A frazzled producer recently asked for advice dealing with his director. Their relationship was strained. The director was starting to question this producer’s calls in the booth, and at times making calls instead of checking with the producer to see if they were on the same page. This is not uncommon. Directors are in charge of making sure the show looks clean and at times will make quick decisions while live. Your director “taking over and calling the shots” is not all bad, if you have established protocols you both agree on for certain situations. (See Right hand/left for more on how the two of you can compliment each other, by showing mutual respect.) If the director is taking over to the point where you are unable to make key decisions that could impact content making air and/or it’s affecting you timing your show, then you have a problem.
The key is to nip that kind of issue in the bud right away by sitting down and talking about it. I would usually ask the director when we could meet and discuss how the newscast is going in general terms. I wanted the chance to talk before a show aired, not right after when tensions are high. You need to be clear headed so you can both listen and figure out what needs to be done. Also, go into this type of meeting knowing the director will have criticisms and hopefully suggestions to help things run more smoothly. Keep an open mind and really listen. Relationships require some compromise. You need to be aware that directors have a lot of pressure on them as well and share your desire for a clean show. The way you two define “clean” and make decisions can vary. You need to explain where you are coming from in a non-argumentative way.
Another crucial thing to set up is a nightly discrep. meeting with your director. This used to be required in most newsrooms, but with cuts in OT pay and longer working hours, many shifts now blow off these meetings. This is a big mistake! Ideally you want the entire staff to weigh in on these meetings. If you cannot because of OT issues etc., then meet with just your director. But make sure you meet. You need the daily dialog, face-to-face, to actually talk about what went right and wrong in the newscast. And, by the way, email does not cut it. You need to look each other in the eye and talk. This helps you learn how the other person thinks so you can find common ground and set up protocols. I cannot emphasize enough how crucial it really is to have a daily meeting. Find a way, period. Make sure the meetings are short and sweet. Suggest you each come to the meeting with one thing you liked and one you didn’t. If there was an issue during the newscast, talk solutions for the next time it comes up. You can do all of this in 10 to 15 minutes. You really can. That is a small sacrifice of time to really create a solid working relationship. Tell your director that. Most will not only agree, but be happy to meet.
Finally, make sure even when you are really ticked about a call the director made you remain respectful. Your director is a professional and likely extremely passionate about his/her job too. Openly respect that level of dedication. It will only help you both grow and your newscast get better.