Writer & Director Collaborating on New Work. Help us do it better...

Joanne Hartley, 6 October 2012

I suggested that myself (writer) and Anna (director) call this session to help feed into a phase of R&D that we're currently involved with on a project called Museum of Terrifying Example (MOTE).

I'm a writer who is exploring co-creation and writer-facilitation and I've recently been given funding for a three week period of R&D working with director, producer and two performers (as well as designer and sound designer). I've worked with Anna before on a previous project and we wanted to continue to explore the dynamic of our working relationship during MOTE R&D.

One of the things that made our previous project work well was the fact that we had clearly defined roles. I felt that moving onto MOTE, our roles would roughly be the same, and in many ways the roles are the same but I was finding that the process was stop-starting a lot, there was some difference in opinion between us and many of the offers that Anna was making were being thrown out by myself. I was feeling pretty bad about this rejection which kept happening and was a little concerned about the differences in opinion (ie we'd generate material, Anna wouldn't like it and I would or vice versa) which kept occurring.

In speaking about these things, almost like talking therapy I began to find the answers. There were two main-stayers in the group and they were a bit like relationship

councillors. They really helped Anna and I have what could have been quite an awkward conversation.

I realised that despite the process being ‘co-creative’. I still had a certain responsibility to establish the structure and form of the work (which was always the role I had expected to take) and because of this I really needed to lead the process initially to figure out what these structures/forms might be. Anna had been being quite pro-active in taking the lead and I'd been interested to see where she'd take the work, but I hadn't been fully satisfied.

I realised that I would only be satisfied with the work if it was ‘saying what I wanted it to say’. I felt a bit bad/guilty about feeling this way, like I wasn't really allowing the process to be co-creative. Like it was wrong of me to be attached to my writer's ‘voice’ and to feel that it was so important that I ‘was heard’. In all honesty. I still feel a bit bad about that but it seems like that's just the way it's going to have to be. I'm simply not willing to let go of this during this project. Perhaps that's because I've invested a huge amount of time making it happen and continue to take a huge amount of responsibility for it?

There was a conversation about if I was a control freak or not. Am I? I don't think so. I'm working towards being able to hand more of it over to producer and director but I'm still learning how to do that. That's the point of the R&D.

Anna was totally fine about how I felt and it seemed to help clarify things for her too. Although our roles had appeared to be clear, we had to work through a few models that didn't work to realise that actually the roles did need to be re-iterated in the new context. I still had to take the lead at an early stage before I could hand over to

director. On our previous project there had been a script which had been stimulus for the end result, and I had provided a structural steer to the project based on what was in the script. With MOTE there wasn't a script but I still had to do the initial conceptual work and find the structure before I could pass it on to Anna for her to weave her directorial magic into the work.

Phew. We all felt better. Dave who was with us pointed out that there were phases to the collaboration and that that was ok.


collaboration, co-creation, writer facilitation, talking therapy, Collaboration