Holy Cow! We're up to 12 comments on Zachary's "Our Own New Deal" essay! I think there are three things I need to do: 1) bring the discussion out of the depths of the Comments box and into the Main Floor of the blog, and 2) perhaps organize the discussion in such a way that all the responses to individual comments and questions are in order (this may not be possible, but we'll see), and 3) wade in with my own comments, since anyone who has read this blog knows I am in complete agreement with Zachary and I hate to see him get to have all the fun or arguing!
Zachary's original post is here.
Joshua responded: "It is a well-written essay. I admire it. There is nothing I would like more than to be able to move to a smaller town where I can have a bigger house (for half the rent) a car and a motorcycle, along with green grass on a lawn and much cheaper beer in the bar. However. I want to write for a living. I don't want to be a weekend warrior, like the cover bands I've written about in "No More Covers" - driving a truck during the week and doing theatre on the weekend. I'm from Iowa, I know people who do just what he's written about and while there is nothing wrong with what they do, it is not what I strive for, which is to be a working professional writer, of the theatre and perhaps more. I don't wish to teach, I don't wish to review, I wish to write professional theatre along film and television. You cannot really do that from Witchita. Or Iowa. Not really. That's the reason to live here in new york city. Besides Los Angeles, this is where the agents are. And the managers and eventually some producers. I wish it were not so. I wish I could live in a small town, put up plays and have agents consider them. But I know several, more than several, really talented writers who live elsewhere and have great difficulty with representation, finding it and keeping it and getting their plays considered. So perhaps it depends on what a person wants to achieve. I don't know."
Matt Freeman wrote: "Now, I came here, like most people, to find a place where financial support and an audience exists for this sort of thing, plus the prospect for a career and real connections (yes, I said connections.) I cannot find that in my hometown of Boyertown, PA, where baseball is the order of the day."
Zachary responded: "I of course understand and respect the fact that most agents and producers are in the 2 big cities - and my idea is mostly based at companies - not individuals setting up camp in other places - but regardless, and this is the idealistic perspective - would the agents and producers not go where the talent is? Granted - it would take a mass exodus, to, say, Wichita, to lure them out there, and realistically I do not see that happening anytime soon - so - the alternative - I believe that taking your work and talent to a new part of the country is a sacrifice that will pay off in the long run.People don't want to go and start a community, or even help an infant one or small one into adulthood. People want to go to where the community already is. And that would be the cities. But I would argue - what kind of community do we even have here? There are well over 10,000 of us fellow artists in this city - where is the central place to meet? Do we see each other's work? I only know Freeman because he came and reviwed a show of mine and we run into each other at functions and shows, etc...and I've just met Joshua and Isaac (at least virtually). The community here is disjointed and does not work. That's why I choose to start The Community Dish - which has 67 Indie Theatre companies in it right now - but even that has its extreme problems."
Joshua responded: "would the agents and producers not go where the talent is?"Short answer - no. The media coverage is still mostly based on two areas that count for entertainment - LA and New York. Some Chicago writers do fair (and I've thought of moving there) but many have local chicago agents who find their hands tied getting their clients into big theatres here. There is a lot of talent in Chicago, and occasionally someone there will get major coverage in their papers, enough to translate into a transfer to NYC or LA - but still, for the most part - the theatre money folk stay close to where they are. nyc and la. Case in point - nyc fringe festival - gets a lot of ink (deservedly or not) - now there's been a similar festival running in edinborough for a loong time (and the direct inspiration for the new york fest) but is it covered here? No. Are agents that excited about any shows in Scotland? No. Is any producers here trying to transfer a show from there to OB? No. Why? Cause it's in fucking Scotland, man, and the producers and media are here. wish it weren't true, and there are instances where a piece will be developed and discovered regionally (Kentucky Cycles is one) but for the writer of theatre - unfortunately - you'll have more trouble making a splash. I want to write for television eventually, and that means moving to LA. 90% of the tv writing is done there, and so is the hiring. That's how it is, I wish it weren't so, but wishing won't make it true."
Zachary responded: "In terms of why the producers and agents and whatnot do not go to those places, you are absolutely right. There are exceptions, of course - like Clancy Productions (John Clancy, who founded NYC Fringe) has left the world of NYC fringe or not, and taken his work to Scotland year after year, and won the awards and got the press and more importantly, the audiences, for his work - and year after year, it has not been written about here on a mass scale, but there are groups taking his work from Scotland and presenting it here next year. But yes, an exception.The problem I see is the reliance upon this system - we are artists, we are not ruled by agents and producers and paychecks. Yes, of course, money is important and we need it - but there are other ways to make it. You want to write for television - it may be easier in LA to do this - just like it may be easier in NYC to do theatre and get noticed - but who are you really affecting - and what are the odds that you will hit it big, no matter how talented you are? Not too good. So why not go to a smaller place and do a show from scratch on a local station that will give you airtime once you've established yourself there in the community? Where you are making your work as uninhibited by producers and agents as possible?I guess what really matters is what kind of tv do you want to write? Do you want to write for the masses only to get your work stepped on left and right so companies will purchase airtime to sell things - or do you want your art to be yours? Idealism is really all we have left at the end of the day, why not keep chasing it?"
Joshua responded: "We are different people, evidently - artists have to pay the bills just like anyone else - to say that we are not ruled by paycheck seems a bit, I don't know, of a dodge. We should support ourselves, if we can. I want to be compensated for my work, I deserve to be compensated for my work - my work is worthy of that. I agree that the system is frucked up with its overreliance on agents from specific agencies, that. But I don't know that moving is a solution. It would be better if the work moved, you know? If a theatre in Scottsdale did work of mine and traded with a theatre in new york. If the work moved, it would help. So I like your idea of a network - that's a good idea. Move the work around. I don't know if the writer moving helps, unless the writer is sick of new york (which happens) and wants to get out. And again, I come from the background you're talking about - I did theatre in Iowa and Nebraska, I came here to pitch in the big show. Hey, there's nothing wrong with people that was to be big fish in a small pond - but it's not what I, myself, want out of this life - I want to do it for a living. As Matt pointed out, you simply cannot do that from Bumfruck Iowa. You can't. If you could, I'd still be there."
Zachary: "Yes, it does appear that we are hitting this from different angles. Of course you deserve to be compensated for your work - but I simply see that compensation being different.In any respect, yes, the larger problem here, concerning the writer, is exactly what you said - esp. in NYC - there are not enough relationships b/w writer and theatre, and certainly not enough of them getting paid. It's very much like what Scott wrote about in Sept. on here (which I just discovered last night) about stars moving from one town to the next, and that's all. We need a tighter community in order to address this problem as a whole..."
Matt, on his blog, wrote: "I don't disagree with any of what he's saying, to be perfectly honest. The audience for Broadway is predominantly outside of New York City. If we want plays to sell well, or theatre artists to become important to the country as a whole, I'm certain that we should do more to get the word out into the rest of the country.While I've read a few things that would suggest to me that most artists are a bit defensive about their aspirations, I would say that I feel no shame in prefering to live in cities. There's more acess here, I spend a great deal of money for it, and I do want to have a successful career and when you want that, you go where the industry is thriving. You don't go to Alaska to harvest tropical fruit.In that analogy, it's clear when I say Alaska, I mean Zack's Wichita, and when I say Tropical Fruit, I mean artistic praise. Let's just assume that when a producer in the great plains sees "produced in New York" on a play's resume, they're more likely to take a look at it than when they say "ran for ten years in Wyoming."
This is an edited version of one particular "thread," as it were. In the next post, I will respond myself -- but I think this one is long enough.