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Matthew Freeman is a Brooklyn based playwright with a BFA from Emerson College. His plays include THE DEATH OF KING ARTHUR, REASONS FOR MOVING, THE GREAT ESCAPE, THE AMERICANS, THE WHITE SWALLOW, AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR, THE MOST WONDERFUL LOVE, WHEN IS A CLOCK, GLEE CLUB, THAT OLD SOFT SHOE and BRANDYWINE DISTILLERY FIRE. He served as Assistant Producer and Senior Writer for the live webcast from Times Square on New Year's Eve 2010-2012. As a freelance writer, he has contributed to Gamespy, Premiere, Complex Magazine, Maxim Online, and MTV Magazine. His plays have been published by Playscripts, Inc., New York Theatre Experience, and Samuel French.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Sean Williams on where the money comes from

Over on the NYIT blog, Sean Williams talks about where the funding comes from for many small theaters in NYC, and I'm sure elsewhere. Read all about it here.

Sean's done a lot of very successful producing on the Off-Off scale, and it's definitely worth a read. If I could be so bold as to sum things up a bit, he notes where most of the funding comes from (not grants or donors!) and then he says that a comparatively light and cheap style means that we're more flexible than larger theaters. That Off-Off should embrace a $10,000 as a whole lot less than it costs to make a movie, and that, in a way, is a good thing.

While that's true in some cases (not all, of course) I think there's a big missing piece.

In my view, small theaters do not ask for money well. (To be fair, it's not unique to small theaters.) We're partial to fundraisers and IndieGoGo and tossing in our own cash from day jobs. In the development world, one of the best ways to actually get someone to give you real support is to sit down with them, over lunch, at their home, and ask them for money in person. I have a job where I do this, in fact.

I'm open to be challenged on that point, but I'm curious if many small theater operations out there spend much of their time in meetings where they actually make the case for support to a single donor, and frame the highest possible gift for that individual?

1 comment:

Sean said...

One of the reasons I've been so bad at keeping my blog up is because I never quite seem to say what it is I want to say. My point was that we HAVE to get good at asking people for money, at sitting down in their living rooms, because the model that we've been running on is actually unsustainable.

This is some serious "my humble opinion" stuff here, but kickstarter and the like have made it easier for many of us to think we don't have to do this, and that's just putting a band-aid on this bad model we've got going.

It's insane, we can only make plays if our friends put money in ahead of time, and then give us more money at the door, and what we ought to be doing is reaching IN to the community to find out how we can be making theater more accessible. If we're showing up at the doorstep with our hat in our hand, we should do it at some wealthy person's doorstep, and not at each other's.