Emphasis on participation and trust have been my favorite part about working 37signals this first month. It reminded me of my favorite director’s filmmaking process.
Traditional filmmaking, essentially: write a script, cast actors, go on set and film. British indie director Mike Leigh takes a different approach.
I start with no script. I do a brief of the film for myself, which is usually pretty fluid. Then I work with the actors for an extensive period creating the characters, through conversation, research and improvisation. Then we go out and invent the film on location, and structure it and shoot it as we go. To me, that’s what it’s all about. It’s about using film as a medium in its own right, not as a way of including the decisions of various committees (via MovieMaker).
It pays off. Leigh’s characters shine with curious originality. The sometimes strange dialogue and situations tend to provoke some response no matter how foreign to the viewer. I attribute this to level playing field; encouraging the cast to improvise and create.
An exemplary clip from ‘Naked’, developed almost exclusively by the two actors in a run of improvised sessions who then cull the cruft in together with the director.
This is a great example of how going in unprepared yields fruit, and how encouraging people to participate brings out the best in them.
justinon 18 Oct 08
For those in Minneapolis, the Walker Art Center in has been showing a retrospective of Mike Leigh’s films over the past week or so. There are several still remaining, showing through the 25th of October.
There’s also an interview with Mike Leigh, which talks a great deal about the way his characters are built.
Yes, I work at the Walker, but this seemed particularly relevant.
tom s.on 18 Oct 08
While I love Mike Leigh and agree with a lot of your post, I’m not so sure about the “going in unprepared” bit. I believe Leigh does prepare a lot before filming – it’s just that he is not preparing the usual things.
Joshua Sierleson 18 Oct 08
tom: Indeed, that distinction is commented upon in the other post. I was referring to the actors more than the director.
sndpon 20 Oct 08
Good note. Can this approach be part of software development approach? Each engineer brings along with him some personal skills. Instead of making him follow the normal process, the project process can be realigned according to the personal skills of the members.
Peter Urbanon 20 Oct 08
I was recently involved into a large corporate film project and can attest that sometimes a less structured approach leads to less staged results (and it’s a lot more fun if your client lets you go down that route)
Patricia Garciaon 20 Oct 08
Hmmm, sounds like “Reality” TV, only in movies.
This discussion is closed.