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School budgets and hiring equipment


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Moderation: this topic links to the picture topic - so these first two posts are a little out of context. The other topic is found here.



Having seen some of the amazing pictures some of you are posting I must ask - where are you getting the money for this?! ;)


...I don't mean to seem rude, are the theatrical and technical aspects covered as part of school curriculum? Are you hiring out equipment or applying for grants?


I certainly know that some schools, or 'districts', provide media studies courses and similar things, but out school does not and it falls to the music department to organise annual musicals and the majority of lighting/sound equipment is hired out for two weeks - its the classic 'big ambition. small budget' situation. :rolleyes:


Anyway, happy holidays!





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I must ask - where are you getting the money for this?!
equipment is hired out for two weeks
To be honest, it seems to be this rather common policy of hiring all the kit for 2x weeks that holds most people back in terms of the amount of kit they can hire..


I've found in the past when lighting amdram and school productions that if there's say 3 or 4 shows, starting Wednesday, finishing Saturday or Friday, then you can easily get away with having the kit for just a week. Most hire companies seem to be happy to let you have the kit for a few days over the week, so what I've often done is had the kit delivered Friday or Saturday morning, day of load-in & focus, with say half of another day being used for plotting (say Sunday), Monday & Tuesday tend to be tech/dress runs.. job done.


Perhaps in the case of schools its just teachers having this idea that its absolutely necessary to do full runs with production, the week before the actual performances.


IMO, that's how schools and amdram companies are often afford to be able to hire much more kit than you'd expect.. they the ones who don't shoot themselves in the foot by over-estimating how long load-in/focusing/plotting takes!




p.s. Apologies to the Mods, completely forgot about the rule of no 'chat', feel free to zap my post. DOH!

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...then you can easily get away with having the kit for just a week.
Perhaps in the case of schools its just teachers having this idea that its absolutely necessary to do full runs with production, the week before the actual performances.


This may be the case, but if its students who are using the kit becomes a different story (whether the use is in or out of the curriculum). Of course its different if you have used the kit before and are experienced. I suppose you could argue that with students there is a pressure from teachers what with being out of classes etc. but thats not to say its any different for professionals - far from it.

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[students POV]


We only do one 'big' show a year. A Musical.


Last year we hired in 8 radio mics, we had them from Friday morning until The following Thursday. The shows were on the Tuesday and Wednesday, with Get-In/Technical on the Sunday and all day Monday to run the Show.


This only cost us IIRC £360 for the week. This was about all the budget we had so thats all we spent.


I personally see no point in spending the earth on a show when just a few touches will make all of the difference.



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Again, we only do one big production a year. Anything else must be handled in house.


Then, for our big productions, we try to get back all costs through ticket sales, but for whatever reasons (wrong hire companies, charging through the roof, other mishaps, costumes, forgotten items (silly string springs to mind)) over the past few years we never have. School will then write-off all costs associated. We could spend all the money on the earth hiring in a huge rig, but we don't. We just hire enough to get through, and something a bit special, and be done with it.


We are beginning to start buying and hiring, so that the costs aren't constantly there.


That's how we do it anyway (it's not good business practise, but hey).

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The same thought has occurred to me now and again. I see students talking about schools buying fancy desks and hiring in mountains of equipment (toys?)


Apart from some investment in infrastructure by the parents' association (many years ago) our productions are self financing. We run cheap and easy concerts to fund the purchase of equipment.


Apart from the occasional "Art for Art's sake" thing like Romeo and Juliet this year we tend to do "Money for goodness sake" shows. Large casts of Junior School so grannies etc come to see them.


I tend to hire as little as possible. I'd rather buy a couple of generics than hire in a load of moving stuff which has to be set up and taken down in the week around the show. Dead money and wasted time. I try to make a virtue out of simplicity. My 'philosophy' is that the audience only wants to see little Dierdre doing her bit and doesn't even notice the lights unless Dierdre isn't fully visible. Likewise the sound equipment is decent but not top notch. In a school situation the difference isn't worth the cost in my opinion


Over the years we have built up a good body of equipment which means we don't need to hire in much and so we can make more profit and buy more stuff. The other benefit is that the students know the kit and can operate it effectively and busk it if there are issues; not so easy on a hired desk and movers you've only played with for a couple of hours.


I suppose I have a longer term view than most students who want to do this year's show as the best ever. For me it's been a long journey with the bar rising every time.


So, ignoring the above ramblings of an old man and in answer to the original question, we don't get any money from anyone and just get on with it.


Happy New Year.

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I go to a grammar school where Drama and the performing arts are very much secondary to the academic side of the school. There are no Drama GCSEs or A-levels, and only very small Music groups for GCSE and A-level.


We usually do one big performance each year, last year it was Fiddler on the Roof, this year it was An Inspector Calls. The budget is usually around £1500-2000, that includes rights, venue, costumes etc. The school doesn't have its own stage, so we use the local Town Hall, which we have to pay for the use of (as would be expected, it isn't our own).


Any money that isn't made back from sponsorship (the occasional generous parent and local companies) and door receipts comes off the next production.



We don't generally hire in any equipment, the school owns a P.A system and the Town Hall lighting system is part the schools and part the local amateur dramatics company; so that is used without any expense.




So the big production is done on a shoestring. My tech budget, which included costumes, for Vitai Lampada (See show your school show thread) was around £120...I'm lucky to get that for the big production, let alone for a smaller show, so I was rather fortunate that our sponsors were very generous as it was partially a charity event.



We then have the house music and drama competition each year where the tech budget stretches to the insulation tape, gaffa and cable ties we require.


Our shows are very much on a smaller scale than many that are on here, but that's a rough outline to the sort of money we're playing with for shows.




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I see students talking about schools buying fancy desks and hiring in mountains of equipment (toys?)


My thoughts exactly, sir.


I couldnt agree more with what you are all saying, and it sure is nice to know that its not just my school that doesnt seem to have an endless budget, and I appriciate that some school have no budget at all and will still pull off a better performance than those with the fancy lighting and whatnot.


Cheers. :biggrin:

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We do one 'big' production a year which is where most bits get hired in - I have let to light a production. However, as I stated in the 'Show your school show thread' we also have this college cabaret starting up again which is kind of another big show. However instead of 3 shows there are only 2. This is the only proper show I've lit at school. When I did this I had no budget at all so I had to beg/borrow/steal.


The gear I begged/borrowed/stole was:

2 x Trackspots

6 x LED PAR 64's

2 Sunstrip Actives

1 x ETC Express 48/96

Lots of cable!


In return for this I bought alcohol (always goes down well) for the people who lent it, and also did some free work. As I'm still very much a novice this work is great experience!


Sometimes, as in this case, it bottles down to the "Not what you know but who you know".





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My school is a private school, so budget is up to the school entirely. Our theatre manager does freelance for the hire company, so we get nice discounts from them. Last show I did, you'd be amazed. We spent £4000 on the stage, £2000 on video, but I kept my lighting budget down to £600 as I didn't see the need for movers. I got extra dimmers, wash lights and lots of cable. We ran a whole new comms and cue lights system, which used all of the hire companies 3pin XLR. (We had about 4km of it running around).
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'My' school is a public school but we have dual specialist status with Arts and Technology. These bring in a lot of money however there are many restrictions on how it can be spent.


When we put on the Sound of Music back in October (see here) this cost a lot (around £7k on stage/scenery/costume/scripts etc) but one of the reasons for doing this show was to use it as evidence for our specialist funding review. Our young Gretel came from a series of workshops/auditions that the drama students put on for local primary schools, our students were involved in the music/acting and technical, free invites to some of the local community and all the nuns were members of staff. It ticked a lot of boxes!


When I started working at the school they always put £500 in the budget for the hire of lighting/sound equipment including a donation to the local college who came in to do the sound (based on two 'big' shows a year). One of the first things I did was have a chat with the head of the arts faculty to stop him hiring in and use the money each year to buy the core of what we needed and to use what we already had. OK, so the next show might not be just as good as previous but now after 4 years we don't need any extra equipment and the money can be allocated to other areas. We now also put on around 30 smaller shows throughout the year that benifit from this extra equipment and generate more income with minimal running costs.


Also have a read through this thread for more ideas on how to bring cash in.


Edit: laptop touchpad found the Post button too early.

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I would not be too grumpy :P

With minimal gear and no wiz-bang gadgets you may actually learn more!

A lot of work that I have done with theatre and bands has been done with simple gear and low budgets. A lot of professional shows have tight budgets and the more you can get out of what money and gear you have, the better off you will be.

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I have to agree with Boggy, the industry doesn't always provide us technicians with loads of cash to splash. Learning from a younger age makes us appreciate the money we do have and we learn to use it wisely. For example a typical schoolboy/girl would say get £300 for lighting hire, and start hiring moving lights just because they look 'cool' when really, you need to be able to see everyone on stage not just have nice coloured beams of light.


Minimal money is more of a challenge, lighting a show with £5000 is easy, lighting a show with £100 is more difficult, but if you can do it then your skills are going to progress a lot better rather than if you have the £5000.

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lighting a show with £5000 is easy, lighting a show with £100 is more difficult, but if you can do it then your skills are going to progress a lot better rather than if you have the £5000.
Is it now :P? You've got plenty of experience of lighting show's where budget's have been of that size? Perhaps you should have said, if you know what your lighting designs got to achieve already, it can be easier to light a show with £5k than it can £100. Obviously it depends on your existing facilities doesn't it? That £100 might just be needed to hire in some gobos & rotators or some extra scrollers... to add to the existing rig of 30. See, its not quite so easy to make sweeping statements along the lines of money makes things easier or harder, is it?


I'll agree with Boggy though, you do have to learn to make the gear work harder for you when you don't have stacks of it in abundance already. But, what I was getting at with my post is, the OP was saying oh how do some of these schools manage to get all this kit (in reference to some of the pictures with larger and higher spec rigs), and I was stating my interpretation of the reason for why others seem not to based on my experience of lighting shows at various schools & amdram societies.. basically the non-commercial stuff.


But, while we can debate the whole need for 'fancy kit' into the ground, another point to what I was saying was, the very common policy of having to hire the kit for two weeks, often seems stops people getting much, if anything of the stuff they do actually need, i.e. the basics. Because the in-house facilities are just so lacking. I've come across times where with the facilities already there + the budget, it just doesn't seem worth the effort because it'll be very hard to get it looking anything decent. Say for instance, very low dimmer channel count, hardly any fixtures, minimalistic budget, but very large stage.


I know its TNG section, but I'm still interested in hearing what people's views/opinions situations like that are. Specifically from people working in this type of environment (i.e. students at schools/colleges). Pro theatre is another matter entirely!



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