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Setting up a theatre company


Jay100

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ok, so I'm positive this has been discussed before, but in different circumstances and I need all the help I can get on this one.

I've just graduated from a drama course at university and in our final year we had to form a theatre company. So, myself and four friends delivered impro workshops to school students. For free - though we did have a budget for travel etc.

The plan was always to make a name for ourselves and make contacts (which we did) so that from september onwards we could continue the company, but this time with a fee.

Problem is, now that we're no longer university students everything changes legally. But I don't know what 'everything' is.

So, basically, how do we go about making our company legal and ready to continue?

Thank you...

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If you intend this to be a career move, then the very first thing you need to do BEFORE you start with the legal stuff etc is identify whether you actually have a market for the skills/services you intend to offer...

 

If the answer to that is yes, the second question to answer is whether that market is big enough to support ALL of you, with allowances for insurance, training, transport, PAYE etc etc.

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ok, so I'm positive this has been discussed before, but in different circumstances and I need all the help I can get on this one.

I've just graduated from a drama course at university and in our final year we had to form a theatre company. So, myself and four friends delivered impro workshops to school students. For free - though we did have a budget for travel etc.

The plan was always to make a name for ourselves and make contacts (which we did) so that from september onwards we could continue the company, but this time with a fee.

Problem is, now that we're no longer university students everything changes legally. But I don't know what 'everything' is.

So, basically, how do we go about making our company legal and ready to continue?

Thank you...

 

So I could ask, what have you really learned, as you don't even seem capable of looking for the answers yourself. You have a Degree, yet rely on an internet forum and others to give you answers, there is a company called Google, that may be able to help you.

 

Now, putting the sarcasm to one side ;) (And yes, I was being Sarcastic!)

 

Money is God. - So, No money, No job, No company, and you'll achieve nothing.

 

On the other hand - Lots of money all is bliss, you can do what you want, as long as it remains profitable.

 

And here lies the problem that dooms most, and bankrupts businesses :)

 

You need to create a business model that WORKS ( Shouting on that last word).

 

Lightnix has given you a good start, You need a business plan, and one that's accountable, ie, you base your estimates on some figures you can rely on. Pitch a bad business plan, or one where you can't back up the figures, then it's a worthless piece of paper.......Do it right, and it could be the best thing you ever did. Remember that you may be asked how you came to the figures you stated. If you can't easily respond, then picture a coffin as you walk out of your bank managers office.

 

Knowledge is the key, and the BR can't really help you here. You need to make a income, and support the people and equipment within your business......how you do this is based on YOUR buisiness with YOUR contacts, YOUR customers and YOUR financial requirements to achieve this.

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The other thing that makes this trickier is that however you structure the company, you need to make sure it is a proper 'entity'.

 

Theatre companies will have core members who do the most, others do it with not quite the same enthusiasm or committment. This is very common. So you can choose to make the theatre company a cooperative, where profit and debt are shared equally between you - however if they all stand the risk, then making decisions by committee is rarely efficient. Imagine the scenario. Phone rings, member answers. Venue offered, good deal but need a yes or no straight away. They say yes and commit you, then big argument when some members not available or don't want to do it! The other alternative is to set it up with a constitution. Pretty well this is how clubs and societies do it. The constitution sets out responsibilities and liabilities. You 'elect' a secretary, chair and if you need them, other officers, maybe a committee too if you are large enough to need it, everyone else is just a member. These 'rules' can then detail what you do with profit and what happens if you owe money (which often makes the officers personally liable). Once you have a constitution you can open an account at a building society and even borrow money - without a constitution you have to do it as individuals. You decide how long people can stay in each job, normally a year, then they get re-elected or not at the annual general meeting. You can have simple or complex arrangements. It will also smooth contact with HMRC or other agencies. It must also deal with what happens when people leave, or the company breaks up. Even a small theatre company will build up stocks of props or scenery, which may have value and if the company stops or falls out, who owns what? The person who arranged all the lovely costumes 'donated' by the RSC in a clearout, through a friend of a friend may well say they are obviously theirs, and want them back - the company might consider them a gift to the group, not on permanent loan from one person. It's great when you are all friends, but one day ............? Doing it properly should solve these unpleasantnesses in advance.

 

Some of my ex-students have started theatre companies like this on graduating. When they have failed, it's usually because committment wavers in a few key members, and it crumbles or the key members move on to other jobs in the industry, leaving a weaker group, who fold quickly without the hand at the rudder.

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Guest lightnix
...Lightnix has given you a good start, You need a business plan, and one that's accountable, ie, you base your estimates on some figures you can rely on. Pitch a bad business plan, or one where you can't back up the figures, then it's a worthless piece of paper...

Thank you, lightsource :)

 

It's tempting, when making a business plan, to be a bit over optimistic about the figures and to kid yourself that it'll all work out in the end. Do not yield to that temptation. If the figures don't work out on paper, then they probably won't work out in real life :(

 

When working on the financial aspect of a business plan, always under-estimate the income and over-estimate the expenses.

 

But before you even start getting into figures and structures, spend a moment or two reflecting on that last paragraph of paulears' post...

Some of my ex-students have started theatre companies like this on graduating. When they have failed, it's usually because committment wavers in a few key members, and it crumbles or the key members move on to other jobs in the industry, leaving a weaker group, who fold quickly without the hand at the rudder.

Like a dog, a Company is for life, not just Christmas ;)

 

Like it or not, commitment is the key word here. If you are really going to set up in business with your college friends and make a genuine success of it; then you must accept that you are making a lifelong commitment; i.e. you are committing yourself to living with these guys, as though they were your immediate family, for the rest of your working life.

 

Ask yourself: Are you guys that close, that you'll still be together in five years' time? OK how about ten years?? Twenty???

 

The plan was always to make a name for ourselves and make contacts (which we did) so that from september onwards we could continue the company, but this time with a fee...

Without wishing to be even more pessimistic: I think one of your earliest problems will be discovering that all those smiley, happy people, who thought you were Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. just so fantastic last year; will be less forthcoming when you start asking for money.

 

BTW, how much are you going to charge - bearing in mind that there are five of you who need to make a living?

 

In 2008, the average full-timer made around £24-25k a year; say £500 per week. If you made below £262 a week (about £12.5K p.a.) in 2008, then you were in the bottom 10% (Source...) I calculate that my curent "base level" lifestyle needs around £17.5k p.a. / £365 p.w. to support, although it's amazing how little you can exist on if you have to.

 

So... For your company to make even the average national wage for the five of you, it's going to have to gross at least £2,500 a week, every week - that's £120,000-130,000 a year. And that's before you charge VAT or include any overheads (e.g. office rent, lighting, heating, business rates, printing, postage, accountancy, various insurances, CRB checks, the cost of running a vehicle, etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc... ad nauseum).

 

Basically: In order for the five of you to stand a chance of enjoying an average lifestyle, at today's standards, your theatre company is going to have to turn over at least £200,000 per year and probably more.

 

Thats £4,000 a week. Every week. 50 weeks a year. To make an average living.

 

Reckon you can do that? Out of TIE?

 

;)

 

 

 

 

 

Edited figures for accuracy

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I think the blueroom may help you with the little details and of course is a good place to speak to others who have a small business in the industry but honestly, I think thats further down the line. My advice is leave this and go to Business link as others have suggested

 

http://www.businesslink.gov.uk

 

It is there for exactly your position

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That has to be one of the worst videos I've seen, but containing what appears to be good content. For somebody talking about performing arts, we have a very non-performing arts presentation. Grim composition - I kept looking at the background instead of listening, and the waving about of the hands got very wearing. 9 minutes of a single shot is pretty tiring (and dull).

 

Shame really, because the content could so easily have been made contemporary by giving us other things to look at - images, video, even titles. Marketing has been considered because you can hear it in the content, but presentation lets it down.

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TIE that's 52 weeks less school holidays and exams and mocks, say 26 weeks work in a full year. assuming that you get all 26weeks booked at full price can you live on 26 weeks income, or will they pay enough for one week that you can live for two!

 

From Lightnix

 

"...people, who thought you were Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. just so fantastic last year; will be less forthcoming when you start asking for money."

 

SO TRUE

 

You were a day off for all the staff and pupils last year, but this year you want MONEY. Having done it FOC that is the va£ue that you have assigned to your services in pounds. Possibly better to go somewhere that you are NOT known on the strength of references from the places where you volunteered. If they say that you are good then you can discus price with a new contact, but with the existing contacts you are trying to change FOC into £1000 a week minimum.

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The thing is that people are so expensive, you need to operate on as few bodies as possible for any form of educational work, unless there is a 'hook'. Remember Jeff Rich, Status Quo's ex-drummer. He stopped playing for them, and does brilliant drum workshops which he takes all over the country to schools - where he takes large groups, has stacks of percussion instruments and essentially takes over for a morning or a day. It's expensive, but he's done something like 5000 of them since leaving the band. For one man and a van - great. For a cast of 6, it's far too diluted.
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