How to know what a director does

What does a Director do?

The role of the Director is very interchangeable. It depends on the person in the role how the Director will be throughout a production/film. The personality of that individual will dictate how they decide to act in the role and will determine how they communicate ideas and themes.

Directing for film and directing for theatre are more similar than you might think. The fact that one is a live performance and the other on film makes little difference to the way in which someone will direct. Technically there are many differences which I won't go into, but the over-ridding method can be almost identical. Obviously Directors for film are going to be looking for something completely different from a Director for the stage because the mediums are very different, but how they get what they want is integral and is what I consider to be the common ground.

To make what I am saying clearer I have cagagorised the main types of Director. Some Directors will be a mixture of two or more of these types but by knowing which kind of Director you are working with, or even knowing which kind of Director you are, you can create a much easier working environment by being honest right from the start.

Here are, in my opinion, the main types of Director:

1. The Collaborator

This kind of Director sees themselves much more as a facilitator than someone in charge. They look at the prcoess as being one with a group mentality, an ongoing journey that involves all the cast and crew, where ideas can be bounced back and forth without any reprecussions and where ideas are excepted and explored, if not always used. This kind of Director can be amazing to work with because you feel just as much a part of the process as they are. You can feel free to express ideas and know they will be listened to. You are working with the Director and the rest of the cast to create a piece of work that is everyones. This is a massive pro as you get more involved with the work that you are doing.

But the cons could include:

A lack of direction. By letting everyone have their say there is a possibility that the focus can be lost. If you are listening to everyone, ideas can clash, and by exploring all of them or at least most of them, you can waste time on concepts that aren't relevant and distract from the main focus of the piece.

There is also the issue of losing control over the proceedings. As a Director working in a collaborative environment you must also consider the fact that you have the final say. Actors can get carried away, and if you are empowering them with the ability to help make decisions (which I still beleive to be a good thing) you must be careful not to let them overstep their bounds as this will be detrimental to the project.

2. THE Director

The emphasis here is on 'THE' as this way of directing is all about there being one person in charge. This is the most common way of working as it is the classic way. One person directing the action and making the decisions with possibly the help of an A.D or small team. This is the tried and tested way and is very successful, mainly because a lot of actors are accustomed to this way and feel comfortable being directed like this. The Director will watch, take notes and make decisions on the piece and relay that back to the actors and crew. The Director in this sense has more authority as they definitely have the final say, this makes things easier to decide, but can mean that things are missed as you aren't always getting input from others that may have better ideas than the person making the decisions as they don't feel free to.

3. The Practitioner

This way of Directing replies very heavily on a specific vantage point. Whether it be from a school of thought from one person (e.g Meisner or LeCoque) or that of the Director themselves that has a very unique way of working, this way is fundamentaly about 'the process.' About defining how things are going to be done and then sticking to that method emphatically.

This can sometimes mean a lot more time spent researching a specific aspect of character, location, history, or physicality to name a few and then using that knowledge for the piece.

The positives of this method are that there is in-depth knowledge gained about certain aspects of the piece that can create an extremely fluid product that has a lot of background to it. The negatives could be increased time in rehearsal spent on one specific idea that could become irrelevant to the peice or creating too many layers for a piece to the extent that it confuses your audience.

Those are the three main types of Director in my opinion, and their methods go a long way to explaining what a Director actually does as the point I am making is that it truly depends on the person as to what role the Director takes.

In summary, a Director can do many things, but their main focus should be steering the ship. At the end of the day, no matter what style of directing they chose, they have the final say on a lot of the piece, it is their decisions that will mould how the actors respond and how the piece is shaped. The best Directors will be equal parts listener and boss, facilitator and governor. But this doesn't always happen. Some are more Governor than anything else and some are too friendly and lose their authority.

The important thing to remeber is that a Director is the leader, however they chose to lead is up to them, but if you are an actor or a member of crew, you need to trust their vision and their ideas, and if you are the Director, you have to earn that trust.