This weekend I attended a great seminar on contractual issues for producers to consider when working off-Broadway. It was hosted by the Off-Broadway Alliance and featured Adam Hess, David Elliott, Peter Breger, and Hugh Hysell who shared their insights.
Here are my top ten take-aways.
1. The number and complexity of the contracts your show needs is often directly related to the size of the venue. The larger the venue the more you will need.
2. The process of negotiating contracts is useful to build relationships down the road. Compromise is an important part of the discussion.
3. Think through what your goal is going to be - often people only think about the present and do not consider the longer term "what if's". For instance only getting the rights to put on a reading or showcase and then not having the ability to take it further.
4. It is important to have experienced people on your team as you may not know whether something is a big thing or a little thing. Having relationships with people in the community can help.
5. Don't be afraid of Actor's Equity. They want their members to work. Have a discussion with them. They may say "No." But if they can work with you they will.
6. Sometimes things an author insists on will (and should) kill the deal - like the author granting only a very short time period, or a very high option payment, or not being open to notes, or approvals over too many things. The goal should be getting the play produced.
7. A new writer cannot get the same deal as say David Mamet can. And a new writer should be aware that the Producer is taking a chance on him or her and is as important a long term relationship as the director on subsequent projects.
8. Bring an experienced General Manager and Attorney on early in the project before deals are set. This is because their input will help you to shape better deals for the show.
9. What and who is right for one project may not be correct for another.
10. Paying the actors slightly more money to be on an Off-Broadway contract versus a lower Mini or Showcase contract, helps the publicist get press interested in reviewing your show.
And this, which was said repeatedly, "Join the community."
The Off-Broadway Alliance has a number of great resources at their website for producers to reference.
This seminar is/will be posted as a podcast on their site.