If you’re thinking about producing a Broadway or Off-Broadway show, or if you’re an author who wants to get your show produced, you’re probably wondering: how do I raise money for my project?
Producing a show is a lot like creating an app or any other startup. There’s no “snap your fingers and it will appear approach” to raising funds. Finding investors takes a lot of pounding the pavement, and there’s no one who will do it for you, and believe in your project, as much as you do.
To get started, I advise that you make a list of all the people you know who might be willing to provide front money. Then, prepare a detailed and persuasive pitch for your project, and – most important of all – ask for a face-to-face meeting. It’s not easy to ask people you know (and love) for money, but there’s no other way around it. Even when you become a super successful producer, you will always be asking people you know for money.
You must also be prepared to spend some of your own money to begin the process. This demonstrates that you believe in your project enough to take on some of the initial risk. You'll need to hire both a lawyer (to secure the rights and draft investor documents) and a general manager (to prepare preliminary budgets and provide essential pre-production guidance).
Now don’t be put off by this. It’s actually a good thing. It means you’re committed, and it means that you have a stake in your project and are that much more likely to do the hard work to court investors. Remember, every successful entrepreneur has had to cross this hurdle at some point. Now it’s your turn.
What else can you do to “jumpstart” your project? Producers will often mount an industry reading or lab and invite potential backers to the presentation. This can be a very useful stepping stone, and a good general manager can help you determine how best to go about it.
Of course, you will still need to cultivate a list of potential backers that you can invite to this presentation. And when I say cultivate, I mean that you’ve spent face-to-face time with your invitees in advance to introduce yourself and your project. Virtually nobody RSVPs to a reading after getting an email from somebody they don’t know.
The Job of a Producer
At the end of the day, the only way to get your show off the ground is to have some skin in the game, ask people you know for money and take some risks. The good news is, the more you do it, the easier it gets.
Over time, your list and network of investors will grow. And if you’ve treated them well, they may join you again on future ventures. And an investor who turned you down the first time may be more willing to give you money after you have proven you can get a project off the ground.
The important take-away here is that an investor is more likely to believe in you if you believe in yourself. And there’s no better way to encourage an investor to take a leap of faith with you than to take that first leap yourself.