How to Excel in Paperwork
Hello and happy Thursday!
This week is Excel week and today we're focusing on one of the most important "hard skills" for stage managers: paperwork.
Now I know -especially for young stage managers- the desire to create the "perfect piece of paperwork" will often become the key focus of any given day.
Trust me. Even Broadway stage managers can fall into the trap of spending hours to create one piece of paperwork.
And while I am all about creating beautiful paperwork, I here to tell you that paperwork is not the be all and end all of stage management.
Meaning you are mostly likely not going to get hired because of your ability to create paperwork. Because frankly anyone can go into Excel and create a contact sheet if they had to.
So here are the key points to keep in mind when creating paperwork.
Communication of information.
This is the most important factor when creating your paperwork. You should ask yourself the following questions:
What (are you trying to communicate)? Are you trying to tell people when they need to be a certain place? Or a list of where props need to go?
Who (will be receiving this information/piece of paperwork)? A piece of paperwork for an actor will look different than a piece of paperwork for a director or designer.
Why (are you creating this piece of paperwork)? This is perhaps the most important question you can ask yourself. Do not create a paperwork just to create a piece of paperwork. Paperwork is meant to be a tool to help make your job easier. Do not create a piece of paperwork for the sake of creating a piece of paperwork.
Each piece of paperwork should serve a purpose.
Easy to Read.
Your paperwork should be laid out in a way that makes it so that people can get the information they need quickly and easily.
If you have a daily call the actor should be able to look at the information and get their call time in two minutes or less.
Even one of the most complex pieces of paperwork- the run sheet- should be broken down in a way the crew can find what they need even in the most complex transitions.
IMO colors on paperwork is fine, but don't go overboard.
Oh baby is this a big one.
Once you create a piece of paperwork for a show, the layout of it should stay the same.
Minor tweaks here or there or changes in information are fine (i.e. adding in category on your rehearsal report because they decided to add projections), but completely changing the look is unnecessary and can cause confusion.
For example, the department order on your rehearsal reports should always stay the same.
Also if you put logos on one piece of paperwork, you should put them on all (with rare exceptions).
Not only should your paperwork be easy to pull information from, but it should also be easy to make and update.
Again, paperwork is not our one and only job.
I hope these tips were helpful and let me know in the comments if you have any other paperwork recommendations!
Paperwork will become easier and you will find a style you like as you advance in your career. It's also important to note as you move up in the industry, PSM'S and sometimes theatre's themselves will have paperwork templates and you will work with what you are given instead of creating your own.
Much love always,