"...And Make It Real Creative!": An Organized Mess

and-make-it-real-creative-logo-3By Trent Rentsch

I can confidently tell you that my Mother’s birthday is August 27th. This confidence has nothing to do with my memory, or any of the 7 or 8 calendars floating between my various computers, phone or tablets. Yes, I also still carry a paper Daytimer-ish calendar too, but you won’t find that important date written there (or much else, for that matter). The only reason I am safe in announcing my Mother’s date of birth is because I asked my wife.

It’s not that my Mother’s big day isn’t important to me, it’s that I’ve never been good with dates. When I was a kid, my Great-Grandmother was the one who always kept me in the know about the various important dates in the family, and now my wife has inherited that fine tradition. Lucky her…

Like many Creatives, I thrive in chaos… or at least I tell myself that. It’s easy to buy into… some of the best ideas come out of a crazy, wibbly wobbly mash of life experience, so why not stay on the edge and hang on for the ride? Well, for one thing, if there isn’t some sort of down to earth focus, many great ideas can get lost in the madness. For instance, I had a really great idea for a column a few months ago… really stellar, best thought I’ve had in years… and somehow, on a very busy work day, it slipped away, and I’ll be damned if I can remember it!

Obviously, some people (probably most) are blessed with a better memory than mine, but even the most steel-trapped of minds needs something that resembles organization to keep them productive and efficient. God knows I’ve had to adopt some basic practices to keep my production house in order, or I completely lose track of what I’ve done and for whom.

If you’re already uber-organized, you don’t need any advice from me (trust me), but if you’re still looking for that production order from last week, which is in one of any of 7 piles of paper, I have a few thoughts to get you started on the road from chaos to order.

1. Write it down/type it in. If you have a new contact, don’t put it in a pile to be added to your contact list later. If you carry a paper contact book, pull it out and write in RIGHT AWAY… if your phone or computer holds your contacts, TYPE IT IN IMMEDIATELY. It takes a few seconds now, it’s there, and when you need it… no hunting (or swearing). Sure, it might sound obvious, but it’s easy to jot something on a sticky note “for later,” and end up with a desk full of them… but somehow, never the one you’re looking for. Do it now, out of sight, out of mind… but always there when you need it.

2. Date everything. When you write a script, save it with the client’s name, the name of the commercial, and the date you wrote it. If you update it, give it a new name with the new date. When you start a new session in your DAW, give it the client’s name, the name of the commercial, and the date. When you mix down the commercial… client’s name, commercial name, and the date… do you see the pattern here? I know many people add additional information, but with those basics, you have a searchable file that’s hard to lose. Which reminds me of the next tip…

3. Folders are your Friends. I’ve seen some desktops, Man, and it’s not pretty. One which shall remain nameless (for once, not mine) has at least 600 files on it! Not only is it a chaotic way to “store” files, in this case it slowed the computer to a crawl. Once I was a witness to this computer carnage, I became a folder junkie on my computer. I have a scripts folder, with sub-folders for each client, and 2 more subs under it… one for radio scripts, one for TV. I start a new session for every new project, which generates a folder (which I, of course, give the client’s name, the commercial/promo name and date to), and THAT folder is saved in my Pro Tools Client Sessions folder. I have a folder for various sound effects I’ve created/recorded over the years, filled with sub-folders for every type of sound… if I don’t have a sub-folder for a particular type, I create a new one. I have folders for drops, separated by movies, TV and radio, with, of course, sub-folders for specific shows and movies. I save everything on my computer in folders, named for content, with sub-folders as needed. At this point, some smart person is saying, “Why do you need that? EVERY computer has a Search function!” Yes, yes they do… but have you ever been eyeballs deep into a session, and wanted a particular Peter Griffin drop from Family Guy, that you know is in your computer? You could spend a minute letting the computer hunt it up… or, simply go to your Drops folder, then the Family Guy sub-folder… bang! Done and onto the next sweeper.

Nobody is ever going to mistake me for Mr. Organization, but these 3 tips have made my professional life a lot easier over the years. Have some tips of your own? Share them with me, and I’ll share them with the class sometime soon. And if one of those tips is “USE YOUR CALENDAR…” sigh. I know, I know.

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