Dear Fellow Theatre Artist,
Our theatrical industry is broken. The pandemic has only made this fact more obvious to our community. So many of us struggle to make a living in the profession to which we’ve devoted our lives, while only a few at the top can manage to create long term success.
The past two years have also made it clear that there is a long-term solution that can benefit everyone: streamed theatre. There is a strong market for filmed theatre, digital theatre, and making theatre available digitally.
However, our theatrical union contracts, most of which were conceived decades ago, place overwhelming financial obstacles in filming live theatre, making it all but impossible to do so.
We have a two-fold solution:
1. Petitioning the unions
2. Creating a centralized streaming hub
This is the mission of The Consortium of American Streamed Theatre, or CAST.
CAST will petition the theatrical unions to allow theatres, producers and content creators to capture all theatre and digital theatre for just the cost of filming. In exchange, the capture would appear on the CAST site as a pay-per-view show at a reasonable cost, with 40% of the streaming revenue (that is seperate from, and additional to, existing live-theatre revenue) going to the actors, musicians, designers, choreographers and directors – forever. This will create a new industry standard that’s fair for everyone and not just a few.
CAST will be a centralized hub that includes Broadway, Off Broadway, Regional, Community, Ensemble Companies and Digital. It will be a database of theatre productions available to stream from across the United States, and potentially also host streamed productions. People from all over the world will be able to stream the shows we create for a reasonable price.
Once the show starts to stream, it never closes; there are no running costs; and your audience is the entire world.
Why do this? So that we can create significant lifetime royalties for theatre artists. Imagine how many lives would be changed if actors, musicians, designers, directors, writers and choreographers could be paid in perpetuity for their work. Think of how that would radically change the lives of the membership of these theatrical unions.
Why now? Imagine if we had planned this out two years ago. As of this writing, Omicron is ravaging our community, causing show shutdowns, cancellations, and closings. Streamed shows could have been the backup our industry needed to carry us over this difficult time. Even without a pandemic, streamed theatre provides access to those who otherwise might never get the opportunity to see the work due to geography, economic disparities, or other obstacles.
Our theatrical industry has been resisting technology for a long time. But it would serve us well to remember the lessons of the music industry, an industry that resisted digital technology so fervently, they sued their own customers – allowing Apple to swoop in, take over their business – and destroy artists and writers royalties with subscription services.
Sorry to tell you this – but subscription services are THE DEATH OF ROYALTY HOLDERS. And allowing Netflix, Amazon and Disney to be our new theatrical gatekeepers and putting our future in their hands is NOT THE SOLUTION.
What we know, based on clear evidence, is that a simple solution to completely transform our industry for the better exists right now. And it will give theatre artists significant lifetime royalties for their work. Artists could emerge as the new gatekeepers of our industry.
If you’d like to join the discussion to create a new industry standard that will make filmed theatre more accessible, and of financial benefit to artists, click here. We don’t have all the answers yet but we encourage your participation in helping us make theatre sustainable and more accessible to all.
Peter Michael Marino
Shawna Mefferd Kelty