When you first decide you’re going to direct or produce a show, and you’ve decided on the pantomime title, your next thought is probably going to be who else you want to work with. Here’s my list of all the roles on a creative team and what their responsibilities are towards the production.
How to put your team together
Every team looks different, and often one or more of these roles are combined depending on your team’s skillset. So although I’m listing them all separately, know that you can mix and match in a fashion that works for you – as long as all the jobs get done!
What are all the roles?
Here’s most of the roles you could possibly think of that make up a production’s creative team:
- Assistant Producer
- Assistant Director
- Resident Director
- Associate Director
- Movement Director
- Intimacy Director
- Fight Director
- Musical Director
- Musical Supervisor
- Set Designer
- Costume Designer
- Hair, Wigs and Make Up Designer
- Lighting Designer
- Sound Designer
- Casting Director
- Special Effects Designer
- Projection/Video Design
You might think most of these titles are self explanatory, but some have surprising job roles and responsibilities. Here’s the low down:
Probably the most important role in any production, the producer is the organisational foothold of the production. They have a creative and organisational imputes into the show, and are often the originator of the idea to put on the show. In professional theatre, the producer is responsible for funding the monetary aspect of the production. In amateur theatre, this aspect is usually handled by the producing society. A producer’s role varies hugely based on what the demands of the production are. It can be best summed up by saying that a producer’s role is to do ‘whatever it takes to make the production the best that it can be’. I saw a tweet recently from producer David Pugh who was running around Cornwall to find cling film to wrap around the set of an outdoor production. It also encompasses overall budget responsibility, engaging other creative team members, liaising with the venue, booking rehearsal and auditions venues, contracts, equipment hire, risk assessments, health and safety, plus anything else the show needs to make it to a stage.
It may seem obvious, but in it’s purest form the writer is responsible for creating the script for the production. For musicals you might also have a composer and/or lyricist on board to create the songs for the production. The writer collaborates with the director and producer to create the script, and then continues to make edits having been given feedback. They may also attend several readings of the script prior to the beginning of rehearsals to ensure the rehearsal draft is the best version of the script it can be moving into rehearsals.
The job of the director is nearly as wide-ranging as the producer, their responsibilities include:
- To run workshops, auditions and to cast the given production
- To create and implement, over the course of rehearsals, a cohesive vision for the production
- To facilitate the cast, creative team and crew coming together to create the production
- To liaise with other creative team members to create and publish a rehearsal schedule
- To efficiently run the tech session
- To note performances and give feedback to cast and crew where needed
In professional theatre, there are also other kinds of director who might be working on a production. They are as follows:
- Assistant Director – Usually considered a training role, the Assistant Director observes the Director’s practice to learn from their techniques. They can also take on small tasks like blocking a scene, working with actors one-to-one, and assisting with inter-departmental communications as needed throughout rehearsals.
- Resident Director – This role ensures that once a show has officially opened, the direction of the piece is retained as originally intended. They also rehearse understudies for a production and are responsible for noting performances once the Director has finished working on the project.
- Associate Director – One step up from a Resident Director, an Associate Director is often a trusted collaborator of the Director who is in charge of the upkeep of the original direction of the piece, the standard of the understudies and replacements in long-running productions. They can undertake casting, rehearsals and remounting or reviving the original production’s direction.
- Movement Director – A specialist director who focuses on movement in a piece where choreography is not required. There is often a lot of crossover between movement and choreography, so the roles of Movement Director and Choreographer are closely linked, but most productions lean more towards one or the other.
- Intimacy Director – A specialist director who focuses on intimate aspects of a production and creating them in a safe and respectful way for all of the actors, creative team and crew. Intimacy directors are commonly used if a production requires nudity or close sexual encounters between actors.
- Fight Director – A specialist director who is responsible for any combat or fighting that happens during a production ensuring that it is safely created and rehearsed. There is often a lot of crossover between the work of a Movement Director and a Fight Director.
A choreographer is responsible for creating and teaching any dance orientated aspects of a production. They often specialise in different styles of choreography, and take influences from the styles of dance that have become established over the years. It is important that the choreographer has a good relationship with the director as their collective vision for the piece, if executed correctly, can create a magical fusion of text and movement. A choreographer will also work with the Musical Director/Supervisor collaborating on dance breaks, instrumental sections, actors vocal restrictions and how the story of the production is told through the music and choreography.
A Musical Director is responsible for creating/sourcing and teaching the vocal parts for singers in a production. They often lead the band at live performances and are usually responsible for sourcing the band players to take part in the production. The expertise and styles of Musical Directors can vary hugely between different styles of production. For example, for a big musical like 42nd Street you will require a different skillset to a touring physical theatre piece, or an actor musician-led piece.
This is a role predominantly used in pantomime and musical theatre. The Musical Supervisor orchestrates the songs in a production to fit a particular style and works with the musical director to implement that style during the rehearsal process. They are the overall creative team member responsible for the way the music is played during the production. They liaise with the sound department to ensure the mix of the instruments is recreated as intended through the speakers.
The set designer works with the director to create the scenic design for the production. They create an initial design based on conversations and mood boards of materials, themes and settings. They then create a to-scale model-box of the finished set design and talk the wider creative team through how it works from scene to scene before sending it off to the set builders for manufacture. They do lots of work with the costume designer and lighting designer ensuring that the design is practically workable and works with the overall design of the show.
The costume designer works in a similar way to the set designer (indeed, they are often the same person!) by creating initial design drafts in collaboration with the director. They then create the costumes with a team of ‘makers’ and fit them to the cast. Often the cast are involved heavily in the fitting and design of costumes in order to ensure they are practical to move in and the cast feel comfortable and secure in what they’re wearing on stage.
Hair, Wigs and Make Up Designer
When designing the hair, wigs and make up, the designer works closely with the cast, often teaching them how to apply the design themselves. They also work closely with the costume designer with the two designs being very closely interlinked. Wigs are handmade, sometimes by external contractors, and fitted bespoke to cast members. In lots of professional production most women and sometimes all cast members wear wigs on stage as the styling is easier to upkeep amongst the sweat and movement that dancing creates. Wigs are very expensive and require upkeep by members of the wigs and make up team backstage after every show. The initial design is presented as a sketch for both wigs and make up to be approved in collaboration with the director.
The lighting designer decides which lights are used on a production, and how they are used to create the lighting design within the given budget. They work closely with the other designers and the technical team as well as the rest of the creative team to create the design. During the technical rehearsals they sit with the lighting programmer to programme the show into the venue’s lighting board. They are also considered a consultant on how their design is reproduced from venue to venue if the show tours. A key part of the lighting designer’s job is to focus on different characters and sections of the stage to help tell the story of the production, as well as help convey the atmosphere and some special effects in the production.
The sound designer has one of those jobs which, when done really well, goes completely unnoticed by the audience. It is their job to source and programme all of the sound effects (SFX) for the production, any background atmospheric noises, the output of the band and the amplification of the cast’s voices if needed. The sound design of a piece is often key in scene changes and helping the audience to feel ‘part’ of a scene by bringing them into the scene with atmospheric sounds conveying setting and helping to demonstrate things like weather.
In professional productions, the casting director assists the creative team in casting a production. The casting director’s job involves advertising and fielding applications for roles in the cast of the production. In particular casting directors can be useful in higher level productions to secure ‘star’ castings. They can also add valuable expertise about reliable actors, agencies and negotiating pay.
Special Effects Designer
Very common in pantomimes, a special effects designer might contribute a specific element, or a series of special effects towards a production. Special effects can range from the traditional pyros when actors enter the stage, to the more spectacular flying carpet in Aladdin or the Giant in Jack and the Beanstalk.
The design of the projection and video is often the key part of the overall design of a piece. This is probably the area of design which is most changing in modern theatre with new and innovative ways to incorporate video and projection into a design being developed every year. This design has a specific technical aspect as it needs to be both designed and implemented and so the designer works closely with the technical team at the venue to create the design.
I hope this blog has given you an insight into the various roles that can take part in creating a production. To find out more about the roles you can get in touch with me direct.