If you want someone to buy into your dream, you have to have a sales pitch. As I set out to meet the knight-in-shining-armour for a cup of coffee, I mentally rehearsed mine. I already knew that he might be interested in supporting me, but we hadn’t discussed details. Now I was ready to talk.
I love directing. I don’t mean that I like it, or I’m interested in it, or it appeals to me. I mean I love it. I fell into it rather by mistake, to be honest. Several years ago, in a burst of wildly ambitious over-enthusiasm, I auditioned for the part of a fair Shakespearean heroine. I didn’t get it. Pouting, I called the director. “Was it because she’s blonde?” I asked. Fortunately for me, the director ignored this little fit of pettishness. “Come and assist me, why don’t you?” he said.
Acting is a terrific thing to do, and I take my hat off to those who do it well. It requires huge dedication to the craft, a great deal of intelligence, even more courage, and a level of emotional honesty and accessibility that is extremely difficult to develop. At the risk of sounding unduly obsequious, it can be a huge privilege as a director to simply watch good actors hone their performances. If I were better at it myself, perhaps I wouldn’t be here now, writing this.
But, as I discovered the first time I sat in an empty theatre, notebook in hand, prepared to be utterly merciless towards the hapless blonde, directing is the thing that gets my heart racing. Directing is the thing that I get fired up about and want to bore the socks off everyone I meet. Directing is the thing that has propelled me on a never-ending journey of discovery. I love the ways in which it challenges me, the way I have to use my eyes, ears, mind and heart, all the time. I love the way it demands that I be completely in the moment, with every ounce of my concentration, if I am to be any good. I love everything about it.
Well, OK, sometimes there are things that can be frustrating. Problems of staging that can’t be easily solved. Actors who arrive late, or with an attitude. Mistakes that I make because I haven’t done enough homework or thought something through properly or considered it from every possible angle.
Still, when it comes to making a convincing pitch, there’s nothing like selling a dream. So I took a deep breath, downed a double cappuccino (I was paying), and pitched with all my might. I talked about the play, the playwright, the production, the place, the people I want to find, and why this project matters to me more than anything I’ve ever undertaken before, and I told it all from the heart.
And when I had finished, the knight simply looked at me over the coffee cup and uttered the magic words, “How much do you need?”
I know, that isn’t what they normally say in fairy tales. But it sure sounded like one to me.