After a very successful meeting this weekend which resulted in us gaining a writer, I now need to buckle down and create a budget. I have made previous attempts at creating one, but without a script and an idea of the scale of the production this has not been very successful. I wasn’t sure whether to budget for a cast of 20 or a cast of two. Now, after a promising script meeting I have a clearer idea of what the show will involve. But as this is my first independent attempt at budgeting I am not entirely sure where to start.
My first point of reference has been a very handy book for newbie producers called ‘So You Want To Be A Theatre Producer’ by James Seabright. It was given to me as a Christmas present and it has been an invaluable source of help, particularly when I was researching copyright issues. The book has again come up trumps with a clear step-by-step guide on how to create your budget. So after a lunchtime and tube journey of pondering this, I now have a basic idea of how to set it out, what to include and a sensible contingency percentage. I do realise that there is only so far a book can get you but it has certainly been reassuring to see it all explained in print.
So now to Excel. I am going to attempt to do both a production budget and a performance budget, and then a total budget so I won’t miss anything. I must admit that I am not a fan of Excel and have no idea how to actually use it. I am not one of those people who know all the cheats and formulae. But it is definitely about time I learnt so having Googled an idiot’s guide to Excel, off I went. Another great thing about Seabright’s book is the website that accompanies it, which includes an Excel example of a budget that can easily be used as a template.
One of the hardest things about creating a beginner’s budget is actually estimating how much money you will need. For an experienced producer a rough estimate for a show will have become second nature but when you’re starting out the cost of public liability insurance is probably not something you have to hand. For a new producer the idea of needing £20,000 for a show is a little bit daunting to say the least, even £5,000 seems a lot, but to put on a professional show you must have the cash to back it up. The creation of a budget also brings about issues of how to pay your company. £440 including holiday pay and national issuance is what is suggested per actor per week. So after a three week rehearsal period with just two actors and then a five week run you’re looking at £7,040! If you are an independent producer you do not have to stick to these figures but they should act as guide. As someone who regularly works for free and finds this an annoying aspect of the arts world, I do want to provide wages – or at least something – for the company. So into the budget this will go.
So the budgeting has begun and I have to admit I have quite enjoyed it. By putting all your costs onto a spreadsheet you are able to see the steps you need to take to put the show on. And although the budget is not even completed yet I finally feel like things are really starting to happen.