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!