Tis the SeasonPosted December 16th, 2004 by Sean Williams
We have a tentative plan for approaching the coming year as a production company. It’s all very interesting.
Our Fleet Week meeting went well, but afterwards one of the people we were meeting with sat and talked a little acting shop shit with me. We talked about our various agents and he said, “Sometimes I’ll go weeks without getting sent out at all, and then last week I was sent out about ten times. You gotta just stay on ’em.”
Well, I now have five agents working “for” me, and I haven’t got an audition yet from any of them. The myth is that it takes some time, but I know they just aren’t trying at all. I don’t know for a fact, but I’m extremely confident.
So, yesterday, I called all of them, just as I did the beginning of last week. Only yesterday, I was very charming in my instantly deleted voice mails. “Just wanted to let you know that I’m having a particularly fantastic hair day, so if you have an audition for this afternoon, I really should take advantage of it.” To another, “I woke up feeling strangely talented this morning, more so than usual, so if you’ve got something to send me out on, it’d be great!”
I spent about an hour swallowing my own bile. I had to leave the house and go to a grocery store and buy flour. I bought some flour to make myself feel better. Something tangible, a real building block.
But back to the company. We have a series of possible ideas for this year that could end with the company being way ahead of where it is now. We produce two shows between now and the festivals at the end of the summer. One of those shows follows the same model as the rest of our productions, the other will follow the “night of one act” model that so many other companies employ.
When it became clear that so many companies were doing nights of one acts, naturally we asked, “what the hell is the point?” There is no way to transfer three half hour one acts to any larger theater, there is no possibility for future success. And while that is true, what we have learned is that the possibility of success *now* is extremely high. If you get three playwrights from three different theatrical social circles, then cast between 9 and 15 actors, in theory you have just expanded your audience by 10 fold or more. The truth is, actors can generally bring in about ten or twenty (max) audience members, but each playwright can bring in about twice that, and any show we produce can bring in about 150 people without us really trying to promote.
So, we can do the one act evening, maybe sell 400 or 500 tickets (in a perfect world) and as long as we’re careful about the quality, the company can make a little money.
The first model is the “inner circle” play. We will only sell about 150 tickets to this show, but that’s fine because it will be a show that we have complete and total control over. We would want to do a show that Mac wrote, Jordana either acted in or directed and I acted in. Or, even better, if I sit on stage and throw poop at the audience. Mac and Jordi will never go for it, but you have to admit, it’s a great idea.
The “inner circle” play will continue to give us a chance to say what we need to say, and it won’t lose money because we reverse budget. What’s the least amount of money we’ll bring in? Fine, then we spend just shy of that. We *might* make money, but we probably won’t. What we definitely won’t do is *lose* money.
And then it’s the festivals. Fleet Week should go up somewhere. We go whole hog, spend the 15 grand we’re allowed to spend, make back half of it, but at least it offers the possibility of getting an extended run somewhere. Another producer picks it up. At the least, we will get reviews, start a paper trail…
After that, we could do another one act night or, as I’ve suggested, a night of horror plays to go up around Halloween.
How is this related to the bad feelings with my agents? I’ll admit this out loud, here on my blog, but in person I will totally fucking deflect this, so don’t even bother. But when I brought this idea for the season, the 2005 season, to Jordana and Mac, there was a thirty second pause when Mac said nothing and kind of stared off. I asked him later if he was okay and he said…
“I just saw myself doing an enormous amount of work, all year spent in a panic, only to find myself one year from now, no better off.”
I should point out that after September 11, I wanted to cancel our performing space, I wanted to take a few months off and work on the relief effort and Mac said, “We need to produce plays. That’s what we do, we make plays, so we need to go ahead and do that.” And he was totally right.
But, yeah. So I got a bunch of agents, so I have a show in January and February, and maybe I’ve got some ideas, good or bad, about how this coming year will go. But I’m tired of waking up every morning no better off than I was a year ago, or ten, or fifteen.
I made less money this year than I did the year I turned twenty. Sure, I’m married to a great person, I have wonderful friends (whom I never see) and I’m a much better artist, but I’d have to be some kind of frickin’ buddhist for that to make any difference to me. I am one hand clapping in the woods right now, and there are tiny moments when I think that if I just stopped giving to a life that isn’t giving back, I might be a little happier.
I’m wrong, of course. I wouldn’t. This is the only thing that makes me happy. But I have small dark moments when I think maybe I should.