Writers & Directors
With 87% of people working in film and TV experiencing poor mental health, it is important that everyone across the industry comes together to create positive cultural change to our working environments. In support of this, unions, guilds and professional associations must play their part in improving practice and setting standards that encourage healthier workplaces.
The Writers’ Guild of Great Britain (WGGB) and Directors UK are actively working together to promote professional excellence and share a passionate commitment to combatting bullying and harassment in the creative industries.
To that end, we have created new joint guidelines, Creating Positive Collaborations: Writers & Directors, to support best practice in collaboration between the two.
The traditional role of writer and director is changing. Historically in TV, writers have tended to have a high creative influence – and we are seeing this more in the rise of the showrunner. In film, the director tends to have greater creative control as funding and future sales is often linked to their creative vision. With the convergence of high-end TV and film on VOD platforms, writers and directors who have traditionally worked in separate spheres are often now brought together to create premium content; but mixing creatives that have different expectations about their level of creative control can create conflict.
Both want to make the best work they can, and both have expertise from which the production can benefit, but how do they most effectively work together?
The best-practice guidelines have arisen from reports from both organisations’ members that writers and directors are being kept apart by colleagues who are keen to avoid artistic confrontation, yet this separation can lead to miscommunication, a loss of trust and a stifling of the artistic process. This is particularly acute in the transitional period where script development gives way to production.
Writers Emma Reeves (WGGB TV Chair) and Tom Williams (WGGB Film Chair) and director Bill Anderson (former Directors UK Vice-Chair) were involved in crafting the guidelines.
- To give writers and directors a set of tools that help them create positive and rewarding creative relationships, where both contributions are acknowledged and respected and can combine to elevate the work to make it the best it can be.
- Having a positive relationship with creative collaborators reduces stress and strain and supports healthy and professional working environments, that fosters good mental health and supports positive cultural change.
This project is a direct collaboration with our colleagues at The Writers’ Guild of Great Britain. We put professional writers and directors into a room to identify what a positive relationship looks like. The result of these exchanges is Creating Positive Collaborations: Writers & Directors. Both Directors UK and WGGB endorse this as professional practice.
Benefits of This Work
- The Film & TV Charity’s ‘The Looking Glass’ study on film and TV mental health indicated that 86% of sector workers have experienced a mental health issue during their career. The process of creative collaboration can be the cause of poor mental health. Putting two highly skilled creatives in a room to tell a story can create a struggle for dominance that can lead to stress, mental health challenges and even bullying.
- Our members are professional directors, working on a daily basis with writer colleagues and so opportunities for conflict are apparent.
- As a creative lead on a production, it is up to directors to set the tone for professional working.
- Creative people often have strong personalities and no one is taught at film school how to participate in creative give and take; usually someone is simply dominant in the room, or more powerful and the decision is made - that doesn’t always create a healthy environment or the best outcome for the work. As part of our ongoing acknowledgement that directors have a role to play in combatting bullying in our workplaces, this guidance is our commitment to lead positively by example.
- Having a set of guidance will also help us arbitrate conflicts between writers and directors with our WGGB colleagues.
- Conflict can hold up productions, lead to firings and replacements and that creates stress for everyone, this action aims to have a positive knock on effect for the wider senior production team.
- The guidance gives the producer in charge a model of what a good working relationship looks like. This gives them the opportunity to recognise and intervene in unhealthy situations in the productions they lead.
Success can be measured by seeing:
- Restored creative relationships
- A decrease in need for formal Guild to Guild arbitration needed between directors and writers