Thursday, June 16, 2011

Good Datebooks and Calendars

Datebooks and calendars matter.

80% of life is showing up

(usually attributed to Woody Allen).

An actor who does not show up on time, or at all, is sabotaging themselves. A teacher in acting school said Early is on time, on time is late and late is unacceptable. I have been late more often than I would like; my goal is to never be late, ever.

I suggest using what works for you, and refine or change it as it makes sense to change it. The logistics of ensuring you are where you need to be, when you need to be there, are not unique to acting. Tracking the results of marketing (submissions) and sales meetings (auditions) is not unique to acting either. Neither requires special acting-specific paper forms or software.

There are at least 2 companies offering actors career specific datebook/calendar/planner options. They are expensive, more expensive than a paper datebook from an office supply store, or drug store, and the software that is already built into your computer and cellphone. If the offerings of these companies work for someone, great. If they are worth the premium price to a specific actor, fantastic. I simply remain unconvinced they are actually providing value that reflects their cost.

The key is to have whatever system used to coordinate appointments, marketing and sales activity do the job and be worth the time, money and attention spent. I'll try to give a brief version of why actor-specific, maintained-by-a-non-software-company solutions are not ideal. In the wider world, tracking sales efforts and customer relations often falls under the area called customer relationship management or CRM. There are entire companies that make software and systems to consistently, efficiently and effectively keep track of how corporations are finding new customers and how they interact with the ones they already have.

I was comped admission to a convention of the biggest CRM software makers, including many of the largest software companies in the world. I asked their sales and marketing people if they had anything that would work for actors, and described my needs. As I've found in my own research as well, the answer was mainly "not really, you may want to try using one of the 'off-the-shelf' database or contact management programs already out there."

Any system you use to track your calendar and submissions/auditions must have these attributes of good computer software:

Accessibility
You must be able to get to the information when you need it. If it is down or out of reach, it is useless.
Intergrity
You must be able to rely on the information having not been changed, lost, or having errors added to it. If you can't rely on the accuracy, it is useless.
Security
You must be able to control who can access the information. If people you didn't allow can get your data (like your calendar), at minimum, your personal safety can be at risk.

The actor-specific software and those 2 companies do not publicly disclose their disaster or security plans, and since they don't have the resources to hire the best network engineers in the world one can guess they do not have the strongest systems. Since they aren't transparent about their methods, their users are relying on luck, rolling the dice. "My actor-specific-cloud-based-calendar was down/lost my data/saved it wrong" does not replace missing an audition or call-time.

More mainstream software usually has the resources to reduce outages, data corruption or loss and maintain their cloud systems well. Remember, nothing is perfect; having a back up plan of your own is a good idea.

As for their paper products, I'm not convinced paying extra for actor-specific forms is better than using a standard datebook and loose-leaf in a binder. Aside from that, paper can work. While paper can be misplaced, lost or burnt, it is pretty durable, and predictable how it functions or fails. In all cases what works for you and is worth your time, money and attention spent, is best. Break a leg!

Update June 17, 2011: The 2 companies offering actor-specific organization solutions are very different and their products are very different. There are useful elements to some actor-specific products, and I encourage actors to evaluate them themselves. Best of luck and caveat actor.

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this posted by David August at 2:35 PM 

comments: Hello David,
While I believe actors spend their money on so many things that they don't need for their careers, I could not disagree with your post more. I've seen you post this on Facebook and it's just bad information IMHO. Running a smart business is so necessary and PerformerTrack (which I started with ActorTrack). I would never put PerformerTrack in the little category of : Good Datebooks and Calendars. It's so very much more.
You later posted "a career is built faster by learning how to book more acting work". I've been working on my craft while a member but I've also had several co-star roles, I've been on a national tour, I've grown my "interest" in voice over work to actually being able to get clients, record on the road, get a marketing plan together, etc. and I've been able to stop paying for so much "actor crap" and build relationships like I've never been.
It doesn't seem like you use it so maybe what you most resist is what you really need.
Michael
MichaelVO2011

# posted by Anonymous Anonymous : 6:19 PM  

I have to say that I completely agree with you. I am so amazed how not only actors but working people from all industries are so unorganized sometimes. I mean a simple cheap planner and a pen from an office supply store or even a dollar store is better than nothing. I hate it so much when people complain that there are no jobs yet they miss interviews because they don't write them down. You also need to check back to your planner and follow up with old interviews.

# posted by Anonymous filmmaking : 2:15 PM  

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