It’s All Just Data

One of the major components to Self-Management for Actors is research. Lots and lots of research. Conducting surveys to get feedback on your primary type and overarching brand. Asking everyone who has ever consumed storytelling media to suggest the styles and vibes of the shows you were born to tell. Mapping out your targets and then watching the ways in which these people interact with folks within their web of trust. Amassing data. Getting clarity on *patterns* over time, rather than taking off and running with ONE nugget of information.

Those who stick with this long enough get very clear on not only which outliers to ignore (pretty much all of them) but also on the overwhelming power of patterns as the closest thing we have to a map for success in this unpredictable, nonlinear, gorgeous entertainment industry we’ve chosen in which to spend our lives.

When a disproportionate number of bookings in a particular casting office come from one or two specific talent agencies, that’s worth noting. When filmmakers create worlds in which a very particular vibe dominates — one in which only certain types of actors could exist — that’s worth noting. And when agencies’ rosters are filled with actors whose credits all include performances at a particular improv studio, that’s worth noting.

But here’s the thing I want to stress — especially to those who are new to number-crunching and statistical analysis: It’s all just data.

Because I’m a research junkie, a huge geek who actually looked forward to stats classes in grad school, one of those rare artistic humans who actually prefers math to language (because, um, math is a language, and one without as many irregularities and exceptions, duh), I *get* the most important part of analyzing data: dispassionate observation.

Most creatives, however, have a very tough time detaching from emotion when dealing with the data they’re receiving. You tend to immediately judge the information as good or bad. Praise? Good. Criticism? Bad. Booking? Good. Released from avail? Bad. Signed? Good. Dropped? Bad. And I want to help you stop rushing to judgment on your data before you’ve amassed enough to track some really juicy patterns.

Anytime you decide one person’s feedback has greater weight than someone else’s feedback, anytime you decide one booking has more importance than another, and anytime you assign any sort of value to information before you’re finished gathering all of it, you’re skewing the results (and making yourself crazy in the process).

Take in the information. Don’t judge it — and don’t let IT judge you (you give away a lot of power sometimes, with this). Just amass data, note it, track patterns, and save the analysis for the postmortem. Judgment within the moment prevents enjoyment of the moment. And you wanna enjoy all the moments, right?

See all feedback, critiques, being dropped, booking a gig, and everything else in this business (and life) as data. Collect it. Analyze it when you’ve got enough of it to make those patterns clear. Toss out the outliers. Don’t judge yourself for what any anomaly “said” about you. And once those patterns emerge, amazingly, you’ll find they confirm much of what your gut was telling you all along about how to feel about who you are in this world.

But as they say back home in Atlanta: “Sometimes you’ve got to go around your elbow to get to your nose.”


Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!


Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/001929.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.

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