I love spreadsheets. Love 'em! I have them on my laptop, on my phone, sometimes I even draw charts out in my notebook simply to organise things clouding my brain. I fill them out when I see shows, when I go to workshops, when I do my monthly ingoings and outgoings - the whole shebang. It all started when I was teaching. Having to keep track of a couple hundred students, their grades, their behaviours, their development, spreadsheets meant one never slipped through the cracks. I could filter that bad boy and know that Joe Bloggs in 8T got a B last term which had upped from a D the term before so I could then write great things in his report. Spreadsheets mean I am on it!
When I was at uni I was all over it too. And not just for myself. I was happy to organise music folders and files, cast lists, playlists, song suggestions. There is so much information in the world that sometimes you need to grab hold of it and put it in alphabetical order on Excel. I did however, think that when I left education my spread sheeting days were behind me. I was wrong. Those days were just the dress rehearsal...
I have noticed there seem to be three kinds of performers I've come across in regards to preparation: uncaring ones, lucky ones and prepared ones. The uncaring ones I pay no mind to, they may have spent a pretty penny training but don't seem to have the dedication and I am sure will find their passion in another profession. The lucky ones are inexplicable, their like a phenomenon you see on Dynamo - you know there's some sort of camera trick going on but you just can't work it! Then big up the prepared ones!
I recently went to a workshop with a fantastic TV Casting Director, who's main point from the 3+ hour session was 'do your homework and be prepared'. I go to these workshops to gain the knowledge I was unable to gain from university, for whatever reason. They have also shown me the spectrum of knowledge the acting community has in regards to how it actually works. That is why I spreadsheet all the information I gain from the workshops: Who they were with, who hosted them, their contact details, how they prefer to be contacted, what I performed, feedback (if any) And additional notes.
It is invaluable. It allows me to be prepared for when we meet again so that I don't go in there like a rabbit in the headlights (which I never do as I'm just so happy to even be having an audition!)
I also have one for shows I have seen, who the stand out cast were and the creatives, where it was, if it had or was going to transfer - I believe having your finger on the pulse is vital. It may seem like overkill but as they say knowledge is power and the more I gain the more then I can also share with others.
I'm part of a variety of FB groups for performers and I notice a lot of questions coming up, often repeat questions from new people to the profession, asking for help. Now I'm pretty fresh myself, only been out of the joint for 18 months but I feel the practical knowledge I have gained in that short time surpasses anything I learnt during my 3 years of training. I am happy to share that knowledge with those who want to join 'the prepared ones' crew as it saves people from some of the scathing and sometimes quite upsetting responses I see on SM. There are those out there who seem to like to put others down when they ask about how to approach casting directors, agents and the like - as if the fact they don't know means they are unworthy of being in this industry. That is not the case, we all started knowledgeless and had to gain that from education and the help of others. My uni told me I should contact agents during showcase season - they didn't teach me how (cue a highly embarrassing email sent to my course leader about our completely incorrect approach). So I researched, I learnt, I organised myself and I'm doing quite well. I'm not saying I've found the holy grail but I've found a style and system that works for me.
Research is key - Google is a wonder and a lot more proactive and helpful than the small yet vocal minority of those who judge others for not knowing how to contact TV and film CDs or who casts the Footloose tour. There are those out there who didn't train at 'named schools' or maybe who did but don't have an agent so are striving for their chance and hustling their butts off. To those people, I applaud you. Your hard work will pay off, you get out what you put in so keep doing your thing!
And I will always help those who want it. This week alone I'm showing a friend my workshop spreadsheet, another pal is peeping at my agent spreadsheet and I'm transferring my handwritten CD research to a...you guessed it! Spreadsheet!! I'm not gonna spoon feed these people but I am going to show them what works for me so then they can apply the aspects that work for them. In such an over populated industry you've got to learn to up your game and if that involves nerding it up from time to time - nerd away!
I actually wrote this fortnights blog back in June but didn't post it as the time didn't feel quite right. However this past couple of months I've been having some what of an identity crisis and this popped back up on my radar.
With the increase of reports debating cultural appropriation and a rise in race related mistreatment, I've been feeling like I'm meant to pick a side. In 26 years I have never felt that way and even recently sat up editing the shade of my skin in my headshots wondering if that's the reason why my audition schedule has been quiet...because I'm not quite white or black enough. It's been a sucky feeling to have.
Then I found this in my blog book. And everything refocused.
I've touched on this subject briefly in a couple of previous posts (for those of you who regularly tune in) but now feel comfortable to actually poke the hornets nest. Guys, I've got to break it to you - I'm mixed race.
Lets get the FAQ's out of the way:
1) My dad is Caribbean decent, from Barbados to be specific. No I have never been.
2) Both my parents are British - so to that boy who shouted at me at Bexhill carnival when I was 11, I can't go back to my own country, I'm already in it!
3) Due to my mum having blue eyes I too have blue eyes - genetics, go figure.
4) Yes my hair is all mine, always has been always will be. I don't have the time, patience or bank balance for a top notch weave. I'm not Beyoncé.
5)Yes I tan and yes I can get sunburnt - we all need that factor 50 sometimes
6) My brothers and I all have the same parents. I haven't a clue why we're different shades. Once again, its those pesky genetics.
7) I am proud to be mixed race.
Mixed race, Bi-racial, dual heritage - whatever you want to call it, I'm it. Having two good looking parents, one black Caribbean, one Caucasian equalled this mish mash of a human being. I get the same questions, often, but I have come to sort of like it - I'd rather people ask and know instead of judge and assume. Especially those who haven't come from integrated communities, meeting me can sometimes be a shock. Mainly because I don't know all of Jay Z's albums, have never smoked weed (not even a cigarette), have a (slightly skewed) Sussex accent or witnessed a drive by (genuinely was asked that once!). I'd rather chat about who I am and where I'm from when asked than have stereotypes laid upon me.
Growing up mixed was tricky. My brothers all looked like chart topping musicians (my big brother blagged being Kanye West in an Ibiza nightclub) and/or athletes and I did not look like Rihanna! However, especially being a singer people assumed I should sound a certain a way but I didn't. I'm more Audra McDonald than Jennifer Hudson. I spent my life trying to conform to a stereotype and I just wasn't very good at it. That being said...the industry I am in my looks play a significant factor. I have been turned down for roles purely because I am not the right shade. However I have learnt no longer to dwell on those moments but to focus on the moments when my tanned hue was just right.
Then came the day I thought - oh bugger it, I'm just gonna be a good person. I'm not gonna try and be like Whitney or Queen Latifah, Jordan Sparks or Leona Lewis, I'm just gonna be me. Be my own bonkers, unexpected, fun loving person. If I go to a casting and I'm just right: FANTASTIC, if not oh well and well done to the person who did - this one was for them, the next will be for me. Yes there are casting brackets and breakdowns that could want something open and vague or someone precise and specific but the wonderful thing is, each person in those brackets brings something different to the table regardless of their skin colour. I bring lots of random skills besides my looks and I'm going to have fun building my career and showing my unique qualities and seeing what the future holds.
I could spend my days worrying about the guy on the street who shouted out 'Hey team lightskin, you looking good today'. Team lightskin!? When did I become part of a team? Am I representing my team right? Am I the right kind of light skinned, light eyed girl that guys want?
Or I should I represent team me. The tall, curly haired, happiness spewing, clumsy, dedicated, hardworking, passionate, nerdy goon that I am.
As it is I'm near enough a giant. My heritage is just a tiny piece of this 5'10 frame. My soul is who I truly am.