Call it what you will: TimeLine, ShowFlow, RunSheet…
This is the single, most important document to any production; whether one-off, theatrical tour or “permanent” installation.
The Document begins as a simple list of Deadlines;
- initiation of processes,
- building of teams,
- hiring of principals, professionals, craftspeople,
- completing designs and scripts,
- sign-offs and contract signings,
- scheduling of all key Production and All Hands meetings,
…all the Big Picture Stuff.
But that’s just the beginning. As this document evolves, it must evolve to encompass every move and position of every component of and in every moment of the Production. Every one. The Person who builds this document must be assiduous in going deep: deep into the Nuts & Bolts (staples, thumbtacks and glue…) of Timing and Logistics at every level.
This document – I refer to it as a TimeLine – becomes the very real Map of the Show.
As the show comes together each act and scene, then each action and speech, is woven into this document; it effectively becomes the working document for every production meeting, replacing an Agenda with successive talk-through’s of the production.
This process highlights each and every duplication of effort – thus saving money and time; it brings parallel needs to the fore, long before load-in or show day – thus saving money and time; it opens the door for creative collaboration between and amongst talent, craftsmen, technicians, management…thus saving money, time, effort and all the while building a strong sense of team and personal investment in the product.
Do not stop there, though; the process and this document remains far from complete without the information on the supporting action that makes each Thing happen.
This is, imho, where most Producers / Directors fall short; where most stop.
Nothing must be assumed. Every action, function and moment must be timed, responsibility must be assigned and these, too, woven into the TimeLine such that it becomes clear what is happening, when, where, how and by whom at Every Single Moment of the Process.
This means that nothing is Assumed.
You have a Production Assistant / Talent Wrangler who is meeting your talent at the airport? Your TimeLine should reflect
- that person’s departure from home or office,
- arrival at the hotel to pick up the room keys,
- arrival at the airport before the flight lands,
- estimated delivery to the hotel of said talent.
Then, go on to reflect:
- Wrangler-initiated wake-up or “I’m on my way to pick you up…” call
- Arrival at hotel to pick up talent
- Departure from hotel in order to be at the theatre or venue by Call Time
- Delivery to Dressing Room
- Report to Stage Manager / Director / Whomever that Delivery is complete
So, what is that, nine entries on the TimeLine for one (albeit protracted) process.
The difference is that most such documents I’ve seen rarely go further than noting when the talent’s flight arrives and when they are expected to show up at the venue.
This thoroughness, carried through to every piece and moment of your show or production, will yield not only a crucial, critical and critically valuable document for the running of the show, but it also gives every single person involved a very clear picture of where their responsibilities lie and how the responsibilities and work of everyone else dovetails with their own.
Be clear on how long each action will take, and build your document accordingly. If it takes 15 seconds to walk from standby position to ready position, then insert that quarter-minute into the TimeLine, accurately. No kidding.
First-time team members who work on my projects – especially when I am in a new town or country – often laugh when they see listings at 08:45.25, then 08:45.75… and the humor is not lost on me; it can be seen as funny… The fact is that these things may well not happen at exactly these times, certainly. However, building the TimeLine in this way and to this degree of complexity and specificity will effectively communicate to all involved the critical intricacies of timing and respect for the timing and structure of a show.
Your success will be far greater.
This also gives the showcaller or PSM (Production Stage Manager), the Producer and the Director the most complete lay of the land as the show unfolds.
Finally, the actual script is dropped into the TimeLine such that, in most of my productions – especially the one-off’s, that document becomes the show script. The PSM can drop her cues into the appropriate points and we’re good to go. Everyone on the Production Team has the same document and is in virtual lock-step communication as the show goes up; we’re all playing with the same deck.
Something goes wrong?
The Executive Team has an instant sense of available solutions and alternatives, as each is clear as to what resources are how far from being on your stage and how to reorganize a show on the fly, if that is what is necessary.
There is no substitute for building this document, and it must be in the process of being built from Day One to, through and beyond Curtain.
And, a Footnote
Staff your Talent. All of them.
Every principal in your show should have one person whom s/he can identify as their go-to, their font of knowledge, their Responsible Person. Never leave Talent to their own devices for anything. To do so goes beyond straightforward Protocol and the avoidance of being perceived as careless, ignorant or rude; it’s simply The Way One Treats People.
Remember; often, these people are not familiar with the venue, much less the town or the audience. Don’t leave these people to fend for themselves, no matter how secure or self-possessed they may seem. Staff them.
Especially for those who do charity work: don’t unleash your Talent into VIP receptions without a Staff person at their side.
At. Their. Side.
Whether it’s Streisand, Miss America, Joe Montana or Leo DeCaprio; provide them someone whom they can trust who will not be afraid to take them by the arm and say to the Krazy-Glu Throng around them, “I’m sorry, Miss Knowles is needed in the Press Room…” and protect them from having to fend for themselves.
This applies even when they arrive with Their Own People. In such cases, your Wrangler becomes resource and teammate to Their People, though no less valuable. Don’t overlook this; you will be respected and remembered for having handled this responsibility, professionally.
Assiduous. Thorough. Complete. Respectful. Respected.
“imho” – book one is available for free download from iTunes or the Bookstore for iPad2 and beyond…