Managing the budget to put on a show for 7,000 people takes a steady brain, a calm hand and masses of imaginative ideas.
INTERVIEW LIZ FRENCH / PHOTOS MAREE WILKINSON
One of Tauranga’s biggest shows, the biennial Tarnished Frocks and Divas (TFD), has grown exponentially from that first audience of 350 in 2005 to the 7,000 people who will attend the seventh show, Zoetica, this year. The philosophy to celebrate and empower women with a story of transformation remains. The extraordinary growth can’t happen without a sound business plan, says ANNE PANKHURST, chairperson of the trustees, responsible for balancing the books.
We work to a budget ratio of 80/20,with 80% coming from ticket sales, and 20% from funding and sponsorship from the private sector. In the past we’ve received grants from organisations such as Tauranga Energy Consumer Trust (TECT) and Bay Trust. The ticket revenue is kept in trust until the show is over, so sponsorships and grants are vital to keep us running. Any money left after paying the bills is invested in the next show. We also rely on sponsors and funders to provide cash flow for the business throughout the 23 months between shows.
There are different models and propositions from sponsors that create win/win situations. Coombes Johnston BMW has given us a car as a mobile billboard. MediaWorks supplies publicity and marketing, as does UNO. Other sponsors, such as Carrus, give money, which is critical for ongoing cash flow. What we increasingly recognise is the value of brand synergies. Our audience and cast make up their target market.
THE COST OF CREATIVITY
Keeping at the cutting edge of technology is expensive. All our lighting, sound and screens come from Auckland and are hired for the 12 days between ‘pack in’ and ‘pack out’ – the time needed for set up, final rehearsals, perfecting the performance, and the show’s four-day, five-performance season. About 75% of our budget goes into getting the show on stage, and turning the sports stadium at the ASB Arena into a theatre.
The people power of TFD is an amazing 95% voluntary. Just under 18% of the budget is allocated to performers and contractors, such as professional artists, like our stars Peta Mathias and Jackie Clarke, who entertain for a living. We also allocate funds to pay some other key performers and members of the production team, but it never equates to their enormous input.
The talent in our show, much of which is volunteered, is of an exceptional standard. And, excitingly, it all resides right here in the Bay of Plenty. By the time the ‘first curtain goes up’ there are 180 cast and crew involved. The show spends at least 18 months in development and when UNO. winter issue goes to print, there will be 120 people in rehearsals, giving up their Sundays and soon their week nights, as well. Even if we paid them a token amount, we could not afford the show. I would hazard a guess that the value of our volunteer cast and crew would sit somewhere around half a million dollars.
Because TFD was started in honour of a dear friend who had died of breast cancer, we always make a donation to breastcancersupport.co.nz. Depending on how much money we have left after ticket sales and paying bills, we will look to make donations to other charities, too.
After this show, we will again unpick the business model to keep growing in a sustainable way. Ensuring longevity needs a constant reworking of our model. Not only is there a financial cost but also a creative cost. We rely on volunteer creative energy, which burns out. If we want the show to be here in several decades, we need to nurture and support our creative intellectual property.
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