What Indie Filmmakers Can Learn From a Broadway Show That Almost Flopped

By many measures, SPIDER-MAN Turn Off The Dark is one of the most successful shows in Broadway history. For example, earlier this year the Spiderman musical shattered the record for the highest single-week gross of any show in Broadway history (week ending Sunday, January 1, 2012 = $2,941,790.20, besting the previous record of $2,228,235 set by Wicked in 2011).

But Spiderman wasn't always a sure thing. As Joe Frontiera and Dan Leidl write in an Aug. 31st, 2012 post for the Harvard Business Review, SPIDER-MAN Turn Off The Dark was "widely ridiculed before its opening in 2011 for out-of-control costs, production delays, cast departures, rehearsal injuries and a preview debacle."

The authors of the blogpost (who specialize in team and leadership development) see lessons for other entrepreneurs in Spiderman's turnaround. In particular, the blogpost focuses on how the SPIDER-MAN Turn Off The Dark producers - Jere Harris and Michael Cohl - worked together to turn an impending failure into a huge success. Their story could be instructive for indie filmmakers.

One key strategy for turning a project that is in trouble into a crowd-pleaser?

Show your project to early-adopters (in the case of indie films, this might mean screenings for focus groups) and listen to the customers.

For Spiderman, Harris and Cohl "conducted focus groups, asking early questions about specific aspects of the show. In a gutsy move, they then halted production to revise the show based on the feedback they'd received. They traded short-term pain — no one wants to go back to the drawing board in the 11th hour — for long-term success. Consumers spoke and they responded."

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