Sunday, April 12, 2009

On Bad Producers.

Last week, at the Carbonell Awards after-party, a lot of people made a point to thank me for writing about Gary Waldman, Jamison Troutman, and the recent dust-up at the 26th Street Theatre. Several prominent theater professionals recounted how the boys had ripped them off. Funny, no one seemed to be avoiding me: didn't Gary say that I was "very unpopular?" Of course, he also said I was a janitor, that he would pay his actors, and that he didn't owe anyone any money (except for one or two), so I guess we know what his word is worth.

Now before you think that I'm simply dancing on the boys' mistakes, there's a reason I'm writing this; Jasmine Torres texted me recently that Gary started following her on Twitter, and just this evening she sent me a note that he's stalking her over the internet.

And if that weren't enough to do it, a friend sent me a link to the blog of a prominent Direct and Casting Director, Paul Russell. He's cast major motion pictures, TV shows, and notably, several regional theaters. He's currently teaching theatre to NYU studends at The Atlantic Theatre.

Paul recently started writing Answers for Actors, a blog that deals with the problems that all actors must deal with in the course of their careers: agents, resum├ęs, employment, and most recently, producers. In his post Problem Producers, he is contacted by one of the actors from Waldman's ill-fated production of The Life. Actress Heather Gault tells the same story I related from Jasmine Torres.

Paul recounts some of his own experiences with some producers he describes as "less than Dickensian," and then relates the proper way to deal with producers; stay calm and try to negotiate, start by going through the chain of command, avoid hostility. But sometimes, when you're dealing with a real bad apple, you have to take more drastic steps:
If resolution cannot be reached either through yourself, representation or your union you always have the option of leaving the situation. O.K. I hear in my head some reader screaming, “Right Paul but what about breaking the contract? I’ll be sued or get a bad reputation”. Union contracts offer an out. Non-union contracts? Well, if the producer is not obliging by the agreement put on paper between you two then the contract was broken and is null and void.
This is an important point: valid contracts always leave a way to get out. After all, the purpose of the contract is to protect both parties. Business deals should always be mutually beneficial, and the contract exists to ensure that. If the contract doesn't allow you to give notice, or doesn't cover your needs, don't sign it!

Paul goes on to list other options:

The Internet has been a great tool for spreading information for both positive and negative experiences of those who work in the arts. One place online is Non-Equity Deputy found at: http://nonequitydeputy.com/Default.aspx. Here is a grass roots web site that provides visitors to share both favorable and unfavorable tales of working the non-union circuit. One caution: Sites like this can also be abused by some disgruntled, anti-socialite users spreading uninformed gossip or malevolent postings. Verify with others within our community both positive and negative feedback on anyone (that’s what many directors, producers and casting personnel do with the gossip and work history feedback of actors).

If you encounter an experience which rivals that of Gault’s and her cast mates in Florida, go to the press. Problem producers do not like their communities to be aware of possible unfavorable behind the scenes behavior.
I'll say! Just read some of the comments Gary has left here and in the Herald's comment section; nothing but vitriol.

And if you'll please note, at no time did they post any facts that supported their statements. They complained that "blogs are so one-sided" while ignoring the fact that the comments section offers ample opportunity to tell their side. Instead, OTHER people - directors, actors, and producers - told THEIR sides.

Paul echos my feelings on the issue:
Now, this may have seemed like producer bashing. No, it’s a heads up about those few producers with poor behavioral patterns. I have great respect for many of the men and women who, despite a declining public interest for the arts, provide employment for artists and entertainment for those seeking a diversion of creative intellect. As Sondheim wrote, “Art isn’t easy…” That applies to all involved.
I will be reading Paul Russell's blog, and I'll be following up on some of his posts as they apply to South Florida, or as they catch my interest.

I've also added NonEquity Deputy to the sidebar under "Professional Organizations." The forum for the 26th Street Theatre is empty: time to change THAT.

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