The Show Must Go On (even if it’s a different show)

So you’re a start-up, subject to all the start-up cliches (crazy hours, raided IRA accounts, second jobs, tiny team) and maybe you’re a startup in an usual industry for a start-up (tech adverse for starters) but even so you are certain that the work you are doing solves an industry wide problem, is highly scalable, has the potential to build new audiences and create new jobs,  and has high profitability potential – on top of which you are deeply passionate about your industry and the work you are doing… so Seth Godin’s The Dip in hand you persevere, sometimes for years – creating first after first after first.

Madeleine Bundy and Stephen Stout and the live-stream of Kim Daviies’ SMOKE, produced by The Flea Theater

And then, a client calls you  – for the first time you don’t have to convince the client about the potential that live-streaming holds for the performing arts, for reaching global audiences, for creating an entirely new model of how we can define live performing arts in a  digital century, this client already gets it and they are ready to go.  They have a major theater with an international reputation attached to their one-off project and a number of major television stars. The hitch, almost no budget.

The book that has brought us through many an "impossible" project.

The book that has brought us through many an “impossible” project.

But you are a start-up and this project is incredibly challenging, incredibly exciting, and aligns your company with a number of major industry “brands”. Despite articles about your company’s work in every major paper, you remain mostly, frustratingly  anonymous – a job aligned with these brands with the potential for such a high profile may be just what you need to continue your growth.

You’ve been told there is “no budget”, but get confirmation that the client understands that cameras must be rented and operators must be paid,  so you present a budget that is 35% of the market value for the work – knowing it will mean long days and nights of prep done by a too small team – but we are game! (meanwhile another company’s budget came in at their “friends and family rate “at 127% higher than ours did).  Excellent! It’s a go!

A  week or so later, a call comes in – the budget is still too high – you cut it again by another 32% (your crew gets paid at a discounted rate and  a few low priced rentals – that is all – nothing for the company’s time, for the $50,000 worth of the company’s equipment that will be used to live-stream the show, no expendable’s, no travel, no file transfer fee etc etc) You think about it – but once again – being associated with these brands is great for your company. While over and over you have established yourselves as leaders of your field, you are still working in relative anonymity, and this has the potential to be a great step forward.  Besides, you love the work, and this job is challenging!

Madeleine Bundy and Stephen Stout and the live-stream of Kim Davies’ SMOKE, produced by The Flea Theater

Most of the work comes in the two weeks prior to the event.  Production meetings with the great producing team, production meetings at the wonderful theater, multiple tests of the stream, building graphics, setting up the equipment for a five camera shoot, securing equipment, picking up the equipment, all the paperwork around insurance for the rentals, building your crew, readying the additional feeds, building web pages, crafting mailings – all the things you do to both create and prepare for a broadcast quality multi-camera high profile live-streamed event and also the work you do  to let your community know about what you are doing, as the marketing opportunity is what you are receiving in lieu of payment for the 60+ hours of time you have committed to this very exciting project.

Then the day the event begins, the day before the stream goes live, as you are making to do lists for the day – you get a call. Cancelled. A trustee has issued the word – no pictures, social media or video at the event.

It is a blow.  It is an investment of more than 60 hours of time. It’s your word – you have hired a crew, one cut  a job short in Europe to work for you, others have turned down other jobs to work for you (at a discounted rate, but the jobs are challenging, fun and resume building). It’s your community – you have reached out to the over 15,000 people on your mailing list, also your Facebook and your Twitter community. It is a blow.

Change of plans – VATV’s Virch Reid, Matt Matossian and Kathryn Jones with our streaming equipment on our way to The Flea Theater

You yell a little bit (at your husband, thanks husband). You write a letter.  And then you think… what next? You’ve prepped for hours, you have already rented your cameras and walkies, they are in your office as you speak, you have committed a crew…

What if???

You’ve always had your eye on The Flea Theater and… check the calendar, The Bats have a show tomorrow night.  You send of an email to Carol Ostrow, Producing Director of The Flea, and cc the whole Flea Staff…. by 2:30 you are on a conference call, by 4:30 you are scouting the space and testing the internet speed (Fios! 91MB up!)  while Carol and her incredible staff go about securing all the permissions and rights they need from the cast, the crew, the director, the playwright, the designer.

You read the play, you plan the shoot without ever seeing the staging, you build a new webpage, you build a new newsletter, you call your crew with a new call time and  a new location… and…

At 7pm the next night, 32 hours after the event you planned for a month was cancelled, you go LIVE from The Flea Theater in NYC

– a gorgeous play, beautifully directed, marvelous actors, a phenomenal administrative team from The Flea, and my wonderful, elastic team that followed me through a major game change and came through with flying colors.

Because yes, the show must go on.  When you are a start-up clawing your way to profitability you come through for your community.  When you are a producer, start-up or not, your job is to get the show opened.

A million thanks to the wonderful folks at the first job that sadly didn’t materialize.  And a trillion to the incredible crew at The Flea Theater.  They were an absolute and total joy to work with. They are nimble, they embrace technology, they are smart and lovely and fair and effective.  I can’t wait to work with them again.

Madeleine Bundy  in the live-stream of Kim Davies' SMOKE, produced by The Flea Theater

Madeleine Bundy in the live-stream of Kim Davies’ SMOKE, produced by The Flea Theater

And to the playwright Kim Davies, who has the courage to write difficult truths and then to allow them to be streamed all over the world. To the director Tom Costello, who couldn’t possibly know before hand what his play was in for, and the two beautiful, spontaneous actors, Madeleine Bundy and Stephen Stout who welcomed our cameras into their work  – thank you.  It was a nerve wracking joy to bring your work to more than 500 people who joined us online, despite no time for marketing – and who responded with virtual Bravo’s from all over the internet.

When does the next show go on???

(To see more pictures from the stream and read the audiences response, click here)

  • Cheryl King January 29, 2015, 11:22 am

    I already knew you were a trooper and highly professional, and able to handle disappointments well. Now I admire you even more, for snatching success out of the jaws of defeat. And the defeat, if you had let it stay that way, would have been not only costly, but demoralizing, for a lot of people. It would have been fodder for a negative view of a lot of things – other people, corporations, yourself, fate, etc. But no, not you. You have vision and power and purpose, and I am proud to know you, and gratified to see this happen. Enormous congratulations to your staff, to the folks at the Flea, but most of all to you, for shepherding the project through to a successful ending. Brava!!!!!!

    • kathryn January 29, 2015, 1:28 pm

      Cheryl! I anyone knows ANYTHING about tenacity it would be YOU! Its a complicated road we haul, huh? And you and StageLeft are, I know, in the middle of a ton of changes. I have no doubt that you will come out on the other side more victorious than ever!


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