Has anyone ever had any success getting kit from bigger theatres? I've been told that they are constantly updating their kit, so i guess it must go somewhere and i wondered whether anybody had got any, and if so how?
You have to catch them at the right time and know the right people. This is how I got a free colortranencore board (still working on getting it from it's old location to my school). You have to go in straight through the tech people, who know what they don't use any more, and get it straight from them. You also have to make sure that it isn't on any official inventory lists, and doesn't have a fixed asset tag on it. If it has a fixed asset tag, the management of the space (school district, university board, board of directors) will hold the tech people accountable for equipment that is missing. So, just make sure that you don't let them give you stuff that they will come back for.
Well, you could say that I had a back end in to that deal. I attended a summer program at *undisclosed location*, a really nice place in new england. I volunteered doing set and lights for the drama & dance productions during the five weeks that I was there, and noticed that they had a used Encore 48/96 in their loft (they had a new express 48/96). So, when I was thinking over the lighting improvements for my school this year, and about a new light board, I thought about that Encore. So, I emailed the tech guy at *undisclosed location*, and asked about the encore. Keep in mind that I had never met this guy before, but I had been at the summer program and had worked in his space. I told him that I had gone to the summer program and seen this board, and was interested in it, and said that we were on a low budget and could pay only a few hundred dollars. But he emailed back and said that he had been keeping it just for the purpose of donating it to someone like me, and that he would give it to the school, for only the cost of shipping from the New England area to North Carolina.
Like I said, you have to know how to backend these things. The inside connection is important.
Volunteer at the place that you are targeting for used gear. It will help alot.
And yes, the encore is one heck of a nice board, considering our "CrapBox" of a Lightronics board that we have right now. My main thing that I like about the encore is that it will allow me to do autofollow cues.
Location is undisclosed so that other people don't try to go after the same people, which they would not like at all, considering that they are an educational institution and can't give away or sell anything else.
IT's all about keeping your ear to the ground and knowing who is around you than getting on their call list for donating gear to.
Know of someone in your are getting an upgrade? Shouldn't really have to call them, they should already be on the phone to you. Have a contact set up with everyone in your area pre-established both out of loaning gear to each other or swapping tickets? At that point in you knowing them and them knowing you what you are looking for or might be interested in would get a phone call. If a theater's closing down or going out of business, or even closing down for the winter, it's a good source for stuff. I used to attend a lot of going out of business both sales and theater clean outs. Keep especially your eye to the news paper for such things.
Setting up a network of suppliers knowing you are interested in their junk or stuff they don't need or really want hanging around anymore is a good option for production companies and retailers. Check in every few months if you don't hear from your contact with them to keep in their memory and perhaps send them some free tickets every once in a while out of thanks. Could buy some of your gear from them also. You buy some, they give some away at times.
Kind of a project in becoming that supplier's "pet theater" to give support to.
I for instance have a few theaters I give old cable and scrap drape to normally. Even gave away a radial arm saw and panel saw to one of them at one point.
On the other hand, being kind only goes so far. If I send out an E-Mail warning that I have some stuff to get rid of, or call them, I expect a response promptly yes or no and a pickup of the gear in a timely way. I in getting rid of gear don't want to be hanging onto it for you weeks on end. Also if I know what someone wants (sorry not accepting wish lists from the forum - already have enough people I supply), I keep my eye out for stuff for them.
Lights dimmers and control are a little harder to get for free. Once in a while there will be something on stagecraft saying X company is giving away to a good home ...... - you arrange pick up. Otherwise since lights and control are more easily stored or sold off, they are not as easily just given away. At times it could be a liability issue also.
It's really useful when your theater members work for the company giving the stuff away even if only part time or for a summer in getting a way in to the supplier. I constantly give away microphone cable and various fixtures etc. to our employees or at least ask them first.
In working for various companies over the years, even if for a short time I had created a network of free stuff in a short amount of time. They strike a show or clean out a storage room and I would get a call. Even got Audrie II in that way at one point. Cheaper to give stuff away than pay to dumpster it away and also a tax write off. Not as easy however to coordinate giving the stuff away. Kind of an old boy's network in giving stuff away to those you know or know are interested. Unless you know those giving it away, you most often won't know it's available.
Once in a while I used to see some lighting fixtures on the back of some trashed scrap metals carrying pickup truck. It was always a shame to see such a thing. On the other hand, the scrap dealer probably gave the theater some cash for the scrap metal. Should you be given an option to get something for a nominal fee for what it's worth in scrap metal or as a donation - say $5.00 for a PAR 64 lamp, have that cash available. Used gear auctions are often a good way of getting gear and fair to all. If a theater is going out of business, make an offer for their gear.
A final option is trade. I traded a Leko and ladder for a very good quality Hamelton drafting table at one point. Good deal for both of us. You wander around back stage of a theater and see they have a bunch of extra Fresnels hanging on a pipe, some seem to need work. Ask about them. You might get them for free or might be able to trade for them. The barter system is a good way of getting stuff. Say you have extra drapes, or some platforms or what ever else you don't need in surplus. In kind trades for labor is also good. I re-wired about 20 lights for one theater in exchange for one of their fixtures at one point. Perhaps they are doing a big show and need to rent some stuff from you, perhaps you can instead trade it for some gear you need.
Those of you in Ontario Canada should keep in mind that there is a C.I.T.T. theatre gear garage sale. All kinds of theatres and companies are bringing out old/used/not needed gear, to sell, trade or give away. It's a good chance to get some nice gear at a decent price.
We dont have many big theaters near by us, but theres several other schools. Even though we tend to have the higher end stuff, we all kinda work together and share certain things. Anything thats easy to move tends to be moved. Lots of lights and mics and stuff get traded, as well as costumes, props, and random cords and stuff