Everything Is Already Something Week 42: Things I’d Tell My Younger Director Self

Allison Page, better late than never.

Forgive me for the lateness of this post, I’m swamped. See, I accepted this sudden gig directing a gigantic play for a catholic prep school. Get the laughing out of the way now.

Okay, let’s move on. I’m also directing another show at the same time. So I go to the school for rehearsal 2-5 and have a rehearsal across town for another show from 7-9:30. A year ago I probably wouldn’t believe that was happening because when I moved to the Bay Area, I swore off directing.

Back in Minnesota I directed because that was how I could make a show happen. I was the producer, director, everything-er, and actor because otherwise there was no show. And it was REALLY stressful. It really made me act like a giant monster.

CRAZY?! DO I LOOK CRAZY TO YOU?! JUST DO WHAT I SAY!

CRAZY?! DO I LOOK CRAZY TO YOU?! JUST DO WHAT I SAY!

20 year old Allison had yet to grasp onto how to get people to listen without being…well, like I said, a monster. I swear I was headed for a heart attack by age 22. So when I moved here at 23, I dropped it entirely. Now that I’ve gone back to it, I find I’m a completely different director than I was before. Here are some things I’d like to tell my younger director self:

1) TAKE IT EASY, GIRL
That probably sounds pretty basic, and it is, but I was really high strung and serious about stuff from 15-23. At the time I felt like it would make people take me more seriously if I was acting like a serious person. Turns out that’s sort of stupid. People take your authority seriously if you’re comfortable with it. If you’re uncomfortable with it and have to emphasize it by acting like a grumpy weirdo, they’re just going to talk trash about how crazy you are behind your back. And thought that’ll foster a great group mentality amongst the cast – it won’t bode so well for you.

2) TRUST THE ACTORS, GIRL
Okay, I maybe couldn’t always trust them back home because they were just my friends, but it’s important to trust the people you have carefully chosen, otherwise why did you so carefully choose them? It’s not your job to reinvent the wheel and teach basic acting to actors if they consider themselves actors in the first place. That’s not to say there isn’t stuff to learn – there’s ALWAYS stuff to learn, but ushering them through every minute detail about how to form a character shouldn’t be a go-to strategy when you’re working with actors you’re paying to be there. Trust the people you’ve brought in, because you brought them in for a reason.

3) GIRRRRL, BE OKAY WITH NOT ALWAYS KNOWING THE ANSWER
It’s so nice to live in the knowledge that you don’t always have to be right. Man, that is great. Being right all the time is a pain in the ass. It’s so much pressure to put on yourself. And it can keep you from making positive changes because you end up married to your first idea, terrified that the cast will think you’re a freakin’ moron if you say “Actually, that looks bad, stand over here instead.” and what does that mean? It means it’s gonna look bad because you’re scared to change it. Everyone loses when you’re afraid to have been wrong.

No, this isn't Allison, this is Elaine May, and she's making a movie not directing a play, but let's just let that slide.

No, this isn’t Allison, this is Elaine May, and she’s making a movie not directing a play, but let’s just let that slide.

4) HEY GIRL, HONESTY IS THE BEST POLICY
Actually, these may not just apply to directing. These are pretty good life choices. Honesty is valuable. And not just for the director, for the actors too. It’s okay to ask them how they feel about what they’re doing, and it should be okay for them to respond honestly. Doesn’t that sound nice? But again, I wouldn’t say this if it wasn’t something that doesn’t always happen. Sometimes directors rule with an iron fist and don’t care what the meat puppets think. But hey, they’re your meat puppets, maybe ask them what they think about this thing you’re all doing together.

I’m really enjoying Director Allison 2.0, she’s way better than the yell-y one, mostly because she’s a nicer person. Huh. How ‘bout that?

Allison Page is a writer/actor/director in the Bay Area. You can follow her on Twitter @allisonlynnpage

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