I wasn’t going to include these details in this blog, because talking about money isn’t exactly British, but several people have asked and it gives me an opportunity to give thanks where it is certainly due.
Taking a show to Edinburgh is not exactly cheap. Many stand-up comedians who use the Fringe to light the touchpaper of their hopefully-explosive careers see it as a loss-leader. Their plan (or that of their management) is to spend thousands of pounds more than they could ever hope to recoup through ticket sales – even if every show was sold-out – and then make the money back touring, having built an audience and garnered critical approval during those four intensive weeks. It’s not a bad model, but it doesn’t work for plays in quite the same way.
So, given that our original plan had been to get a theatre such as The Bush or The Soho to put Coalition on for us, when it became obvious that Edinburgh was the place for it, we initially approached friendly producers. A fairly meagre budget would still require us to stump up about £15,000 which is not the kind of cash I tend to keep lying around. Alas, the only producer we approached who showed a genuine interest didn’t have funds available to commit to the project, and being a pair of control-freaks, we weren’t prepared to give up control of the project if the other party wasn’t helping us to fund it.
When we did the deal with The Pleasance, we were still lacking in funding, and although The Pleasance similarly had no funds available to invest, they were able to support the project by providing certain things for free and deferring payment for others. This reduced the cash requirement somewhat, but it still meant a bit of a shoe-string operation – only a tiny budget for set, props, marketing, and so on, even given that our offer to our cast was really only a token payment. Still, in a big space like the Queen Dome and with a generous ticket price, we had some head-room. A good turnout would mean a healthy profit.
At this point, my dear friend ES volunteered a sum of money which, while not ending our financial worries, did significantly ease them. This was then followed by JS, who had been a stalwart of the afore-mentioned Brains Trust, grumbling that we would surely fuck up the whole project if it wasn’t capitalised properly, and who gave us a truly hefty chunk. Our deal with both is that if we make a profit, they will receive back proportionally more than they put in, and if we make a loss, we will share the loss with them proportionally. Now we could relax a little – the remaining funds could be provided by my company and by Robert and we could afford to give this piece the care and attention to detail it deserves.
Spending the extra money does mean that the potential for profit is reduced, but I think I am confident in saying that everyone involved would rather that the piece is given every possible chance, and that we play to full houses, than scrimping and saving and possibly making a bigger profit, but having fewer bums on seats and reviewers grumbling at the tatty look of the thing. If this production is a success it will be in large part due to our generous backers.
39 days to our first performance in Edinburgh…