What tools can we use to enhance the process of collaboration? 

Convener(s): Jenifer Toksvig

Participants: Marianne Badrichani, Francesca, Sarah, Malin Forbes, John Challis, Jonathan Petherbrig, David Tse, Lottie Leedham, John Fulyanes, Fiona Drummond, Mandy Fenton, Ilana Winterstein, Libby Aztaras, Geri Spencer, L Cassidy, Sarah Davey-Hull, Michelle Owoo, Isabel Carr

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

A director with experience of devising a piece in the room from an existing story has used music as a common language to give a central focus for everyone’s reactions, since everyone uses a different language to communicate in their areas.

It’s a different experience to start with a written text.

It also depends on how long you have in the process.

Having a good relationship with the people you’re working with helps the collaborative process. 

Actors need something tangible to work with. 

There must be trust. 

Comment from a writer: it’s important to hand your work over to someone else so that you have the distance that enables you to respond to it. In this way you can be responsible (response-able) for your work in the room.

It’s possible to send out a lot of information to the actors prior to the process so they have an idea of what you’re aiming for. Does this limit their freedom? Not necessarily: boundaries can free up creativity.

When should a designer join the process? Ideally at the beginning. It’s hard for a designer to come in part way through.

From a director: a director’s job is to be a fixer, a facilitator. It’s about creating the space in which people can work, and being a fixed point, being the sum of everyone else’s voice. The fixer can bring two people together (even a dead writer with living actors) but they must know those people well. 

How could someone like a photographer collaborate? Images can become part of the show. Could give a visual response to actors, director, to influence the visual image and aspects of the production. 

Generally, you are not collaborating with the skill, you’re collaborating with the person.

Play-Doh exercise as example of tool used with writer-actor collaboration in developing new work: first you create a character using Play-Doh, which gives a snapshot of being a writer. Then you hand it to someone else, and you take someone else’s creation, and everyone becomes an actor as they make a change to it. Then you hand it back and comment on the changes. This is the process of collaboration in a nutshell. You can even destroy the Play-Doh creation, and still re-make it the same: this process will not take away your individual creativity. 

This exercise could be enhanced by focusing it on the specific subject at hand. The squishing part is not about personal rejection.

It’s useful to find a way to acknowledge the personal contributions that have been made to the process. 

It’s useful to explain something about your process as you involve other people in it: to be transparent. 

It’s useful to discuss how the process has gone at the end of the process.

Post-It note comments on a wall about what everyone thinks the show SHOULD be can also be useful.

Finding a common language, a sense of everybody being in the same space at the same time, also useful.

Should there be a leader? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. A fixed point is useful. 

Respect is very important: it engenders trust.

Maybe in the process of collaboration, you start to become a jack-of-all trades, in that you have some understanding of the other disciplines?

If two disciplines are strangers to one another and about to collaborate, watch each other’s disciplines for a while, for the process of cross-fertilisation to begin.

Find a physical ‘home’ in the work space, journey out from it and back to it. You decide where your home is. Like having a safe space.

How can a writer come into a devised process? Bring them in from the beginning, and it helps for them to be there all the time. Some would rather be in the room as a writer, some would rather go away for a bit.

Need to find the right people to work with.

Is it about having a shared clear vision for the work? Can you ever have that to begin with? Is it more about having a clear commitment to the process? 

A dramaturg can help to realize everyone’s collective creative vision. They can facilitate the whole creation. 

Someone who imposes their own vision is not helpful.

Writers can be reflective, so it can be harder for them to get into a space where actors, director, others are being very actively creative.

It’s important to have creative collaborative friction, not the wrong kind of friction!

Geese fly in a V formation, and when one goose gets tired leading, they fall back into the formation and another goose instinctively takes over. The collaborative process can be like this.

Hoping to continue this discussion on the ning…