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Behind the Curtains of a Theatre Festival: 3 Lessons Learned

We give you three lessons we learned from working behind the scenes at the National Theatre Festival Brunei 2023!


AICREATIVV, a part of the working committee at the National Theatre Festival Brunei (NTFB) 2023, share three lessons learned from their experience.

Organising a festival is no easy feat. One often underestimates the thought, time, and effort that is required, but the AICREATIVV team has witnessed first-hand what it takes to pull off a successful festival. Alongside organising partners 247 Studios, Longan Digital, and Think Axis, AICREATIVV was involved in the working committee to help organise the third rendition of the National Theatre Festival Brunei (NTFB), which was held between 17th and 20th August 2023. Amal Osmera, Najihah Osmera, Iman Shamsuddin, Elroy Ramantan, Batrisyia Ali, Aaqilull Qhaeer, and Asyraf Saharuddin were part of the design and marketing team, while Imamull Qhaeer and Farhan Jafar Ali were in charge of liaising with sponsors.


As the festival came to a close, we made new memories, gained new experiences, and learned new lessons along the way! In this article, we outline three different lessons we’ve learned from being the brains behind the design, marketing, and sponsorship teams for NTFB 2023. If you’re thinking of running an event from scratch for the first time, regardless of its size and scale, read on so you can be more prepared before you begin!


Lesson 1: Clear the Road for Effective Communication


Running a festival requires a lot of people. For NTFB 2023, more than 160 people were involved, which included the working committee, the performing groups, and the volunteers. The NTFB 2023 working committee itself was separated into 6 different departments, including production management, a ticketing team, and sponsorship liaison. And although these departments were responsible for different aspects of festival preparation, clear and effective communication between the different departments is vital in order to keep each other up to speed with progress, concerns, and updates.


When so many voices of different opinions and ideas are involved, it can be tricky to get anywhere close to a productive conversation. Therefore, an effective method was to appoint a department lead. Department leads act as the information bridge, relaying important messages and decisions made within their department to other relevant departments, and vice versa. This way, the channels for possible miscommunication and loss of information transfer are minimised. Additionally, committee meetings were held regularly and became more frequent as festival days loomed closer. This gave committee members an opportunity to come together for one day of the week to discuss issues face-to-face, which are often more productive than online conversations.


The working committee of the National Theatre Festival Brunei 2023 making preparations for the festival.
Members of the NTFB 2023 committee hard at work.

Lesson 2: Align People’s Expectations With Your Capabilities


Preparations for the third rendition of NTFB formally began in May of 2023, meaning we only had about four and a half months to prepare. For the design and marketing team, it didn’t take long for us to realise that four and a half months was not enough time.


The team tried to make full use of the time we had, with big and creative aspirations to maximise the different channels of marketing available to us, from social media to national TV. We also strategised and developed a three-stage marketing timeline, which included several campaigns and deadlines for large milestones, such as the ticket launch date and the first festival day. Furthermore, we implemented a content calendar to visualise the social media marketing strategy, which included designing and filming content for Instagram and TikTok across the four months that we had to promote the festival.


Syazni Bakar, Festival Director of the National Theatre Festival Brunei (NTFB) 2023 being interviewed at Radio Television Brunei (RTB).
Syazni Bakar, Festival Director of NTFB 2023, having an interview at Radio Television Brunei (RTB).

However, even with all these strategies put in place, due to certain constraints, including time, money, and resources, some of those big and creative ideas were simply not possible, which meant that we could not reach the full marketing impact that we desired. As we archived missed opportunities and dusted off the disappointment, a lesson was learned: to align expectations with capabilities. You can’t shoot at the sky with a plastic gun, expecting to land on stars.


Following the same line of thought, it is a waste of energy and effort to consider large ideas when you don’t have enough resources or are simply not capable of executing them in the first place. Therefore, we’ve learned to specify our capabilities and resources from the very beginning, and to develop ideas that are within our means. While some changes will certainly be made for the next festival, such as a longer preparation timeline, we will also return with the understanding that there is no such thing as truly free marketing.


Lesson 3: Opportunities Await Beyond Your Comfort Zone


The theme for NTFB this year was growth, and many performances used this theme to develop the ideas behind their performances. However, this theme ran deeper than what was shown onstage; for many of the AICREATIVV team members, NTFB 2023 was a period of growth too, on both a personal and professional level.


Our strategic partner, Elroy Ramantan stepped into the spotlight in more ways than one, conducting vox pop interviews with members of the public, and even trying out an MC role for performances for the first time. For our interns, Aaqilull Qhaeer and Asyraf Saharuddin, NTFB 2023 was their first major project that they took on by themselves, filming and editing promotional and event coverage content to be posted on social media and other advertising platforms. And our brand strategist, Amal Osmera took on her first leadership role for the Design and Marketing team, getting a taste of what it’s like to lead a team and make executive decisions.


Elroy Ramantan of AICREATIVV opening a performance at the National Theatre Festival Brunei (NTFB) 2023 as an MC.
Elroy Ramantan opening a performance at NTFB 2023 for the first time.

Through NTFB 2023, we learned that the most difficult part of trying new things was getting over the initial fear of doing something we had never done before. Overcoming this first hurdle was step one, and the steps that followed eventually became easier to carry out, like falling dominoes. Although it was intimidating at first, placing ourselves in uncomfortable situations helped to widen our comfort zones, and we came out more confident to try new things in the future.


The Closing Act


To summarise, while being a part of the working committee for NTFB 2023 brought countless experiences for the AICREATIVV team, the three important lessons we’ve outlined here are:


  • To establish a clear method of communication, especially when many people are involved in the team;

  • To set your expectations according to your capabilities, so that you can devote your time and energy to ideas that matter;

  • And to seize opportunities for growth by not being afraid of uncomfortable situations.


Clearly, organising a festival is far from easy. It requires a team of highly determined and resolved individuals who are united in their goal and not afraid to take risks. NTFB 2023 opened our eyes to the cooperation and coordination that was necessary to successfully host large-scale events, and although these lessons were learned while organising a festival, we are sure to apply them to almost any professional situation we encounter in the future.


Working with the NTFB committee provided us with experiences that extended beyond these three lessons. If you want to learn more, let’s start a conversation over at hi@aicreativv.com. Our emails are always open.


Let’s make the magic happen together!


Performing groups, the working committee, and volunteers take a group photo onstage at the closing ceremony of the National Theatre Festival Brunei (NTFB) 2023.
Curtains close with a final group photo, with performing groups, the working committee, and volunteers on stage.

About NTFB 2023


The National Theatre Festival Brunei (NTFB) is a festival that celebrates the expanding theatre industry in Brunei. The third installment of NTFB - endorsed by the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports and in partnership with Baiduri Bank - was held between 17th and 20th August 2023 at the Jerudong International School Arts Centre.


9 local theatre and performing arts groups from across Brunei came together for 4 days to showcase their talents, which ranged from live music to dramatic plays, through 16 performances and 6 workshops. NTFB 2023 is organised by 247 Studios, alongside AICREATIVV, Longan Digital, and Think Axis, and supported by MixMedia, Printmartz, Boeffi, Cuckoo, AzamBK, GoMamam, Coffeenity Yard, Artly Design, Mercure, Azutech, Singgah, Three Light Coffee, Heqtor’s, and Majlis Kesejahteraan Masyarakat.

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