Updated: Jul 2, 2019
Modern society as a young person is a very contradictory place. On one hand, we are being told that we must decide at a very young age what we would like to do and plan our lives accordingly, and on the other hand we are being told that the jobs we will most likely acquire don't even exist yet, so there's not a great amount to worry about now.
A few years ago I decided that I would like to work towards a career in film directing. And when you make that kind of decision, it's helpful to know if it's the right one. Recently I've made a lot of big educational choices and had them all riding on this. And then came the brick wall - work experience.
As an under 18 it was very difficult for me to find any work experience in the industry. And it was getting to a point where I desperately wanted to become a director...but I didn't know if I could actually direct. Because so far I'd had no luck in finding somewhere that would let me try.
Then I saw an Instagram post from Sterts Theatre at the beginning of this year advertising for directors. Sterts is a place I have been coming to every summer for a long time to watch shows, and where I had ballet lessons when I was very small. I never considered volunteering here until I came to see last year's production of Little Shop Of Horrors, when I realised that just because I wasn't overly keen on being on stage, that didn't mean I couldn't do something behind it.
So I sent off an email explaining that I didn't think I was quite ready to direct anything fully, but I'd like to shadow someone that was. Consequently I came to a meeting and then began corresponding with Hatty - the director of this year's studio show The Woman Who Cooked Her Husband. The title itself made me very interested to learn more about the story and it was even more comforting to discover that there was only a cast of three, because to begin with I felt quite nervous and a bit awkward about getting stuck into directing (aka telling people what to do) even though this is what I really wanted, because I almost felt like I couldn't. For a little while I didn't feel that I deserved the title of 'assistant director' because I saw it as quite a big deal that I wasn't at the level of yet, however over the few months I spent attending weekly rehearsals I felt increasingly more comfortable in this role and have since realised that this is (hopefully) the right career path for me.
Hatty encouraged me to help out and have a hand in making important changes every single week. She assured from the beginning that directing for stage has a lot of differences to directing for film, but I was grateful to just have an experience of how to approach the techniques and learn how to work with others in a more professional environment than I was used to. I got on really well with Hatty and the rest of the cast which I learned was imperative to building a successful show.
Hatty would ask me relevant questions and allow me to give my opinion when she was going over notes, which aided me in knowing the significant things to focus on when guiding a cast to full potential. It was really motivating to get such a say in what was going on.
When we got closer to opening night there was a lot to be done and so Hatty would occasionally leave me to run lines with the cast whilst she prepared other things. I found this really beneficial, as by that point I knew the play fairly well along with what we were aiming to achieve by performing it, as I had had a large role in prompting during rehearsals.
As well as advising and corresponding, there were other jobs involved too. There were minimal props in the play, which a lot of the audience picked up on as being unique, however there was a door and a table and chairs set which I had lots of fun painting (and getting everywhere - sorry!).
Many MANY biscuits and cups of tea later, opening night arrived. There was very much a different tone than there had been in rehearsals. Everyone was a bit more quiet and you could feel the nerves brewing. Sitting down to watch I felt it too. It was very weird watching something that we had spent so long preparing come to life in front of people that didn't know what was coming. Working on this production and seeing the end product made me really aware of the clear contrast between stage and screen that Hatty had told me about at the very beginning. I learnt that stage productions are a lot more precious than films in the sense that they are only performed a handful of times before they disappear again. Seeing and hearing the real time reactions of the audience was another really lovely element as it helped to illuminate something that had previously been just between the five of us into something that a lot of people were enjoying. But there was also an extra worry considering there would be no second take if anything did go wrong. Thankfully, it went smoothly and everyone that attended seemed to enjoy themselves (we even got a positive TripAdvisor review about it, and I thought TripAdvisor was just used to warn you away from somewhere!)
Overall I had a really great time assistant directing this show, it was a great volunteering opportunity and really helped me build my confidence by working around people who weren't my own age. Because of the lack of props and small cast I felt like there was a lot of open creativity regarding the show and this was something I really enjoyed about it. I'm glad my first time working in theatre was with this cast and crew because they were really accommodating to the fact that I didn't really know what I was doing some of the time and were willing to teach me! I will definitely be back to help next summer (if they'll let me!).
Holly is 17 and currently studying Sociology, Media, English Language and Photography A Levels at Callywith College. In her spare time she is program secretary of Pelynt Young Farmers and a member of the NCS Regional Youth Board.