Author Topic: COMMUNICATION: Unable to communicate with Director  (Read 2712 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

BayAreaSM

  • Permanent Resident
  • *****
  • Posts: 410
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
    • Bay Area SM
  • Affiliations: AEA
  • Current Gig: VP, Operations in AV Events
  • Experience: Professional
COMMUNICATION: Unable to communicate with Director
« on: Aug 11, 2015, 04:29 pm »
I'm working on a new works festival that I've done for 6 years. Starting last year, there is a new Associate Production Manager (acts like the PM for the festival) and a new Director of the Festival. They showed a lot of promise, and are very hard-working individuals, but they never seemed to follow up on anything last year.

This year the director of my work is the Director of the Festival. I was looking forward to working with this Director, until it came time to start communicating. There was no response to emails, texts, phone calls. (Mind you, this is a LORT company, on a CER.) Finally I told the Director that I had until 5:30pm the day before the first rehearsal to communicate with them, then I was no longer available. They finally responded and called me at 5:15pm. I understand that being a director of a 2 week festival is very demanding, but your own show does need some attention. They told me what they wanted for the first day's schedule, and we ran down a few basic questions, then I had to go, because I had to pick up my son from daycare. During this 15 minute phone conversation, the Director was in the bathroom.

On the first day of rehearsal, the Director asked why I hadn't provided X, Y, and Z. I responded that for the last 5 years I'd worked for this festival, those items were provided by Company Management. I was not aware that they were not provided this year, so I rushed to provide those items. At the end of the day, I barely was able to get the director to confirm the next day's schedule and how they wanted the room set. They promised me a drawing in the morning. They also asked about my thoughts on the festival and how SMs were provided information (or lack thereof), and that we should have a meeting to discuss the SMs needs. The director said we would talk on day 2 to figure out when to meet to chat.

Coming in for day 2, the director said I misunderstood about the meal break for the day. When I asked "When do you want to take a break?" and they responded "At 3," that meant to me - 3pm. To the director, it meant, "after 3 hours." I rushed to inform everyone and all was well. No set up drawing was provided (as promised) and the Director hastily moved around the music stands and chairs I had arranged for rehearsal the night before. When we were nearing the end of the day, the director asked how long we had until the next break. I replied, "You have 12 minutes until the end of the day." The Director was shocked, even though I had generated a show calendar and given them a printed out schedule on their desk that said the day was ending at 5:30pm. The director is aware that we are under a CER and days 2-4 can only be a max of 6 hours. Needless to say, we never touched Act 2 until tech on day 3, and with that, we didn't even finish it. I was rushing to take blocking notes during the actual performance for the final 19 pages we never touched.

There was no discussion on day 2 or day 3 about the requested meeting to plan for next year's festival. When I brought it up just prior to leaving after our performance on Day 3, the Director looked like they didn't know what I was talking about. Once I reminded the director of their request of my time, I offered to email with my availability on a specific day, and they gladly accepted and said they would get back to me to arrange the time.

Today is the day we were planning to meet to discuss next year's festival. Needless to say, it didn't happen.

I've never felt more out-of-touch with a director before. I've always been a big communicator - when I discovered that the projected tech schedule the APM provided broke AEA rules, I worked hard and fast during rehearsal to get it adjusted so that we would have the time we needed (even though we still ran out of time). This director is never available; starts to speak to me then wanders away mid-sentence. It's difficult because the director is such a nice person, means well, and is very polite. I can't grab the director and demand an audience, as they need to take care of the other 4 shows as well.

Personally, while I would like to offer feedback to make it better for next year, at this point I'm giving up. I'm not going to fight to spend my personal non-compensated time if the other party who requests my time isn't putting any effort in. I've worked with a variety of directors - from those who respect what we do to those who couldn't care less if you were there or not. And I've worked well with all of them. But this one in particular, while they said they are so excited that I'm their SM, I can't effectively communicate with to save my life.

What would you do in this situation?

Maribeth

  • Moderator
  • *****
  • Posts: 1018
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
  • Affiliations: AEA
  • Experience: Former SM
Re: COMMUNICATION: Unable to communicate with Director
« Reply #1 on: Aug 11, 2015, 07:17 pm »
It would be easy to say, "Oh, I would have insisted that they give me a schedule, and stayed after rehearsal to check in", etc. Hindsight being 20/20 and all. It seems like you reached out for information numerous times, and that they weren't receptive/responsive to that.

I've been in situations with directors who have a lot of other organizational responsibilities, esp. artistic directors. Ideally, someone like that has an assistant (either an AD or an executive assistant) and I make as much use of them as I possibly can. I copy them on emails, esp. scheduling emails, and often feed them info to help keep the director on track. Most directors, however, are better about follow-through than this person seems to be.....

I do like to take a few minutes before and after rehearsal to check in with the director, so that we are on the same page about what we need to accomplish that day, what the schedule for the next day is, etc. (It sounds like you try to do this, but they were wrapped up in their other festival duties and/or ignored you.) It could be possible to "push" information on them, rather than request it from them- i.e. make a schedule for the next day and print a copy for them. (One director I work with responds much better to this- he would rather correct a schedule that I made than make one himself).

Can you talk with the APM or other festival management (like a GM, if there is one) about the issues you had at this year's festival? I would probably request to be put on a show with a different director next year. If the director asks why, have the conversation you've been trying to have with them about your communication issues. 

BayAreaSM

  • Permanent Resident
  • *****
  • Posts: 410
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
    • Bay Area SM
  • Affiliations: AEA
  • Current Gig: VP, Operations in AV Events
  • Experience: Professional
Re: COMMUNICATION: Unable to communicate with Director
« Reply #2 on: Jul 19, 2016, 03:02 am »
Oh how I wish I had re-read this thread earlier this year. Of course I'm back at the same festival and of course - I have the same director as last year. This director doesn't have an an assistant (neither does the AD of the company, and I've worked for him too).


Hopefully I'll learn from my "mistakes" and see if I can make any more progress with the director this year. And, to top it off, there's yet another new APM running the festival. And this one has promised emails, google doc links, and meetings since May. Every few weeks I email the APM to ask if I missed an email with the promised info. And every time I get a response of "Oh, that's coming this weekend!" And no, it never comes.


Now I'm not picky - I don't need to be linked or go to any meetings so far in advance. I'm just not a fan of someone saying "This is coming by date X" and never following up on it, sending that email or at least sending an email saying "We are delayed due to X, and info will be out at a time TBD." Not saying anything really bugs me.


And here we are - back at a lack of communication. One may ask, why go back? I guess I'm a glutton for punishment - and new works!

Maribeth

  • Moderator
  • *****
  • Posts: 1018
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
  • Affiliations: AEA
  • Experience: Former SM
Re: COMMUNICATION: Unable to communicate with Director
« Reply #3 on: Jul 22, 2016, 05:47 pm »
Wishing you an easier time of it this year!

Michelle R. Wood

  • SM Expert
  • ****
  • Posts: 161
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
    • website
  • Affiliations: EMC, East Carolina University
  • Current Gig: Resident Stage Manager at Temple Theatre
  • Experience: Professional
Re: COMMUNICATION: Unable to communicate with Director
« Reply #4 on: Jul 23, 2016, 11:30 am »
@ BayAreaSM, I had a similarish experience this year with communication. To quote Maribeth, a good Assistant Director is invaluable! In my situation, the only reason we were able to put on the show we did was through the tireless energy and work of the AD. We found a good rhythm of communication and he was able to talk the director into things I don't think I would have been able to. Now, it was an unusual AD situation: he had many, many years of experience and is an established director in his own right, so the power dynamic's different than if he'd been someone new in his career. Still, it made a huge difference.

I understand about coming back to gigs you thought you were through with; I try very hard to never say never, since the future may unfold differently. Best wishes on a more successful festival this year.
"Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration." -- Thomas Edison (Harper's Magazine, 1932)

KMC

  • Forum Moderators
  • *****
  • Posts: 962
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
  • Current Gig: Project Manager, Systems Integration
  • Experience: Former SM
Re: COMMUNICATION: Unable to communicate with Director
« Reply #5 on: Jul 24, 2016, 07:26 am »
"The fish rots from the head down."

This seems like an institutional problem with the culture of this specific company.  This behavior is clearly acceptable within the company as some of the same players are back without much change; until there is new leadership at the top the situation will not improve.

My best suggestion is to adjust your style to be as flexible as possible to fit within the dynamic that exists.  Changing the direction of the train is damned near impossible - best to hop on or you'll get run over!
Get action. Do things; be sane; don’t fritter away your time; create, act, take a place wherever you are and be somebody; get action. -T. Roosevelt

Tags:
 

Related Topics

  Subject / Started by Replies Last post
2 Replies
2985 Views
Last post Apr 10, 2007, 11:26 pm
by Aerial
1 Replies
1354 Views
Last post Aug 21, 2012, 11:45 am
by Rebbe
2 Replies
1635 Views
Last post Mar 22, 2013, 09:39 pm
by MatthewShiner

riotous