The art of creative collaboration is a heady mix of diplomacy, inspiration, tension and co-operation. We spoke to Ed Collier and Paul Warwick of theatre partnership China Plate for our IdeasTap guide to successful collaboration…
Work with people you admire
Mutual respect is a pretty good way to start any relationship (just ask Charlie Sheen) especially when you’re hoping to create something together. As Ed Collier, of 15 year theatre partnership China Plate explains, “It’s very important to like each other’s ideas.” The illustrator and lecturer Anna Bhushan, who has both initiated her own collaborative art projects and taught collaborative projects to students, agrees: “It’s important that you like each others work but what’s more important is that you have a similar work ethic and level of commitment for the project.”
“Getting work done in a group isn’t like having a chat,” says Anna Bhushan. “It needs structure and a degree of formality. Hold regular meetings. Make sure everybody knows when and where the next meeting will take place and set an agenda for what you want to achieve in that meeting.”
Paul Warwick also emphasises the importance of face-to-face meetings: “We Skype, phone each other, tweet, blog and email all over the place, but there is no replacement for sitting down together in an office and getting things done.”
Don’t be afraid to disagree
Gary and Robbie hated each other, Blair and Brown drew briefcases at dawn and Werner Herzog threatened Klaus Kinski at gunpoint. And yet, when it came to getting the job done, a little bit of loathing made these partners sizzle.
“Collaboration needs to shift people out of their comfort zone,” explains Paul. “People tend to seek out collaborators who are very similar to themselves. Which is fine, but what we find really interesting is putting together partnerships where you create a little bit of extra energy. It can be great when things don’t quite add up in the way people expected.”
“It’s a double-edged sword,” continues Ed. “Because you want to maintain what you feel are your strengths, but compromise occasionally. With all creative relationships there’s a bit of give and take. But I think when you know someone really well you know you learn to trust them.”
Keep working as an individual
It may seem counter-intuitive, but often the secret to a happy collaboration is to keep doing your own work. “We need to be able to preserve time to do our own things,” argues Ed. “It’s great to have the freedom to go off and direct a show,” continues Paul. “We probably talk on the phone every day and I know that when I’m away I can totally trust Ed to look after things. Programming for Warwick Arts Centre, directing and producing of our own work, being a photographer, running development projects; it’s all actually part of the same thing. You’re always building relationships.”
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To find out more about China Plate and their season as Associate Producers at Warwick Arts Centre visit their website.