Hypothetical Puppet Show Posted by Shawn on Oct 03, 2012
I received the below questions in an email and thought hey why not get a public poll on this one. I realize that it is kind of vague but perhaps we can shed some light on the issue.

I assume that "costume made stick puppet"  actually means a custom built rod puppet, or at least I hope that is what they mean. I would say depending on the needs a specifications of the puppet this would cost between $200 to $1000.00 perhaps even more if they are actually wanting animatronics or mechs in the puppet.

The second part of the question is kind of hard since there where no real specifics given again.  If we are talking a 40 hour work week then I would say $800 to $1000 for the week. I know also that salaries can be very different across the nation/world. They mention Griffith University which since I am not familiar with can only assume is is the one I found on Google in Queensland Australia http://www.griffith.edu.au/ Perhaps some of our down-under members can give a better evaluation of cost from that region. Since it is a school project I am sure that input from other parts of the world would be useful also though.

I'll email the person back and let them know about the post here so they can follow.  Perhaps they will even sign up and post so we can ask them for further details.

I am a student at Griffith University, and I am doing a project about a hypothetical puppet show. The show is a 20 min long Mody Dick production aimed at 8-12 year olds.

I was hoping you could help me with some budget information; How much would it approximately cost to buy a costume made stick puppet, and how much does a regular puppeteer get payed a week?

Your help will be greatly appreciated, and we will make sure to include your business name in our assignment portfolio.
Re: Hypothetical Puppet Show Posted by Na on Oct 03, 2012
If they're located in Australia, then I would state three things about getting paid:
1. If it's by fee, then it's a negotiated one based on a quote the puppeteer has provided. This varies from person to person.
2. If it's by hour, then again it can vary from person to person, but award rates for performing artists are set by MEAA, the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance - our local version of actor's equity, except they cover techies/designers and journalists too. www.alliance.org.au has info on pay rates. This assumes though that they can do puppetry full-time and aren't supporting themselves elsewhere.
3. It can also be co-op or profit share. That is, a person can agree to receive a percentage of the profits after the performance. This varies from company to company.

Some people offer discounts for students, although I don't know of any off the top of my head. That sort of thing isn't really advertised, for obvious reasons.

As for the rest, get them to answer the q's in the commission checklist:
http://www.schoolofpuppetry.com.au/tutorials.php/puppet-commission-checklist
or get them to read these:
http://www.schoolofpuppetry.com.au/tutorials.php/how-to-commission-a-puppet-maker
http://www.schoolofpuppetry.com.au/tutorials.php/how-much-does-a-puppet-cost

No one could seriously answer their question about costs without knowing more about what they need.
Re: Hypothetical Puppet Show Posted by Buppetpusker on Oct 06, 2012
I really do think that the emailer is overestimating the popularity of a puppet show as mainstream entertainment, as if it were something run en masse all the time and world over, where a puppeteer's wage is not subjective because they form part of an enterprise. I honestly feel that they don't know all that much about entertainment industry if they are asking about regular pay for a performer in the context they propose.
Re: Hypothetical Puppet Show Posted by Na on Oct 06, 2012
Nah, this is a fairly common email. I get one of these maybe every 6 weeks or so. It comes mostly from people who don't know much about puppetry, which is a pretty large section of people when you think about it. As for asking about regular pay, it's not suprising either. They could be trying to figure out how to factor labour into the expenses/quote, or they could be looking for info as part of the assignment, or they could be asking because they'd like to hire someone to perform. Also, as explained in my first post, it's not set in stone and can vary from project to project and person to person.

My most common response to emails is "can you give me more info?"

All it means is that there isn't enough explanation out there of how puppeteers work and how they develop their quotes. That's why I wrote the posts - linked above - because I was getting tired of having to field these sorts of emails. The fact is that we also can't expect others to be expert enough on the topic to give the right details. They don't know what info is relevant: which is why we need to educate people on it.

Lastly, spend some time on any theatre forum website in Australia and you'll quickly realise that for every answer there's at least 5 young artists asking a question about the entertainment industry and how it works. This kind of question in particular is par for the course when dealing with arts students. It's not clear whether or not the student is studying arts or something else, so it's not safe to assume they should have knowledge about it anyway.
Re: Hypothetical Puppet Show Posted by pagestep007 on Oct 06, 2012
Sounds like the usual budget exercise in study. I have done them. You have to take everything into account, which is nowhere near reality, and then whatever the result, you get a grade, and move onto the  next exercise. I even got to do it in reality for the ministry of culture here. They told me to lie because the real costs were so rediculously low, so I did as I was told, then I was accused of lying... go figure.
Re: Hypothetical Puppet Show Posted by Na on Oct 06, 2012
We also had to do them for uni. The only reason they weren't realistic is because often a lot of our 'costs' were simply provided as part of the university facilities - ie. you don't have to include electricity or internet costs. The only thing I under-budget now is time, and it's the only thing that ends up being too expensive (in terms of buyer's perspective) to put realistically into a budget spreadsheet.

I actually got an email this morning about someone wanting to know how to price shows. The problem I think is that the people who ask generally don't have any previous experience running their own shows, and so don't know what goes in a budget. I've found the best experience dealing with planning for a business in entertainment is to simply have a fully-rounded background in theatre first. If you haven't self-produced or helped someone self produce, or worked in a production role at an amateur company, you have little idea of what to do.

I really think actors should be compulsorily made to learn the production side just so they can do this stuff. Most actors I know self-produce but couldn't budget their way out of a paper bag

I also think, having seen a lot of people ask it on Yahoo Answers, that people asking these questions about pricing shows, are simply trying to do it as 'extra income', like it doesn't involve too much work. This suggests even further that some have got no background in performance, but think of it as a neat business idea that sounds fun.
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