This summer has been a time for reading scripts. It’s my favorite thing to do in the summer. It’s so exciting to discover a new play or musical that’s ready to move forward into a developmental workshop or even into a complete production.
The problem is, right now that’s harder than ever to happen.
I don’t have to tell you how the shutdown has impacted our industry – we’re all painfully aware. The good news is that audiences are slowly returning, and with various incentives from grants and subsidies more shows are being produced. What’s different is that the cost of production has never been higher.
What does that mean for your show? And how does it impact moving your show forward?
How do you strategize as a playwright right now?
- You must continually write new work. Build up your portfolio of new work of all types.
- Develop your work online and in-person, and let the world know
- Submit your work everywhere possible and feasible
- Plan readings & record them
Nothing new here, right? Well, hold on. There’s a few more insider tips I’m sharing with my writers.
Write Like a Producer
Every writer must think like a producer right now when beginning a new script. What would make this new work attractive to producers? What experience, new thoughts or new ideas could it give an audience? What’s the journey you’re asking an audience to go on with you? How can you make your script more cost-effective to produce?
After reading easily four dozen new plays and musicals so far this summer, here are some things that now stand out to me as central as reader, and as a producer.
First, I’m looking to be immersed in an interesting world, preferably one I’ve never experienced before. There’s a million and one locations over time and space that are possible, so be creative. Have fun building this world! The more delight you take in the research and conception of it the more we’re going to enjoy it later. Make us laugh! Entertain and delight your audience.
Second, by the first 15 minutes make it clear on whose journey I’m on and what your main character is after. Don’t make me wonder what’s going on 30 minutes in.
Also, make sure your script is ready to be submitted. It’s not my job to edit out scenes that go nowhere or characters who sit and talk endlessly. Ditto for typos and other poor formatting. Not sure of the proper formatting? Look it up. Make sure you look like a pro.
Writing like a producer means to think about holding to a small cast size (2-8 max, even for musicals), a single set, and limit including any unnecessary projections, props or stunts in your script. Instead, craft fully-realized characters where each action and interaction flow from their intentions.
I love it when a script is based on a story in the public domain, or based on a known person or event. My recognition of what your show is about helps me understand it at the very beginning – and that can give your play a definite advantage later when a producer can capitalize on that audience awareness.
Write, Then Promote
After your play is written, the real work of promoting it begins. You must write AND promote. Even if you have an agent, you must continue to promote yourself consistently. There’s no way of getting around it.
The best ways to do this are:
- Submit your work constantly. Give yourself a goal of at least 3-5 submissions a week (or month) and hold to it. Check online resources like the Dramatists Guild or Play Submissions Helper for current opportunities.
- Research regional theaters to see which ones have produced work similar to yours. When you find them, reach out to them to ask about their submission policy (if not stated clearly on the website). Initiate a conversation – poof, you’ve made a contact.
- Hold a reading, either in person or online. Listen to the feedback.
- Record it and send the link to your email list. Show your fans your progress. Password-protect it on Vimeo or YouTube and send it out when requested.
- Have the reading edited into a short sizzle reel and put it on your website, on your email signature, on your YouTube page and New Play Exchange page. I’ve seen many dynamite sizzle reels in the past year – make sure yours is one of them. (Sometimes the sizzle reel is better than the script, but that’s a different blog post.)
Get to Work on Your Next Play
Then get to work on your next play. Remember you’re playing the long game here, and if you’re a writer, you write. Consistency pays off.
But don’t neglect your other darlings. Write daily, and then promote weekly. It’s a lifestyle – one that you say you want.
Persistence is the only way to get anything done in the theater. Or anywhere.