How to Make A Master Spreadsheet (Student Producer Edition)

This is a post I promised a while back, but I’ve always had things I thought were more important, or that I wanted to write sooner that got in the way. However, I don’t have much time today, because I’m on holiday (woo!) and this is a relatively short post to write.

A Master Spreadsheet (and in general, good organisation) is a crucial piece of your work as a producer. As you’ll hear more about on Friday, while at Fuel last week, I redid their filing system, and the Head of Programme said these words to me: “The sign of a good producer is they have a really good filing system.” I extend this to a really good master spreadsheet, an opinion which I have felt was coroborated by some of the incredible organisational spreadsheets at Fuel (timetable including all projects week by week til 2018 anyone?!).

As I mentioned when I wrote about how ALNM went, making one of these is a skill I’ve developed through different productions, but I’ve concluded that the easiest way to make sure that you have all the information you need, and that everyone can find it, and that you can work out which bits haven’t been filled in by that one actor who’s a fantastic performer, but doesn’t do admin (there is always, always one, I guarantee it!) is to have everything in a single google sheets document, ideally one, which is colour-coded by which bits are relevant to whom!

The tabs on my master spreadsheets include the following: budget (colour: red: important to the producer and production team, but only editable by the producer), contact details (yellow: relevant to all), publicity rota (yellow), programme bios (yellow), availability (green: relevant to cast), rehearsal schedule (green), lib/script allocation (green), props list (blue: relevant to crew, although strictly speaking this is mostly important to the stage manager) and expenses (blue – cast in Cambridge don’t really have any expenses, all rehearsals are within walking distance).

Budget. This is self explanatory, and it is useful for everyone to be able to see exactly what money is available to them. The only disadvantage to this is people getting jealous of other departments incomes. I would like to believe this doesn’t happen in the real world, but it does happen amongst students. Unfortunately there isn’t much you can do but grit your teeth and ignore them (or passive agressively point out that if they aren’t happy they can produce something themselves and decide how much money goes to each element. I wouldn’t recommend this particularly, as getting on with team mates is useful, but remembering that you could say that, and aren’t because you have self-control is also useful). You can set individual tabs so only you can edit them, and you should do it for the budget.

Contact details. I tend to have two columns on the sheet, one for cast and one for crew. I request all cast and crew members email addresses (for ordinary contacting) and mobile phone numbers (for emergencies, e.g. not showing up to rehearsals/meetings).

Publicity Rota. If you are using your cast and crew to distribute publicity, (as is suggested in my advice on publicity schedules! 😉 ) having a rota of their responsibilities is necessary.

Programme Bios. If you are having a programme which includes biographies of any cast/crew, you need somewhere to fill all this in, which is communal and unavoidable. This is also a good place to have it, and you can chase up anyone who hasn’t given it to you here.

Availability. In order to be able to create as useful a rehearsal schedule as possible, when you are working with students who’s priority, legitimately, isn’t rehearsals over -say – classes or lectures, knowing exactly when everyone is or isn’t available (I work in 2 hour slots from 10am to 10pm daily) is invaluable. Get your actors to keep this as up to date as possible.

Rehearsal Schedule. From the availability a rehearsal schedule needs to be created. In Cambridge, this is the responsibility of the director (who knows how much rehearsal she wants to do on any scene, or how much time he wants to spend in total)

Lib/Script allocation. If you are renting scripts or libretti from anywhere (ie. they aren’t printouts of out-of-copyright plays from the internet that you expect to bin) I would advise knowing exactly who has which script/lib. It’s sometimes worth taking a deposit cheque from people which you return (uncashed) when they return their script/lib, for instance if they are libs to a musical which are expensive and you will be charged for damages. (Also, this may be patronising, but you also need to make sure these get back to whoever sent them to you within their prescribed time limit (often fourteen days from the last performance).)

Props List. This is a list of props, which the director can add to as the rehearsal period goes ahead, and on which the Stage Management team can mark what has hasn’t been purchased (and you can track to make sure that it doesn’t look like things are being left to the last minute).

Expenses. So that you can make sure that all prod team members are staying within their budgets, I recommend having a tab where you keep track of everything their spending, and once you’ve seen their receipts you can request their reimbursement from the student funding body you are using.

You can view a template google doc master spreadsheet that I use here.

That’s all for today, but stay tuned for Friday’s update on how last week went at Fuel (I can tell you in advance that it was great and I learned still more things!!). Feel free to like this post if you enjoyed it, and leave a comment if you have any thoughts or questions!

Emily xxx

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