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Mar 1, 2007

from the Dramatists Guild Newsletter--reprinted with permission

For a long time I've been railing against fees--especially submission fees for 10 minute plays or where the award is a reading or no-royalty production. The Guild stepped up yesterday to publicly denounce said fees. Needless to say, this makes me very happy.

From the Desk of Gary Garrison


(Portion excised)

As of today, the Guild will no longer publicize calls for submissions that have a fee attached unless that fee is transparent (where does the money go and to whom) in the description to the reader. The subtext: it is not okay to charge a dramatist a fee to supplement a theatre or producer’s production opportunity. YOUR ART IS FEE ENOUGH!

I know all the arguments of why some theatres and producers position that they must charge fees: “We couldn’t afford to produce the event if we didn’t charge a fee. We have to hire readers. We have to publicize the event. We have to pay the actors and directors. We have to offer prize money . . .” I understand that, but theatres and producers are doing that on the backs of people that are more poor than they are! What?! On average, dramatists spend ten dollars to submit a play or musical anywhere in this country: printing, copying, postage, return postage, binders, envelopes. If a theatre or producer tacks on an additional $10, $15 or $30 fee, one submission now costs anywhere from $20-50, with no guarantees that anything will come of it. And yes, I know: there are no guarantees for anyone in the theatre. But all too often this feels like, “we’re not going to guarantee you anything, AND we’re going to charge you for the privilege of that, AND you’ll probably never hear from us, AND don’t expect any kind of critical reaction to your material, AND don’t expect notification of who, in fact, was chosen.” And if it’s not a money issue then it’s a spirit issue: it’s demeaning enough to submit your work to theatres and producers that you never hear from. To pay someone for their silence is too much to ask anyone.

Of course, the easiest thing (at least to me) is to make all fees transparent in the listings (Fee: $25; $10 for readers, $15 for prize money). At least then we can all start holding people accountable on some level. And you can decide if you like what you read. To be clear: we’ll publish a call for submission that explains how submission money is used (some producers do that now). And we’ll continue to publish the big four: the O’Neill, Sundance, Susan Blackburn Prize, Actors Theatre of Louisville with date reminders. But we will no longer list an opportunity that requires you pay a fee to be considered for inclusion.

Enough is enough.

ggarrison at dramatistsguild dot com


JJW said...

word. gary's a great advocate for writers.

Adam said...

Yeah, he's great. So is the loop.

Playwrights Foundation said...

Hey Adam,

Thanks for posting this. I'm in agreement that it's a problem, and I wish there was a way for us not to have to charge one. As a director, I've felt similiar angst about sending my $25 into The Drama League 2 or 3 years in a row.

I am a little confused by the guideline model he suggests though, and put up a response on our blog.


Adam said...

Hi Jonathan,

Thanks for posting.

You didn't charge last year, did you? Something must have changed.

I mean part of it is that BAPF is legitimate--you have a reputation. You are a known quantity. But yeah I had mixed feelings about writing you a check.

Dan said...

I was really happy when I read this in the newsletter.