Lessons from being a director

Seriously, listen to me here, I have such a long history of directing. I directed my first play this morning.

It was a ten-minute short written by myself and the Burton Young Writers' Group which we've worked on in a few of the monthly sessions I've led with them this year. Writing West Midlands, which runs the groups, funded the hiring of a real cast to perform the kids' work and it went tremendously.

But the other day, someone asked me if I were directing it and I just said yes.

I had to, there was nobody else who was going to do it, it was just obvious that it would be me as the group's leader. But as soon as I'd said 'yes' aloud, the voice in my head continued with the word 'oh'.

I'd been thinking of the project as a writing one and I suppose a little bit as a producing one. I've been becoming very irritating about producing lately: there's a way to argue that I produced six events over the last six weeks and yeah, yeah, enough already, shut up William. My wife Angela Gallagher has been an event producer and it thrilled me to be doing the same thing, to be able to really learn from her. It's one thing asking her every detail of what she's doing when she's doing it, it's another to be needing to put that into practice for myself.

But I didn't think about directing.

Until this week when I was one of the people casting.

So I recommend becoming a director by default and preferably at speed and even more preferably while also writing and producing. Keeps your mind off it.

And then I now also further recommend directing with as little time to spare as you can.

I had an hour today. But I knew exactly what I wanted. And this is the productivity lesson I taught myself:

If you know what you want, people will do it

If they're good, they'll also question it and improve it and grow it with you, but they are bringing their talent to what you want so just bleedin' get on with deciding it and telling them.

We changed a lot, not least because one actor had a ferociously bad day trying to get to us in time and didn't manage it. We changed oodles.

But I have never been so clear about what I wanted a production to be, not even when I've been writing scripts. And to see it work, to see talented actors do what you want and take it further, I tell you, I'm hooked.

Maybe you have to be a writer and possibly an English writer to really get this but I am used to adapting to what everyone, anyone else wants and to do it this way around felt like just getting on with it. I like getting on with things.

And I loved directing this play. Ten minutes? Young Writers' Group? Sold: it was a career highlight. Especially seeing the faces of the kids as their work was performed. I feel priviliged and happy and that I've learnt a lesson or three.

Go direct something, would you?

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