In an effort to give our students and those who are interested in producing but haven’t yet taken a class more access to the the theater industry’s top producers and business insiders, we’ve launched this blog, which we hope will lead to thoughtful and engaging discussion about commercial producing.
This week, we’re speaking with TOM VIERTEL and JASON BARUCH, who are familiar faces to students who have taken CTI’s Who Gets What? half-day intensive seminar in previous years. The two powerhouse Broadway insiders share their insights with us and give you a little something to look forward to in our upcoming Who Gets What? class on October 26th. If you’ve never taken this course, now is your chance!
Q&A with TOM VIERTEL
Tom Viertel has produced a wide range of plays and musicals on and off Broadway, in London and on tour for over 27 years. Shows include: Old Jews Telling Jokes, Leap of Faith, A Little Night Music, Young Frankenstein, Burn the Floor, Hairspray, The Norman Conquests, Gypsy, The Producers, Sweeney Todd, Company, Little Shop of Horrors, The Weir, The Sound of Music, Smokey Joe’s Café, Angels in America, Oleanna, Love Letters, Diving Miss Daisy, Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, Penn and Teller.
CTI: What is the most common misconception that new producers have when it comes to financial matters?
Tom: I think the most common misperception has to do with how quickly substantial money will be needed. Most shows will need $150,000 to $250,000 very quickly to pay for an option, engage a general manager, a director, a casting agent and a lawyer as well as for many other expenses. Unless a new producer can find that much in high-risk front money, they will quickly be in trouble.
CTI: When should a producer start working on a budget?
Tom: A producer should start working on a budget as soon as a general manager can be engaged but after the rights have been obtained. The budget will help guide the process pretty much from the outset and a producer will be at a disadvantage at every turn without a budget.
Q&A with JASON BARUCH
Jason Baruch has served as production counsel for dozens of musical and dramatic stage productions on Broadway, Off-Broadway, West End and elsewhere around the world, including Pulitzer Prize-winner Clybourne Park, Seminar, Rock of Ages, Lysistrata Jones, and Finding Neverland. He also represents play publisher and licensing company Samuel French and numerous regional theatres around New York and the rest of the country such as Second Stage Theatre in New York and Signature Theater in Arlington, Virginia. Jason is legal counsel to a large roster of award-winning dramatists, directors and choreographers, designers, performers, orchestrators and arrangers.
CTI: How did you become involved in the commercial theater industry?
Jason: As a Philosophy major with no practical skills whatsoever, I decided to go to law school. With an abiding love for theater (it runs in the family) and an equal obsession with “Law & Order”-type television procedurals, I decided I wanted to become either an entertainment lawyer or U.S. attorney. After a short span litigating a re-insurance defense claim for a huge firm, I made a quick career correction into theater law.
2. When is the right time to consult with a lawyer on a new work in development?
Jason: If material is based on underlying material, I suggest a consultation with a lawyer before the dramatists spend a huge number of hours and the producers spend a huge number of dollars on developing the piece. If a producer is interested in optioning an original stage play or musical from dramatists, I suggest a consultation with a lawyer before discussing terms of the option with the dramatists and certainly before expending substantial time and effort into the development of the piece.