Trish and Harold's Weblog

News, information, and random thoughts from the busy lives of Trish Egan and Harold Phillips.

Monday, May 26, 2008

"Portland Is Making It In Movies" (At Least According To The Seattle Times)

Hi there folks

Seattle-area casting director Denise Gibbs forwarded this article through her Foreground Background Listserv. It seems our "big sister city" to the north has started realizing that Portland is coming into its own, both in terms of the locals filming here and the companies from out of town who are visiting. Check out this article from the Seattle Times:

Thought I'd share... hope you're all having a safe and happy memorial day!


Saturday, May 24, 2008

Drive Safe This Weekend!

As if the cost of gas wasn't deadly enough, Joe Friday has some news for you about auto accidents...

(Thanks to "The Greatest News Man In The History of the World," AM 970's Tim Riley, for the clip) Do you think such a graphic description of an auto accident would ever be put on today's prime-time TV? And people think contemporary television is rough...

Be careful out there, folks! Trish and I are going to be staying around home, ourselves... we're going to attend a kick-off barbeque for Crackin' The Code later on today... the rest of the time is probably going to be spent holed up in bed or visiting Aezeroth. Hope you all have a good weekend... and remember why we get Monday off!


Thursday, May 22, 2008

It's Audition Season!

Please don't sue me, Warner Brothers...

So, after my super-long posts about tracking your acting career, I thought I'd take a little time this morning to update you all on what's been going on with Trish and I.

There's been a whole mess of auditions this past week... unfortunately, none of them have yielded any work (yet), but things are happening. My ActorTrack calendar has a sea of red "A's" (the code for "Auditions") on it.

Trish and I both auditioned for a production of Bell Book and Candle at Lakewood this past weekend. We were called back, but neither of us were cast... one bright spot, though, is that the director (local actor Bruce Blanchard) is planning another production in the fall of 2008 that he's considering me for.

Twice now our upcoming trip to the Last Frontier Theater Conference has gotten in the way at an audition... I did an industrial audition on Tuesday that I felt pretty good about, but part of the gig is a live event in Las Vegas right in the middle of the conference. Then, yesterday, I was called in to Lana Veenker Casting at the last minute to read for a Nintendo spot, but again... the spot shoots during the conference.

It's always lame to lose out on the possibility of work... but we knew this was going to happen. Summer is film season in Oregon, and taking a trip in the summer can get in the way. By the same token, you can't let the possibility that you might lose out on work control your life. If you do, you'll never get around to doing the things you want to, like travel. I've seen far too many people wait for their retirement to travel... and by the time they get there, they're too tired out from a lifetime of working to enjoy it.
I have to say, heading up to the Conference is more than worth missing out on the possibility of a few gigs - check out the people we'll be hanging out with for a week in Valdez, and some of the events and panel discussions going on. It's going to be an educational, fun week... but it'll be a working vacation. Trish and I are both going to be appearing in readings as part of the Playlab sessions, and we're going to be in a show that's part of the Last Frontier Theater Conference Fringe Festival (Two-Thirty by Rand Higbee; the details are posted at

It occurs to me that I haven't really posted a lot of details about the upcoming trip... for those of you keeping track (like, say, my fellow Alaskans who might want to hook up with me in the great white north?), here's the rough itinerary:

June 13th We drive up to Seattle and leave the car at our friend Beth's house (who's graciously allowed us to use her parking place). It'll be a good excuse to see Beth again; we haven't talked to her in, like, a hundred years. That night we fly up to Anchorage, pick up a rental car, and stay overnight with one of my best friends in the world, Kert LaBelle.

June 14th We drive from Anchorage to Valdez and start attending the conference. We'll be in Valdez through...

...June 22nd when we drive back to Anchorage. There was supposed to be a reunion in Anchorage for people who were part of the University of Alaska, Anchorage Theater Department from the mid-80's through the mid-90's... but even though Jeff Seastone made a Herculean effort to try to pull it together, not enough people bought tickets for the events he'd set up.
So, other than a pot-luck picnic at Goose Lake (which Trish and I may be able to make, depending on how long it takes to drive back from Valdez) and a possible tour of the Theater Arts building on campus, the formal "reunion" is off. That means Trish and I have three days to hang out in "AnchAk" and revisit my old haunts, hook up with friends who are still up there, and stay up all night because of the (almost) twenty-four hours of daylight. It'll be a blast! Leroy's and Koot's, here I come!
June 26th sees us flying back to Seattle to pick up the car, and then a lengthy drive home (considering we'll have been up most of the night).
So, that's the Alaska plan... all you Anchor-rats, drop me a line so we can hook up when I'm in town!
In other news... Trish shout an industrial for ORCAS yesterday that went really well. It was directed by Will Doolittle, a phenomenal director down in Eugene (he made the trip up to Portland to shoot the project, so Trish didn't have to get up at 3am to make the drive down to his part of Oregon). She says the shoot went really well, and that everyone's happy with the results. We're working on expanding her web site at; once we get the new site content up (and a copy of what she shot yesterday) we'll be sure to put it up there.
Well, that's pretty much what's been going on this week... time for me to sign off and head to a print audition. Hope everything's goin' well for y'all...

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Gettin' In Gear And Stayin' Organized Pt. 2.5: Holdon Log Responds

Hey folks

The people over at Holdon Log found out about the article I posted yesterday comparing their ActorTrack product to ProtalentPERFORMER. I got this email from them earlier today:

From: Brian Vermeire
Sent: Wednesday, May 21, 2008 1:43 PM
To: 'Harold Phillips'
Subject: A note from the makers of ActorTrack...

Hello Harold:

We have had the opportunity to read your in-depth review. Thank you for taking the time to peel back the layers of both applications and declare ActorTrack the "stronger of the two programs". ActorTrack is stellar as you pointed out when it comes to workflow and ease of use. This level of comprehensive understanding of how performers truly work can be attributed to the fact (as you guessed correctly) ActorTrack was indeed "produced by (working) actors" and not "by someone outside the industry, trying to create a software solution".

The couple of points you mentioned about ActorTrack (primarily about Calendar functionality) have been addressed and resolved with the upcoming release of PerformerTrack. There is so much more in PerformerTrack that when you stated that the other program "is the little sister to the older, wiser ActorTrack" you may soon say that PerformerTrack is "the slick and astute brother to its wise sibling, ActorTrack"!

There was one issue we did want to clarify with regards to ActorTrack in your review. In it the "Bookings" section of your review you state:

"Clicking this button immediately opens the booked projects page,
ActorTrack asks you to 'back out' of the Auditions section and
then go into
the 'Booked Projects' section (one of the few times you
have to 'back out'
of a screen in ActorTrack)."

Actually, you never have to "back out" of the 'Auditions' section to get to the 'Booked Projects' section. Once you click the 'Booked Project Star' in the lower-right hand corner of the screen to mark the project 'Booked' simply click it again and it will automatically bring you to that project's 'Booking Details'! This neat little feature is specified on page 65 of ActorTrack's built-in User Manual.

Thanks again for taking your valuable time to write the review and show performers the "real truth" between both products. ActorTrack stands proud!

Highest regards,

Brian Vermeire, CEO
Holdon Log, LLC
The Standard in Performer Organizational Tools
"Log It, Track It, Book It!"

I took a look at my copy of ActorTrack, and sure enough... he's right! How have I used this software for the past two years and not noticed that?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Another Software Package For Actors

Hey folks

As a wise man once said, the larger part of the term "Show Business" is Business. Every professional actor has to run his or her career like a business; income and expenses have to be managed, taxes have to be paid, networking has to occur to get that next job.

Last month I wrote an article (Gettin' In Gear and Stayin' Organized) about keeping income and expenses organized for tax time... and my use of Holdon Log's ActorTrack software. That article prompted another software company to contact me about their career management software for actors, ProtalentPERFORMER.

I downloaded a ten-day trial and compared the two packages. My thoughts on the two packages can be found below... I have to warn you, though... the article is LOOOOOOOOOONG. You know me... I'm prone to long blog posts, but this one is long even for me! If you're interested in getting your acting career organized, though, please stop on by and take a look. You can find the article by clicking here (I back-dated it so that it wouldn't dominate the entire page). Just be sure to pack a lunch and sit in a comfy chair.


For The Record...

... I wasn't in San Bernardino in 2005, or anywhere near there.

My absence, however, doesn't seem to be helping this Harold Phillips in his murder trial... I get an update on this trial once per day from the Google News Alert I set up on my name.

I'm starting to miss the Harold Phillips who runs the Douglas County Fairgrounds. Hey Harold, isn't it time to announce a new act for this year's fair to take a little heat off of us?

And I have no idea what's been going on with this guy... my favorite Harold Phillips of them all!

Ah well... I suppose my doppelgangers have to live their own lives...

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Crackin' The Blog

Hey folks

Crackin' the Code, a new film I'm playing a part in this summer, has just set up a blog. Drop by and find out a little more about the film, take the "Have you ever broken the code" poll, and meet the cast.

Oh, and click on the photo to the left to find out about the "Male Code of Conduct," the until-now-unwritten law that we men are supposed to follow... I say "supposed to," because... ya know...

Gettin' In Gear and Stayin' Organized Pt. 2

Hi folks

You might remember that a couple months back I posted an article about tax season, and getting your acting career organized using Holdon Log's ActorTrack software (and its upcoming PerformerTrack product).

According to StatCounter, that article was one of the more popular posts on my blog in the past year... it was viewed something like 180 times (not much by Yahoo standards... but still a lot of activity for my little corner of cyberspace). It apparently came to someone else's attention too, because I got this email in my inbox shortly after posting that article:

From: Chris Hodges []
Sent: Sunday, April 20, 2008 11:45 AM
Subject: protalentPERFORMER - Total Career Organizer for Perfomers

Hi Harold:

I came across your article called "Don't Be A BBBP!" about performers and taxes and I just wanted to introduce myself and our company. We are the producers of protalentPERFORMER, "The Total Career Organizer for Performers".

From the article it seems like you are really on top of your game when it comes to keeping track of your business which is why you may be interested in taking a look at our software.

You mentioned that you were using QuickBooks to track your business which is why you'll appreciate protalentPERFORMER. In our software you can do split transactions to really get a detailed accounting of your gross and net income. (See a screenshot:

Also you can set up recurring expenses similar to what Quicken/QuickBooks call Scheduled Transactions. Its a real time saver, as you know, because you don't have to think about it and the transactions are entered automatically for you.

Also our software runs on Palm OS, Windows Mobile and BlackBerry so it makes easy to stay organized while you're on the go. It is also available for Mac and Windows.
Please feel free to take it a for test drive. You can go here to create a free account and download a trial:

Chris Hodges, CTO
"The Total Career Organizer for Performers"

I found it ironic that he didn't mention ActorTrack in his email, even though the post I'd made which got him to my "Don't Be A BBBP" article was about how happy I was with the program, and my excitement over PerformerTrack. I'm sure that Mr. Hodges and his company know that PerformerTrack is on the horizon, and are pitching their product in advance of Holdon Log's roll-out.
Don't get me wrong, I don't blame him; as Holdon Log's competitor, it makes good business sense.
Now, I don't generally respond to unsolicited "sales" emails (that's a nice way of saying SPAM, ya know)... I didn't know until I received this email, however, that there was another software package tailored specifically to actors. I'm all about helping my fellow actors get organized to help them build their business... so I took a look at ProtalentPERFORMER's free trial and compared it to ActorTrack.

Overall, I think that ActorTrack is the stronger of the two programs. ProtalentPERFORMER has some features not available in ActorTrack, and its calendar function is far superior. That being said, the non-intuitive interface, the need to go back and forth in the program (while ActorTrack provides easy shortcuts from within screens), and the lack of report information make it a little sister to the older, wiser ActorTrack.

The feeling I get from the two software packages is that ActorTrack has been produced by actors (or at least people in the entertainment industry), while Protalent was produced by someone outside the industry, trying to create a software solution to fit it.

I feel a little silly comparing Protalent to ActorTrack, since ActorTrack is the "old" version of HoldonLog's PerformerTrack, due out later this year. I haven't seen anything of that system, though, so ActorTrack is all I had to compare this new software to.

I'll go through the point-by-point comparison now... but I have to warn you, this is going to be a long one. To try and make things easier, I'll embed some "shortcuts" to the topics I looked at; if you don't want to digest this in one sitting, you can just come back to this post and pick up where you left off.

>> Pricing, Download, Installation
>> Home Page
>> Contacts
>> Contacts
>> Auditions
>> Bookings
>> Income and Expenses
>> Calendar
>> Classes
>> Reports

The first thing I looked at was the price structure... ProtalentPERFORMER (why, exactly, do they have to "shout" PERFORMER like that?) comes in three versions, while ActorTrack only has one. The "Basic" version of Protalent is less expensive than ActorTrack's $99.95 price tag (or $89.95 if you want to buy a Download version of the software instead of a disk), but limited - you can record your contacts, auditions, callbacks, and expenses... but you can't record your booked projects or income. So, if you never land a job, the "Basic" version is just fine. In order to track income and bookings you need to purchase the "Deluxe" version for $94.95 - still nominally less than ActorTrack if you don't choose the "Download only" option. The "Premier" version is just the deluxe version with a "port" to a handheld PDA (Palm, Windows Mobile, or Blackberry... and it looks like they're considering developing an IPhone option as well). Actortrack has a Palm "port" built into their software that you don't have to pay extra for... but doesn't have Windows Mobile or Blackberry as options.

(It should be noted, however, that Holdon Log's new PerformerTrack system will be entirely web-based, so "ports" to PDA's will be less of an issue - Any internet-capable PDA will be able to access that system, barring browser issues).

Since I'm a Palm Treo user, I downloaded the ProtalentPERFORMER Premier version with Palm OS support. After a registration process, the download process was fairly quick and painless. Installation was simple enough; I was asked for my personal data, including agent/ manager information, and physical location for maps. I was also asked to import digital versions of my headshots.

Unfortunately, the program isn't "scalable" below 1024x768 resolution. If you keep your monitor at 800x600 resolution to take it easy on your eyes... you're out of luck. The program "cuts off" on the right hand side of the screen, and you can't drag the window, even to get to the "close" button.

The first difference I noted between Protalent and ActorTrack is the home page. ActorTrack's home page is set up in a "log book" format, emulating Holdon Log's paper-based products. There are "tabs" leading into the various areas of the "book." PerformerTrack takes a more high-tech approach, opening to a screen with windows containing financial information and calendar entries. Oddly, most of the home page is taken up with financial data - a year-to-date income vs expense summary, and then separate windows for YTD Income and YTD Expenses. According to Protalent's help file, the Financial Summary and YTD Income are only available in the premier edition (which makes sense, given that the "Basic" edition doesn't track your income. I'm not sure why anyone would want to track expenses and not income... but there ya go).

An interesting philosophical difference in the two pieces of software can be detected from the home page... In Actortrack, the categories run (top-to-bottom) Auditions, Booked Projects, Income and Expenses, Contacts, Calendar, and "The Breakdowns" (the reports section). In Protalent, the Categories run (again, top-to-bottom) Home, Contacts, Followups, Auditions, Bookings, Income and Expenses (only in the deluxe versions), Calendar and Classes. I don't know what, specifically, the order of these categories says about the two companies... but I thought it was interesting to note.

As you fill in financial information, pie charts appear in the lower portion of the Protalent home page that break down your year-to-date income and expenses. This is a handy way to see what sources your money is coming from (or going towards).

As mentioned above, the first section in Protalent is Contacts. Clicking on this icon opens the Contact Manager. The "look and feel" of Protalent's Contact Manager is, obviously, different than ActorTrack's. The first difference is in organization; Protalent's contacts are organized by category, while Actortrack's are organized alphabetically. The category organization would be an advantage if the list of categories expanded to show the contacts within that category; instead, it just changes the contact window to show the first contact on that list. A drop-down list shows you all the contacts within that category (or, if you've selected "all" at the top of the list, all of your contacts). You can begin typing a contact's name and the drop-down list will jump to that contact's info; this is limited, however, by the fact that contacts listed within companies don't show up on the drop-down list. Contacts are also listed solely by first name, so you can't start typing the contact's last name and get directly to his/her info.

ActorTrack gives the user a few more options for jumping to contact info. Buttons at the top of the contact screen allow you to search by last name. A drop-down list allows you to search by category (and then the buttons allow you to search by last name within the category you've chosen), and the "Go to Contact" box allows you to search by first OR last name.

One advantage ProTalent has over ActorTrack is category management. The categories in the Contacts area are pretty limited to start off with; ActorTrack has many more pre-programmed categories. ProTalent, however, gives you the option to add categories through it's "Lists" menu. While I was shocked to see that "Director" and Producer" were left off of the pre-programmed contact categories, I was glad to see that I was able to add them manually (though you'd think these two very basic categories would have been pre-programmed).

Before I leave the contact categories, there's one thing I have to criticize both programs for: both ActorTrack and Protalent allow you to assign only one category to a contact. If you have a contact in your "address book" who's an actor, director, writer, and producer, you have to create separate contact records for that person in each category. People in LA or New York may only work one job in the industry (ha!), but in the independent world many of us fill multiple roles - an actor one day and a grip or craft service person the next. It would be nice if the makers of these programs realized that, and allowed us to enter contact information for a colleague once, then assign multiple categories that that person. The data entry process would be streamlined tremendously.

When it comes to entering contact information, ActorTrack utilizes a "personal-based" technique, while Protalent utilizes a "company-based" technique. ActorTrack's contact page starts off with your contact's name and, after entering category and street address information, eventually gets to that contact's company (if they have one). Protalent assumes that everyone in your contact database works for a company; you're asked to fill out that information first, and put personal contact information at the very end. This becomes difficult if you want to search by a contact's name instead of company, obviously.

Another disadvantage to this contact management style is the ease of data entry; if you just want to log a few details about a contact you've met (say, his or her name, email address, and phone number), ProTalent forces you to fill out many other fields. You can't simply add in a couple of details, you MUST re-enter information into a separate name, phone and email field. The only way around this is to create a "submission" listing for that contact (more on this below). After a couple of error messages, Protalent will let you get away with adding simple information.

Otherwise, the contact data managed by the two programs is essentially the same; mailing address, phone (ActorTrack has a cell phone field while Protalent does not), email, web site, Fax, and an area to record notes. Both programs allow you to email a contact directly (if you have a deesktop email client, such as Outlook Express, Outlook or Thunderbird... I don't think this feature works if you use a webmail system like gmail or hotmail).

One item in Protalent's contacts section that doesn't appear in ActorTrack is a correspondence journal/ submission tracking feature. Each contact has a second "tab" that allows you to keep track of every phone call, email, and submission you send out. This submission tracking feature is a strong point in ProTalent's favor; not only can you track back in your communications with a contact, you can also set follow-up reminders which display on the home page. It should be noted, though, that in my discussions with Holdon Log before my last "Getin' In Gear And Stayin' Organized" article they said that they'd be adding submission tracking and contact journaling to Performer Track.

On the other hand, ActorTrack makes printing address labels and contact sheets from your contact database much easier; in Protalent you have to go up to the menus at the top of the screen to find an area which allows you to print these items. ActorTrack gives you buttons right on the Contact page.

The next section in ProTalent is "Follow Ups." This section doesn't exist in ActorTrack, though as mentioned above some form of submission tracking and "journaling" is planned for their upcoming PerformerTrack service. The Follow Ups section is pretty straightforward; when you've sent correspondence, called, or spoken in person to a contact and you've "journaled" that interaction you have the option to set a "follow up" date in the "Submissions" tab. This is a VERY good idea; once you've made contact it's very important to follow up on a project, both to keep yourself in the casting "decider's" mind and, frankly, to help you keep track of all the projects you may have in the works.

Protalent's Follow Ups section is simply a list of follow up appointments the user has set for him/herself. The same information is available on the home page, in abbreviated form. Double-clicking on a follow up "due" on the home page takes the user to the Follow Ups screen, where details are listed. Double-clicking on the follow up appointment from this screen takes the user to the area in the program where the follow up was initially set.

Overall, the feature seems redundant; I'm not sure why Protalent's developers didn't just list the follow ups on the home page, and allow the user to double-click directly from the home page to the area of the program that "spawned" it. The functionality of this feature has some issues, too. If you decide to "push" your follow up appointment up a few days, you have to know the right combination of buttons to push (change the date in the "submissions tab," then click the edit button to the right, not the OK button at the bottom. Don't ask me...). After doing this, the Follow Up page produces an error message as it re-indexes the appointment. A little sloppy, in my opinion.

All right, on to the meat-and-potatoes: Audition Tracking. As I wrote in my last article, I use ActorTrack to keep the details of every audition I go on. It has fields to record not only the project name, date of audition, and prospective dates of the project, but the type of role I'm auditioning for, details about the project and role, where the audition is and who my contact there is, expenses such as parking and mileage, how I got the audition (either through an agent or on my own), what I wore (this information is kept in a drop-down list, so that commonly paired items of clothing can be chosen from the list instead of re-typed), which headshot I used (again, kept in a list so I can click through), notes on the audition... there's a lot of details that can be recorded and reported on later. ActorTrack does have a follow-up section in this part of the software, which adds follow-up appointments to its calendar.

If you get called back for an project, you simply drop-down the "Audition Round" list at the top. All the details you've recorded for the first audition remain (unless you wish to change them) except for the expenses, which get recorded separately for the callback. All in all, ActorTrack provides an easy space to record the details that you might want to refer back to (say, when you get called back a second time... what did I wear? What was the casting assistant's name?).

Protalent's audition tracking form is a bit more complex, though most of ActorTrack's fields are there. The interface is, however... well, non-intuitive is a nice way to put it.

The first field on Protalent's Audition page is "Project." You should put the name of the project in this field... simple, right? WRONG. When you try to type a project name into the field, all you see is a blank drop-down list. After fighting with this for a few minutes, clicking on the Help Menu (and "General help" below that) reveals that you can't just type the name of a project into this page; you have to click the "Add" button at the bottom of the page to be taken to the EXACT SAME PAGE so you can enter your details. I have to say, this is a very non-inuitive way to enter information... it made a little more sense when I was adding contacts to the Contacts directory, because I could see myself flipping back and forth between contact records... and the "Add" button was at the top of the page. Not so with the audition information page.

ANYWAY... once you've figured out how to add audition information, it's a simple matter of putting the information where ProTalent wants you to put it. Protalent doesn't have ActorTrack's fields for "Sides Through," web site (for the project or production company), or Script Available (A yes-no checkbox). Surpisingly, it has an area to record "Payments" (for an audition?), but not an area to record expenses associated with the audition (such as Parking, mileage, etc).

Protalent also doesn't have ActorTrack's reel tracking field, so if you've submitted one of your many reels (I'm sure most of you have a comedy reel, a commercial reel, a drama reel... well, ok. You probably dont. I sure don't... but ActorTrack gives you a space to track that information in case you do) you don't have a way to record that.

The audition location is tied to the "Main Contact's" name (while ActorTrack creates a new "locations" database entry, allowing you to pick from a list of locations you've been to before or add a new location). This can be a pretty big issue if the person you're auditioning for doesn't have a permanent space of his/her own.

What does Protalent have that ActorTrack doesn't? Well... that mysterious "payments" section (I mean really... do people get paid to audition in bigger markets?), a field for Character Age, and a button for "Conflicts" (more on this later).

A major difference in function is revealed after you've entered your information into Protalent's audition form. If you enter a name that's not already in your contacts datbase in ActorTrack, a pop-up window will appear asking if you want to add that name/ location/ whatever. This happens immediately after typing in unrecognized information. Protalent lets you get all the way through the audition form, and upon clicking "ok" pops up a window asking what category to put new "Main Contacts," "Directors" and "Casting Directors" into. No other information is asked for at this point. Information for the audition is "journaled" for these new contacts, but you have to manually go into the Contacts section to add any other contact information you've got for the person.

There is a follow up field on Protalent's audition form, which feeds into the "Follow Ups" section of the program... ironically, however, you're not allowed to manually enter the person you're following up with into this area. You have to choose from a list of contacts you've already entered. Why you can manually enter the director, casting director, and "Main Contact" but have to choose your "follow up contact" from a list is a complete mystery.

Callback information is entered in a separate field. There's a text box for the call back location, a field for the date and time, and a notes field. Apparently ProTalent doesn't consider callbacks as important as ActorTrack, which creates an entirely separate record for them (and adds them into its reporting functions... more on that later).

One thing featured in Protalent which is absent in ActorTrack: a conflict checker. Sometimes a big commercial will make an actor sign an exclusivity agreement, not allowing him or her to appear in an ad for a competitor (for example, when Trish got a national Discover Card commercial, she had to sign an agreement saying she wouldn't appear in any other credit card commercials for 21 months). Of course, it's easy to lose track of these things when you go out on a lot of commercial auditions. Protalent gives you the option of labeling a commercial you're auditioning for by industry (for instance "Soft Drink," "Bank," "Airlines," etc). That way you'll know if an audition you're scheduling conflicts with an exclusivity agreement.

This is a very handy feature, and I haven't heard anything from Holdon Log as to whether or not it's going to be added in PerformerTrack. The conflict feature in Protalent, however, isn't well explained; when you book a project (more on that later), you have to check a box saying you've signed an exclusivity agreement and then enter a date. The date entered is when the agreement expires, not when the agreement is signed. If you don't get this right, the conflict checking feature won't work correctly.

Time to check out the Bookings section. That's what we're all after, anyway... it's great to be able to track our auditions and contacts, but what happens when we land the job?

Both programs make a distinction between jobs booked by going through the audition process, and "direct bookings." In the case of the former, ActorTrack and Protalent both relate the Booked Projects section to the auditions section. In ActorTrack you click the star in the lower-right-hand corner of the auditions page to book a job. In Protalent, you click a small notebook button with a green Checkmark. Clicking this button immediately opens the booked projects page, while ActorTrack asks you to "back out" of the Auditions section and then go into the "Booked Projects" section (one of the few times you have to "back out" of a screen in ActorTrack).

The look and feel of the Booked Projects section is very different between the two programs. ActorTrack's Booked Projects page keeps the "log book" look of the rest of the program, and has spaces for "Star" buttons; one for each of your booked projects. Protalent keeps the same look and feel in this section that we've seen in the others: grey backgrounds with white fields.

ActorTrack's Booked Projects page is broken up into five sections: General information about the project is on the top, and a small section related to income and expenses is at the top-right. The lower portion of the screen is divided between Pre-project (Table read, rehearsals, hair and makeup appointments), The Project (Call times), And post-project (follow-up dates with people involved in the project, screening/ premier/ wrap party dates and a "Copy received" section).

Protalent's Booked Projects screen is pretty similar. It doesn't have ActorTrack's details at the top (Director name, Publicist name, Production Office, or web site), and it moves the Income section to the "Startup" tab (interestingly, there's no "Expense" fields in the Booked Projects tabs). Protalent essentially breaks the project itself into three sections, as ActorTrack does... but these three sections (found in tabs at the top of the screen) are labeled "Start Up," "Project" and "Wrap Up."

Oddly, Protalent has spaces in the "Startup" tab for "Crew Calls." While this might allow performers who also work crew to diferentiate those two items on their calendar (both programs feed call time information to their respective calendars), it's an odd item to see in a program geared towards performers. The "Project" tab has separate fields for Hair/ Makeup and Wardrobe/ Costume... even though the "Startup" tab has a section for fittings. I'm not really sure of the differences between these items, or why they need to be in both places. The majority of the "Project" tab is taken up with call times; unfortunately, the user has to type the location they're called at manually for each call time (unlike the Call Times option in ActorTrack, which saves the locations in a drop-down list so that details can be filled in quickly). The "Wrap Up" tab mirrors ActorTrack's "Post-Project" section almost exactly, with the exception of an additional section for "Air time/ date."

Direct Bookings are handled a little differently by the two programs... but they amount to the same thing. A "direct booking" is just a booking that you receive without auditioning - the casting director or director calls you directly and says "Hey, I want to hire you." Always nice when that happens, huh?

Protalent has a "Direct Book" button in their Booked Projects screen that opens the same new Booked Project window we've just been through. The difference is that a fourth tab, "Direct Booking Details," becomes available with this option. You fill information into these fields that would normally have been filled in from the Auditions section.

In ActorTrack you start recording a Direct Booking in the Audition section. You're right, this doesn't make a lot of sense. At the top of the Audition page is the "Audition Round" drop-down list. You select "Direct Booking" from this list, and are then prompted to enter the relevant information into the audition screen. When you're done, you're asked to click the star in the lower-right to "book" the project; from there you can continue to enter project details into the "Booked Projects" section.

One of my largest complaints about Protalent stems from the way it handles income and expenses (especially considering this was one of the reasons the product was "pitched" to me). As I said above, ActorTrack links income and expenses directly to the Audition and Booked Projects sections; if you have expenses associated with an audition you enter them from the audition screen. The same is true with booked projects; any expenses associated with a project can be entered directly from the Booked Projects page, as can the income you gain from it. The booked projects page then shows you a the profit or loss you're running on that particular project.

Protalent's Booked Project page will show you a profit or loss in the lower left, but you have to go into the Income and Expenses screen manually and fill each line in, as though filling in a check register. You have to manually choose a project for each line of income or expense you fill in, rather than having that association made for you. Mileage (remember, it's deductable!) isn't filled in on the same screen; instead, you have to click an additional button (an orange M) to enter this in.

Entering income and expenses isn't horrible in Protalent, but it's certainly not as intuitive as it is in ActorTrack. Protalent seems to have taken a standard "Quicken" or "MS Money" check register approach to things; rather than labeling all the fields, though, they have placed abreviated column labels at the top of the columns. It can be pretty confusing when starting to work with it.

Protalent's Income and Expenses section does have two advantages over ActorTrack's: one is the ability to add income and expense categories. ActorTrack has a set (though quite extensive) list of income and expense categories, while Protalent allows you to add new categories to the list "on the fly." Protalent also allows the user to add recurring expenses (such as auto-withdrawls for dues, subscriptions, and the like). I haven't heard whether Holdon Log is going to add the recurring expenses feature to PerformerTrack.

Both programs have a Calendar section. Any date you enter into the programs, whether it's an audition, call back, call time, or follow up is automatically placed on the program's calendar.

Here, Protalent definitely has an edge... ActorTrack's calendar is functional, but limited. Appointments are displayed by codes, with the appointment times next to them. Hovering your mouse over these appointment codes provides a pop-up label with a discription, but details of the appointment aren't readily apparent unless the user double-clicks the appointment code. Double-clicking takes the user to the Audition or Booked Project screen (depending on which section created the appointment).

New appointments can be added directly to the calendar by double-clicking on the date. A pop-up window will open, allowing you to select an appointment type, location, contact, and notes. The user is also given the option to enter expenses related to that appointment directly from this form.

Protalent's calendar is much more (if you'll excuse the expression) well drawn. Perhaps because the program forces the user to run at 1024x768 resolution, there's more space on the individual calendar "pages," and therefore more room to display details about appointments. As with ActorTrack, double-clicking on an appointment takes the user to the Audition or Booked Project section. Double-clicking on a date opens a new appointment screen; like ActorTrack the user is given the option to select an appointment type and add notes. The option to make a recurring appointment is also present (something lacking in ActorTrack).

Another major advantage Protalent's calendar has is that it automatically logs dates of prospective projects. When you enter an audition into the audition screen, you're asked to enter the date the project begins and ends. Once the audition is saved Protalent not only puts the audition appointment on the calendar, but the prospective dates of the project as well (so you can see what else might be going on when you attend future auditions).

Finally, appointments are imported from the calendar to Protalent's home page. Opening the program in the morning, the user sees all of his or her appointments for the day right up front (in a sort of "Outlook Today" format). Very handy.

Another feature Protalent has is Class tracking. This section doesn't exist in ActorTrack, though class appointments can be added manually in that program's Calendar.

The Classes section has the same interface as the Auditions and booked projects section. Unlike many lists in Protalent the Class Type list isn't editable; the user only has four types to choose from. There's an area for the class location, but it's static data; if the class meets in different places, you can't record all the locations (without setting up an entirely new Class entry). Spaces are provided to list three instructors; again, if there are more you'll just have to group them in the three fields provided, or create an entirely new Class entry.

There's a section to record the cost of the class, and how often the fee must be paid. There's no association with the expenses section of the program, however; you'll still have to manually go into the expenses area and put each of your payments in.

One nice feature of this section is the ability to set up recurring dates and times for the classes you attend, which then transfer automatically to Protalent's calendar.

Finally, there's a check-box at the top of the Class screen to remind you to add the class to your resume. Checking the box will change the class listing in the "Classes" home page to "added to resume."

Finally, we get to the area that Protalent is the most lacking in: Reporting. After all, what's the point of recording all this data if you can't use it to help you see what's happened over the past year, analyze the decisions you've made, and help you decide where to take things in the future?

Protalent does give the user some report options, but they're largely lists of auditions or booked projects and financial reports (income versus expenses). Now, to be sure, the financial reports are just what any actor needs come tax time; Income and expenses are broken down by type, and their (poorly named) "Income Statement" report is essentially a Profit And Loss statement, showing all the year's income vs expenses, with a total profit or loss at the bottom.

I'll admit it, ActorTrack has spoiled me in the reporting department. Their final section, The Breakdowns, offers the same financial reporting that Protalent does (though, admittedly, without a unified Profit And Loss statement; instead, you can only print out an Income and Expense Report), but that's just the tip of the iceberg. Actortrack also analyzes the information you've entered to tell you which headshot and outfit choices have been the most successful. It doesn't just list the number of auditions you've gone to, but breaks them down and gives you percentages of callbacks and booked projects. It also analyzes the project types you've auditioned for and how successful you've been, your direct bookings, and how many auditions your agent or manager has sent out on (and how many fo those auditions were booked).

When it comes to reporting, ActorTrack is the uncontested winner.

So, there you have it... Now, if you've actually read down this far, I should point out a couple things.

As I said above, comparing ProTalent to ActorTrack is a little late-in-the-game... I don't know whether or not Holdon Log is going to phase out ActorTrack when PerformerTrack comes online, but it's definitely "old technology." Protalent is definitely a newer "feeling" program. Still, the real test is going to be how that program stacks up to Holdon Log's new offering.

Even though I have my problems with Protalent, and plan on continuing my use of ActorTrack (or, depending on what it's like, PerformerTrack), any tracking system is better than none at all! Remember what the wise man said, folks... the biggest part of the term "Show Business" is "Business." Professionals in any industry need to keep track of their calendars, contacts, income and expenses. We actors have a few "special" requirements as well, such as tracking the submissions we send out, the commissions paid to our agents, and the like. We all run our own businesses: Actor, Inc. Running that business requires having the information on hand to make solid choices about where your career is headed.

Take a look at these two packages and see what they can do for you. I think you'll be happy you did.

Hope you're all doing well...


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Back In The Yard

Hey there folks

Just got word that The Yard, a short film I appeared in last year, has won three Telly Awards. Jerry Makare won a bronze for the writing, Chris Davis won a silver for editing, and Galvin Collins won a silver for the cinematography.

I can't really take much credit for the awards... I just wore a suit and said Jerry's lines. Still, it's nice to be part of an "award wining short," and it's especially nice to see these guys recognized for their work. I'm really glad I got to know the whole Screaming Inside crew, and I'm looking forward to working with them in the future (in fact, I'll be working with Galvin and Chris on my next film, Crackin' The Code).

In other news... Oregonians need to remember to put a 1 cent stamp (or the new "Forever Stamp") on your ballot evelope before mailing it in (remember, the election is on May 20th, less than a week away!). This is an important election; don't let your vote get lost in the mail!

For you non-Oregonians, we hold all our elections by mail now... it really gives us time to digest our voter's pamphlet at the "kitchen table" (to use a cliche') ballot-in-hand. We take our voting seriously in these parts... as our Voter Bill Of Rates indicates :) It's printed on one of the first pages of our voter's pamphlet.

Finally, you pug lovers out there might want to join Trish and I this Sunday at the MacTarnahan's Taproom at 2730 NW 31st here in Portland for the annual Pug Crawl! It's the social event of the year for little snorty, curly-tailed dogs... we've heard about it for years, but this is the first year our girls will be attending. Should be a blast!

Off to the gym (no, not this one... THIS one!)... hope you're all doing well!


Monday, May 12, 2008

Touchdown (Not The Football Type...)

Howdy everyone

As is so often the case, it's been quite a while since I updated you on what's been going on... and what's been going on is quite a bit. Really, you wouldn't think the last couple weeks had been that busy... Trish was out of town, I didn't have a lot of theatrical projects going on... but somehow I never got myself sat down in front of the computer to keep up my rambling online journal. Obviously, my commitment is questionable in these pursuits... I need to take a page from my hero John Heginbotham's book. You won't catch him slackin' off the way I do!
So, I started this post last week, planning on reviewing the week that had passed. Now it's a week later, and doing a day-by-day review sounds ponderous even to me, the master of ponderously-long-rambling-post... Something tells me what's called for here is a summarizing of the past couple weeks:
>> First, Trish's trip to New Orleans went well, in that she arrived and left safely and was able to take care of our friend Jill as she was recovering from her hospital stay. That being said, she's happy to be home. This wasn't really a "pleasure trip" per se; she wasn't walking around seeing the sights in the French Quarter (for the record, the Quarter is still in pretty good shape, though there are a lot of vacant storefronts). Most of her time was spent in Jill's apartment taking care of her. The heat and humidity was a real challenge for her, though... she was happy to get back to our Northwest Climate.
>> While Trish was gone, I picked some headshot re-prints that she'd ordered from NW Media before she left. For the longest time, it was just assumed that high-quality headshot reproduction jobs in Portland had to be sent down to LA (to Copymat or, when they still existed, Supershots). When Trish was looking to get her new shots printed she asked our agent Kaili if there was a local place we could use... and Kaili let us know that NW Media is now doing photo printing. I'm really very pleased with how the shots turned out... they're as good as anything I ever got from LA (and Owen Carey's photos of Trish make a great subject to print!) Needless to say, when it's time for me to get new headshots (or another run of my current shots), I know where to go! They also do CD and video production... check 'em out. They'll do right by you!
>> I also updated while Trish was out of town... check out the Video and Voice sections. Next up, I need to get the photo gallery updated with shots from Lady Wasteland and The Outbreak.
>>Speaking of The Outbreak (the new internet zombie movie I've been working on), shooting has now officially wrapped!! I know, I know... I said back in late-April that principal photography had wrapped... but it didn't wrap the way our director Chris Lund wanted it to. We ran into some jams on the last day of shooting, when we filmed the climactic ending. Chris was pretty glum, knowing that what we got on tape wouldn't match up to the level of the rest of the film. After a couple days, though, he decided to treat the situation as a positive. He wrote a new ending that's much better than the old one, and we got "the ol' gang" back together and shot the new ending last Friday. I have to say, I'm really excited to see how this new ending incorporates into the rest of the film... it's certainly head-and-shoulders above the old ending.
Perhaps best of all, I got to work with my friends Jonathan Hall, Lindsay Klein, and Jeff Mills. It's rare that we get to work on the same projects (though I actually have a couple scenes with Jonathan in Crackin' The Code... more on that in a bit)... getting to hang with those folks was an extra special cherry on top of Friday night's shoot.

>> Streetcar Named Desire opened on Friday the 2nd, and it ended up being a pretty darned good show! The cast worked really hard, and they got the opening night they earned. One dark spot in the opening night festivities, though, was when Blanche pulled her shoulder reaching for a weapon in her penultimate scene with Stanley. After a discussion with Lisa, the director, I popped back up to Vancouver to re-work that scene so that Blanche could safely make it through the rest of the run.

>> Crackin' The Code, the new feature I'm part of that shoots in July, is developing nicely. Thursday-before-last I headed out to the Raleigh Hills McMenamins to rehearse with my scene partners. Well, the intent was to rehearse... the evening ended up being an extended "getting to know each other" session over a few pints of beer (director Steve Coker captures the evening pretty well in the May 1st entry on the Crackin' The Code News Page). I don't know that we got a lot of substantual work done, but I certainly feel pretty close to the people I'm working with... which should make the shoot go by with ease.

>> We've been doing some traveling... last week we accompanied a group from Lincoln High School down to see some shows at the Oregon Sakespeare Festival in Ashland, OR. This was our first trip to Ashland (a sad statement, given that I've lived in Oregon for over 15 years, and Trish has been here for more than 20), and it was long past due. If you get the chance to go down and see some of the offerings that one of the the nation's oldest regional theaters has to offer, don't wait. The budgets are big, the plays are well produced (I won't say I found them flawless, by any means... but well produced nonetheless), and the city embraces its theater.
We were lucky enough to stay at the Ashland Springs Hotel while we were there - a 1920's-era hotel that was recently completely renovated. A very comfortable cozy hotel - if you decide to head down there, give them a look!
>>... and we're going to do some traveling! The clock has started ticking towards Trish and my trip up to Alaska this June for the Last Frontier Theater Conference... more details will be forthcoming as we get closer to leaving. One sad note, however... my friend Jeff Seastone was trying to put together a reunion for people who were part of the theater department at the University of Alaska, Anchorage between 1985 and 1995. He had all sorts of events planned, including a formal dinner on the UAA Main Stage... but alas, not enough tickets sold to make the event happen. I'll still have a few days to kick around my ol' home town and look up old friends... but the formal reunion would have been nice.
Ah well... that's pretty much what's been happening of late. Time to hit the sack... hope you're all doing well...