Special Events

ON THE ROAD AGAIN

>From its base in England, The Full Effect often works in mainland Europe >and, increasingly, even farther afield. We recently opened a partnership >office in Bangkok, Thailand, to service incoming groups from >English-speaking corners of the globe.

Working with Thai people is different from working with Europeans. Thais would far rather say "yes" to please you than cause embarrassment. Our understanding of these cultural differences is important and ensures that we now have a team that is used to different approaches.

For an event in Pattaya, Thailand, The Full Effect took a team of 21 technicians and 32 performers to set up, rehearse and run the show. Local Thai suppliers provided 70 of their own riggers, who assembled the main stage, the laser screen frame, the dining area and five 45-foot lighting towers.

Extra planning was necessary to guarantee that once all the crew members, performers, entertainers and elements of the show arrived at the venue, we used time to the maximum before "going live."

Before the event, the British crew had to work in unfamiliar heat and humidity. To acclimatize performers for the dance routines, rehearsals were intense. The tropical conditions also required additional thought for every aspect of the event, such as the storing of costumes.

The working relationship between the English- and Thai-speaking crews created its own challenges. We had to carefully plan and rehearse the calling of the show. We needed translators to permit the teams to speak to each other. The Thai translators had to be briefed so that they understood all technical jargon. We also needed dual earpieces and a specially designed communication system for backstage. This meant we staged two technical rehearsals as well as one dress rehearsal to overcome problems.

The stage set was shipped in four 40-foot sea containers, which arrived after six weeks at sea. However, shipping electrical equipment from Britain would have meant vastly increased costs, so the technical team made many trips to Bangkok to meet with local suppliers, actually see the electrical equipment and sign detailed contracts.

The Full Effect manufactures a large amount of staging and sets that we supply to clients. A little extra time spent filling in shipping forms can be well worth it in the long run because it will minimize problems with overzealous customs officials. We tend to use freight-forwarding companies that service rock concerts, as these people understand your equipment has to be there by a certain date, or the show does not go on. There is nothing worse than seeing your containers on a dock, but not being able to get them released. A local destination management company, available on 24-hour call in advance of the British team arriving, is a must.

One of the areas we are cautious of is local tax. It is often possible to claim the Value Added Tax back, but this can take up to 18 months. Conversely, an event we are producing in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, is tax-free, so proper checking of accounts in advance of quoting your client is important.

The Internet is invaluable. Years ago, we used telex machines and had to send messages while the recipient was online. But now we queue our e-mails before going home in the evening, and by the next working day, we have our answers.

We are using our contacts in the International Special Events Society more. We are using quality, friendly ISES members for upcoming events in Philadelphia and Florida. This is especially helpful in Philadelphia, where trade unions are strong.

The world is getting smaller, and professional partners exist all over. The main barriers to success are language and culture, but with careful forward planning and a clear understanding of the final objective from all parties involved, working around the world remains hugely exciting and rewarding.

>From its base just outside London, The Full Effect produces special >events. Mark Harrison is the firm's managing director; he can be reached >at 011 44 (0)1234 269099 or via e-mail ([email protected]).

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