“I’m drawn to ideas that have a large currency in the moment. What story am I telling that has an actual value in today’s society?” – Tim Drucker
Please enjoy the transcript of Episode 002 with Tim Drucker (Co-writer of Off-Broadway musical ‘Fat Camp’) in its entirety:
Dan Feld: Episode 2 of Prologue Profiles. My name is Dan Feld. My guest today is Tim Drucker.
Tim is a co-writer of the new musical ‘Fat Camp’, which is from the producers of ‘Jersey Boys’ and ‘Rock of Ages’ and is now making its off-Broadway debut run through May 13. He’s 28 years old.
Tim Drucker: Hi, I’m Tim Drucker. I’m a theatre creator. And you’re listening to Prologue Profiles.
Tim: …and in first grade I think I was in the low reading group and I’m like, ‘I know that am not supposed to be in this group but I don’t know how to speak about it’.
Dan: Did you have any say over what group you were in?
Tim: No and I don’t think I found my voice until way later in life and I used to get in trouble for reading along with the other groups. It’s like, wake up and realize that I need to be in that group, yeah.
By fourth grade though I properstrously nicknamed myself ‘The Walking Dictionary’. So you know I worked up to that. In our fourth grade year book everyone had a nickname, which is ridiculous because not every fourth grader has a nickname, and I wrote, ‘The Walking Dictionary’.
Dan: I think that was the first demonstration of self-branding that I’ve seen. So Tim, tell me what you’re at the beginning of now.
Tim: Yesterday we started rehearsals for the Off-Broadway production of ‘Fat Camp’, a show that I co-wrote the book to the musical with Randy.
Dan: So tell me a little bit about your experience after college.
Tim: So I went to NYU Tisch. I was a musical theater actor there during school, I had directed, I worked on many things, I kind of wrote a few things and so my path out of school kind of lead me towards other things. My general feedback from everyone was like your type doesn’t really work for you until you’re 28, 29 which made total sense to me. However you should really focus on going to UCB, do improv comedy. That kind of seems like where you live.
Dan: So what came of that advice?
Tim: I started the Other Baldwins with Randy Blair and another friend of mine, Melinda Stewart.
Dan: And what are the Other Baldwins?
Tim: The Other Baldwins is our sketch comedy trio, we perform pretty solidly.
Dan: And 2008 you and Randy put on a show called “Perez Hilton Saves the Universe”…
Tim: So Randy and I were sitting in my apartment and he just goes, ‘I have an idea for a musical’. He goes, ‘I think we should write a musical about Perez Hilton and do it at the Fringe Festival this summer. It will be a big hit it and we’ll get a ton of press’.
Dan: What were your expectations going in?
Tim: I think while we were submitting it we were like, ‘Of course this was getting’ and then you send it and you’re like, ‘Oh my god it’s terrible, I don’t know what I’m doing.’
And then MTV is like ‘Come in for a meeting’. We had go in like twice with MTV before the show even happened. I was like, ‘This is it, I am about to become a celebrity millionaire who’s going to just have like 7 TV shows’. I was like, ‘I’m gonna be running a film studio in a year’.
Dan: So you opened at the Fringe…
Tim: So then we opened at the Fringe, self producing and writing and I was in it. So it was like grad school. And so it is doing amazing at the Fringe and then we are at the second show and we get these e-mails from like William Morrison, ICM like the hugest agencies and they are like we’re literary agents and we’d like to represent you. I didn’t think of myself as a writer yet because I hadn’t really written anything.
It was kind of this moment of like the show is going to go to Off-Broadway, it was so exciting, everyone loved it and the next day you turn on CNN and they’re walking out of Lehman Brothers with their boxes in their hand. And we’re going to these meetings and they’re like, ‘Your show is amazing…nice to meet you’.
It was like this really weird moment of, I just feel like I climbed Everest and got to the top and now I’m down at the bottom again and I’m like, ‘I’m not sure how to get back up there’. Because you got to these meetings and they’re like, ‘What else do you have?’ you’re like, ‘I have nothing else! I’ve never written something before, this is nuts!’.
Dan: And soon came ‘Fat Camp’…
Tim: This has kind of become like a yearly thing where Randy goes home for Christmas and he returns in January and he’s like, ‘I’ve had thoughts and this is the next idea!’ He presented it as such, which represents all of his ideas with an end goal and I’m a firm believer that is how work should exist. You should say, ‘I’m gonna do this here at this time’. So he goes, ‘We’re gonna do ‘Fat Camp’ and we’re gonna do it at the NYMF‘ and I was like, ‘Okay, that’s a good idea’.
Tim: Because you can understand that, you understand what you’re working on and where it’s going to be so you can zero in and be on the exact same page. Right away I kind of knew like there was a reason ‘Perez’ didn’t get produced because we wouldn’t be having this conversation and this show is so much more.
Dan: Why do you think this was the game-changer?
Tim: Because it’s being produced by Dodgers Theatricals who produced ‘Jersey Boys’ and Carl Levin and Michael Minarik two of the producers on ‘Rock of Ages’. So for us to connect with them so quickly and to get to work with that level of producer…
Dan: So what’s ‘Fat Camp’ about?
Tim: I like to describe ‘Fat Camp’ as it is exactly what it sounds like. It’s about a group of kids at a weight camp and one of the characters doesn’t really want to be there and he creates kind of like his ideal persona for himself and he gets found out. It’s an interesting moment because they are 16 and 17 and they’re about to go to college and they’re trying to discover who they are and deal with this quote-un-quote “issue”.
Dan: Why do you believe in this story?
Tim: I think am drawn to ideas that have a large currency in the moment. You know what story am I telling that has an actual value in today’s society that is actually discussing something that is actually happening and then how do you make that funny? So with ‘Fat Camp’ I think that’s what we are doing. It’s a totally funny show. It has a lot of heart, but you can’t deny that the obesity issue in America is gigantic.
Dan: And what has been your involvement with Fat Camp?
Tim: So I co-wrote the book to the musical. It’s an original musical so that basically means Randy Blair who conceived of the show and also wrote the lyrics, we had to basically start at square one in terms of looking at the story. Being a book writer for a show is a ton of work. Because when it’s original anything can happen. So if something’s not working anything else can happen and you sense it. The first time we did the show I was like, “This is like 30% there”.
I was like, “I don’t know what it is”, I was like “the tone of it’s right, what we’re doing is right, the visual idea of it’s right, but the story isn’t right”. So then we took another crack at it and I think the next version we got like 40% and every time we get closer and closer. And now I’m like this is the show or it is the show because it’s happening, you know?
Dan: So what’s it been like working on ‘Fat Camp’?
Tim: Sometimes it’s really really hard, you don’t make a lot of money doing it until may be it happens for real. I mean that’s definitely difficult and also creatively when you’re stuck, you’re stuck. To get it to where it needs to be takes a lot of thought and a lot of trial and error. I mean there’s…for every page that’s in the script now, there’s probably hundreds and hundreds of pages of the same that we’ve written.
Dan: So what would you say you’re seeking to do?
Tim: I want to create work that I believe in and that I get to execute how I want it to be seen. The thing that’s incredible about ‘Fat Camp’ is we have this commercial Off-Broadway production but it’s exactly how I think it should be told.
Dan: What would you say you’re scared of? What are some fears?
Tim: Sucking. People thinking you’re bad. Doing something that’s bad. Not being able to stop something from people seeing it when it’s too late. That’s terrifying. I don’t think I’m so scared of failing so much as [laughs] George Clooney in ‘The Hollywood Reporter’ last week said something along the lines of “It’s not failing that I am afraid of, I’ve failed many times, it’s not making the attempt.” And that really spoke to me. There’s just something about not challenging yourself or being afraid. I’m afraid of being afraid.
Dan: So what challenges in your career can you talk about?
Tim: If you put a salary on it, there’s always a challenge. It’s a financial challenge because to kind of get where you want to be you have to sometimes sacrifice payment or good payment or as you get older you’re like, “Ok I have to live also, I have to figure this out”. Luckily I have a great job that’s very flexible. But in theory how much longer can you go on before you can support yourself doing what you’re doing because you know you’re good at it so you think you deserve to be paid.
Dan: So what’s that dialogue that goes in your head?
Tim: It is crazy [laughs] it’s crazy and it happens all day. I think I just have a very active dialogue. That really is the best way to put it. At the same time I think I’m blessed that now I am able to look at what I’m doing and say “how do I get paid for it?”. Like that the only problem is money is kind of a great thing. You know it’s not…I don’t feel unfulfilled as an artist which I think is amazing. I’m working with exactly who I would want to be working with. The people I’m working with are the most talented people for what I want to be doing. And that’s incredible.
Dan: What would you change about the theatre, creative industry?
Tim: If you tell a story that resonates with people in this city it will find its way to be told. It’s not like people are like “We don’t want new talent.” People are like, “Where is new talent? How do we develop new talent?”. And I’m blessed there is a lot of theatre companies that support my work and my work with my collaborators that are like, “How can we help you? What can we do?”. And those platforms are kind of are what keeps going because you’re like, “Okay for what it’s worth there is value and people support me.”.
Dan: What advice would you give to those aspiring actors and directors, producers, writers who see your success?
Tim: From someone aspiring to another. [Laughs] You focus on you and who you are and develop yourself and have a point of view that’s based off of your experience. And if you really ask yourself what you’re seeing and you can put it out there I think you’ll be okay. But you have to look really hard. And that’s the journey I’m on.
Dan: So you have this side job as a real estate agent in the city?
Tim: Yep. I mean it’s my full time job. It’s like I’m a full-time real estate agent but the great think is I for whatever reason I got my license the moment I graduated NYU so I’m like I’ve been in the business for 5 or 6 years so I have built a business. So am able to… and you know the great thing about rentals in New York is you can basically like [work hard] during the summer and kind of make your salary for the year and then dwindle that down to nothing during the winter when you’re working on creative projects and fill your bank account again so I mean that’s more or less how it works.
I mean but it’s great like when I started working I said to myself, “You are not going to let your job compromise your artistry” and that was just like kind of the number one rule I made for myself and I made it work and I’ve never once not done anything because of real estate. And now I look at real estate and I love it. Finding people homes, it’s almost like my Zen moment, it’s like going to the gym for me, it’s so different and I feel like it keeps me sane because it’s….I mean to say that New York real estate keeps me sane, I think is just a good idea of what it is like to work in theater in New York, that working in real estate makes you feel like a normal person. And that’s what I will say to that. [Laughter]