Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Business Of Bway

I’d be more inclined to protect these investors if the investors had a little better sense of theatre. If they knew more of David Merrick and less of Rupert Murdock we wouldn’t be loading in shows the likes of Festen, Lestat, or The Pirate Queen. Never heard of them. It’s because they didn’t last very long, They weren’t very good. As the Broadway expression goes, “people stayed away in droves.”
The investors could go to the NYC Public Library, go to the classics section and begin their theatre education there. Instead they seem to have developed their theatrical investing style out of the Daily Racing Form or the craps table in Atlantic City. Roll the dice and make big money. What they also seem to fail to understand is that while they may be risking their disposable income on a long shot, the actors, stagehands, dressers, musicians, ushers and others who make this magic happen (and no, a flying car is not magic) are risking mortgage payments, tuition payments, credit card payments, food shopping and other trivial items when we make a commitment to spend six nights and eights shows a week on this turkey for months at a time, even before it opens.
The biggest difference seems to be that we went into this transient business knowing that every show closes, there would be times when we have to scramble for work, that we would work on turkeys. When we “don’t send your laundry out.” We also make the big money possible. We run the Phantoms, the Les Miz’s, The Lion Kings, the Miss Saigon's, the Chorus Lines for six nights a week, 52 weeks a year in small, cramped, often outdated theatres. At home and on the road.
If these investors would spend as much time reading the Bard was well as Barron’s they would know that Life is but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more. Understand the business better, understand the art better and you’ll make better investments.
We know what we are, but not what we may be.

Leo, Not For Profits and Unpaid Crew

There’s an interesting blog at the Seems Leonardo DiCaprio's new doc, the Eleventh Hour, was made mostly non-union. Because, you see, it was so low budget and such a good cause that nobody who really works on the movie should pay their bills or mortgages. Particularly since Leo isn't getting any good PR for it. He's practically GIVING IT AWAY! Leo, who has four movies on the hook of which he is producing three, worked under a SAG contract for the doc. It would appear he doesn’t particularly feel he needs to return the favor and use IATSE contracts for his pet projects.
I’m always amazed that when those that use the not-for-profit dodge feel that somehow the work that is put in to create their projects is inherently different and lesser than a for-profit project. The scenery, the lighting, the camera work, the editing are the same. The skill and effort it takes to present these projects are the same as for-profits. The hours are just as long. My landlord doesn’t give a rat’s ass if I’m working on a not-for-profit, nor does the grocer or utility company.
Pay me union wages, cover my benefits and then I’ll decide if I want to kick in my paycheck. You’ll get a quality work and I too can feel good about you little happy dance.
Spread the joy. Hire Union.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Samnick The Seer

Seems this guy's crystal ball is working overtime (I wonder if that's billable hours). Hey Norm, any leader wants their legacy to be one of peace and prosperity. It's just that, unlike in boardrooms and law offices, a labor leader knows that the best way to leave a their union in better shape than before is to instill a fighting spirit. What better way than a highly publized punch-up in the middle of Times Square. And what better way to inspire the troops than to show them you have the power to close Broadway. That will leave in it's wake long term peace, prosperity and good morale. It's called a silver platter.

Some of Norm's predictions.

Published: September 15, 1993
From the Kennedy Center musicians' point of view, that is exactly what is at issue in their strike. The talks broke down when the center said it wanted to eliminate contract provisions that guarantee the orchestra's 61 players 10 weeks of ballet performances each season. "If we need 40 musicians," asked the center's lawyer, Norman Samnick, "why should we hire 61? If we have six weeks of work, why should we pay for 10?"

October 04, 2007
However, one attorney with extensive experience in labor matters said he does not believe the league is trying to send a message to the other unions. "I don't think that's the intent," said Norman Samnick, who has bargained against other IATSE chapters about 25 times on behalf of theatres and other venues around the country. "If they really mean what they say, they're going to say it, they're going to do it, and if it rubs off on the other unions, so be it. I don't think they're looking at it like 'I've got another six-shooter here and I'm going to use it on you.' "

Wed Oct 10, 5:09 PM ET
"This is a nervous time for everybody," said Norman Samnick, an entertainment lawyer who specializes in labor relations for Bryan Cave LLP. "Ultimately, it's about the first one to blink.

October 12. 2007 2:13PM
“Waiting till shows are loaded in is a good strategy,” says Norman Samnick, an attorney with Bryan Cave, who has negotiated against the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees in the past. “If the shows are loaded in, they could even operate without stagehands.”

(That is of course, if the actors and musicians crossed picket lines.)

The union is now getting ready to respond to anything the League decides to do. It is even taking steps to skirt the necessary permission to strike from Thomas Short, international president of IATSE. Mr. Short didn't return calls for comment, but theater executives say he doesn't want to authorize a strike.

“Tom is retiring next year and he doesn’t want a strike as his legacy,” Mr. Samnick says. “He doesn’t want to be known as the guy who closed Broadway.”