Author Topic: PEOPLE: Where do you draw the line? (Producer rant)  (Read 6270 times)

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Michael

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PEOPLE: Where do you draw the line? (Producer rant)
« on: Sep 24, 2005, 05:36 am »
(Basic show info: Equity-waiver, LA Area 99-seat agreement, large musical, very heavy tech show)

Okay, so I could live with the fact that my producer left my name off of the promotional materials (postcard and posters) for the show, even though the entire production team (except SM & ASM) AND the entire cast were listed.  I somehow also lived with the condescending speech he gave me (in an email) about how they've never done that and he's never seen anyone ever acknowledge the SM in any promotional materials and if it's really "that important" to me that he might be able to squeeze my name in  IF they printed a second run of postcards. I figure, this isn't so much of a big deal, I'll still be listed in the program. (I've learned years ago to wisely choose my battles.)

I only got mildly frustrated when I found out that we were two days out from load-in and he hadn't even begun to look for running crew. I figured, hey, I've got friends, I know lots of people, throwing together a crew shouldn't be too hard. I did however, send him a snippy email where I told him that waiting this long to even begin to look for crew was just irresponsible. I had been led to believe that the company had a pool of people that usually were available for crew. (This is my first -- and my last -- show for this company.)

But today was it. I walk into the theatre and find they have no intercom system available for rental productions to use, and my wonderful producer seems to be oblivious as to the importance of communication between crew. He assured me that our sound designer would have "whatever it is you need" but upon checking with our sound designer, he only has audio equipment. No intercom equipment.

We are setting cues tomorrow and Sunday, with (hopefully) a full run of the show Sunday evening. I cannot imagine running tech without headsets, and it's just laughable to think of calling a full run without them.

I guess if I have to, I'll run out tomorrow and buy a relatively cheap intercom system for this show. I just don't know what else to do. Part of me says, "No, don't do this, not my problem" and the SM part of me says "The show must go on."

There is no way I'll walk off of this show, but it's honestly crossed my mind.

So -- when do you say "enough"? At what point can you simply not function any longer? At what point do you stop fixing things and just let the producer hang? So much of this stuff could have been so easily avoided if I had just asked the questions, rather than trusting that the producer was actually producing the show, as opposed to letting it just "happen."

Kids, let this be a lesson to you. Don't trust your producer blindly. Ask questions. Ask more questions. Stay awake at night thinking of everything that you take for granted, and ask your producer what's being done about this or about that.

Never assume. Ever. Not even the smallest thing.
« Last Edit: Jun 08, 2009, 10:31 pm by PSMKay »

Mac Calder

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Where do you draw the line? (Producer rant)
« Reply #1 on: Sep 24, 2005, 08:46 am »
It really is very difficult to know when to say "enough is enough". Personally, I feel your producer is doing too much in his current role, acting more like a production manager than a producer. As SM, I normally would have specced out the venue myself, and talked to the sound designer about cans a long time before bumpin was even considered. I feel as the SM it is my job to know EVERYTHING that is supplied and required - for instance, I always keep a copy of the technical specifications of the venue (which should include whether or not it has cans) and THEN distribute the tech specs to the required departments. In production meetings

I try and get as much paper from the different departments as possible, so that I can say early into the run "I NEED to hire X belt packs, and a masterstation... No don't give me that, I talked to the sound guy and he said he does not.... I don't care if it is not budgeted, BUDGET IT!" (I have had that conversation many a time... which is usually followed by "No, if you INSIST on walkie talkies we DO need headsets... I don't care if they cost an extra $X to have them, I am making do with what you are providing, it is no where near ideal! I would rather canford-type cans")

I usually insist on a crew list a week before a show at least. It has happened more than once where I have said "If you do not give me a crew list before tomorow, I am calling in the crew. And if we end up doubling up on anything, then I will send them to complain to you"... I have been one of the people called too, in fact it was the night before the bump in, at 11pm, I recieved a phone call "Hey Mac! Um, our producer forgot to hire a rigger and flyman to do the fly's... can you do it?". I have also been called to do lighting design on the day of a bumpin. It is not pleasent, and you do need to make sure your producer knows that if crew are not given warning, they will do second class work. On professional jobs, I charge extra for things like that (in fact my rate almost doubles).

What can you do though. Once more than a few weeks into a show's rehearsal period, I feel wrong abandoning a show (although I have done it when things are unsafe. I also found out when the interviews were and warned every stage manager who walked through the door for the job. They did not get another stage manger, the show did not go on.)

Being left off the promo material is rude and annoying. I suppose the only thing you can do is make a point next time he expects something big... "Oh, you want ME to do that? But that seems far too involved for a member of the team so insignificant that members of the chorus are considered more significant." Then of course, do the job.

SM_Art

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this is not...
« Reply #2 on: Sep 24, 2005, 12:09 pm »
... unusual for a 99-seat situation, which is why I don't do them any more.  Producers often begin to look for a Stage Manager AFTER rehearsals have begun, since they have no concept of what we do, and how we can be integral to a production.  It is our curse, and also... our blessing.  Since it is NOT a contract, you can indeed walk off it at a moment's notice if they don't lesten to your suggestions.  When I've walked off shows like this, it has been for different reasons (one show kept changing the script and not making enough copies for me to have one, and the only way I could keep my script current is because actors kept quitting and turning their scripts in to me.  I'd steal the correct pages, and then the replacement actor would ask for new pages and they would provide them... sigh....) but often spending money on anything, such as headsets, is just unheard of to them.
All you can do is tell them what is needed to do the job right.  If they don't want to do that, and you don't feel you can live with it, then walk.  I guarantee you some producer will tell you, as I have actually had said to me before, the immortal "you'll never work in this town again", but most likely they're producing 99 seat shows because nobody will let them handle the money and responsibility to produce anything else, so they aren't the ones you should be trying to please.

Let me repeat that... they aren't the ones you should be trying to please.  VERY FEW shows move from 99 seat to contract, and very few companies who produce 99 seat EVER produce on a contract.  There are a few who do, and those would be the few I'd even think about recommending to new SMs, but otherwise - why put yourself through this when the only thing you can get out of a small production is a credit?  You won't get future jobs that pay, certainly.

Only you can tell how much is too much... but it sounds as if you're close.  If you feel it's time, walk away.  Tell them why if they want to hear, but they probably won't listen... but don't feel guilty.  This is why they are in this catagory....

Art

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Tough spot
« Reply #3 on: Sep 25, 2005, 02:37 pm »
Wow, that is a tough situation.  I agree 100% with Art.  You will know if you have to walk away - and if you do, don't feel guilty.  A very wise Equity Rep. once told me "the phrase 'the show must go on' was created by a producer".  Now I don't know if that is true or not, but it certainly fits.  Good luck.

loebtmc

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Where do you draw the line? (Producer rant)
« Reply #4 on: Sep 26, 2005, 02:44 am »
Art, as always, is on the money. One thing tho - SMs are often not in the publicity materials, so that one issue, well, just let it go. We shd be in the program and on the lobby board but the rest, esp in 99-seat, is a crap shoot. Focus on the important stuff, like getting a way to communicate w backstage (fer cryin' out loud - we even had a com system with Deaf West, where the cast is mostly deaf!). If you DO get some cheap walkies, make sure you 1) get earpieces (it silences the squawking as you call each other, among other things) and 2) GET REIMBURSED - tell them this is an expense for future shows.

As to crew, well, in 99-seat sometimes they ARE last-minute. Can you be ok with simply just not doing what can't be done and thereby letting them figure it out? If you can resist saying "I told you so" after stating that those are things that require more bodies to accomplish, you get them on your side to solve it cuz they suddenly get that it's abt the show rather than writing it off as just some SM's opinion.

and - break a leg -

MatthewShiner

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when is enough enough
« Reply #5 on: Sep 26, 2005, 03:10 am »
I think it really depends on your personal tollerance.  

I agree with loebtmc, don't worry about not be on  the publicity materials.  It is a fight you will rarely when (six years as resident PSM doesn't get me on the press release, it does, however, get me on the poster . . . which is a nice touch.)

My humble starts in the world of 99-seat theatre sound a lot like yours.  There is a lot of quiet suffering.  But, I found that doing my best under the circumstances given, and going the extra mile got me more and more work, and under better and better circumstances.  Maybe not by the producers, but the director or actor, or somoene involved in the production remembers your name.

Also, if you do get the reputation of being a trouble maker - how hard will that be to shake, even if you are 100% in the right.
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Anything posted here as in my own personal opinion, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of my employer - whomever they be at a given moment in time.

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Where do you draw the line? (Producer rant)
« Reply #6 on: Sep 26, 2005, 05:49 pm »
All good advice. Except I would get  some kind of assurance that I would be reimbursed if you have to go out and purchase any kind of communication device or system. My recommendation is let the producer buy it himself and go with him if you can to ensure a proper purchase. I know this particular producer, he was a member of the ensemble in a large cast musical I did a few years ago!

And remember the 99 Seat code states specifically that any person can quit at any time for any reason. How can he not understand the need for proper communication!?!

Your boots are made for walkin'...
Ordo ab chao

Michael

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Where do you draw the line? (Producer rant)
« Reply #7 on: Sep 26, 2005, 06:03 pm »
Update: I've left the show.

ChaCha

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Where do you draw the line? (Producer rant)
« Reply #8 on: Sep 28, 2005, 11:38 am »
sounds like it was a tough decison, but we're all there for you.
ChaCha

jenk

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Where do you draw the line? (Producer rant)
« Reply #9 on: Oct 07, 2005, 09:14 pm »
Wow, what an unpleasant experience. I'm there with you, too.
I SMed in summer stock where the SM team (including the SM) was not allowed Clearcoms or walkie-talkies or ANY form of communication. Not just neglected, not allowed.Now, this seemed strange, since the LBO had a clearcom, the SBO had a clearcom, the conductor had a clearcom, and the instrumentalists all had clearcoms. This was just one in the long line of weirdnesses (I was told by the production manager that I couldn't store rehearsal props in the rehearsal room) in the place that we, the out-of-town hires, came to know lovingly as Backwards Land. I came to the theatre one day to find a note stabbed into the door with a seam-ripper from one of the stitchers, informing us that she was leaving.
Anyway, I stayed, partly for the challenge. I said, "well, what if I didn't have what I needed, how would I do what I need to do?" and I treated it like survival camp for stage management. My ASM and I worked out an ingeneous system of hand signals and checkpoints (we were in the round, did I mention that?) to communicate, and I wrote my calls in the books of the LBO and SBO and let them take their own cues while I ran the deck with the ASM and took care of the actors. I did the cue lights myself, and on the super important timing cues, I went and stood next to the appropriate board op (and by the way, they were in two seperate booths across the theatre from one another), made them take off their clearcoms (which they only used to gossip withe the orchestra), and I called the cue in their ear.
It got to be kind of fun, and I learned that the show can go on even when morons are in charge, as long as the SM keeps her sense of humor and  creativity.
However, I have walked off shows before, too, and there is definitely a time for that. It sounds like you found that point. Better luck next time.

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