Monday, December 10, 2007

John Pinckard and the T Fellowship

As you have seen on the blogsite, I love to interview directors, actors, creators and other producers to get their take and experience with getting a project up. There is a brand new vehicle called the T Fellowship that is intended to help develop the next generation of producers.

"The T Fellowship honors the legacy of Broadway producer T. Edward Hambleton and is designed to support the development of gifted emerging theatrical producers."

"The T Fellowship is committed to sustaining the finest traditions of creative producing. Although the environment in which theatre is produced continues to change, the underlying principles that have historically shepherded great works of American theater continue to have validity today and must be understood and adapted if the art form is to thrive."

Below is my interview with John Pinckard, one of the winners of this brand new fellowship.

DREAMPEDDLER: How did you hear about the T Fellowship?

JP: I had been producing and directing shows in the Off Off Broadway scene for a couple years by the time I produced Silence! the Musical at the New York International Fringe Festival in 2005. That production garnered a remarkable degree of attention from the commercial sector, and one of the people who saw the show was Hal Prince's assistant. He invited me in for a meeting and told me about the fellowship, which was at that time still in development. He said, "When the program is ready, you need to apply: you're exactly the kind of guy they're looking for." And here we are today.

DREAMPEDDLER: How long was the application process? How many steps did you have to take? Application submission, 1 or 2 interviews?

JP: The application is pretty lengthy; you can see the requirements at Eight applicants were invited in for a pre-screen with the Chair of the Theatre Division at Columbia University, Steven Chaikelson. Five of us were invited back for finalist interviews with the full panel: Steve, Hal Prince, Margo Lion, Edwin Wilson, Tori Bailey, and Gregory Mosher. They intended to select only one fellow, but they awarded the fellowship to me and another candidate, Orin Wolf, after both of us came back for a second interview with the full panel. It's been especially nice, because Orin is a dear friend of mine.

DREAMPEDDLER: How is the fellowship assisting you? Specific classes, networking events, stipend?

JP: The centerpiece of the fellowship is really the project development, where the fellowship committee basically gets behind you as you develop a new project and produce it for Broadway. Now that I have a project selected, Hal and the others will be mentoring me throughout the course of the year as I work with the composer/lyricist/bookwriter team to develop it. Near the end of the year, they will be introducing me to the financial people who will work with me to make the show happen.

There is also the marvelous opportunity to audit classes at Columbia for the MFA in producing/arts management as well. The networking and support component of the program is all about putting me in touch with the contacts I need to get the project done. By way of example, I have a lot of research I need to do to get up to speed on a lot of historical and musicological aspects of the period and location that my project is going to be set in. Rather than fight my way blindly through the catalogue at the New York Public Library, I was able to call the head of the Performing Arts Division of the NYPL, who arranged a meeting for me with the heads of the music and theatre departments. I walked out of there with, shall we say, a highly curated reading list of books! They have set me on to researching things I didn't even realize I needed to be researching...the support has already been invaluable.

There is a stipend as well, $14k in installments throughout the year.

DREAMPEDDLER: As the fellowship is helping you to develop the project, will they have some type of "producer profit participation" in the final work? I ask this as the Nicoll Fellowship in Screenwriting (probably the most prestigious writing contest out there) gives a $30,000 a year stipend for up to 6 winners a year for their fellowship year. They do NOT participate, option or own any part of the project though, so it is completely altruistic in nature.

JP: There is no profit participation in the final work. The T Fellowship is solely about cultivating the next generation of producers; Hal and the fellowship committee are really invested in using the program to make the changes they'd like to see on Broadway.

DREAMPEDDLER: What is your deal structure with the composer/lyricist/bookwriter? Are you commissioning the work and therefore owning the copywright? Sharing some of the creation credit such as co-writer?

JP: It's a little early for me to discuss deal points, but of course the arrangement will be largely based on the Dramatists Guild APC. In terms of my participation in the creation of the show, the authorial team will hold the copyright. I look at the creation of Cabaret, where Hal Prince wanted to do a musical adaptation of "I Am A Camera" and got John & Fred to write it with Joe Masteroff. That show will always be "by" Kander & Ebb, but the show came to life on Broadway largely through the lens of Hal's vision.

DREAMPEDDLER: Have you decided on a particular project to produce through the fellowship yet or are you still considering your options?

JP: I have just picked my project, after two months of deliberation! I'll be working with Chris Miller, a very talented composer/lyricist who I've wanted to work with for almost ten years. We're just getting to work now. His show "The Burnt Part Boys" is expected at the Vineyard next summer if an upcoming reading goes well.

DREAMPEDDLER: I understand you are provided with a budget for a reading. How do you anticipate mounting that reading? Independent of any other readings? Mounting it in NYMF if it is a musical, or mounting it at the Fringe or the Summer Plays Festival?

JP: There's a budget ($20k) for development, but it's not necessarily for a reading. There will be "some" kind of a presentation at the end of the year-long program, next September, but that is dependent on where in the musical's development cycle we happen to be. Chris and I are developing a brand new show, almost from scratch, with source material in the public domain. He works very fast though, and he's actually arranged for us to do a workshop in May at Elon College in North Carolina (his alma mater), so I imagine we'll have a full draft by then. Depending on how that goes, we could be ready for a full backers' read in September. That would obviously be ideal, but I'm not going to force a presentation that we're not ready for; that would be profoundly counterproductive.

The Fellowship is meant to introduce a young producer directly to the backing he needs for a worthy Broadway project; as such sending the musical to NYMF or Fringe would be redundant to the Fellowship. Festivals are more useful if you don't have interest and are looking to grab someone's attention; I have the attention of the best people in the business! I'm very fortunate.

DREAMPEDDLER: When did you receive the fellowship and by when do you have to mount the reading?

JP: I found out in June, but the official announcement and commencement of the program was Sept 17. The program is a year long, so sometime next September I imagine we'll be doing the reading.

DREAMPEDDLER: Is there an anticipated date for others to apply for the 2nd T Fellowship?

JP: If they keep to last year's timeline, they'll put the call out any day now actually. My deadline was Feb 2. But Orin's and mine is the first year...they're still making this up as they go along in a lot of ways.

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