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.