Lessons from being a director – part 3

See the serious part 2 about delegation and also the power-mad-crazy part 1 about RULING THE WORLD.

How long do you think I can keep milking my directing career for productivity advice? I’m hoping I can carry on until the exciting day when I get my second-ever job as director.

But when you’re boring everyone about your power and artistic talent, you have to have more specific topics and now I have this one. Now I have realised this one: directing changes how you write.

Actually, it’s more than that: anything you do that is in some new way related to your writing or whatever your specific talent is, it changes.

I did rewrite the play on the fly to adjust for unforeseen problems, I did many, many times tweak to improve things based on the actors’ opinions. It’s common for writers to decry this but I would like to say right now that I am smug: I have always said that directors and actors should not make changes to a scene when it risks buggering up the rest of the script. Actors and directors are prone to concentrating on this scene right now, this scene you’re memorising, this scene you’re filming. And they should. They need to. Except when a brilliant suggestion that truly lifts that scene is an almighty bomb that ruins the entire point of the drama.

Granted, that’s a worst-case scenario.

I loved the whole process of directing but for me the whole process was in bringing that script to the stage. As short as it was, as specific as it was to this group, it had to be directed right and I had every syllable of that script in my head all the way through. Then I’d have multiple versions of the same scene in my head and I would be running them simultaneously.

None of which helps you, I just got carried away.

The action of doing something different in drama is the same, I think, as heading in to your home town from a new direction. There is one road into my home village in Birmingham that, for whatever reason, I rarely used as a kid. So now if I drive down there into the village, I come out into an entirely familiar world but it is entirely unfamiliar. The library is in the wrong spot. So is the school.

I reexamine them, I notice them again when I have become so used to them that I don’t.

So it was looking at this script from a new direction.

The short recommendation here is that you should go direct something. But the longer is that maybe you can find any way of looking at your story and your script that is different. Not better, not worse, just different. And see what it throws up at you, see what you notice.

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?

Spell Happiness with four Ps

There’s an overwhelming amount of happiness research. Forget incorporating it all into your life — merely remembering it is daunting enough. I like to keep it simple: Remember the 4 P’s.


Work those into every day and you’ll be smiling more.

The Way to Happiness: Remember the 4 Ps – Time

Ye-ess… I’m listening… tell me more.