“Hoping for the best, prepared for the worst, and unsurprised by anything in between.” -Maya Angelou, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings
“Two weeks.” In the hilarious film The Money Pit, that’s the answer given to Walter Fielding (played by Tom Hanks) whenever he asks how long the renovation will take. Walter knows better, but his optimism and “wanting it to go well” gets the better of him. He allows himself to believe everything will go smooth. That doesn’t happen as evidenced by this scene and this scene and this climactic one.
Let’s face it, as artists, most of us are eternal optimists. We try to see the good in everything and everyone. We hope for positive outcomes and constantly imagine a better tomorrow. But that doesn’t mean we can’t also be pragmatic and practical. Especially when wearing our producer hat.
One way to do that is with budgeting. Once we estimate how long something will take, how much it will cost and how much revenue it will generate (e.g. ticket sales, donations, etc…), a good exercise is to create a separate budget. Call it a “worst case scenario” budget. Cut your revenues by 50-75 percent. Double the time it will take. Double the cost. Then ask yourself, “If this worst case scenario budget happens, will I still be okay? Can I still make this project happen.”
If yes, move forward with confidence that you can withstand any contingencies that might arise. Of course you want to do better than worst case scenario and you probably will. But now you have a floor to manage against.
If no, you might want to do some more fundraising or scale back some of your ambitions for the project. Or both.
Either way, you’ll be a better and more prepared producer by having undergone this exercise. You can focus more time on the art and less time dealing with unexpected emergencies.