How do we encourage directors not to be wankers?

Convener(s): Tom Wright

Participants: Lots of people

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:


  • INTERESTING POINT: More directors than actors turned up.
  • Distinction between being ‘wanky’ ie pretentious and a ‘wanker’ ie abusive.
  • Difficulty of drawing a distinction between ‘wanker’ behaviour which genuinely pushes performers to be better and abuse.
  • KEY QUESTION: Does the end justify the means?
  • Fear of the actors as people
  • Fear of the production failing and taking responsibility for that.
  • Love of power for power’s sake.
  • Difficulty of being a different kind of director according to each performers’ needs.
  • The more in control a person feels the less they feel the need to be a wanker.
  • There are certain situations in which being authoritarian is perfectly acceptable and definitely not wankerish. The problem is who decides this? Where and how is the line drawn?
  • The importance of good dialogue between cast and director, starts at audition (Do they really want to work on the project? Do they really want to work with/know about the director?) Be clear at audition. Director training courses spend one afternoon on casting technique.
  • KEY POINT: Difficulty of honest dialogue because of imbalance of status between most directors and their cast.
  • Directors may be less wankerish if they received more emotional support from outside the rehearsal room.
  • Is there a system of supervision/mentoring/feedback that would pick up abusive behaviour? Could assistant directors or artistic directors take on this role?
  • Directors (and actors) need to accept that they are engaged in a process of life-long learning.
  • It requires great conscious effort to make actors feel that they can be honest with directors in rehearsals.
  • KEY POINT: The onus is on the person with the status to ensure that there is good communication.
  • Ego gets in the way of art.
  • Don’t assume actors know how well they are doing – praise.
  • What is more important – doing great work or being a director people want to work with?
  • Always keep back some anger (don’t go to emotional extremes as it leaves you no place for negotiation.)
  • Post production feedback – discussions? Forms? Actually it’s ongoing and instant feedback (of the kind that actors receive) that’s important

  • A name and shame system were abuses are publicised.
  • KEY POINT: A code of conduct or good practise for directors – if you have an idea on how to take this further please contact [email protected]
  • As director, acknowledge your fear to the group.