

We started off with Elyce Henkin, Director of the Broadway Division at Type A Marketing.  She gave all of us an incredible overview of what a marketing director does (and doesn’t do), as well as providing fantastically helpful anecdotes from her own experiences.  While she had some fantastic analogies (“Inventory management is the sundried tomato of 2012.”), the thing that stuck with me most is her description of a marketing director as responsible for the cohesion of a campaign.  With so many moving parts (in the promotion side of a show, let alone the whole process), it’s so important to have that big picture in sight, and that’s what attracts me about this side of the biz.

After lunch, we had “Marketing in the Digital Age” with Kristin Johnson and Steven Tartick of Davenport Theatrical Enterprises.  True to their seminar’s title, they came with a fancy PowerPoint!  

As to be expected, their chat with us was perfection.  Our little series of shows come with proportionally little money to spend on marketing and advertising, and Kristin and Steven did a wonderful job of exploring all the internet has to offer.  For free.  I think as members of the social media generation, it’s easy to think “Oh I know how to Facebook, I know how to Tweet,” but using it as a business tool is very different from posting pictures of your latest birthday party.  They talked through the differences in content (FB is more media heavy, Twitter is “like a loud cocktail party”) and how to maximize our return on every platform.  Not everything was about spreading the word, though.  Steven reminded us that “behind every screen is a human being.”  They spoke of some great customer service ideas, from behind the scenes videos to post-show emails to follow up with patrons.  We all had our pens out and were furiously taking notes, and we (I) can’t thank Kristin and Steven enough for the invaluable insight.

BUT WE WEREN’T DONE.  We headed over to OvationTix for an orientation.  OvationTix is a ticketing service owned by TheaterMania, and we’ll be using them for all of our shows, based off of one pretty Araca Project page.  We won’t bore you with the ins and outs of their system, but suffice it to say, it’s pretty amazing.  Plus they gave us swag:

Who doesn’t need an extra chapstick?!

We closed out the day back here at Araca, excitedly round-tabling about our marketing plans and new ideas from the day’s sessions.  I have started at least 3 to do lists based on today’s activities and I’m sure I’ll start 3 more before I leave.  YES.

Look forward to Day 8 tomorrow, with a lil Press 101, a lil Balancing Art and Commerce and a lil Budgeting.  We just keep going and going and going

#APBootCamp: Day 6!

Y’all it is week. Two.  Here we are!  We had a wonderfully free-form day today, first with Amanda Watkins, EVP of Development and Production here at Araca, then with Scott Morfee, Artistic Director of the Barrow Street Theatre.  Both speakers were incredibly generous with their time and advice, going around and consulting with each team on their individual project.

As always, we were tweeting away (with permission…).  Here were a few of our favs from the morning with Amanda:

  • Defining “theatrical:” a story that is compelling. Commercial viability is nothing without a story in which audiences are invested.
  • There’s nothing wrong with looking at how you fit into the landscape of theater around you.  Your audience will be making the same comparisons.
  • Relationships among your creative team should be defined now to prevent arguments/tensions/confusion later.
  • In talking about next steps for a project, start with your team.  Who’s in?  Who’s not?  Get your ducks in a row before you go out for a walk. 

And the afternoon with Scott:

  • People need to hear about a show about seven times before they’ll buy a ticket.
  • Find your “clubhouse” bar or restaurant in the area.  Create a community around your theatre.
  • Writing a “blurb” can be the hardest part.  Every word must be an action word - forward moving. No unnecessary ands or ofs.
  • The real nuts and bolts of theatre in NYC are theatre-goers.  Don’t over-niche.

I think all of us appreciated coming back refreshed from the weekend and getting to talk about the shows from an artistic perspective with a business spin, instead of the other way around, which can get intimidating!  

Speaking of intimidating, how about this Marketing Director/Executive Producer team:

No, it wasn’t planned.  No, this is not the first time this has happened.  Yes, we do have ESP.

Happy Monday!

Fun Fact Friday: #APBootCamp Day 5 Edition!

Two birds.  One stone.  Here are our favorite fun facts we learned in the final day of Week 1 of Araca Project 2012 Boot Camp!

The Art of the Pitch w/Peter Pergola, Anne MacLean, Lindsay Meck and Megan Rhoads of The Araca Group.

  • Build relationships with today’s assistants and associates - in 5-10 years, they’ll be running things. 
  • People are impressed when you show interest in them, not in what you can get from them.
  • Test your pitch out on people already on your side - your family, your friends, your mentors.
  • You never know when you’re pitching.  It’s a small community with big ears and bigger mouths.
  • The best pitches feel like casual conversations.
  • Be prepared to present what you want to present how you want to present it, but always have the knowledge you might not use any of it.
  • You’re meeting with a person.  A human.  With the same basic needs that you have.

Next up was an hour and a half with Kevin McCollum, producer extraordinaire. He put it well, “As technology becomes more powerful, the need to gather becomes greater.”  And in the spirit of that thought, we all put away our devices and were in the room for this session.  It was great.  That’s all I got for you.

How to Effectively Run a Box Office w/Harrison Harvey, GM of The Ride

  • No one wants to pay full price, everyone wants to feel like they’re getting a deal.
  • Start from the bottom up: student discounts should be the lowest price, then a mid-level “friends and family” discount, and a higher general discount.
  • Don’t undercut yourself!
  • Papering: filling the house (usually during previews or early performances) with unpaid patrons.
  • Don’t give anyone their money back!  No returns or exchanges means no returns or exchanges.
  • Your BO is the audience’s first impression and determines their mood as they walk into the theatre.  Make a good impression.
  • The younger the person, the later their buying a ticket.

You guys, that should really have been titled Fun and Informative Fact Friday.  Cause woah!  There’s more brilliance to be found on our Twitter feed, and we’ll be up and at ‘em again on Monday.  

Have a GREAT weekend!

#APBootCamp: Day 4

Dollars.  Cents.  Logistics.  I think today’s sessions can be summed up in those three words.  But I’ll use more.

Today started with Stephanie Sherline, Production Coordinator at Aurora Productions.  Check out Aurora’s site.  They do a lot.  Stephanie brought materials:

And her sunshiney smile.  She talked us through the duties of a Production Manager and the logistics it entails (hint: a lot).  Danielle pointed out that our producers have the benefit of not dealing with unions, which can take the simple task of moving a piano (“Hey, can you move that piano?”) and turn it into a multi-hour thousand dollar operation (“Well, we need 4 people for 4 minimum work hours from 3 different areas in at least 2 different unions…”).  We discussed using our resources (“If your play calls for a lot of toothbrushes, my mom is a dental hygenist! I can do that!” -SS), delegation (which is so easy in a room full of Type A personalities…), and taking ownership of and pride in your project (“Say to yourself, ‘Yes, we’re honored to be here, but we also deserve to be here.’” -SS).  There was also a budgeting/Weight Watchers analogy that just really hit it out of the park.  I pondered all aspects of it while chowing down on my Shake Shack lunch.

In the afternoon, Daniel Hoyos and Layhoon Tan from Signature Theatre gave us an amazingly thorough overview of the production process from budget formation to striking the set.  They brought examples of every document involved, from contracts to calendars to contact sheets and really took their time walking us through the ins and outs of each aspect.  Some of my favorite tidbits included:

  • The 3 Cs of negotiation: Credit, Compensation and Control
  • In production management, you have three things to work with: time, money and labor
  • “Morale increases productivity.  If people aren’t having a positive working experience, they won’t tell anyone to come see it.” -DH
  • “This schedule may seem overwhelming. That’s because it is.” -DH

At the end of their session, they gave us all example crisis scenarios that may happen during a show, and we all shared our thoughts on how to solve them.  I’m not going to say Mike Girts and I did the best, but I’m not not going to say it.

Today was a lot of numbers talk, and even I was overwhelmed, and I’m not producing a show!  We had a nice calm open forum to end the day, and an anonymously awesome producer pointed out to a lot of stressed faces that “If you’re here, you’re more capable than you think you are.”  

There is BRILLIANCE in this room, people!  BRILLIANCE.

Can’t wait for Day 5 (How to Pitch w/the Araca Dream Team, Next Steps w/Kevin McCollum, and Box Office Runnin’ w/Harrison Harvey).  Get.  Pumped.

#APBootCamp: Day 3

What. A. Day.  We started here at Araca with a chat about Insurance/Business Affairs with Julie Monahan, our EVP of Finance, and Hans Kriefall, our SVP of Business Affairs.  It was serious business.

We cleared up a lot of insurance issues, shared thoughts about the ATA contract and went over who is responsible for what.  Turns out, Araca’s insurance covers everything “Lights Forward” from the actor’s perspective, or everything that happens behind the footlights of the stage.  Something about that phrase is so fun and old-timey Broadway.  Like “The show has no legs.”  Love that.

Anydoodle, we then had a frank and extremely helpful talk about Araca Project 2011 with Dana and Danielle.  These gals conquered this behemoth of a process alone last year and learned so much along the way.  Their thoughts and advice are invaluable as we head into game time this year.

After lunch, we spent some time with Jeremy Blocker, the Managing Director of Ars Nova.  Talk about inspiring.  This fella has done it all and spoke with such eloquence and honesty about his personal experiences, from raising money to encouraging emerging artists to budgeting and everything in between.  And, as if that wasn’t fantastic enough, he then went around to each team and advised them about their specific project.  WHAT?!  Incredible.

We hauled our invigorated selves back to Araca to wrap up the day with Michael Rego, who had a few knowledge bombs of his own to drop.  He posed the question, “How will YOU define success for yourselves in this process?” and encouraged each project to form some sort of mission statement to hearken back to when all hell breaks loose down the line.  A nice note of self-reflection on which to end Day 3.

Tomorrow, we start with Production Coordination & Technical Budgeting with Stephanie Sherline of Aurora Productions and finish with General Awesomeness with Daniel Hoyos, Company Manager at the Signature Theatre.  As always, there will be some live tweetin’ goin’ on.

Happy longest day of the year!  Enjoy the sunshine.

#APBootCamp: Day 2

Day 2!  Today started off with a sensible meet and greet at MTC to give us all the opportunity to say hey to each other.  And to eat some sensible carbs:

And drink some coffee:

(maybe a little too much coffee for Danielle…)

We then ventured over to the American Theatre of Actors, where our teams got the opportunity to acquaint themselves with their new home.  James Jennings, who founded ATA and runs the space to this day, did a quick safety and procedure overview, and then the teams wandered away.

After lunch, the teams gathered at Araca for a quick “Intro to Raising Money” session with Matthew Rego and Hank Unger, two of the three CEOs of The Araca Group.  Matthew and Hank both had some fantastic nuggets of knowledge for our young producers about being bold, taking risks and making things happen.  Here were some of our favorite quotes:

  • “Even if they’re donating, people are stillinvesting in something: you. Your journey as artists. Your future.” -MR
  • “Every decision you make is a budgetary one. Making a budget is one of the most creative parts of putting up a show.” -MR
  • “Your gut as a producer is what you’re developing here.” -HU
  • “Be overly kind. Be overly grateful. You just never know when or how that kindness will be repaid.” -MR
  • “Looking back, each small step was a quantum leap.” -HU

Well color us inspired.  We closed the day with an impromptu Q and A, addressing anything we had missed with Hank and Matthew, with Danielle and Kaitlin pitching in their two cents.

We’re looking forward to lots o’ logistics tomorrow.  We’ll start off the morning chatting Insurance with Julie Monahan and Hans Kriefall here at Araca, followed by a review of the good, the bad and the ugly of Araca Project 2011 with our own Dana Li.  After lunch, we’ll talk Independent Producing with Jeremy Blocker, the Managing Director of Ars Nova.

As always, Kaitlin will be Tweeting and Instagramming the day away, so follow us on both platforms @thearacaproject!

#APBootCamp: Day 1

Well I am pooped!  We had a great first day at Boot Camp, featuring readings of four our of our six shows.  Here’s a lil photo tour of Day 1 before we pass out:

Studio 2 at MTC, our home for the next two weeks.

Our first reading!  Hot Mess in Manhattan started us off with some songs, some sass, and a lot of beltin.

Readings #3 and #4 were brought to you by Starbucks.

And our post-reading toast was brought to us by Lisa Nicholas!

Kaitlin will be live-tweeting all boot camp long on our Twitter (Instagrams included, obvi), so be sure to follow along.  Happy Monday!

Fun Fact Friday: Producing Intensive Preview

It’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for with bated breath.  Last week, we gave you some hints on who would be speaking at next week’s Producing Intensive, and here we have the answers!  Here we go:

Speaker A: Beth Watson, Account Supervisor, SpotCo

Speaker B: Kevin McCollum, Producer (Rent, Avenue Q, In the Heights…)

Speaker C: Stephanie Sherline, Production Coordinator, Aurora Productions

Speaker D: Amanda Watkins, EVP: Production and Development, The Araca Group

We have so many amazing speakers lined up for next week.  I’ll be live tweeting and will also blog a recap of each day so you can get in on the fun.  First up on Monday we’re doing readings of all the (scripted) shows on the docket. We cannot wait.  Be sure to follow along!