I never stop dreaming and I never stop planning either. These two things work well together – in fact it is crucial that you can engage with both if you want to create something special (and you should). Never strive for mediocrity!

Day Dreams by John Atkinson Grimshaw (Directing ... but not as we know it)
Day Dreams by John Atkinson Grimshaw (Directing … but not as we know it)

Also in this series:
Offbeat Directing 1: The Vision Quest
Offbeat Directing 2: Understanding the Script

Start to think big – and it really doesn’t matter that deep down you know you won’t get sell out audiences, standing ovations, knockout performances and a set to die for – AIM FOR THEM! When you aim for something big you are pointing yourself in the right direction. If you saw two signs – mediocre to the left and brilliant to the right, which way would you look? I think we’d all look right – so point yourself in that direction from the beginning and don’t look back. Never say ‘but there is no point, I won’t get there’ because in doing that you are missing the point. The point is that we want to improve our skills, achieve more and get a better show on than we have ever managed before and to do so we go in the direction of awesomeness and brilliance. I know lots of people simply don’t believe in themselves, some aren’t interested in improving skills and others don’t realise that improving their skills as a director (or anything) really isn’t rocket science (unless you want to be a better rocket scientist .. in which case it is). It is harder work, but the rewards are there if you put the time and effort in. So … onwards into dreams and planning …

At this point in the process I understand the play and I’ve surrounded myself with sights, sounds and ideas of the show I’m going to direct. I use Pinterest (see some of my boards on the Offbeat Pinterest Page) to collect pictures and photos from the internet that inspire me. I like to get a really good visual sense of what my show will look like. I often design the set and costumes myself – or if I don’t I work very closely with the designer/s. These boards are invaluable as is the production book you should keep (see Part 1). Start to think about sounds (music maybe, sound effects) and if possible, choose designers who are on your wavelength and will be able to design the look and the feel of the show with you. Keep your music ideas somewhere as well – I create a playlist on itunes. Lighting is so important to create atmosphere on stage and I know that I’m fairly hopeless at talking ‘colour’ with my lighting designer. So I don’t. I talk ‘atmosphere’ and ‘feeling’ with a designer who can translate that into colour. I do love to work with other people in this respect, BUT is isn’t easy if you have your own ideas about design – so do keep an open mind!

I know a lot of people who don’t like to write in their scripts. Personally I see my script as a notebook! I scribble all my lighting/sound/set ideas in the script at the point where they occur. If possible I draw a rough plan of changes I want on the set. If you don’t want to use your script for that find another way of keeping your notes somewhere useful and handy when going through the script with designers.

So at this stage you’ve chose your designers (if you have a choice) and talked through some ideas and thoughts to establish that you actually can work together. I once had a set designer who wouldn’t tell me anything! I needed to undertand his vision so I could rehearse my cast with the set in mind. He wouldn’t discuss plans and it simply didn’t work for me! In the end we parted company for that show, but at a stage where I really didn’t want to have to take on the design myself. There wasn’t a choice on that occasion, but the set was eventually engineered and constructed brilliantly to some vague instructions I was able to give and was stunning. Lucky!

Next Post: Offbeat Directing 4: What does the Director do?

Offbeat Directing Ideas 3: Dreaming & Planning