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The Budget Jig

23/06/2009

Although this scenario is not news to most independent makers in the world (at least not in Melbourne, Australia), I thought it important to put forth a bit of a sad fact that I have just calculated. A kind of harsh reality-check if you will. I hope that my writing briefly about money matters here is truly an isolated event. I don’t find finances (with relation to art creation) very interesting at all, generally speaking. It is just that I have been sitting in front of Excel spreadsheets a fair bit recently, staring into an all-too familiar void. It felt worth mentioning, albeit briefly, and from an understandably biased perspective.

At this point in its funding fortune, The Melbourne Town Players will be creating Attract/Repel on just under one-seventh of its actual, estimated budget. That includes support from Full Tilt for a week’s development, and in-kind support from The Store Room, Attract/Repel‘s host and presenter. Aside from the one, isolated week, none of the artists will be on salary for the entire development and performance season. It is a normal profit-share scenario, with the bulk of the budget for expenses coming out of the box-office before the artists can take their split.

It is absolutely true that some of the greatest work is created almost entirely cash-less. The examples that ring through our little city’s short (but rich) history are nothing short of inspiring. And it is of course, all the more horrifying to be witness to ghastly works of little artistic merit that clearly have extraordinary budgets (by indie’s humble standards) with which to play. Such is the political lay of the land, I’m well aware. And in the absence of a complete overhaul of our funding systems (public and cultural support mechanisms, educational institutions, etc.) this is the way it will remain for the foreseeable future.Lauren Urquhart and Terry Yeboah - Photo: Kitty Green

It is good, however, to keep reminding oneself of just how much is achieved with just how little.

We did our last show, Sandwiches with an entire budget of $1,000, and (despite the extraordinary heat – not entirely an artistic choice) it was a stunning achievement. This is absolutely not an argument in favour of withholding further funding from independent artists, but rather one that whispers, “Well, if that is what can be done with nothing, just imagine the wings all these artists could grow with something real.”

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