Collaborators and Control Freaks – can we work together?

Convener(s):Alan Sharpington

Participants: Sally Christopher, Anna Morrissey, Pia Furtado, Luen Cassidy, Kirche Zeile, Rebecca Mandon –Jones, Roger Nelson, assorted butterflies and bumble-bees.

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations: 

What is a control freak? Does it have to be negative (the word freak is quite stigmatizing!!) Control can simply mean spearheading, being an orchestrater of the ideas which are in the room – total democracy is not very often successful in a rehearsal environment and a director sanctioning all ideas can be very detrimental to the production. Or, a director who may appear to be a control freak may simply have a strong idea of where a piece is going and knows instinctively what to take from each collaborator. Occasionally, a director being a control freak can even be a resistance to feeling controlled themselves, perhaps by a producer – this is a dangerous situation which can be very harmful to a piece.

A director should be a head of communication, more so than ever on a collaborative piece. The exact nature of how collaborative a process will be should be defined and stated right from the start of the project. This means that even if the director hasn’t decided, this needs to be stated. Openness seemed to be the key element for everybody in the group – ‘I don’t care if the director does not want my idea or only wants part of it, as long as this is communicated to me in a positive way. This will allow me to be a more resourceful collaborator’.  Many of us have worked on projects that did not work this way and commonly found that dark, conspirital corners kept appearing in the space and the company became resentful, negative and divided. By its very nature, collaboration means that many ideas will be rejected. Even here, focusing on the positive of rejection gives any stage of the process a new starting point. For example, from an entire design concept, perhaps only a chair or a colour will work, make that the thing the new starting point – it is the beginning of the next level for the designer.

It was felt that the nature of the word control was key to answering our question – the company (director included) that operates in an open, communicative way, regardless of how many ideas were rejected, has more control over the quality of it’s work than a company that becomes divided through ‘withholding information from itself’.