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Aug 23, 2017

Q and A: Thomas Brown from Backdrops Fantastic Australia

The founder of the Event Awards exclusive backdrops partner talks about being market leaders in creative design, how technology is impacting the world of backdrops and the challenges and opportunities for Australia's events industry.

What do you do at Backdrops Fantastic Australia?

As founder of Backdrops Fantastic Australia, I have the good fortune to be working with all aspects of our business from helping lead our fantastic team, creating and designing with our amazing clients and designing and developing our ever-expanding product line.

Give us a little sneak peek at your career prior to your current role at Backdrops Fantastic Australia.

I have always had a passion for the live visual arts, working with my Dad's theatrical production company and while working for Walt Disney World in their University Program I was taught the uncompromising necessity for quality and customer service that we work hard to embody at Backdrops Fantastic Australia. I travelled to Australia after my undergraduate studies to continue my studies in Public Relations where I began my career in Corporate Events in Perth, ultimately finding my home on the Gold Coast and founding Backdrops Fantastic Australia in 2003.

What’s your favourite thing about your job?

The best part of my job is being able to design, create and bring to the Australian events industry elements and concepts that never existed before. We like to be the creative team who brings new concepts to the corporate event market and it's why we really try hard to push against the “cookie cutting” of other people's ideas so we can always be market leaders in creative design. Our Modular Backdrops are one of our team's proudest achievements having developed the entire modular system through a painstaking process at our Gold Coast warehouse, they now enhance events all across Australia. We've even pushed the creative envelope further by transforming our Modular Backdrops into a dynamic 3D projection mapping surface that brings the set pieces to life!

How would your friends and colleagues describe you?

They'd probably describe me as determined and quirky. I've been brought up with a very strong work ethic which is why I remain focused and never quit. I love to think and consider every scenario when it comes to design and delivery of a project which works hand-in-hand with the events industry where you really do need to consider all perspectives and variables at any given moment.

What kinds of events does Backdrops Fantastic typically lend its services to?

The Backdrops Fantastic product line covers a large portion of the event industry. Our themed backdrops are often used for themed parties at conferences, private functions and throughout the dance

industry. We also have one of Queensland's largest drape inventories while our Modular Backdrops are used on everything from conferences, awards, expos, television shows and, as previously mentioned, as a dynamic canvas for 3D projection mapping.

Let’s talk about the power of backdrops – how do they influence the look and feel and ultimate success of an event?

Our traditional backdrops are an extremely cost effective solution for the variety of themed functions that the Australian corporate event industry holds as part of their conferences and conventions. Our standard 6 metre tall x 12 metre wide backdrops cover a lot of space in a ballroom and their detail instantly helps create the theme. Themed backdrops are much cheaper than projection screens and are an ideal solution to cover a large event space. Our Modular Backdrops create an ideal accent to any corporate stage and lend themselves to vibrant lighting effects to bring any conference or awards stage to life. The trend in the AV industry continues to be large blend screens, LED screens and, recently, curved screens with very few stage set designs being utilised for corporate events. Our Modular Backdrops help bring depth to the stage by framing the large screens to give the stage look more dimension and colour.

What sets Backdrops Fantastic Australia apart from its competitors?

We experiment with a lot of new ideas which allows us the opportunity to continually change, adapt and innovate quickly.

What new technology is emerging in the world of backdrops?

Digital photography and printing technology is becoming cheaper and more flexible. The printing industry allows us to hand paint with exceptional detail one backdrop and then photograph it in high resolution to reproduce it digitally in perfect detail and a myriad of sizes. By utilising this technology we are able to quickly reproduce a backdrop in a few days that previously could have taken weeks. We can also make a variety of sizes to adapt to client requirements including our line of party drops that are reproductions of our full size backdrops at 2.3 metres tall x 4.7m wide.

What’s your favourite Australian event and why?

My favourite Australian event is Anzac Day - Australia-wide. I love what the day represents and how the Aussie community both young and old come together to remember and hopefully never forget the sacrifices and horrors of war. From an event professional's perspective this day has to be one of the largest and most expansive events produced for a single day of the year. The amount of planning that is required and delivery of the thousands of services held across Australia is immense, often delivered with little to no budgets.

What’s something few people would know about Backdrops Fantastic Australia?

Most people don't know that in Queensland we operate a sister company to Backdrops Fantastic called Events Fantastic providing theme decor elements including thousands of chair covers, table centrepieces, props, drapes and conference sets to the Gold Coast and Brisbane markets.

What do you think are the challenges and opportunities lying ahead for the Australian events industry?

The opportunities for the Australian corporate event industry are endless, with so many technology innovations continually being created to make live and online interaction of corporate events so much more engaging. With regards to challenges - anyone in the corporate event industry knows these, OH and S departments constantly charging costly fees for delivery of product, monetary kickbacks to venues that are provided by the in-house suppliers, as well as in-house AV mangers that get profit sharing for higher profit margins by not using or recommending external suppliers. Fees clients are having to absorb in their budgets to use many venues consist of technician on duty, compliance officer, early access charges and restrictions (even when the in-house AV are in the venue space installing the event) – the list going on and on. Some of these fees and revenue streams I can understand to ensure their reputation and the onus of any event failures is in their control - however many are detrimental to the innovation and creativity of the corporate event industry.

Venues and in-house AV suppliers that close themselves off from competitive external suppliers to ensure they collect all or the majority of event revenue risk stagnating the entire Australian corporate event industry - with the same old cookie cut delivery with zero benefit to the client or the event. A more open market with shared revenue creates the drive for innovation and creativity that used to make this industry thrive.

Views expressed in this Q and A are solely those of the subject of the Q and A.