We are thrilled to announce the NEW SDUK BOARD for 2017 as voted for by our members:
WHAT DOES THE BOARD DO?
The Board is made up of SDUK members, and is responsible for SDUK’s records, accounts and performance. While SDUK employs staff to manage the organisation, the Board are ultimately legally and financially accountable for the company. Don’t worry – they’re also insured!
Alongside the legal necessities, the Board help to shape SDUK’s strategy and activity, support the paid staff, and have a key role as advocates for the work we do, and for our members.
Directors are expected to be active and engaged in between meetings. Staff generally communicate with the Board via an email group, occasionally by phone, and in person at meetings and events. Difficult member issues and concerns may be escalated to the Board on occasion, and Directors may be asked to Chair working parties, or to lead on an area of research or interest to the company. Directors are encouraged to plan and host regional activities in collaboration with the Membership Engagement Officer.
This week’s blog is from SDUK Member Robert Awosusi on the challenges of working as both writer and director.
Think about the amount of workyou do as a director: formulating the vision, casting, planning rehearsals, liaisons with the creative team, the dramaturgy, those endless, endless strings of emails you send back and forth with your designer at 3am in the morning trying to decide on the right tartan print you want on the upstage settee in scene 3 because you’re not convinced the current one is able to convey “authenticity” in a satisfactory way (admittedly this is not a true story). Now imagine for a production you had to do all these things and then on top of that you actually have to write the thing! In case you hadn’t picked up I’m trying to get across being a writer and director is hard.
“Having the chance to meet and candidly talk with other creatives who have similar jobs and varying experiences was an incredibly refreshing remedy to the struggle.”
That’s why I was excited when SDUK approached me to host their most recent breakfast meeting. Whilst I’m at a stage in my career where I’ve experienced both roles in some capacity, I’m still trying to find the same confidence as a writer as I have in my directing work. It’s worse when I try and do both, terrified of trapping myself in an echo chamber of my own making. Having the chance to meet and candidly talk with other creatives who have similar jobs and varying experiences was an incredibly refreshing remedy to the struggle. In trying to exist and survive as artists it’s important we band together as much as possible, especially during the harder periods; especially those of us without the money, privileges and connections that make theatre-making a whole lot easier. This is what I find most useful from these meetings; being able to talk and muse without the pressure of having the answers, especially as we’re often in positions where we feel we always need to. The thing we often lack as theatre makers, especially as directors, (even more as writer/ directors) is self care, especially when taking on so much in our craft. We’ll never be able to put on great work if we can’t survive long enough to make it happen. A useful mention was the Unbroken festival at the end of August, which was a festival focusing on wellbeing and mental health in the arts. We need to keep talking to each other, as artists and as human beings. Every conversation with another maker doesn’t need to start with a CV recital.
It was also incredibly useful having Jemma (SDUK’s Membership Engagement Officer) present who was able to give us an insightful lowdown on some of the more practical elements of being a writer/ director, such as dealing with contracts, producers and agents. Which goes back to my first point – if you are a writer/ director:
This week’s blog is from Kate Saxon, Co-Chair of the SDUK Board, who on top of all her directing work and work for SDUK has been working tirelessly on creating a couple of promotional videos about what we do at SDUK. The films have now been launched! Here’s how she did it…
“So, finally, we’ve done it – we’ve made our first Stage Directors UK promos. A few months back, theBoard decided we would make a short film as a recruiting tool for directors around the country.
We discussed filming options: how we wanted to represent SDUK, who should feature and who should shoot it. The first two questions were easy – the Board wanted
many diverse directors to talk from the heart about their needs and what SDUK can do for them. We also wanted to hear from Piers, our Founder, about his inspiration for setting this whole thing in motion.
But who to shoot it? I had an idea: Robert Delamere of Digital Theatre and I are old mates, so perhaps I could get him to bring Digital on board…
Brilliantly Robert spoke to the team at Digital and they were passionate about the issues facing theatre directors too… They said ‘Yes, we’re on board, for FREE’.
Then venue. Ideally, we’d have loved to shoot directors in theatres across the country, but taking the shoot team around was prohibitively expensive and would take more days than Digital could afford to give us. One day to shoot was the deal. So it had to be one location and in London. But where?
So I asked Matthew Warchus, a founding Board member, if he’d consider handing over the whole of the Old Vic, front of house and backstage, for a day. ‘And, erm, would you mind giving it to us for free?!’… He talked to his team, who were also keen to help. They came back with a resounding YES!
It took a few weeks for the team at the Old Vic to find a day that worked for all the departments, but they persevered and eventually called with a date. Booked!
So, suddenly, the shoot was on. Digital could accommodate the date the Old Vic offered and booked a crew. It was decided I should conduct the interviews. I was to be in rehearsals that date, but my cast helped by agreeing to make up the hours over some evenings, giving me the day off. Jemma and Jonathan from the Board offered to be there to run around and help make the day run smoothly, guided by our fabulous Administrator, Liz. We had a team. And oodles of support.
What about our interviewees though? Would every director in the country be too busy?! Thankfully for the state of UK theatre, many were, but thankfully for us, a good number said they could make the date. Several of the interviewees adapted their schedules so they could take part. We were thrilled at the enthusiasm for the project and the support for Stage Directors UK.
We chatted to Stephen Quinn, Production Manager at Digital, who worked out how many interviews we could squeeze into one days filming. Jemma set to scheduling them all in. So with a new director scheduled every ten minutes, a get-in, get-out and location moves within the Old Vic, all to be completed by 5.30pm so as to clear for the show, the schedule was formed.
Robert and his team went to the Old Vic to do a recce and chose four main locations within the building: the auditorium stalls, the circle with a POV of the stage in the distance, the circle bar and the wings backstage.
Finally, the shoot day. Directors from across the country attended, some beginners, some established, some between the two. All had a united voice: that directors are stronger together and that we want our industry to be as ambitious, as diverse and as creative as it can be. Once over the shock of being in front of camera rather than behind (!), they made eloquent interviewees. They talked passionately about challenges faced, fears, joys and what SDUK means to them. The buzz was fantastic. The directors were clear – we are building a happier, stronger collective of director colleagues who finally feel part of a team rather than lone journeymen.
Then to the edit. Digital sent us the full unedited interviews and I made a list of who said what when – with detailed time codes and suggestions of top picks and themes. As I said, they were an eloquent bunch, so this took a few late nights after rehearsals… I sent my list back to Robert who went into the editing suite. He called me part way through his first day; ‘We could make an hour long documentary out of this, there’s so much here!’ ‘I know’, I said… zzzz…..
Robert made two cuts, both brilliantly conveying the passion of the interviewees: a longer promo that covered issues in depth and a sho
rt, feelgood one. We sent a few thoughts, a second pass was cut and then Piers and I went into the edit suite and made some final tweaks. Plus there was a bonus, as we ended up not with one film, as originally intended, but three: the longer film, the initial short one and a new short promo Piers and I cut. We shared the films with the Board and this third and final iteration came through as the favourite to release first. It covers key issues, shows our comradeship as a membership, is succinct and we hope, inspiring to fellow directors.
Our SDUK promos were a few months in the making but we think well worth the effort. We hope you do too.
And who was our cast of interviewees? Well, you’d best watch the films to find out.”
The films are now live! You can view one on our home page. Our short one above. Or go to our Youtube Channel
In August 2016we launched our pilot mentoring scheme offering support and guidance for Mid-Career directors. It is now up and running.
We were overwhelmed with the response and the clear need for mentoring expressed by directors.
The applications revealed that Directors at this level are obviously feeling deeply isolated and unsupported by the industry. While there are excellent schemes, opportunities and programmes for emerging directors, these opportunities disappear for directors with more than ten years of experience. The lack of transparency in the industry when it comes to employing directors was also a key issue raised by our applicants.
We all know that there is no magic formula or a ladder taking you on the perfect career trajectory, but working in isolation, as a lot of directors do, can mean that the mysteries of our industry can start to weigh heavy.
This pilot mentoring scheme has been set up to directly tackle this, offering support for directors by directors. This scheme doesn’t promise to answer all the questions raised but will offer space for those questions to be explored.
We are full of admiration for those who have applied to this scheme with such openness and honesty, and we are enormously grateful to those busy directors who have generously offered their time to mentor the applicants, individually and in small groups.
The mentors we are currently working with are: Justin Audibert, Sam Brown, Lucy Bailey, Dominic Cooke, Kirstie Davis, Jeremy Herrin, Jemima Levick, James Macdonald, Phelim McDermott, Kerry Michael, Kate Saxon, Melly Still, Stephen Unwin.
For those who didn’t get on this year’s scheme, we hope to launch another one next year. But don’t forget that SDUK is committed to bringing directors together at our training events, meet-ups and online via our brilliant members onlyFacebook groupwhich is proving to be a great space for directors to discuss important issues.