Author Topic: Teamwork: ASMs vs SMs  (Read 7132 times)

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IvoryWonder

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Teamwork: ASMs vs SMs
« on: Sep 27, 2006, 04:49 am »
Well I'm not sure if this topic has been directly discussed, so I'll introduce it anyway. If it has, please point it out for me. Thanks!!

I've been appointed two ASMs for my show to work under me, and authough I'm excited for the extra hands, it will be a bit of a learning experience for me. I've never had ASMs to work under me, nor been one, so I'm not entirely sure of the distinctions between them. What will I be responsible for doing? And what should I expect of and delegate to my ASMs? They're both competent and so far easy to work with, but I'm just kindof wondering what I should do vs what their main tasks will be.

Thanks for the help!
« Last Edit: Feb 11, 2008, 01:02 pm by PSMKay »

thehayworth

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Re: ASMs vs SMs
« Reply #1 on: Sep 27, 2006, 09:33 am »
I work on a lot of smaller shows.  I usually rotate my ASMs so I only have one a night.  They don't get paid much and I don't want to overwork them.  I put my ASM on book and have her take line notes also.  This frees me up to handle blocking, props lists, tracking, and etc.

On a bigger production, I might have one ASM prompting and another handling transitions (setting up for each scene, moving the props back when we go back - all without being told what to do each time).
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Balletdork

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Re: ASMs vs SMs
« Reply #2 on: Sep 27, 2006, 09:47 am »
ASM's are wonderful creatures!  ;D

My ASM's tend to eventually take care of running music, prop tracking, line notes, change overs... and errand running!

In light rehearsal times they also record blocking, record running times etc...

ASM's can make or break a stage management staff- it is important that they feel useful and not over-worked.

Enjoy this new avenue in SM!  ;)

ReyYaySM

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Re: ASMs vs SMs
« Reply #3 on: Sep 27, 2006, 10:25 am »
When I work on musicals, I'm usually lucky enough to have two ASMs.  I often need to have three rehearsals going at once (blocking, music, and dance), so it's great to be able to since there can be a member of the stage management staff in each of the rehearsals.  My first ASM is in charge of props tracking and creating the run sheets; my 2nd ASM is in charge of tracking costumes/quick changes.  In rehearsal situations where we are all in the same room, I'll have one ASM on book prompting, and the other one following the book to take line notes.  They take care of setting up all rehearsal spaces and handle all rehearsal transitions.  And if rehearsal is light and they need to work on updating props lists, run sheets, check-in with a department, etc, I'll send one of them at a time out to work on those things. 

Good ASMs are truly a blessing!

Here are a couple of other threads you might be interested in checking out: Newbie at ASMing and How to ASM

stagemonkey

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Re: ASMs vs SMs
« Reply #4 on: Sep 27, 2006, 11:27 am »
In college I was blessed with two ASM for a musical production.  In the early rehearsals there wasnt a whole lot for htem to do so I just required that one of them be at each rehearsal to help me where needed.  When we got farther into the production I like having my ASM take charge of giving lines and making line notes, so then I can focus more on the blocking aspects.  If I have a second ASM they get to track props and be the goto person about all prop matters.   Ultimately if you have them delegate to them any task that would make your job easier if someone else could do it.  Remember they are your assistant they are there to assist you in whatever you need (within reason of course.)

thehayworth

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Re: ASMs vs SMs
« Reply #5 on: Sep 27, 2006, 12:38 pm »
Within reason includes foot massages, doesn't it?
"This time for sure."

ReyYaySM

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Re: ASMs vs SMs
« Reply #6 on: Sep 27, 2006, 01:11 pm »
Within reason includes foot massages, doesn't it?

Absolutely!  ;)

Scott

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Re: ASMs vs SMs
« Reply #7 on: Sep 27, 2006, 02:06 pm »

The one time time I've been fortunate to assist a Broadway experienced PSM (working on a new Off Broadway musical) he put me in charge of taking blocking while he continually focused on the "bigger" picture (including much discussion of shape of the piece with author, director and music director as well as balancing evolving technical complexity.)

While I'm haven't yet been in a position where I was 100% comfortable in handing off  that responsibility, I have found it useful to ask assistants to keep their own blocking book (or charts if they seem more comfortable with that) in addition to mine. (With the understanding that they have other repsonsibilities which might take a greater precedence in any a given moment during the rehearsal). I think it's great to have an extra eye or two; espcially during blocking of big scenes with lots of actors and moves.

I also finds it helps focus assistants who might otherwise be scattered, distracted, or otherwise overwhelmed.


megf

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Re: ASMs vs SMs
« Reply #8 on: Sep 27, 2006, 02:20 pm »
Maybe not feet... but I've found that a well-timed back- (or shoulder, or neck, or hand) rub can save a long tech week from becoming too painful!

But really, what an assistant does depends hugely on the context. If you have a large cast or lots of split calls, turning over the sign-in sheet can free you up to be near the director, choreographer, musical director, etc. Likewise, having ASMs handle prop details lets you focus more on the onstage action.

I worked recently with a PSM who asked that all the stage managers keep one another up to date on EVERYTHING - sounds completely obvious, but if your ASMs are new (to stage management in general, to assisting, to this context, etc.) then stating it mildly can make a world of difference. Having assistants in rehearsal can double (or in your case, triple!) the eyes-and-ears you have to collect info. Use them to check in with the cast, designers and crew - are the actors happy? Do they need anything to streamline the rehearsal process? Do the designers need any additional info - details on the director's preference for a special cue, or an extra costume fitting? Does the crew need to schedule an extra work call? Your assistant can take care of smaller phone calls, while you keep your concentration on the action of rehearsal. After rehearsal, or on a break, you can swap/copy notes and keep track of how things are coming along, without anyone's work on the show being compromised.

Best of luck, and keep the SMN community posted on how the show goes!

Meg

philimbesi

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Re: ASMs vs SMs
« Reply #9 on: Sep 27, 2006, 04:13 pm »
Ahh ASM's...  They are like human swiss army knives... just make sure you're not trying to use a corkscrew to cut something... make sure you line up the persons strength with the job...

In other words match the job up to what they are good at.  For example a lot of the shows I do include kids I have one woman who is my ASM a lot and she's wonderful with kids.  She immediately becomes my "kid wrangler", during shows she works with the little ones makes sure they are where they need to be and they are quiet.  Not exactly the most orthodox way of using an ASM but when you look up and the 5 year old nails her entrance every night... something is going right.  If I took the same woman and asked her to write the blocking for the 5 year old, I might understand 2 or 3 pages of it.

Other than that I'd say at first whenever you realize you need to be in three places at once... use an ASM.   Prompting and line notes are a great place to use one.  If you have to call a load in, or coordinate a load in from three different places send and ASM with each crew to keep tabs on how they are progressing.

IvoryWonder

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Re: ASMs vs SMs
« Reply #10 on: Sep 30, 2006, 01:51 am »
Wow guys! This is all very helpful! Thanks so much for all your help. I think I have a better understanding now.

Let me ask another question: I've heard mixed things, and I was just wondering on your opinion: What are your thoughts on having an ASM handling blocking? For instance, I have a friend who lets her ASMs take all the blocking notes while she focuses on other things. Then at the end of the night that ASM transfers all that blocking into my friend's SM prompt script. She says it works fine for her, but I was just wondering your guys' opinion on that. Is it something I can delegate? Or should I handle that myself?

ReyYaySM

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Re: ASMs vs SMs
« Reply #11 on: Sep 30, 2006, 10:08 am »
What are your thoughts on having an ASM handling blocking?

I prefer to take blocking myself.  During a very large scene, I may ask my ASM to take blocking for the chorus while I follow the principals, and then compare notes with him/her later.  Also, if there is an AD on the show and we're working two different scenes at the same time, I'll send those pages from my book with my ASM so that he/she can make the appropriate changes/have the blocking at hand if there is a question.  I'm sure there are other situations similar to these in which an ASM would be used to take blocking, but I think in these situations and in practice, ASMs take blocking in addition to the SM, not instead of. 

I'm curious to hear of others experiences. 

kjdiehl

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Re: ASMs vs SMs
« Reply #12 on: Sep 30, 2006, 11:30 am »
I'll concur with ASMs taking blocking in ADDITION to the PSM. Also, if you do anticipate you're going to have your ASM be taking some blocking at some point, especially of big groups of people such as the chorus or ensemble, be sure you provide opportunity for them early on to begin learning peoples names and roles, (especially if they have several roles!) so they are prepared to track blocking for these large groups of people! There's nothing worse than being asked as an ASM to suddenly take blocking of a huge ensemble scene when you've spent the last week dealing with scene changes and you don't know anyone's name!

Also, be sure you make it clear to your ASMs that all their information should flow up the chain to you, the PSM. Even though most of their information will just be stuff that they will continue to deal with on their own, you need to at least be made aware of everything that's going on so YOU'RE not caught off guard when a director or a designer mentions something to you that they had previously only discussed with the ASM. It's a good idea to check in at least at the end of every day, and at periodic breaks during the day as well when you can.

One thing I did once when we had an SM team of SIX was have one of the ASMs generate the Rehearsal Report all day long. We'd leave a blank report form on the SM table which any SM team member could jot down notes on that they'd observed and then the one ASM would constantly transcribe these notes all day long into the computer. That way we didn't have to spend an hour or more giving one person all our notes from the entire day. Very useful!
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MatthewShiner

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Re: ASMs vs SMs
« Reply #13 on: Sep 30, 2006, 06:52 pm »
I always have my ASM take blocking - basically because there I times I can not be in the rehearsal hall.   I also tend to have my ASMs run understudy rehearsal as well - but I know I work in a very specific situation.  I do take a little blocking here and there for entrances and major moments as I feel a need. 

I have found that on the SM track, there are very little times I need the blocking written down for myself, especially when I am watching the show - I usually have it memorized.  At the end of the show, the ASM's blocking script goes into the main SM show binder, so they "Show Bible" is put all together.
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Anything posted here as in my own personal opinion, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of my employer - whomever they be at a given moment in time.

nmno

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Re: ASMs vs SMs
« Reply #14 on: Oct 01, 2006, 03:00 am »
As the SM, I tend to take the blocking myself as my ASM has his/her hands full coordinating the deck, scene shifts, costume changes, props, etc.  I do encourage them to note entrance/exit (as a part of deck activities) or any blocking that affects their world, but otherwise I maintain the responsibility for it.  If they happen to know it, that's great but I don't want them to drop the ball on the other things I'm counting on them to take care of.  I'll let my ASM's out of rehearsal to deal with their issues as needed (to update paperwork, type meeting notes, have meetings) and sometimes I *need* them to leave rehearsal to check on things; so if they are the holder of the master blocking book they would need to stay in rehearsal and wouldn't be free to do those things (they are usually non-Eq so it's always me in rehearsal).  As ASM I too have done the split of doing blocking for chorus/extras/minor characters while the SM noted the principals.  I have yet to be in a situation where I'd see it necessary to (or I'd be comfortable with) delegating the blocking to my ASM.
I think the big thing is something you already said about your friend, it works for her...  While there is sort of basic template of job division, it's all about making sure it gets done and done well, so redistribute it to each others strengths if that is more efficient.

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