SIX QUICK RULES: ABJ on Producing

For those of you just starting out or already in the thick of it. I hope this soothes any production aches.

WARNING: You will be stressed. There will be egos. Don't be afraid to stand firm in your vision for a production. Don't cater to those who refuse to respect your time or opinion. There will be a few of these people no matter what and you will need to deal with them in a professional manner. If you know anything about theater know that the easiest thing you can accomplish is blacklisting yourself with a negative attitude, poor work ethic and gossip. Stay away from the gossip! It will swallow you whole like you are the first course of thanksgiving dinner. Enjoy yourself. There is a lot of responsibility but it will be worth it in the end. Actually, not every show will be worth it. Be wise enough to recognize which productions won't be worth it. Take every factor into account before you agree to sign on: are you passionate about the material? Have you found the right director? Did you find the right space? Remember that bigger is most definitely not better when it comes to plays that need intimate spaces. There are exactly 123,456 things you must consider pre, pro and post-production. Side note: you won't get to them all and it's okay. Now, let me slow it down:

SIX QUICK RULES OF PRODUCING

1. BUILD THE BEST TEAM THAT YOU CAN
In my opinion, the most difficult task of producing is surrounding yourself with people who will be equally dedicated and capable. Try to meet with possible directors, stage managers, and designers BEFORE you bring them on--even if your director has told you they know an awesome set designer--meet them. If you aren't getting a good vibe then trust your instincts. This may seem obvious but I've made this mistake before when time was running out and I needed a spot filled.

2. BE THE BLOOD OF THE PROJECT
The body of the production cannot function without it. You are the first racehorse out of the gate and it is your job to challenge the others to catch up to your enthusiasm and drive. If you see an injured horse don't shoot it in the head; walk with it until it can run again. If a director is struggling to understand a section of the play set up a meeting with the playwright. Have coffee on you. The more you give now the more you will get back in the end. Also, I get it. I'm broke too. The 5 dollars you may spend on drinks would have probably just gone towards something deliciously unhealthy and your body thanks you. Your taste buds? Probably not.

3. INTERVENE BEFORE CONFLICTS EXPLODE
Don't let them sneak up on you like a spider in your bed. Alienated cast members will tarnish your dream production for the rest of the run. Be professional, yo. I went there.

4. BE AVAILABLE BUT SET BOUNDARIES
You are only one person. Take on only what you can--it will take you the rest of your life to understand your limits so it's best to get started now.

5. DON'T DO EVERYTHING
Stop it. Set that stick down and back away. It isn't Gandalf's staff; it has no special powers because it is a prop. You won't make magic when you're so overwhelmed you can't think straight. Write down goals and tasks to be done every single night before bed. Cross off what you've accomplished on the list. It will make you feel better. Delegate tasks. To Delegate: (verb) entrust, pass on, hand over, transfer, don't do everything.

6. MAKE A DAMN TIMELINE BEFORE ANYONE SIGNS ONTO THE PROJECT
Stick to it as best you can. Circumstances will change and people will cancel or back out at the last minute. Plan ahead and make plan B, C, and D so when the inevitable happens it doesn’t hit you like a tidal wave.

I have tons more knowledge to share because I've made a lot of mistakes but I always keep going. I'm lucky like that. But for now, try to process what I've mentioned in this post. If it clicks with you I'm really happy and please leave a comment so we can chat more because I like you, you're going places. If you don't like it at least print this out and ceremoniously burn it in your bathtub while cursing producing all together. That way I know you've had to spend money on paper AND ink and I feel I've won in the end.

-ABJ

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