Amalgamation of Life, Costume Designer, Director

How do you budget

The time has come, the walrus said! To plan the 2019-2020 season and what I want to propose as director. I am very excited to have four equally engaging and entertaining shows at my finger tips. I’m following up on rights for two of them, but I don’t predict any blockades in my future. And if road blocks happen? I’ll probably be even more relieved than I am now that I am almost done my proposals.

I’ve finalized my vision, I am in the process of putting it onto paper (albeit metaphorical paper because it’s all online right now), and next I am doing plain simple math. I have to guesstimate how much money I would need to make a show a success. Usually broken down by costumes, make up, props, set build, and other technical equipment. I try to be as stingy as possible, squeezing out as much as possible of what I know exists.. but I can’t leave myself short changed, right?

What if I need a whole new wardrobe? Okay, first of all, this is community theater and nobody needs a whole new wardrobe. Not for items you wear maybe 12 times, for a maximum of 3 hours each, stop that shenanigans now.

What if I need to build all new flats? Stop right there. If your theater doesn’t provide you basic flat structures, you have a problem and honestly that should come out of their general production budget versus any one shows budget.

There are shows that require a lot of work, I would imagine Disney shows which require very specific costumes (usually via rental), and money. That’s not every show. Any longstanding (and hopefully reputable) theater will have supplies, props, costumes (etc.), in their closet and warehouse. Despite believing you need everything to be new, that’s not really true. Costumes of the decade are best pulled out of a closet that’s been lived in, full of life, believable of the shows time.

But you have to be realistic. What if you need to build multiple sets of chairs (10/10 don’t recommend), tables, shelving, anything–consistency can be important for a show but is it an end all be all? Does it ruin the aesthetic? Sure. But does it make sense to make use of the current and present materials surrounding you versus building (or buying) everything from scratch. You have to be resourceful and you have to be cost efficient, know where to spend money in a valuable manner for the future investment of the theater.

Take for instance this couch. It cost the production $150 but it is irrevocably an amazing couch. It’s new, it had ‘minor’ damage on it (only detectable by our director) and greatly reduced in cost. It is an investment piece. And already planned to be reused by another production in the current season (not to brag, but it’ll be in my show come June). This has already cut the ‘cost’ of the sofa down to $75 per production and that is a wise use of dollars.

A shows budget is not necessarily about what YOU need, at least not singularly, it is also about what the theater needs. They have to look at an entire years budget and prepare for all costs, both known and unknown to ensure they stay afloat beyond the present. Cost effectiveness leads to longevity, and that’s an end goal for both theater houses and directors. ‘Til next time.

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