A common adage in showbiz (or anything really) is, “It’s all about who you know.”
But I’m sorry to tell you, this statement won’t get you very far.
It’s relatively easy to cross paths with Broadway stars, toast with a big name producer at a party, shake hands with a top casting director at a networking event, or even be Facebook friends with key contacts.
However, the better adage for real success in showbiz, is, “It’s all about who knows you.”
Simply having crossed paths with the people you’d like to know is a good start to building a relationship, but until that person will return your calls or emails or recognize you on the street, you don’t know them and they don’t know you.
I frequently make introductions for the wonderful people in my network to the other wonderful people in my network and they do the same for me. In fact, when I was new to NYC and knew hardly anyone, I sat down with a few industry people who I had met over the years. I sought their wisdom and advice about the business and at the end of each conversation I’d ask, “who else should I be talking to?”
Inevitably they’d make an introduction which would lead to another meeting and another introduction and in time (and many cups of coffee and glasses of wine) I had built – and continue to be building – a huge network of incredible contacts, colleagues and friends.
Our theater industry is made up of a relatively small community and odds are someone you know knows someone you want to know and may be willing to make an introduction for you. These days, with LinkedIn and Facebook, figuring out connections has never been easier. Take the time to put in the legwork to get a real introduction.
Becoming “known” in the theater business takes time, diligence, and putting yourself out there to as many people as you can whether they be interns or icons. It’s about showing up, following up, helping people, asking for help, and being part of the community.
It’s a lifetime endeavor, but the rewards are limitless. Because dropping names can only take you so far. Creating meaningful contacts can make your career.
As a theater producer, a lot of contracts come across my desk. Option agreements, employment deals, production contracts. These are epic documents that lay out the deal and then proceed to outline every imaginable way that things could go wrong and try to protect each party’s interests should any of the worst case scenarios come to pass.
But we all know, you can’t predict every imaginable outcome in anything in life, much less the nebulous world of musical theater. Inevitably, every contract I see these days is peppered with the words “in good faith.” You generally see it after you’ve nailed down all the expected outcomes in any given section and then you’ll see something like,
“In addition to everything we’ve just outlined, here are all the things we can’t predict but when they come up, both parties will negotiate them IN GOOD FAITH.”
But my question is? What the hell does that mean? It’s ambiguous, arbitrary, and in my experience, doesn’t hold the contracting parties to any binding moral obligation. In fact, I asked a lawyer and he confirmed that the “in good faith” clause is extremely difficult to enforce since it’s so amorphous.
In reality, I’ve seen far too many people who, when finding themselves in contractual gray areas, find it awfully convenient to ignore this clause. Instead, they hide behind their lawyers and use their contracts as an excuse to get away with self-serving behavior that tramples on their collaborators. I’ve heard things like, “My lawyer says I don’t have to do xyz for my lyricist/producer/star/co-conceiver/etc.” And that lawyer is probably correct. Often in these cases, your contract doesn’t force you to do something, but let’s be crystal clear – that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still do the right thing.
Your lawyer’s job is to tell you your legal obligation in any given situation. YOUR job to determine your moral obligation. Any time you’re faced with a scenario where a contractual loophole lets you off easy, gives you a bigger piece of the pie, or as I often see, allows you to leave a key player in the dust, I entreat you to take a step back and remember that no contract can mandate morality and humanity.
In fact, I wish we could replace the phrase “to be negotiated in good faith” in every contract with the phrase, “to be negotiated in the manner of caring humans.” Or if that’s too much to ask, at least replace the phrase with something like, “to be negotiated in a manner whereby both parties, while keeping their best interests in mind, will not act entirely selfishly.”
Until that happens, when you find yourself in a contractual gray area, which happens frequently in any given deal, you have to ask yourself, what’s the right thing to do? Or if you have a faulty moral compass, instead ask yourself, if the roles were reversed, what would you like the outcome to be?
And if a moral obligation isn’t enough to convince you to do the right thing, remember this: At the end of the day, only you, your collaborators and your lawyer know the letter of the law. You may be well within your rights every step of the way. But the only thing the rest of us can see is your behavior. And if you treat people badly, we’re not going to blame your lawyer, we’re going to blame you.
With basketball season coming to an end (or at least that’s what my sporty friends tell me) I’ve been thinking about teams.
I know little about basketball - my experience is mostly limited to elementary school and not ever being able to make a single free throw. But what I do know is that the members of the team are constantly passing the ball to advance the play. In order for a team to ultimately win a game, the players have to share the same mindset, work in harmony, pass the ball, and get it to the player who has the clearest shot at the basket.
Musical theater relies on teams as well. A writing team. A producing team. The collective “creative team.” And just like winning in basketball, getting a show off the ground requires true team work in the sporting sense. A highly functioning musical theater team will know exactly where and when to “pass the ball.” For example…
If the writing team is struggling to get the next draft done, how can the rest of the creative team step up to clear the writers’ plate or provide the right resources?
If the producers are raising the capitalization money for a show, how can the writers make introductions or make themselves available for a full court press?
Alternatively, it’s also natural for a team member to need to take a breather on the bench every once in a while. At that point the rest of the team should be willing to step up and cover the bases (oops, wrong sport).
That’s the beauty of a team.
So before you worry that someone on your creative team may drop the ball, don’t forget that when you have a well functioning team, regardless of who’s in or who’s out at any given moment, your new musical will always be at the top of its game.