No matter what your limitations are with staff, experience and time constraints, the biggest hurdle you’ll face will be staying within your budget. Regardless how big or small your budget, you can always find something to add that you can’t afford! Whether your budget is $100 or $100,000, with proper planning, realistic goals, and some creativity, your church can deliver a special experience.
Before you keep reading, refer to the Budgeting Checklist Fact Sheet to help make sure you don’t leave anything out!
Creating a List of Budget Items
Start with the script! While the sheer number of requirements for a performance can be overwhelming, start by writing down requirements as you follow the script. This may take a bit of imagination, but picture the entire performance in your head. Line by line, scene by scene, song by song—what’s being said, where is the audience’s focus? As you read through the script (it may take some time to do this properly), list every need that comes to mind. Every time a different character speaks ask yourself: “What costume should they be wearing,” “what lighting, audio, and video will I need, along with the proper permissions to use them,” and “what type of lighting is required.”
Many prepared production packages include examples/suggestions for costumes and set designs. Start there. If your church has a men’s group, a church production is a great time to ask them to spearhead the construction of a set and props.
Read through the script and note any scene/set changes throughout the performance. Outline your initial ideas for design and then decide which elements you can build and which ones you’ll need to purchase.
Questions to ask yourself:
- Who can build these?
- If I build it, can I reuse/repurpose it?
- Can I delegate budget estimates/construction?
- Bill of Materials
Make a list of all parts that require special costumes; outline what the costumes will look like, then detail what can be pieced together, store bought, specially ordered, or made from scratch. Although many parts won’t require costumes, they might require a dress code (band wearing all black, choir wearing white dress shirts, etc.). Even though these items may not have an impact on your budget, this is a good time to make note of the requirements for planning purposes.
Questions to ask yourself:
- Buy pre-made costumes or tailor make yourself?
- Types of fabric, colors, etc.
- If we want to design costumes, do we have competent seamstresses in the church?
- Costume or material costs (for all parts)
- Costs for fittings, hemming, etc.
If your production includes orchestral music or might require additional musicians, be sure to include them in your planning and budget accordingly. If you’re hiring professional musicians, they’ll probably only need to attend one dress rehearsal. Include rehearsal sittings when asking about fees.
Typical Sitting Fee ranges:
- $75 for typical service
- $225-$300 for concert (including one rehearsal)
Don’t overlook production-required media like videos, music tracks, split tracks, etc. These can add up quickly so include them towards the top of your budget list.
Igniter Media has a large selection of high-quality visual resources available for purchase online. We highly recommend its products for the quality, value, and customer support.
- Video Clips
- Stock Photo/Images
- Background Music Tracks
- Split Tracks
Be sure to remember to add in the cost of licensing that will be required for copyrighted materials you use in your production.
- Performance Licenses (check out CCS’ PERFORMmusic Facilities License)
- Video Licenses
- Streaming Licences (look into the WORSHIPcast Streaming License)
- Ticketed Event License
- Duplication Licenses (printed materials)
- Mechanical License (for CDs, DVDs)
- Synchronization License (for DVDs)
Production Scripts/Packages/Sheet Music/Director’s Scores
Order everything you need before you have your first audition! Don’t wait until you’re missing a set of scores or scripts before you order them. Pro tip: Order an extra director’s score. If the product allows duplication, be sure to honor the author’s copyrighted work by obtaining the proper licensing for duplicating music and choir books.
- Director’s Score
- Choir Books/Music
- Choreography Videos
- Sample Performance Videos
- Sample Performance Audio
Equipment rentals and purchases for a large-scale production can really break the bank. If you’re not well-versed in the area of sound equipment, you should consult with your church’s sound engineer.
Lighting Equipment Purchase / Rentals
Followspots, ellipsoidals, fresnels, par units, and wash lighting are all common lighting fixtures for theatrical applications. If you need a few extra par units or ellipsoidals, it may be wise to purchase for use later. However, it’s usually better to rent specialty lighting like followspots, wash lights, or moving lights.
Wireless Microphones – Don’t skimp on a cheap wireless microphone. If you purchase, use a reputable dealer that can guide you through your options and be available for assistance after the sale has been made (we suggest Sweetwater).
Specialty Instrument Microphones – Unless you’re rocking a cello every Sunday, it probably doesn’t make sense to purchase a specialty mic or pickup bridge for a single production. Specialty microphones can run several hundred dollars apiece and they’re not very versatile. This is another area where it pays to be creative. Try a general purpose condenser for miking strings or horn sections. If you have a solo orchestral instrument, a trusty ol’ Shure 57 (with the right EQ) will do the trick.
Video Recording Equipment (if taping) – If you plan on doing a video recording of your performance for promotional uses, then this is one area to put budget dollars to good use. Quality videography is a very complicated job and takes a lot of experience to deliver high-quality results. If you don’t have the equipment or experienced staff available in-house, it can make a lot of sense to hire a professional videographer.
If you expect a larger than capacity crowd, you’ll need to rent additional seating. Check with other churches in the community to see if you can rent some of their seating for your performance. You’ll find that many pastors will charge very little or nothing at all to help out another church in the community. Warning: it is imperative that you check your venue’s posted capacity and adhere to it. This is not an exercise in the hypothetical. Exceeding the rated capacity of a building is dangerous, illegal, and a visit from the fire marshal could get your performance shut down or force you to ask some attendees to leave.
Dollars and Cents
Now that you have a list of requirements, begin quoting and attaching dollar amounts to each item. If you see that you’re initially over budget (and you probably will be), then you have a starting point to begin dropping or reducing unnecessary items.
Common Savings Areas:
- Wardrobe (simplifying costume or rely on cast members to piece together their own costumes)
- Video recording: eliminate or simplify to a one camera setup
- Set design
- Reduce the number of features
- Reuse props from previous productions
- Other churches may lend you props
If you encounter any roadblocks or have any questions regarding copyrights while you plan your Easter production please contact one of our copyright experts at 877-394-5566. Or log onto our website and chat live now. And be sure to read our other Easter Production Planning blog posts here.
Susan Fontaine Godwin is CCS’s founder/CVO, an educator and long-time member of the Christian arts community with 30 years of experience in the Christian media industry, church copyright administration and copyright management. Susan is an author and speaker and frequently writes for several Christian magazines and online publications. She serves as an adjunct professor at the University of Mobile.
About Christian Copyright Solutions: CCS’s quest is to help churches and Christian ministries “do music right.” CCS is an expert on church music copyrights and our primary focus is providing licensing and clear educational resources to churches, as well as representation, administration, and advocacy for copyright owners. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. The information contained herein is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice or a substitute for legal counsel.