I’m a longtime advocate of keeping a spreadsheet of all sorts of things re. my acting: auditions, lessons learned, valuable contacts made, thoughts re. various scenes in a project, etc.
Casting director Marci Liroff recently wrote a piece for Backstage and asked me about my record-keeping. Her piece is below, or you can check it out on the Backstage site. Get thee to Excel (or to Google Drive, which offers spreadsheets for free..)
Remember when you were a kid and you kept a diary next to your bed and wrote down everything you did and thought about that day? Those childhood habits were actually great training for what you should be doing as an actor. Tracking every meeting and audition is a good habit to get into.
I’ve been preaching this to my classes and my coaching clients for years now. They always come back to thank me and point out that this one thing has changed their perspectives on their careers. Sometimes what you do as an actor—the prep, the auditions, the sheer tenacity you apply to your career to get an acting job—can be an intangible thing when you don’t actually get the job and effectively have nothing to show. But, like I always say, “This is not a sprint; it’s a marathon.” So much effort goes into getting the job that keeping a diary or a journal of all your auditions will help you see your progress in black and white.
I suggest you keep a notebook and write down every meeting and audition you have. List the people you’ve met and their positions, the project, the role, what you wore, and what choices you made for your audition. Take short notes on what you discussed if you got into a chat with the director. When it starts getting busy during pilot season and you’re going on several auditions each week (and hopefully getting callbacks), it’ll be great to know exactly what you did on each audition that got you back in the room a second time.
You’re going to have a long and busy career, and you will probably have a few different people represent you along the way. When you start a new relationship with an agent or manager, wouldn’t it be great if you could give him or her some actual tools to help you? You can sit down in your initial meeting and give a list of people who are your fans, casting directors who consistently bring you back, and those to whom you need an introduction. This way you can plan a strategy for which rooms you need to get into.
Actor friend William Mapother goes a step further, using an Excel spreadsheet. “I keep an auditions spreadsheet in Excel. It has six columns: CD, Date, Project, Role (character name), Type (feature, pilot, recurring, guest), and Studio/Co./Network,” he says. “I use Excel because it allows me to easily sort the data to see how many times I’ve seen a CD or to see how many appointments I’ve had over any period of time.”
Here’s the part I love: “When I book a job I change the font in that row to red. Also, once I book via a CD, I make that CD’s name red throughout the document.”
Continuing, Mapother says, “I also keep another Excel spreadsheet in which I note lessons I’ve learned in various areas and make notes to avoid recommitting horrendous blunders. I’ve noted when circumstances before an audition have helped or hurt me—being hungry, working out, interacting with other actors who are waiting. The purpose is to experiment and identify what helps me. Another lesson came not from my experiences but from reading. One of Pixar’s rules: Errors are inevitable, so make them ASAP. Experiment early. I noted this in my lessons as ‘Be wrong as quickly as you can.’ ”