Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Self-Producing

Lest this blog become simply me reading 99 Seats and getting excited, I probably will try to put the breaks after pointing you towards this post, in which he follows up on the end of his pseudonymity by specifying what his non-status-quo path will be for the new year.

As it happens, the path he's stepping on is self-producing, on the idea that playwrights can't sit around sending envelope after envelope to Playwrights Horizons hoping that they'll be plucked up from obscurity. They need to produce, because it is in producing mediocre work -- or good but problematic work -- that they hone their skills and voice.

It's the philosophy that created 13P (which is ironic, considering one of the playwrights of 13P is the third most produced playwright in America). Every time I tell people 13P's mantra ("We don't develop plays. We do them.) there's a refreshing sense of playwright empowerment. We just do them.

This is the allure that drew me to found my company. It feels so good to know that the work I feel passionate about is going to happen. That's at the center of everything I do.

Another personal experience is that, this summer, a friend of mine who goes way back with me and is about to graduate from a film institute decided that he wanted to team up with me to make a film. Now, to be clear -- I have little-to-no background in film, had never written anything complete for film or directed for film, and had only acted in two extremely poor quality films and a music video. This kid has worked with professionals -- is surrounded by people who work for a living in the field. Not your Ron Howards, but certainly the people who make our commercials and our made-for-TV movies and such.

But he wanted me to direct a film with him. We would put the money up ourselves and try to shoot it in a weekend on a digital camera he owns. He kept saying, "What I'm missing, what people at my institute are missing is stories, new ideas. I know you know stories." I got a short screenplay that I had read and loved off a friend (who is now my roommate) and I directed the film, casting in three lovely actresses who I think the world of and who it kills me I don't get to work with on the stage because they don't live in New York.

When my friend came over this weekend with the footage (which I'd been unable to see before), I asked him as he was booting his computer, "Well, how'd it turn out? I'm nervous. I've never done this film thing before."

And he said to me, "I don't know if this will make you feel better, but regardless of how it came out, just know this: in the film industry, there's a saying that you make 16 bad films before you make one good one."

As I watched the footage, I knew instantly all of the mistakes I made. It's the same feeling I get when I'm directing for the stage the first time anyone who wasn't a part of the process sits in the audience -- even if it's just one person I know, a week before the show opens. A forehead-striking moment of "Well DUH that's not hitting the right notes and BOY that's the moment where I lose them and... etc."

Anyways, I'm glad to hear you're self producing.

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