Making notes and keeping records is as important for actors as it is for any other professional in any industry. The contacts we all make and maintain are invaluable and it is through building long term relationships that we maximise our chances of getting work. Like it or not, networking is the lifeblood of the entertainment industry – but you have to know what to do with all that information to make it useful to your career.
As casting directors we keep notes on every director, producer, financier, agent, distributor or other related person or company we come into contact with.
We also keep a detailed database of every actor we’ve ever met – what they have auditioned for, notes on their performance, how well they knew their lines (yes, it’s that important) and any other snippets of information we find interesting. (For those of you not yet on our database rest assured: we rarely build our lists of who to consider for a role solely from our database – ordinarily we start from scratch on every single role – but we will cross reference once we have a shortlist to remind us of who you are and double check if you are appropriate).
So what kind of information does an actor need to keep?
In our view there are two key areas: 1) Contacts and 2) Auditions, and there is a cross over between them. You don’t need to use a complicated database, but you must be meticulous about recording entries. If you do, you’ll build up a really useful picture of who is calling you in on an routine basis (and, perhaps more importantly, who isn’t) what kind of feedback you get, when are you most successful, and ultimately what can you do to improve your chances.
Perhaps the simplest way to keep tabs on your communications with casting directors, producers, directors or other people that are useful to your career is to create a separate folder on your computer for each category, eg. Casting Directors, Producers, Directors. And then inside each of those folders have a single named document for every person. So in your Casting Director folder you will have a document called “Puro Casting”. At the top of the document – in the Header – you would have the names of personnel, contact details (email addresses, phone numbers) and any other general information that is useful (“Doesn’t like phone calls” or “Email every 6 – 8 weeks” or “Prefers colour headshots” or even, yes it might be true, “Prefers actors not to be off book”).
And then every time you communicate with that person or company, write the date and make a note. Whether you’ve sent an email, attended an audition or workshop, bumped into them at an event – make an entry.
Your document would look something like this:
September 30th 2011: invited to audition for xxx, the role of xxx. Good feedback but was told looked too young for the role.
November 14th 2011: emailed a link to new showreel – no response.
December 4th 2011: saw xxxx at agent’s party, spoke about sail boats.
February 4th 2012: emailed flyer to new play with invitation – nice response but couldn’t make the show.
February 20th 2012: emailed key reviews for play.
Once you start doing this it should become second nature to consult the document before making contact with an industry professional, and you should be able to quickly build up a picture of how the relationship is developing. You’ll find out what each person responds to (or doesn’t), if it’s been a while since you’ve been in touch, if you made them aware of your new headshots or showreels or the great part you just landed. And having all this information to hand is also a great way of showing a new agent that you know what you are doing.
And why make a note about talking about sail boats? At this stage, who knows? But at some point in the future it might become useful.
Equally important as your contacts are keeping detailed notes on every audition you attend. Again, as you make more and more entries a picture will develop – who is bringing you in most often? What kind of roles are you going up for? Is there consistent feedback and if so how can you take it on board? Are you getting mostly film, tv or theatre auditions?
Again, you don’t need a complex database. You could use a simple spreadsheet or even just a text document but we would suggest you make entries with the following column headings:
Date, Casting Director, Project Name, Role Name – what to put under each of these headings is pretty obvious. But then you’ll also need –
Type of Role – here you would put a short description of the part – “Mid 30s, disgruntled school teacher”
Wore – what you wore to the audition – “Blazer and corduroy trousers”
In the Room – the names of the director and producer if present, or anyone else of interest.
My comments – your own interpretation of how the audition went – “Good audition, learnt lines, asked to do each scene three times, complimented on my accent”
Feedback (this is from the casting director or your agent) – “Good read, too young for role”
Recall/Got the Job? – again, pretty obvious what to put under this column.
Over time you’ll be able to see who is bringing you in and for what kind of roles – do the character ages vary wildly or are they consistent? Is the role type the same? Do you get better feedback depending on what kind of clothes you wear? Are your accents up to scratch?
The answers to these questions will help you focus on what is working and what isn’t, and while it may not make you a better actor it may help you land the next job.
It all sounds like a lot of work, doesn’t it? Well, yes, it is. But it is another way for you to take control of your career, to treat it like a profession, to help you run your own business.
And it gets easier the more you do it. So why not start now?