I talked with Brian Vermeire, one of the main guys behind Performer Track. He loves his product and from talking to the people who use it, they love it as well.
We talked for a good while so this is only part of the interview but Brian has a lot of good information to give. Click on the audio portion (or download it off iTunes) above for more.
For more details, go to performertrack.com. And as a bonus, if you use code: FRLC9 you’ll get 2 months off your first year!
You started the company?
Brian Vermeire: Yeah, it started about 10 years ago. It all came out of a need. I was the “typical performer.” Every time I got called by my agent, by my manager, by a random casting director who could get a hold of me directly I would quickly grab a sheet of paper, a scrap piece of paper, or a sticky note—whatever I could write on—and I would quickly jot down where I’m going. When it came to going to the audition, I would lose the information, I would have to call my agent, “Where am I going again? Who am I meeting with? Okay, okay.”
And it never mattered to me. What mattered to me was being the best performer. I’d go in there and give it my all and then just forget about it. I did Meisner for a couple of years, and I was told by other acting teachers that I had to just go audition and then forget about it, which is a huge disservice to your business as a performer. And it’s an awful thing to do for your business. In realizing I was doing everything completely wrong, without ever understanding that it was wrong, I just thought, “No, I don’t want to be bogged down with that information. I’ll just go do it and if I get it, I get it. That’s all I need to know.
I was watching my friend at the time, and every time she got called by her representation, she would always get out the same college ruled notebook and pull it open, she would rattle off the same questions, have everything in her mind and ask the questions in a very succinct, rhythmic order. And she would put everything in one spot. And I thought that was genius, that’s great, I should do that. So I made myself one and we were carrying those around and it didn’t take too long before our friends started asking us “Hey, how do I get one?”
It was at that point, when our friends started asking us how they could get one, I started realizing that this wasn’t a unique problem. This is something that is plaguing the industry and plaguing us performers. It’s a complete misunderstanding to running an effective business, and so the program I’m talking about is called Performer Track. Performer Track came out in September of 2008. One of the wonderful things happening online is how quickly we can make updates and how we don’t have to wait for a downloaded update. As soon as you refresh the screen, you are always using the latest and greatest. We can just throw updates when we want, just pop them up there. There’s no waiting for versions. We’re constantly adding new features, new streamlined parts of the program.
I was coming into this interview thinking Performer Track was more of a organizational tool, but it’s not actually, is it?
I think that’s one of the biggest misnomers with our product. It does help you to better organize because that is a natural byproduct, but it’s true purpose is to allow the performer to finally run their business like a business, to leverage their information.
The problem with performers now is if they feel they’re doing something positive for their career “Oh, yeah I’m writing, I do that, I have a notebook.” Well, how is it helping you with PR campaigns? How is that helping you realize who’s late on paying you? How are you using this to stay connected with cast and crew members that you work on a project with?
Those kinds of products like Excel spreadsheets, or even Outlook or Entourage or Bento or Sugar—those products are built for the masses, they’re not built for our business. When you’re using one or more of those types of tools, what ends up happening is you think you’re doing something positive for your career because you’re thinking “Oh, well I’m being proactive.” What you need to be is productive with your information. You need to start taking your information and then leveraging it to do things so that you’re not just writing things down and being passive with your data, you’re now going to be productive with your data. What you need is to have a way for all these types of tools talking to one another.
You’ll start to see how your auditions are connected to your contacts, which are connected back to your callbacks, which are connected to your project expenses, which connect back to your bookings, which connect to your cast and crew area, which connect back to your contacts section, and on and on and on. It is amazing to see what an eco-system that goes on with your business when you start to tie everything together, because now you start to realize the relationships you’re making in this business. You know who to go back to when things seem slow, quote on quote. So you can start to drum up activity in this business. It will allow you to finally see what is working for your business. How hard are you working for yourself? Who’s working the hardest for you? Which agent and agencies are getting you out the most? And what kind of projects are they getting you out for? Are they getting you out for the kind of projects you want to do ultimately in this business?
I can see the time and energy and money that goes out, and I can start to compare that with my return on my investment. I can start to then get rid of the waste, what’s not working for my business, and alleviate it. Then I can see what is working for my business so I can build upon my successes, I can build upon what is working for me. Until you start to do that will you be productive? Which is what we want to be, where we can start to gain traction in this business, finally.
I like what you said about treating this as a business, because a lot of actors I know don’t. They’ll get an audition, write it on a little scrap of paper, go to the audition and never write anything down about the audition, or who they met, or anything like that.
When you’re first starting out, you’re meeting everybody, but are you meeting them and then following up with them? Are you staying in touch with them? There will be people you make an attempt to stay connected with because you’re following my advice right now by listening to me.
You’re going to be a good Performer Track user, and you’re going to do this. There will be those who flake out, who fall out of the cyclone because they don’t follow through, and they don’t follow up. But you’re going to continue to follow up, and as you continue to do that, the flakes, the people who don’t really take this seriously, they’re going to fly out of the cyclone and the circle you make gets smaller and smaller as you wind up. That’s why you see so many “A” level performers working with the same directors, working with the same producers. “Why do I have to recreate the wheel to find these people I know can do the job?”
Casting directors think the same way. The last thing a casting director wants to do when they get hired, to fill roles for a part, is get behind a computer monitor and pour through thousands and thousands of performers they do not know and do not have relationships with. And pour through their thumbnail headshots until their eyes bleed out. It’s the last thing they want to do. When they get called and get told “We want you to fill the roles for this indie film or this feature film or this commercial,” immediately the casting directors go to their mental rolodex. And they think, “We need a tall, lanky guy, kind of goofy. Let’s bring in Brian and Gordon from the other agency’s office, and let’s bring Bill and John who we had to do a favor for with that other agent. Okay, let’s bring those people in.”
That’s how this business works. We need to really rein this in to the point where we’re operating more efficiently, where we’re are going about this business in a strategic and smart manner, and let everybody else do it the other way. We would not have taken on and done Performer Track, we would not have taken the time to do this program, we would not have wasted our energy to do this program if it didn’t work. We wouldn’t have wasted our time doing this if by having your information on spreadsheets, on word documents, on scrap pieces of paper worked. It doesn’t.
And that’s why you need something that’s built for this business, and you need something that can move your career along, and have you see your career completely differently.