Training directors. Is it possible?

Convener(s): Alex Thorpe

Participants: Birkbeck Cohort 8, Simon Pollard, Chris Tomlinson, Jo Mackie, Chelsea Walker, Sam Worboys, Renu Arora, Jamie Rocha Allan, Will Bourdillen,  and others.

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

Why do people question how directors are trained and less often question any of the other disciplines?

Other disciplines need more apparent technical skills than a director. Ie ability to make model box.

What skills does a director actually need?

Why are we training? Filling in the gaps?

A director needs a huge amount of tools to direct. Can be frustrated for actors if youre not good enough. A director needs an understanding of how everyone in the room works.

Our job is to bring all those masters of their trade together.

Directing is the art of communication

Can directing be taught or is like teaching a writer sentence structure

Is it more a question of natural ability

Perhaps a problem is: there is no established/ proved methods of training directors

Main job of the director is to liberate the performer

Birkbeck (MFA Theatre Directing Course): On this course you are expected to already be a director before you start

HOW MUCH TIME IS SPENT ACTUALLY WORKING WITH ACTORS AS PART OF A TRAINING. This was felt to be a very important aspect of training

At Mountview there are many opportunities to direct the in house productions. It’s a cumulative process- very much learning by directing.

A Birkbeck student said “ I don’t need the course to give me opportunities to direct. I create opportunities for myself. Many of us are also working on our own shows”

The issue of financial barriers in accessing post grad programmes was raised.

An example was given of being refused assistant directing positions in regional theatres as they were taken up with MA directing students from Birkbeck and Queen Mary.

Needing a posty grad qualification to get jobs is not a unique situation to theatre directing (Journalism, Sci, etc).

For an aspiring not studying an MA It is essential that you approach the right people. E.g. Don’t mass mail theatres, but carefully select the director that you are ACTUALLY interested in.

Emma Rice, Simon McBurrney learnt directing through un conventional avenues.

Not doing an MA gives you the freedom to choose who you wanted to work with. Creating your own training.

A community of directors was important as opposed to directors fighting each other. Genesis Programme (Young Vic)

There are other avenues into directing eg workshop leading, education…

Directors employing new directors often respond to the right person for the right job.

Training is about knowing what you need to learn

Post grad training is a new approach to training directors. Directors used to come through other routes eg DSM.

Training directors were asked if that was the right route for them- YES.

Post Grads need more opportunities to direct

You need that tool box on the first day of rehearsals. A slightly academic approach can be useful

How do you train a group of directors? You only need one director- Most courses you break out and work solo before coming together to talk

Advanced theater Practice at CSSD: Collaborating with all the different theatre makers gave them a strong understanding of what everyone does

LEARNING BY ASSISTING: Only useful if you only get to apply what you’ve observed. Was disputed and said its good to learn different approaches.

Actor come director opens as many doors as formal training

Never stop learning even if you have trained formally

MFA marked on knowledge of what you have learnt. Is peer assessed.

Learning by just doing. A group of trusted peers can help you improve.

Worth remembering the director is a relatively new role anyway compared to the actor etc…

Is there enough opportunities to train as a director

Formal training should never be the only way

Collaborating and offering opportunities to others

What is the best way to use an assistant? Bounce of ideas. Trust your assistant

What skills does a director need? As many as possible

Know what you are best at when trying to carve your way into the industry. What strengths do you have. Use them to your advantage. EG working with young people to develop skills before working with pro actors

About choosing the right Post Grad course for you.

Training is as much about learning to direct as it is making links with the industry.

Is any theatre training (actors, designers etc) at all ‘necessary’?

Training directors is a current trend.