Several years ago, there was a major Broadway musical in crisis of being shuttered before even making it to the previews stage. The problem was not the story, or the plot, or the personalities involved. The problem boiled down to greed and money.

The director of the musical decided he wanted author points on the production — even though all the contracts had been signed and the show was far into the rehearsal process and nearing the previews stage.

I do not believe directors are authors of anything and they should NEVER be given points out of the author pool under any circumstance. That doesn’t mean greedy and undeserving directors don’t try to dip their filthy fingers into the author points pool. Too many authors give in to that demand just to be cordial. Those authors have allowed directors to corrode their right to their work and the honor of the writing process.

Author points are sacred because they determine how much you are paid and and how fast you can earn back your personal nut for the time and effort you spent writing the show. The average for writing a Broadway show from pen on paper to production is seven years — and that’s with established star authors writing the show. If you’re on a musical, the author pool of points can begin to rapidly shrink.

If you have a composer and a lyricist or two, and a book author — you have, right there — four people diving a small pool of, perhaps, six total author points. That’s 1.50 points out of of a total of 100 overall production points for each author. That’s absolutely nothing in the end.

So, when you have a director who now believes they deserve an extra share of pool points in addition to their director points — and they want it from the author points pool — you can see how furious authors can be made as their fair share gets reduces from 1.50 points to 1.20 points in the lick of lips.

If one of the authors was the previous Muscle on a show and if you have a director claiming more points as an author as The Muscle — you have a perfect meltdown of a production that has nothing to do with the overall plot of the show as one Muscle tries to out-muscle the other Muscle.

The negotiations deteriorated quickly — all authors must agree to give up a percentage of their points or no changes will be made — and the previous author muscle refused to even entertain the idea of a director getting author points even though the other authors were willing to give in to the director’s terroristic threats just to make sure the show made it to Broadway.

Standstill.

Threats were made.

Dancers were crying backstage.

Investors were weeping in the wings.

The director refused to attend any more rehearsals until he was given a share of the author points. He dramatically went on stage during dance rehearsal and took his cowboy boots off the stage where they sat, in a glowing light, every day after he took them off in the morning and changed into dance shoes.

The high drama of the director “walking out” on the production and carrying away his cowboy boots — along with all his hangers-on — in a sad parade up the aisle of the theatre and into the street and into his waiting limousine, was a terrible demonstration arrogance and cowardice in a feeble, yet fatal, grab to get what was not owed to, or owned by, the director.

The crisis was avoided by a SuperAgent who happened to represent all the authors and the director. That SuperAgent gave up part of his pool percentage and gave it to the director and while that wasn’t really good enough — the director wanted AUTHOR points, not AGENT or PRODUCER points — there was enough shaming pressure to put the director back on the job and back in the theatre and to return his cowboy boots to the proscenium stage.

The lesson in that mess is that authors must stand together, united, against any and all unwanted insurgencies into their domain as the real creators of the performance.

The director is nothing more than a traffic controller for the stage and if the director has to do more than just read and enact what is found on the page, then the authors have not done their job and must begin again — but that does not include adding the director as an author.

4 Comments

  1. Conflicts in Big Broadway shows are rarely about “Artistic Differences” — they’re always about money on the backend and that explains why there are so few exciting and genuinely new and fresh shows on The Great White Way. Nobody wants to risk the money to slaughtering a goat or losing the cowboy boots in a hissy fit.