The Top 6 Most Important Skills A Producer Must Have. Part I

Last week, on a Zoom speaking event (because what else is there!), a recent college grad asked me a question.
“During this down time, what skills should I develop if I want to be a successful Broadway Producer?”
(The fact that she asked how she could turn this @#$% storm into an opportunity has me betting on her future, btw.)
I was about to launch into a list of negotiating courses she could take and marketing podcasts she could listen to. And then I stopped.
These days, it’s more than specific skills you need. It’s about attitudes and traits and characteristics of who you are as a person, not only a Producer.
But the good news is that like negotiating and marketing and raising money . . . you can learn these too.
So here’s what I said Producers needed before Covid and during Covid. And will need after Covid.
1. Imagination
Producers never get to see, feel or taste their final product, until their $15mm is already spent, the NY Times critic is in the audience, and avid theatergoers are already chattin’ about it on Facebook.
Sure, you get readings and workshops, but those are never true indications of what the show will be.
The best Producers I know are the ones who can look at someone on a page, or under the fluorescent lights of a rehearsal room reading, with actors on-book behind music stands and say . . . “Can’t you see it? It’s going to be sensational.”
I mean . . . do you think you would have optioned Rent, Hamilton, Les Mis, Cats, Hadestown, Dear Evan Hansen, etc, etc. based on a pitch or a script?
Learn to see what isn’t on the page to be the best Producer you can be.
2. Optimism
Here’s one that Producers need a triple-shot of these days. There’s only a 20% recoupment rate on Broadway. And that’s IF your show gets all the way to Broadway. And if it does, AND it becomes one of the 20%, that doesn’t mean anyone gets rich. Producers need to look those odds in the face and say, “My show is different.” (P.S. A surefire way to success is to make sure your show is different. Unique is what stands out and what stands out is what sells.)
3.  Objectivity
Sometimes, your show is going to suck. In fact, most first drafts suck. Most twelfth drafts also suck, just a little bit less. (I have this dream that some of our most successful writers would release the first drafts of their Tony winners or Pulitzer Prize winners so we could all see how they sucked . . . and how they made them better.)
I’ve got news for you . . . if your show is in the early stages, it’s not Les Mis, Phantom, A Chorus Line, etc . . . YET. I’m not saying it won’t be one of those box-office busters, but it takes time, effort, and objectivity.
Be able to stand back and say . . . “This is not good enough.” And then see Skill #2 and be optimistic that as a team you’ll make it better.
Want the next three? Tune in tomorrow for more.
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Need some tips on how to keep creating theater during Covid-19? How about 19 tips? Take our 19 Day challenge here.

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Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.