What Do Producers Look For in a Script?
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You’ve finished writing your script, held a few readings and incorporated the feedback, and worked with a dramaturg. Maybe you’ve even had a showcase production of your show and have a website up with clips to prove it.
Now you need someone to help you take it to the next level!
Where’s a producer when you need one?
The Writer-Producer Relationship: First Steps
The writer-producer relationship is a special marriage of business savvy, creative vision and aesthetic resonance. Somehow your play must powerfully connect in some way to the producer’s psyche, to his “mission” as a producer, in order for him (or her) to go out and raise the kind of money that is needed for production. A producer must BELIEVE in your work and in your voice as a writer.
How do you as a playwright connect with producers?
- Get to know producer’s tastes by studying what s/he has already produced and email them a synopsis of your script
- Study regional theaters to find out the personality of the artistic director, and look for patterns that emerge when you compare their past seasons
- Network through local theaters, the Dramatist Guild, Fringe Festivals, theater meetups, and CreateTheater masterminds, courses and Facebook Live groups.
- Attend readings and workshops as much as possible, then stay and talk to people. Their connections can become your connections.
What Are Producers Looking For?
All producers are different and look for different things. I’ve asked a few of my friends what they look for in a new script.
Patrick Blake, Off-Broadway producer (The Exonerated, In The Continuum, Play Dead, 39 Steps) and Founding Artistic Director of Rhymes Over Beats Theater Collective
There are only so many stories, and they have been told dozens if not hundreds of times. What I look for is how fresh or stylistically interesting they are.
Daryl Sledge, Off-Broadway producer (Fried Chicken and Latkes, My Father’s Daughter)
What attracts me about a script is how well-written and how “produceable” it can be. For instance, what I look for are projects that have very few actors, very few settings and costume changes. That way you can keep your budget down … and it should be commercial. It should have acting opportunities for superb actors. I’m looking for things that challenge us, that set the mark for today, that say something about the type of society that we live in today. I’m looking forward to producing scripts from new writers that we’ve never heard from before that challenge us – that challenge us to be better people, better Americans, better citizens of the world. I’m looking for projects that really resonate with people today that will also bring in a new audience.
Jeremy Handleman, Tony Award-nominated Broadway (On The Town) and Off-Broadway producer (Fking Up Everything, White’s Lies)
The first thing that’s important to me is that I have to be emotionally affected by the material. That sounds rather basic, but not every script is going to move me and maybe something that doesn’t move me is going to move somebody else. So it has to be the right fit between the material and the producer. I also have a couple of other initial filters that are specific for me, which is that I tend to be drawn to character-driven work. Since I am a commercial producer, there has to be some gut level feeling that I have that there is a commercial path to this even if I don’t quite know what it is at this point. My third filter is whether the writer or the writing team a person or a group of people who I feel good about the possibility of working with, because possibly this is a relationship that could go on for years and years and years, so that relationship has to be strong.
Michael Alden, Tony Award winning Broadway (Come From Away, Disgraced, Grey Gardens, Bridge and Tunnel) and Off-Broadway producer (Not That Jewish, Becoming Dr. Ruth, Bat Boy, The Last Session)
First of all you want to find good writing, but the thing that intrigues me the most is stories about misunderstood outsiders. People that are having a hard time either finding themselves in their own community or being understood by their community. So the shows that I’ve done in the past speak to either about a child or the child inside of you that’s seemingly isn’t being connected with what’s going on around you, or not being understood by what’s going on around you. So that’s why I like Grey Gardens or Bat Boy the Musical. That’s what speaks to me.
Cate Cammarata, Off-Broadway producer (The Assignment) and Associate Artistic Director of Rhymes Over Beats Theater Collective
As a producer I’m looking for a script with a strong female protagonist that challenges an audience and inspires them and gives them some kind of a fresh idea, a new thought that maybe they never had before.
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