Be a good associate producer and run down to Starbucks. Cream, no sugar.
"You can't let me sit down and catch my breath? I've been running all morning."
Don't take off your coat. We've got a lot to do. Did you pick up the papers at the lawyers?
"Right here. And the two books you wanted. And the tickets for tonight."
Here's the contract for optioning the dramatic rights on Neverland. This has to go in overnight mail today. Did you get the certified check?
"Yup. We're getting the rights for a thousand dollars?"
Against future royalties and only the dramatic and film rights. V.J. won't sell the publication rights. We've only got them for two years.
"Hey, wait a minute! You mean we have to give them back after two years and he keeps the money?"
Yes, unless we open a commercial run of a play or musical based on The Return to Neverland within two years, he gets the rights back. There are provisions in the contract to option them for a further two years, but that would cost us another two thousand dollars.
"But you said it could take six or seven years to open a musical on Broadway!"
Sometimes even longer.
"I don't understand."
We're killing two birds with one stone.
"I'm gonna kill you! You're giving away a thousand dollars of my money for nothing"
No. I'm investing a thousand dollars of the front money to purchase the dramatic rights of a property we are going to develop into a musical. You know, you have an unattractive vein on your forehead that starts throbbing when your face turns red.
"I'm gonna! . . ."
You are going to sit down and listen. Neverland is a short story that has a lot of possibilities, but we don't know for sure if it's stageworthy.
Will it work on a stage in performance. We can risk five to seven million dollars going straight to Broadway as a musical to find out. Or, we can play it a little bit safer and develop it as a play first. We can, in less than two years, open this property in a commercial run off Broadway. If we do, according to the contract, we keep the dramatic rights permanently. It also lets us concentrate on developing the play, which will become the book of the musical, without having to worry about everything else involved in a full-blown musical.
"A play and the book of a musical are the same thing?"
Of course not!
"But . . ."
And it means we only have to raise less than one tenth of the money right away. Understand?
"No. Are all musicals developed this way?"
There are as many different ways to bring in a musical as there are producers. This, in my opinion, is the best way to develop this property.
"Well . . . I still get to cast the chorus girls, right?"
You and the choreographer. And the choreographer gets final call. And chorus girls, the type you're thinking of, haven't existed for more than thirty years.
"You're just trying to piss me off, aren't you?"
You said you wanted to help.
"So, how do we turn Neverland into a play?"
We need a playwright willing to do the adaptation.
"How much is that going to cost?"
Possibly a thousand or two. It may not cost anything up front, if we find a playwright willing to do the adaptation on spec.
The playwright does not get a fee to do the adaptation on the speculation that we will like it enough to produce the play. If we don't, the playwright doesn't get paid for his work.
"I think I see the angle on this. We get a couple of a dozen writers, each working on their own adaptation. Then we pick the best one and do it. Smart thinking."
No. It doesn't work that way, though there are stories of a few producers who have tried it. Where are those books you picked up? Here, before you open your mouth again, read the Farber.
"But . . ."
Cover to cover. Now!
Donald C. Farber's From Option to Opening: A Guide to Producing Plays Off-Broadway is a practical guide for would-be producers. It covers the basics of what they need to know to stay out of jail. Recently revised, it's the first book to read if one is thinking of working or investing Off-Broadway.
"I thought you wanted me to get the option contract in the mail. And get your coffee."
You're right. You can read it this afternoon. I'm not going to be here, so you'll have the office to yourself.
"What's on your schedule?"
First, lunch with Drema Paige.
"Is she still alive?"
And working. The two lead characters in Neverland are five and seven years old. Drema's been casting children for years. I want to ask for her advice.
Off to find our playwright. Where's that other book?
"Here. Dramatists Sourcebook? What's this for?"
Read the cover.
"Complete opportunities for playwrights, translators, composers, lyricists and lib . . . lib-bett . . . ."
Librettists. Book writers.
"Oh. What's this for?"
Playwrights use it as a yearly guide to what organizations are accepting plays and how to submit them. I'm using it as a checklist. In the next few weeks we are going to touch bases with most of the local theaters in the book.
"To find a playwright willing to do the adaptation on spec?"
Very good. With any luck we will encounter at least a few artistic directors who can recommend someone right for our project. Of course, we keep looking ourselves. We're going to be seeing a lot of new shows in the next few months. Here's your ticket. I'll meet you at the theater tonight.
"Hedwig & the Angry Inch at the Jane Street Theater. What's it about?"
It's a musical.
In a manner of speaking. See you tonight.
CLICK TO PURCHASE
Dramatists Sourcebook 1997-98: