In the continuing saga of opening a new play in the LA theater scene, here is an update on my experience with my piece, “eve2” and 4 Things To Think About, Face Up To, & Overcome When Producing.
#1 ) So your play/video/web series/ film is in front of an audience for the first time. For me, there is a certain terror that sets in when the public is about to become part of something I have worked on up to this point only with my collaborators.
IS THERE A WAY AROUND THIS TERROR OF BEING EXPOSED TO THE PUBLIC?
No. Anybody with enough gumption to write, or produce, or direct their own work and then make sure people will see it, has some drum beating inside of them. It is the drum beat of the need to express yourself. Maybe you want to make people laugh, make their lives deeper, or just tell a great story that audiences really like to watch. Whatever motivates your creativity, it will make you nervous when you start to get response to the work.
#2) For theater, TV, and film there will be reviewers coming to talk about your work. Some will love it, some will not. How hard this hits you will depend on a few things: How many times you’ve been up at bat showing your stuff. How much you personalize other peoples’ subjective responses, how much support you get from your fellow creators, your loved ones, and your community. And it REALLY helps if some of what is written or spoken publicly about your piece is positive. Better yet, if anybody who reviews you actually understands what you are doing, that is a huge bonus.
DOES NOT READING REVIEWS HELP WITH THESE FEARS?
Yes. But inevitably somebody will say something to you about something they read about your play/film/video. And those little snippets you hear from people can be worse than just reading the review yourself ‑ maybe with a glass of wine by your side!
#3) Okay so you got some fantastic press (this happened to me this time around!) But you’re still begging people to come see the play. Maybe for video it’s easier, since they can sit at home and watch. Movies are a mixed bag. If you get your film screened, hopefully the screening has a built in audience. If it’s going into a theater for a run, or going on TV, then you also have some built in audience, as well as a PR machine that Indie theater people don’t have. Maybe that helps build audiences. For plays, this great press I’ve gotten has helped, but it is still word of mouth that makes a theater piece successful. You tell me if this is also true of film and TV. I really don’t know.
CAN YOU EVER REALLY KNOW IF WORD OF MOUTH IS GOOD?
No. Because audiences may hear great things about your work, and still miss it because life is hectic here in the big city. And because people like us who MAKE the work tend to know other people who also MAKE the work, and we all pull on the same group of potential audience members.
#4) You’ve made a good/great piece. Everybody loves it. The press has come and gone, and they’ve been very kind. Is your job over? NO. Now you have to keep the people coming. You can use as much social media as you have, you can email, put postcards in every coffee house in the city. And you should. Because you don’t ever know where a person will see your online stuff or your hard copy postcards, and you shouldn’t get too relaxed about the audience until the run is over.
WHAT IF YOU GET GOOD REVIEWS, GREAT WORD OF MOUTH, DO ALL THE SOCIAL MEDIA, AND STILL DON’T GET AS MUCH RESPONSE AS YOU WANTED?
That’s the bargain we make when we set out to do this. Unless you are commissioned, or writing to somebody else’s specs (TV, film or theater), you did this work because you wanted to. And you should be proud of that. Because you don’t know what will come of the work later on. The point is, you are an artist, a creative person and if you did your work – if you did it well, if you were decent and fair to your collaborators – then you have hit the jackpot. You have made something. At the end of this long process of writing, producing and keeping a play going, I won’t put my reviews under my pillow. I will be glad my life partner is next to me. I will be glad my cats are healthy. I will appreciate that I have enough of everything. And I will go on and do another play!
If you have time between now and September 8, please come see “eve2” at Bootleg Theater!
– Susan Rubin