"Producer's Corner"
by Bruce Lazarus

Producing With Passion

Every Tuesday night I host a free TeleCourse in which I invite a different theatre-industry professional to discuss an aspect of the theatrical production process with both experienced and novice producers.

On Tuesday, February 17th our guest was Jim Freydberg producer of many Broadway shows, from "Fool Moon" to "Burn This" to "Big," and off Broadway shows including "Blown Sideways Through Life" and the current hit rock musical "Hedwig and the Angry Inch." Jim spoke on "Producing With Passion."

Jim opened the class by sharing some basic "rules of producing" he always follows. He mentioned the old saying that "you can make a killing in show business but you can't make a living." He disagreed with this because, he stressed, a producer should not be just a money-raiser but a professional who knows the business end of commercial theatre well enough to general manage his or her own show. Thus the producer has more control over the business decisions during the life of the show and picking up the weekly general manager's fee to boot (the role of the general manager will be discussed in a future Telecourse (SM)). Second, Jim advised, always have a strong reserve of 4-6 weeks' running costs and a production advertising budget of at least 25% of the entire capitalization in place before the first performance. This allows the show to build momentum, and helps the producer avoid having to close merely because reviews were negative. We agreed that reviews were only out the day of, but that through sustained quote ads a producer can create a more positive impression.

I asked Jim which motivated him most to get involved in a project: if he loves the show, if he feels audiences will love the show, or if he feels it will be easy to raise money for the show. Almost immediately, he replied that he has to love the show. He told the class that, interestingly enough, his experience has been that the easier it appears to be to raise money for a project, the more likely it is that that show will not succeed, because chances are good that the investors are simply throwing money at something they're familiar with. In the case of Big, everyone loved the movie and assumed the musical would be a hit. The first investor he approached gave him the whole ten million dollars he needed, with the understanding that Jim could get some of the producers share by "laying off" the investment to others.

Jim closed the TeleCourse by stating that rather than a money-raiser, he sees himself as a person who "gets people to follow him" by sharing with them his passion for the project.

That's Show Biz.

To participate in the free Tuesday TeleCourse or just listen in, all you need is a telephone, however you must register by calling (212) 769-3282.

Bruce Lazarus the former Director of Business and Legal Affairs for Walt Disney Theatrical Productions and producer of the current off-Broadway show Shakespeare's "R&J."

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