Thursday, 3 February 2011


Issue: How best to integrate and delineate the roles of writer and director

Convener(s): Pete (in abstentia)

Participants: – Amelia Bird – free open workshops available – please contact.

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

We discussed the relationship between writer and director.
How productive is it to direct a work you yourself have written?
How does this impact on the piece you produce?
Can writers make good directors?
Can directors make good writers?
Is it important to delineate between these roles?
Are we to concerned about labeling people into certain boxes?
Does collaborative and devising process diminish the role of the author?
How is the role of Writer & Director different in Film to Theatre.

Some in our group felt they were too close to their own work and when they had directed pieces they had written, the result was not as strong as it could have been. New writers involved in the staging process can be particularly protective of their work, and be less flexible and open to the ideas of others, and can have less of an understanding of stagecraft. When writing if you’re planning to direct your own piece, you can become very fixated on one way for the work to be delivered.

The general consensus was that as a writer, you can veer towards control freak tendencies if you are directing your own work. This does not allow the narrative and the characters of work to develop, or the collaborative process of theatre to flourish.

A new writer must be happy to relinquish control of the text to enable it to be staged. One director suggested that instinctively when discussing the staging, your decisions must be ruled by “What is best for the play?” rather than “That’s not my original idea”.

A writer who is too focused on how something will be staged whilst developing the work, can be limited. “The most exciting and original scripts I read as a director are the ones where I have NO idea how I am going to stage what’s been written.”

However, working with a devising company, and getting writers into workshops to develop the work together can be very rewarding as it’s a much more organic process, which can deliver richer results. In the US, 2-3 weeks of workshop development with the writer, director and actors is standard, and British theatre could benefit from applying this more often.

We discussed how many theatre-makers are encouraged to become all-round practitioners, skilled in acting, writing and directing. Whilst it is valuable to understand other aspects of the craft, the process of collaborating and embracing the vision and ideas of others within your creative team is central to developing powerful work.

Another director compared her experiences of working with established texts, and having to seek permission from the licensee to change anything within the script which can be restrictive, to staging a reinterpretation of Trainspotting, where Irvine Welsh was entirely happy for it to be moulded. “The author wasn’t precious and happy for us to work without his involvement. It was like working on a fairytale.” ie A well-known story where the audience knew the narrative well, and there was room to be playful with the telling.

Some productions now cite “creators” rather than writers and directors to show how this partnership can work successfully. This does of course, depend, on having the choice to engaging the right writer or director, who shares your passion for the project at the early stage. The dynamic of this relationship and establishing clear boundaries is key. “Who has the final say? Whose work is this anyway?” The issue of ownership and authorship matter less than the quality of the final work.

One participant stated that he worked in the medium of film, where once a script has been delivered to the studio/producer that is the end of their journey with the piece. That they rarely have any control over what/how their text is interpreted. They also mentioned that is why many writers in film are now directing their own work, most usually in a co-directorial role.

So, as directors, should we just work with dead writers to stop them stifling the life of their story so we seek to nurture? Or work with living writers, but just shoot that them at the start of the project?

The answer is, the best author is not dead. They’re here, and they’re collaborating. This doesn’t diminish the role of the author, it enhances the life of the work you produce.


To create a forum where writers & directors across the UK can establish a dialogue between each other, where possible creative ventures can blossom and grow.

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