Tim Clague and I get asked a lot about why we’re co-directing “Who Killed Nelson Nutmeg?“. People seem interested (read: dubious) as to how we do it, and how it can possibly work. Co-directing is not a new concept of course, and there are some very high profile co-directors who do just fine (e.g. Coen Bros, the Wachowskis), but for what it’s worth here’s a few thoughts on why me and Tim teamed up, and how we’re making it work.
1. AREAS OF EXPERTISE
Tim has plenty of experience and practical knowledge on the tech side of filmmaking, and he’s also a writer. I’ve got plenty of experience and practical knowledge on the story side, and I’m also a director. We try to combine our different areas of expertise into an effective director combo. Having developed the idea and story together from scratch, we’ve discovered on set we have very similar thoughts on how things should look, feel or perform. If we disagree, we’ll hear the other one out to reach the best decision.
2. NO EGO
We’re co-writing, co-producing and co-directing Nelson Nutmeg. It’s not exactly an equal division of labour, and sometimes Tim will do much more than me on a certain task or aspect of the production. But we’re not bringing any ego to the mix. We’re sharing the credit on everything, and take the hit together when things go wrong, too. More than that, Tim’s been extremely generous, supportive and patient with me (and it was his idea to team up in the first place), especially in those moments where we might disagree and he talks me around to the best option or explains a particular technical quirk of the process.
Early on in our collaboration , I thought to myself: ‘that’s not how I would do it, but let’s see how we do it’, and Tim would pitch a funky angle or approach to something, often with great results. For example, he came up with the character of Swindon, a character I initially thought wouldn’t work but I was the first one to write him into the story. He’s since become one of my favourite characters (and the actor who plays him is awesome!). But when we’re filming, it helps to be flexible as to how or why you should do a scene a certain way, so you get the best collaborative approach rather than a single-minded focus.
4. SENSE OF HUMOUR
If you can’t laugh at yourself, or at each other, then it’s not going to be any fun. Leave your sensitivity and ego at the door!
We’ve got the opportunity of splitting into an A & B camera team, which is a great bonus not just in terms of our micro-budget parameters but knowing that you don’t have to worry or double check the quality or the results of the ‘second unit’. Also, if you have something to say, say it. Don’t just say something because you feel you must match what the other director is doing. If they’ve said something sensible and you’ve nothing to add, keep schtum.
6. DOUBLE RESOURCES
Double the team, double the resources, double the skillset, double the contacts, double the opportunity. Neither of us could make this film by ourselves. It would be a much tougher and less enjoyable task. So, if you know someone who you get on with well enough to embrace the collaborative approach outlined above, then it’s not a question of why would you co-direct but why WOULDN’T you?