Producers’ Report – Leprechauns & Lies

2/10/12

If you haven’t read anything else about it yet, Leprechauns & Lies is our latest produced project, and first official run at a live show for the superfreakos. This is a passion project for Chad- something he’s been working on for 20 years and with the encouragement of his incredible acting teacher Gary Imhoff, finally finished it and decided to put it on the stage.

We’d been discussing this in meetings for the past few months, since Chad’s been on the road to finishing it, and started batting around the idea of applying to the NY Fringe Festival. Pretty soon we realized the deadline to apply is Feb 14th and we’d need to stage and shoot video of it as part of the supporting materials. With Chad’s 40th birthday right around the corner we decided that weekend would be the perfect opportunity to stage the show and then throw a kick ass birthday party for Chad right after.

So this all sounds pretty straight forward- except for the fact that I had never produced a live show before, and we decided all of this the 2nd week of January, with the date set for the weekend of January 27th. But that’s what I love about this job- being thrown into territory I’ve never been and figuring it all out as I go.

First up: Find a theatre

Not long ago our great friend (and Clean Sanchez cast member) Kelly Meyersfield staged a show she’d been working on for a while called Loose- basically a collection of hilarious vignettes about love and sex in this day and age. It was at this great little 36-seat theatre in Hollywood off of Melrose and Hyperion called Lifebook Playhouse Theatre. Chad knows the owner from their Beverly Hills Playhouse days, so we reached out to Allen Levin and found out the theatre was available when we needed it. We checked with a couple other theatres as well, but Allen was so easy to work with that we realized pretty quickly this was the place for us.

Tickets! …hmmm

If I haven’t said it before, I’ll say it again: we live in amazing times, folks. It used to be that to sell tickets we’d have to have them designed and printed. Then we’d have to call or write or send smoke signals or whatever to all our friends to invite them to purchase tickets, physically collect their money, and then get them those tickets by mail, in person or will call. Not anymore.

Now, I can basically jump online, tell Brown Paper Tickets “Hey guys, we’re having a show, this is my address and Paypal email!,” and they reply back instantly “Awesome, we’ll take it from here. You just sit back and relax, we’ll mail you a check when all is said and done. You’re hair looks fantastic today by the way.” Done. I can’t believe how incredibly brainless it was and with the few minute issues that came up, their response and customer service was stellar.  Use Brown Paper Tickets.

Advertising

If I haven’t also said this before, I will say it again: I am very lucky to have the kind of talents and skills in Chad and Denny as I do. We’ll get to Denny, but Chad has a long and fruitful history in advertising so the man knows how to put together a beautiful program, as well as any other form of advertising we need (post cards, flyers, etc.). Ahhhhh I am a very spoiled producer. Give him a deadline, and consider it done.

Crew

As I mentioned, one of the main reason for staging this was to record and submit a video for the application. To do this, we needed equipment and crew. Normally Denny would be running camera, but for this he’d be in the booth running lights and sound so we needed two solid shooters who would get great footage under Denny’s supervision. We turned to more friends, Ané Vecchione– a very talented DP and artist with lots of documentary experience, and Garrett Robinson– whose great attitude and hard work makes him an asset on any set. Both have their own equipment and are fantastic people (<— i.e. HIRE THEM). We shot on two 7Ds (one was ours, one we borrowed from a friend), and Denny worked out the angles, lenses, and settings in our tech rehearsal so when they arrived he was all ready to brief them and they were ready to shoot. For audio recording we also used our own equipment, but I’ll let Denny get into the tech side of things, and how he hung the mic and Zoom to get solid sound.

I was also fortunate to have some help running the house. Our friend Diana Lesmez (producer/writer/director- check out her current project here), came down for our two shows on Saturday, so I was free to run around and deal with the unpredictable little issues that come up in every production. Since Saturday night also including the extra element of a party right after (including lots of food and drinks), there was plenty to do and I can’t tell you how much stress was relieved knowing that regardless of what came up, the house was in good hands. Between shows we ate Zankou Chicken– Lebanese food is my #1 choice for feeding a crew. It’s hot, inexpensive, and most importantly REAL food, providing a great balance of nutrients that won’t slow production down later).

How it all turned out

In the end, pretty much everything went just right. I locked myself out of the house just before I was supposed to leave on Saturday (awesome), and even though I had to push a bunch of errands to between the two shows instead of getting them done beforehand, having Diana there made that not a big deal at all. Tech stuff went on without a hitch- Ané and Garrett got beautiful footage and the sound was clear. The turnout was great, shows started on time, and Chad and Denny were right on point (of course) with the performance and running the booth, respectively. The after party was well-attended, everyone had a good time, and we got our full cleaning deposit back from the theatre. That, my friends, is success!

Lessons

-Surround yourself with a dependable crew- this lesson is reinforced with absolutely every project I work on and it’s important to recognize.

-Along those same lines, make sure you’ve backed yourself up appropriately. Diana very generously and invaluably donated her time on Saturday night, but Friday night I was managing the house and stage by myself. Normally actors are given a specific set of time notifications (something like 30 min, 15 min, 10 min, 5 min, 3 min) but it’s pretty much impossible to do much more than 30 min heads up in person if you’re checking the audience in by yourself. Get help or work out some kind of system, such as test messaging (though that can be unreliable) so everyone is ready for showtime.

-If you need to buy a ton of alcohol at once, use BevMo’s online ordering system. You can order and pay for whatever you want online and pick it up at the store of your choice in an hour. It works exactly like that and is incredibly efficient and convenient. Also, do a quick online search for a coupon code before you pay and save yourself a few bucks.

-Respect your location, arrive and leave on time and leave it in better shape than you found it- this is another one that should be reinforced and recognized with every production. If every producer did this it would be a hell of a lot easier to find shooting locations in Los Angeles.

-Be a good hostess, but learn to let go a little bit too. Chad’s 40th birthday party was an absolute blast and I’m so glad I was able to spend time with good friends and conversation. Unless a major spill occurs, the only things you should worry about are keeping the bathroom sticked and the enough beer on ice.

-I am so very, extremely aware of how simple this show was compared to most. One actor, minimal lighting changes, hardly any props and no set dressing. I know, theatre house and stage managers are rolling their eyes right now. But it was a great show to ease me into that world.

-Don’t lock yourself out of your house.

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