So I've written a play, sent it off to a theatre and they said they'd quite like to put it on. Fantastic! This is my first play and they're a fairly good sized national theatre, so I'm really excited. But being a novice, there's a few things I'm unsure about. There's loads of music in the play. Songs in the background, songs to dance to etc. It's all wordless, mostly dubstep and such stuff. I'm guessing this will go one of three ways:
A) I'd be expected to come up with a selection of released songs that I think are appropriate
B) They have their 'music person' who finds what they think is appropriate
C) They have their 'music person' who creates original pieces to fit the play (each song would only be played for about 15 seconds maximum)
Thing is, there's a good friend of mine who makes music. He's read the script and is on the same page as me with what kind of stuff I'm hearing in my head, so I'd love to be able to get him to make the music for the play. Would that be possible at all, do you think? Would I just ask the theatre? Or keep my mouth shut?
Sorry if it's a silly question, I'm just not sure how these things work!
That's normally the job of the Sound Designer. The director will have a production team working under him/her for elements of the show for set design, costume design, lighting, ect. Sound Designer is one of those roles. That is, if it's a full-length. In the case of a short or a one act, either the director will handle it himself, get his own person, or since the show will normally be shown alongside others in a group format the entire production will share production crew among the pieces.
Most directors welcome dialogue with the playwright concerning elements of a production and will be receptive to your suggestions. But you must understand, once you give the director your script, it is now their production. They have the final call, a big part of being a playwright is learning to let go of your own work and allowing others to bring in their ideas.
"This is my first play and they're a fairly good sized national theatre, so I'm really excited."
First sub-chapter A: Join The Dramatist Gild of America and get free legal advice and support. Let them know ASAP what is going on. You need a protector on your side. Again, join the DGA and contact them immediately.
Then: Wait until you hear from what the theater expects.
Second: I would like to know what is their yearly budget to qualify this description. "they're a fairly good sized national theatre." Is that 4 milion dollars a year? 8 million dollars a year? $1million dollars a year?
The playwright is never to be eliminated from the process if you are a DGA member. AGAIN: Join the DGA.
Another: One must not be arrogant and think their personal friends are more knowledgeable than the staff of the theatre that is willing to put money up to produce your play. They have a good team assembled but should never exclude you from the creative process, but too many do try to do that. Be careful but not stupid...you want to get your play done. Again, join the DGA and contact them whenever you need to.
You will have music to deal with, and I am sure you are not capable to do that. Let them handle that. They have the legal staff, etc.
Friends? Help your friends on your second show. I guarantee, the theatre does not give a rat's ass about any of your effen friends. Read that line again so it sinks in. And read it a third time so it really sinks in. You can help your friends out on your second show!
Sign NOTHING without advice form the Dramatists Guild of America or a lawyer they recommend. Read that 20 times again, so you do not screw yourself. Read this entire post again.
Nobody at this theatre is "your friend." Remember that. They may become your friend if the show is successful, but for now, nobody at this theatre is your friend. They are business associates each with their own personal future agendas in mind.
An Eye-Opener for me was when I was considering submitting my Stage Play into a prestigious "New Playwrights Contest" and the "fine Print" stated "All scripts submitted will become the sole property of the Theater, regardless if you are the winner or not"
I was flabbergasted to know, they'd actually take full ownership of my play, simply because I entered it into their contest. Seemed really "cut throat" to me.
Yes, it was cutthroat. And there are more people out there in this business than you can imagine in all fields. I've been a professional actor for 36 years with very good agents and somewhere somebody is still out there trying to screw you. I've sat on negotiating committees with the Acting unions and been Equity Deputy on every show I've been involved in and always...there is something. Take nothing for granted. "Protect yourself" is the first rule I tell young actors when I am asked to talk to them. I will say the same thing to writers, no matter what level you are on. Take NOTHING for granted, even if it is your mother. In Chicago News Bureau there is phrase, "If your mother says she loves you...check it out." Same thing with a contract. Even if it is your mother...or a dear friend. There is an exception in the case of the musical, "Jersey Boys." But that is very rare.
First rule of any transaction from the Latin in my Business Law Class in Sophomore year in high school: Caveat Emptor...translated...Let the Buyer Beware. Trust no one...until it is in a WRITTEN contact that is totally understandable to both sides and you have the DGA or an attorney review it. This pertains to any contract on anything: Car...apartment...etc.
Small self-protection money spent upfront, saves you losses of big money on the back end.
P.S. What is the name of this so-called "prestigious" playwriting competition?
imr, thank you so much for the "Heads-Up"...Priceless Wealth of Knowledge, you're sharing with us.
I'm ingesting every word, in every line you wrote, to make myself, "seriously mindful" of the possible atrocities.
Conclusion: The definition of a "Shark's Feast"...
"Novice Playwrights, with "no clue" regarding proper protection of their property"
"What is the name of this so-called "prestigious" playwriting competition?"
Good question but this happened a few years ago and I can't remember the name. (If I do, I'll tell you, for sure)
imr, I'd be grateful if you gave me some advice on this matter.
A local HighSchool Drama Teacher is "biting at the bit" to have her Drama Class
perform a "Short Play" written by me.
I'm honoured by her enthusiasm but "baffled"...
as to the possible "dire" ramifications of it.
(1) Should I speak to a lawyer before handing over (in whole or in part) my Stage Play to this teacher?
(2) "Is my work copyrighted?"...
Answer: "Kind of. I did it the "Ole Fashion Way".
I mailed all my work in separate sealed envelopes, to myself, via "Registered Mail"
(3) Is it costly to properly copyright my work?
(4)Should I have a "Legal Agreement" written up (between the Drama Teacher and myself)
to ensure my copyright protection and to state that I have full artistic control of the stage scenes and dialog/rhetoric?
(5) If my play is successfully performed on this "HighSchool Gym Stage", does that change my status of a "New Playwright" to a "Pro"?