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Keeping Track of Your Boo Crew
by Sandy Kimball


Whether you use volunteers or paid employees for your actors and staff positions, the last thing you need to be thinking in a pinch is "Where did I put Bob's phone number?" Computers and the Internet have made keeping track of your crew only a few clicks away. Powerful database and email programs ready to help you with this organization may already be loaded on your computer, waiting to make your actor management easier.

A database of pertinent information about your acting staff can be created with software such as Microsoft Excel or Microsoft Access, and can be customized to your specific needs. Each piece of information, or "data," is placed in its own box or "cell." For example, use the first field for the actor's first name, the second field for the actor's last name, and so on as shown below:

Boo Crew

  • First Name
  • Last Name
  • Address
  • City
  • State
  • Zip Code
  • Home Phone
  • Work Phone
  • Cell Phone
  • Email Address
  • Site Location
  • Department
  • Position
  • Rate of pay
  • Manager Skills
  • Date of Application
  • Notes

Keeping the same information in each column or "field" will allow you to sort the information when all of the entries are completed. If you want to find everyone who has been in the make-up department and list them alphabetically, you would do a sort by "Department," then by "Last Name."

A few advantages of Access are the preloaded databases and a Wizard to help you customize them. Access also has the ability to run reports based on the data and to view the information organized on its own page. Using the report function, you can print out a nightly staff sheet of who is scheduled to be working. This can then be used by your security team as an invaluable part of your emergency plan.

The "view as separate page" tab can print a blank page to use as a form to be filled out by each crewmember. These forms can be modified into Medical/Emergency information forms, Liability/Hold Harmless agreements, Rules, Code of conduct agreements, and many of the other forms that are necessary to run a haunt business. Once the form is filled out by the crewmember, the information is entered into the database to keep all the info in one place for quick reference. The signed forms are also kept on file, since they have the valid signature.

Building a core of actors and staff that will return year after year is a continuous effort. Keeping in contact with your "boo crew" in the off-season has gotten much easier with the World Wide Web and email. With email programs like Microsoft Outlook, your staff database becomes a powerful tool for sending out event updates and dates of interest. Add to that a private email list-serve for your crew or a password-protected message board on your event web site, and your group can stay in contact with each other and think about the event all year.

Off-season crew gatherings are a great way to thank your staff and build that sense of belonging and "family" that helps keep workers involved with your event. Once you get the ball rolling with one or two team building events announced through email, other key personnel will join in and start hosting gatherings themselves.

Data from both Excel and Access containing the information you need to convey to each crew person can be imported to Outlook. To set up groups and distribution lists for sending mass emails to your staff, simply click on the Contact icon, then open a new distribution list. Enter a name for your list, like "Boo Crew," click on the Select Members icon and it will bring up a list of all the contacts you have in the system. From there all you do is double click on each name you want to add. You can even divide your groups into specific talents like construction crew, actors, and management. This is handy for informing only the construction crew that next Saturday is a build date.

A database is only as good as the current information within. Updating the information in these lists at least once a year by adding/deleting the members will keep your emails going to the right people. As you send out emails, some will bounce back to you. Be sure to contact these people quickly to get their new email address so that you do not lose contact with them.

As your Haunted Event grows, so will the crew required to staff it. Creating a system to keep track of all your contacts will be time consuming, but will save you time and stress in the long run. Carefully thought out plans will help to create a database that will be useful for years to come. The next time you need Bob's number, you'll know were to get it, along with his email address, where he lives, works, and why he told you he would not be there tonight. This system is useful for keeping up with both volunteers and employees, and can make creating forms for newcomers only a few clicks away. Put these powerful computer programs to work organizing your boo crew and make your actor management a great deal easier.

Sandy Kimball has been a Haunter since 1991, and joined Gyro's World of Terror in '94. She covers a variety of jobs such as FX make up, volunteer support and onsite office manager. Recently Sandy has opened "Illusion Wear Capes," an online retail site for capes and custom costumes. Take a look at http://kimballsm.home.att.net

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