“Film Is A Dream – But Whose?”

“Film Is A Dream – But Whose?”

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Two fascinating books which I have been reading, and which have been helping me define new approaches to the kind of films I want to make are – P. Schrader’s (the screenwriter of ‘Taxi Driver’ 1976) “Transcendental Style” (1972) and B. Kawin’s “Mindscreen” (1978). Both books inhabit similar areas of film theory, namely the place where subjectivity and objectivity are blurred – where film  moves from being a third person, objective ‘viewer of events’ – to being something much more opaque and ambiguous; existing somewhere between these inner and outer worlds.

Both writers build their theories around their ‘close reading’ of the work of famous directors, with Kawin focusing on the work of Bergman & Godard – and Schrader on Japanese filmmaker Ozu, as well as Bresson and Dreyer.

Besides being extremely interesting books (which I fully intend to discuss in later blogs) what really interests about their shared notion of ‘first-person’ film (something similar to the human mind),  has been how these  concepts have helped me gain a better understanding of one of my own films called “Naked Flame”, which  I posted in my 2nd blog entry back in October 2015.

As I describe in my earlier blog (see here), ‘Naked Flame’ was a piece of work of which I was particularly proud, but which had become something of an enigma. I say this, as after making the film I could never fully understand how I had created it, or even what it was about the film that was so interesting to me. After reading the aforementioned books, however, especially  Kawin’s (1976) analysis of Bergman’s “Persona”  (P. 103-172), I now see that “Naked Flame” creates a ‘dream-space’ something akin to the one in Bergman’s “Persona”. This dream-like, poetically-structured style of film  being nicely summarised by Kawin in a quote taken from the introduction to  “Mindscreen” (1978) (p-3)  in which he says,  “Film is a dream – but whose?”.

I won’t attempt a full analysis of the books here (will be writing more about them later) and instead am going to sit “Naked Flame” and Bergman’s “Persona” alongside each other in the hope that by cross referring between the two I can gain a clearer understanding of cinema as ‘dream-space’, or,  as Kawin describes it – “Mindscreen”.


Schrader, P. (1972). Transcendental Style in Film: Ozu, Bresson, Dreyer. Da Capo Press.

Kawin, B. F. (1978). Mindscreen: Bergman, Godard, and first-person film. Princeton Paperback.

Deeper Themes…

Deeper Themes…

Have been doing some major rethinking regarding the kind of film I want to make, largely due to the restrictions I felt were imposing themselves as I sat down to  consider narrative structures for my improvised film ideas.

What I think  has occurred to me, over the last week or so, is how my current obsession with capturing realistic performances may be creating a filmic framework that could deny me access to a more poetic cinematic language that I have always admired in filmmakers such as Federico Fellini, Pasolini, Bergman. So, while I still want to retain the realist devices used by Mike Leigh, Shane Meadows, Skandar Copti, Andrea Arnold et al, I am now beginning to  see that a narrow neorealist approach to filmmaking may not be the best vehicle for me to explore my themes and interests.

Which are what? What are the themes that interest me? 

Well, at the risk of sounding deeply unfashionable (and opening myself up to flak from neo-atheists)  one of the main themes I would like to explore is that of spirituality. Not from an external sense, though, of holy books, dogma and rituals, but spirituality as seen from a more William Blake, Carl Jung ‘depth psychology sort of standpoint’ –  of the contrary states of deep inner isolation of the ego and of the bliss of connectivity.

The idea of satori or enlightenment also interests me and how these notions of connectivity, which were once valued by society,  are now in our outward-looking materialistic age, without value. How it is that someone with a ‘healthy soul’ can be seen as being without value in our world, while someone who is experiencing the most disconnected inner angst  –  but who has all the necessary external signifiers of wealth – can be seen to be successful.

I am also interested in the idea of exploring a feeling of disconnectedness that has bothered me my whole life. The idea that I am out of step with a deep level of being and (taking the notion further) how as a species we all seem to be prone to the same metaphysical sickness that isolates each of us from everyone and everything around us.

It is these subjective worlds and the dissonance between them and the everyday world we all share, that interests me. Not in isolation, though, but along with these other notions of realism I have been discussing in my earlier blogs. My problem, though, is how to access both these different aspects  of cinematic language – prose and poetry – without limiting myself to an ‘either/or’ position.

With these kind of questions in mind I have been reading a few, loosely connected articles which I will share with you as means of exploring some of these new thoughts as they occur to me.

The first quote I use is taken from a paper written by Tarkovsky called “Sculpting in time: reflections on the cinema.”(1989)  in which he establishes the idea of a species of filmmaker/poets who transcends the objectivity of a filmed world by the power of their vision, stating that – “there are two basic categories of film directors. One consists of those who seek to imitate the world in which they live, the other of those who seek to create their own world. The second category contains the poets of cinema, Bresson, Dovzenko, Mizoguchi, Bergman, Buñuel and Kurosawa, the cinema’s most important names.”

A comment made by Federico Fellini in the book  “I, Fellini.” (2001) also reiterates this idea as he talks about a type of film existing across the three levels of being  – “on which our minds live: the past, the present, and the conditional – the realm of fantasy”

Again reiterating a similar concern, the french filmmaker E.Rohmer (1989) talks about how he wanted his sextet of films – called  “Six Moral Tales”, to “portray in film what seemed most alien to the medium – to express feelings buried deep in our consciousness.”

Reflections on my own film process… and how to explore deeper “inner” themes. 

I am beginning to see that a simple realistic approach to film  will not be sufficient for me to explore the spiritual themes I have mentioned above and with this in mind will be dedicating my next few blogs to understanding how the filmmakers I admire – such as, Fellini or Pasolini have done exaclty that.


Tarkovsky, A., & Hunter-Blair, K. (1989). Sculpting in time: reflections on the cinema. University of Texas Press.

Fellini, F., & Chandler, C. (2001). I, Fellini. Cooper Square Press.

Rohmer, E. (1989). The taste for beauty. Cambridge University Press.

Tied Up In Realist Conventions…

Tied Up In Realist Conventions…
After reflecting on my recent narrative ideas (which I spoke about in my last blog) I have started to have a few doubts about my current neorealist film trajectory. It’s hard to say at the moment exactly why that is  but something about the unremitting realism of such a mode of filmmaking  suddenly seems as limiting as the mainstream filmmaking formula I have been critiquing.  With this is in mind I wanted to dedicate this blog to my recent thoughts  on realism vs. formalism…
To begin that debate here is a very appropriate quote from avant-garde filmmaker Maya Deren (1960)
“If cinema is to take its place beside the others as a full-fledged art form…  It must relinquish the narrative disciplines it has borrowed from literature and its timid imitation of the casual logic of narrative plots, a form which flowered as a celebration of the earthbound, step-by-step concept of time, space and relationship which was part of the primitive materialism of the nineteenth century. Instead, it must develop the vocabulary of the filmic images and evolve the syntax of filmic techniques which relate those… It must determine the disciplines inherent in the medium”
What Derren seems to be suggesting here is that cinema can never assume it’s full status as a distinct artform – with its own specific qualities and aptitudes – while it remains a prisoner to literary conventions; especially those of causal narrative structures. Her thoughts resonating with the ideas of B. Brecht which I posted in my earlier blog (see here) and his attempts to free theatre from the bourgeois influence of the 19th century novel.
What is film? 
For when I think about film in its barest and most essential form, stripped of all these narrative conventions, it could be argued that it amounts to not much more than moving images and sound. It could also be said that, in its purest state, there need be no coherence or sequential relationship between any of these images or sounds. Obviously, a film of random sounds and images would be impossible to watch but it is worth conducting this thought experiment as a way of catching a glimpse of all the narrative conventions and expectations that we may be unconsciously projecting onto this medium.
To test my theory I made a short film that has absolutely no narrative and consists of an almost random sequence of images and sounds which, apart from being synchronised together, have no connections.
“Apropos Of Nothing”  

 (I intend to keep making such short films as I find it to be liberating…)

Watching it is quite telling as it seems to highlight some of the demands we expect films to meet; demands for meaning and narrative; for logical sequencing; for sounds and images to have synchronous connection; for  our thinking done for us and for there to be no room for ambiguity.

A film I saw recently which does manage to rethink some of these conventions is  “La Jetee” (Marker, C – 1962).  The film contains no moving images and is instead made up of a series of still black and white images over which can be heard music and a voice-over; this formalist device, allowing Marker’s narrative to have a degree of opacity and obliqueness that is very rarely seen in cinema .

With regard to my own filmmaking practice I can see now that as well as rethinking my approaches to improvisation and acting, that I should also be using my time to question one of the unquestioned assumptions most film makers and audiences continue to hold on to –   which is the tendency to see film as a ‘transparent’ medium.

Transparency in Art… 

What do I mean by transparent?

Well, by way of example (this helps me think) if I compare the  following painting… by Courbet (1854) entitled “ Bonjour, Monsieur Courbet, 1854.”

And ask myself a few questions… Such as –

What is Courbet’s intention…?

Does he want me to see the painting? or does he instead want me to see the subject matter of the painting?  – three guys and a dog meeting on a pathway somewhere…

Surely, its the latter, he doesn’t want me to think about the painting at all… The painting, to Courbet is a window we look through into another world. It is NOT to be seen as thing in itself and AS SUCH it is transparent…

So, what’s wrong with that? It’s a nice painting…

Well, if we go back to filmmaking for a second, the efforts to maintain the illusion of reality seriously restricts the possibilities the medium offers us. For, if film needs to be transparent then nothing can, or should,  break this illusion. No ambiguities between image and sound – or  image and image – no jarring editing conventions – no sense of abstraction that breaks the spell of the illusion we are under – no ambiguity that might alienate the audience. In short, it must give up a whole range of its own unique artistic characteristics and abilities in order to maintain this illusion of transparency – never hoping, as Maya Deren urges, to  ‘determine the disciplines inherent” within itself.

Realism vs. Formalism in filmmaking…

This tendency towards a transparent medium that objectively records and documents reality is especially apparent in some of the neorealist films I have been praising in my recent blogs – such as the films of Mike Leigh, Ken Loach, Andrea Arnold etc. Films in which transparency and the illusion of reality are paramount,  where the camera is used to give the impression that the viewer is witnessing the events of life as they are lived – often in real settings,  with minimal lighting or manipulation.


  1. 1:  the practice or the doctrine of strict adherence to prescribed or external forms (as in religion or art); also:  an instance of this

  2. 2:  marked attention to arrangement, style, or artistic means (as in art or literature) usually with corresponding de-emphasis of content

In contrast to realism’s favouritism of content, a formalistic film would not try to hide the fact that the viewer is watching a film. For In such a formalist film – the language, the mise en scene, the editing, the jump cuts, the sets,  the plot and the character would not pretend to be real (or transparent) but instead would draw attention to their own artificiality.

A prime exponent of this formalist style being filmmakers such as Jean-Luc Godard and Ingmar Bergman, both of whom never fall into the trap of aiming for the illusion of transparency, by so doing giving themselves all manner of artistic freedoms not available to anyone enslaved to realism.

I won’t go into what these possibilities are now but do intend to explore the work of filmmakers such as – Godard, Pasolini and Bergman, and how they extend the language of cinema beyond a mere adherence to realism, in my later blogs.

Will conclude by showing some favourite moments from Godard’s formalistic filmmaking –

(if you want to see more – see here)


Deren, M. (1960). Cinematography: The creative use of reality. Daedalus89(1), 150-167

Marker, C. (1962).  La Jetée.

A Bout De Souffle =. Dir. Jean Godard. Fox Lorber Films :, 1960. Film


Bande à Part. Dir. Jean Godard. Anouchka Films Orsay Films, 1964. Film.

Pierrot Le Fou. Dir. Ge Beytout. Société Nouvelle De Cinématographie, 1965. Film.

Ideas On My Film Narrative So Far…

Ideas On My Film Narrative So Far…

Ok, as well as theorising I have been working on a narrative which I will I share in this blog. I am not fixed on the idea as it stands, yet,  for a number of reasons ( it may be too long – it may be too contrived) but iI think it will help me to get it off my chest and commit it to paper (ok, not paper but similar) so that’s what i will do.

My Story – for now…

My story involves 3 characters, Paul Welles, a name-dropping, insomniac language coach in his 50′s,  Toby Flowers, an excitable, successful  actor in his early twenties and Peter X (? no idea for name),  a 40 year old spiritual bum. The story takes place at Paul Welles’ house in North London where the owner is extremely pleased to have been chosen to give accent coaching lessons to the very successful, Toby F,  who is in the UK to take part in an edgy West End Play in which he plays a part of a Londoner with a cockney accent. Toby is not so sure about working with Paul, though, and is concerned that the ‘arty’ play he is has been cast in  should be a great success and that his London accent and characterisation is absolutely authentic and not fake. Peter, an itinerant wanderer,  who, (depending on your point of view)  is either, suffering from a mental illness – or – has achieved a state of satori – or enlightenment  – is sleeping rough, unbeknown to the Paul, in the shed at the bottom of Paul’s garden.

I’m not really sure about how the story starts so what would be most useful would be for me to create a step outline of the events in the story to see how they work. I can always tweak and rearrange them afterwards. 

Story Outline – Working Title: “Shapes In The Fog”

Peter is sleeping in a shed.

Paul cannot sleep and we show that he is someone suffering from some kind of soul sickness – inner malady.

Not sure how to communicate this (options – symbolism – we see a shrouded character – voice over etc. music) 

Paul goes to put his cat out.

Peter is woken by the cat coming in through  the shed door. Peter lets the cat in and feeds it chocolate.

He sees a light from Paul’s study come on.

Montage/jump cuts – Paul is reading the script of the play ‘Sea Of Fog’ – he is making notes on a dictaphone. Quite critical reviews. He speaks in a cockney accent. He listens to recordings and video footage of Toby he made the day before. Toby being crazy and madcap.  He is aware of the time. He talks to a friend about how good it is to be working with Toby and all they did so far.

Toby arrives hung over.

Toby and Paul talk about their progress.  Toby is concerned for the play to be deeply authentic. The play is an enigma  (could be fun to hint at a story that we never see – think – Clockwork Orange)

Small talk. Toby reads from the play. His cockney accent is bad.

Paul offers more physiological suggestions – dropping the tongue – palette etc.

Peter is in the shed – he is just staring at something –  the shapes made by the trees and the light.

Toby is concerned about Paul’s method – he wants a real person to learn from not just to get the sound right. Paul reassures him and tells him all the people he has worked with. Toby tells him he doesn’t want to sound like Dick Van Dyke. Paul is hurt he watches Toby in the garden. Doing mad stuff and shouting in a cockney accent. Paul feels worthless and a sham.

Peter looks though his bag for food. Nothing. He has a hand full of change. He goes out through a hole in the fence.

Toby, who is practicing his lines in the garden sees Peter leave the shed and go through the fence. He looks in the shed and sees Peter’s sleeping things. He goes back into the house and we see him saying something to Paul.

Peter returns to the shed to eat his fruit and bits. The door opens it is Paul and Toby.

Paul grills Peter about what he is doing in the shed. Peter answers in a cockney accent. Paul starts to call the police when Toby stops him. He takes Paul to one side. Toby is happy – Peter has exactly the voice that Toby is after. He asks Paul to record Peter.

Jump cut to Peter being invited in. Paul looks pissed off but keeps up the sham. Toby gets Peter to speak about anything. Can you say this – he gives him a line from the play.

Toby tells Peter to ‘just talk’ – tell me about your best dream. Peter talks about something spiritual.

Toby is impressed. He speaks to Paul – let him stay here tonight. Toby is making progress. I will pay you more.

Paul listens to Toby talking – he hates him.
Peter stays over…

Observations and reflections on the above. 

This is all I have so far but reading through these notes and ideas I am starting to see that this narrative is way too long for a short film that ought to be about between 10 to 20 minutes long. I am also very aware of how I am allowing myself to be pulled into the ‘script first’ approach of mainstream movie making and how i am NOT letting myself enjoy the riskiness of the alternative approaches of Copti, Leigh etc.

Anyway, this was worth archiving and doing so helps me see how important it is that i remain conscious of the film process.

Notes From Yesterday’s Acting Workshop

Notes From Yesterday’s Acting Workshop

The notes I  based yesterday’s acting workshop session on! 


Rules – no clapping – don’t try and entertain – will be recording so no noises – full attention 

1. Couple Talking 

2 people talk about what they did today

tell both actors the guy always hogs the conversation and that you have to assert yourself

This session was OK – and could be run again with different people… 

2. The Visitor (her and him) 

Tell her – he loves you but has been hurt so often doesn’t know how to let you in

Tell him – get rid of her

This didn’t really work and needs to go somewhere… 

3. Group Meeting 

Tell  – A and B always agree with C –

Tell C – you want to get out of this meeting – just say anything no one… nonsense… say what you like

D – be diplomatic – you are running the meeting but don’t accept any old nonsense

If this meeting was about something it might go somewhere – could be good to use with gangsters… or something genre based – what else? Have a think about it 

4. The Lodger 

tell her – he might kill himself stay with him at all costs – be nice but stay with him

tell him – she might be a psycho – try to get her out of the house – think of reason – but be gentle

Could be better if you pushed the dramatic intensity -but how? 

Father, and 2 sons… 

Tell father – A not successful encourage him – but of liar

B – is successful you don’t worry about him

Tell A – boost your father with your successes

Don’t let B bring him down

Tell B – you want a bit of attention from your father your brother hogs him

This really worked – was magical – but how to run it again with the same actors? This is a problem with the method – no room for refinements without following Mike Leigh’s methodology which somehow seems counter productive. Things to think about! 

Results Of First Improvisation Workshop

Results Of First Improvisation Workshop

So, today I held my first acting workshop based upon the techniques and methods I mentioned in yesterday’s blog. I Invited 5 friends to the first session, 2 of whom had previous acting experience and 3 with none. The session was a great success and, as well as being a great way to try out ideas on how to run an improvisation, it was also lots of fun, and genuinely surprising for all involved.

The method…

At first I was a bit unsure about the acting method i wanted to try and was torn between choosing a Mike Leigh approach, where I would work with my actors individually on back story and characterisation, or Scandal Copti and Ulrich Seidl’s method where actors are given discreet instructions and scenes are allowed to play out spontaneously. I decided for the latter and am pleased I did as it gave my non-actors a great boost to know they could ‘act’ before involving them in  rigorous development sessions and also helped them to trust me and my hands off approach.

What was fascinating about the session was how philosophically rich the experience of giving my actors discreetly different world views was, (which will be apparent if i reflect upon a couple of the sessions.)  For example,  In the scene below, which i have titled the “Two of Us” – I first spoke to my characters as a unit telling them the objective details that they would all know – such as: John – was the father in his 60′s – Caroline was the older daughter and Sarah was the younger daughter and that both sisters  were visiting their father over the weekend at his house. After this I took my characters into a separate room where I gave them very simple accounts of how they FELT about the other characters. This is what I told them…

JOHN (the father) – You want to give your attention to SARAH because she is fragile and needs your support. CAROLINE is much stronger but can be a bit too dominating.

SARAH (blonde daughter) – You want to tell give your father JOHN, who is a bit depressed,  a big boost by telling him all the good things that are happening in your life and to be cautious of Caroline who is a trouble maker.

CAROLINE – You want to spend time with your father but your Sister always steals his time – maybe tonight is the night to tell them how you feel.

It took a few false starts to try and stop my actors from feeling the need to ‘act’ and to relax and wait for the scene to evolve naturally. After a few moments, though, this is exactly what happened as John and Sarah established a natural bond with Caroline being naturally excluded.

The scene i have attached is a few moments after John and Sarah have been talking together as Caroline picks up a magazine in protest.

“The Two Of Us”

What was interesting in this scene is the way in which all the characters have the feeling that they are justified in how they interact with the other characters. No one is playing a ‘bad’ character – everyone has  a completely warped sense of reality that they are trying to impose upon the others. In fact, thinking about the scene, what is really interesting is, that rather than there being 3 distinct characters in the scene, there are in fact many more. (I am working this out as write so please bare with me).

The Interpretant: and what i mean when i say there were more than 3 actors in the ‘two of us’ scene?

Well, for example there were 3 Carolines – Sarah’s competitive sister, John’s competent daughter and Caroline’s own excluded version of herself.

There were also 3 versions of Sarah – John’s delicate daughter, Caroline’s attention greedy sibling and Sarah’s version of herself as the bringer of positivity

There were 3 versions of John – Sarah’s needy father who wanted picking up – Caroline’s unloving father who needed a truth lesson and John’s version of himself as a caring father who wants to help his allot attention where needed.

I find this idea to be extremely interesting and puts me in mind of a semiotician and philosopher I have been reading recently called, Charles Peirce,  and his notion of a triadic semiotics and his concept of the interpretant.

What is that? (here’s a quote from Stanford’s philosophy website and a link to the article  if you are interested to learn more)

Peirce’s basic claim is that signs consist of three inter-related parts: a sign, an object, and an interpretant. For the sake of simplicity, we can think of the sign as the signifier, for example, a written word, an utterance, smoke as a sign for fire etc. The object, on the other hand, is best thought of as whatever is signified, for example, the object to which the written or uttered word attaches, or the fire signified by the smoke. The interpretant, the most innovative and distinctive feature of Peirce’s account, is best thought of as the understanding that we have of the sign/object relation.

The importance of the interpretant for Peirce is that signification is not a simple dyadic relationship between sign and object: a sign signifies only in being interpreted. This makes the interpretant central to the content of the sign, in that, the meaning of a sign is manifest in the interpretation that it generates in sign users.

For example the sign of – MARMITE – is not just a signifier and a signified it is many things – depending on how it is interpreted… for example

Not sure how this really relates to acting but it does seem like a useful conceptual tool when I stop to think about the complex relations between people I want my films to capture. Each of us reading each other in our own unique way – interpreting everything differently so that 2 characters are always 4 – and 3 characters are always 9. Every action being read in multitude of ways. (Very interesting stuff to ponder and does make me feel like I am grappling my way towards BAKHTIN’s  ideas of polyphony and multiple voices. MMMmmm…)

Next steps towards creating a film?

Anyway, that’s enough about Peirce for now – So what next?

Well, I am aware that I have used up some of my arsenal of acting tools by running the session the way i did it. For example I will never be able to run the father and daughter scene with the same people and every be able to capture the same levels of spontaneity again. However, I can use different actors or the create new scenarios for the same actors all of which i really need to think about… Having said this – i am aware that Mike Leigh does use the content generated from his initial improvisations as material from which he can then develop a written script which he then has actors relearn. Not sure why but this does seem like an odd thing to do and a part of the process i feel (for the moment) i should avoid replicating.

One technique of Mr Leigh’s I would like to use, though,  is to have my actors develop characterisations based on people they already know and with this in mind following our last session i asked my actors to think of 3 people they know well (same gender, similar age) who they could use as a basis for a character profile, explains to them that i would help them develop these characters in  follow up one-on-one sessions. I haven’t run these sessions yet but I am hoping that when i do that some kind of vague story will start to suggest itself following which  I can help my actors to settle on and develop in full one of their 3 characters chosen.

Anyway, here is another clip taken from our recent session – this one is called Dodgy Geezer

Alternative Acting Methodologies.

Alternative Acting Methodologies.

My research into mainstream vs. alternative cinema has proven to be  very rewarding especially in regard to the way in which  film production and film product are inextricably linked and that how a film is made impacts greatly on the qualities of the final film  produced.

This observation seems especially applicable with regard to how actors are employed in the film production process and how the qualities of the resulting movies made can be greatly augmented when the rules which dictate the levels of involvement an actor may have in the creative process are redrawn to allow actors greater creative participation.

This is especially apposite when considering the work of the 3 filmmakers – Mike Leigh, Ulrich Seidel and Scanda Copti  all of whom  deviate, to varying degrees, away from the mainstream ‘intensified continuity style’ production processes i described in my earlier blog, Alternative Cinema vs. Mainstream Cinema.

First Acting Session – TOMORROW! 

Anyway, as I will be hosting my first acting session tomorrow it feels like the right time to start moving away from theoretical pondering into a more hands-on participatory approach to acting methodology. With this in mind  I would like to use this current blog  as a place to  outline the alternative approaches to acting, script writing and film production of Leigh, Seidel and Copti – and to start working out how I will use these techniques during tomorrow’s session.

So, in no particular order are a few notes on their approaches to preproduction and acting methodology. Starting with –

Mike Leigh…


The following chronological outline of Leigh’s approach to film development are taken from P. Clement’s book”The improvised play : the work of Mike Leigh” (1983) and R. Marchand’s publication (1985) Making Plays the Mike Leigh Way (1985).

1.Back Story Session – The first session is to establish existing characters with the Actors – Through one to one discussion, key character traits are communicated to the actor until an initial understanding of the character’s persona can be reached. It is important that the actors must not talk amongst themselves outside the workshops about character. Notes are taken and any new ideas and discoveries about character through these initial discussions are documented but set aside to avoid preempting the process.

2. Isolated Improvisations – Allow the actor to be the character without the pressure to perform – The actors are isolated in placed in a mundane setting with no direction for drama. This allows the playwright to witness their characters in moments outside of the story. Discussions are conducted with the actors during the exercise, concerning when the actor felt out of character. This is done to further the understanding of the character for both playwright and actor.” “Notes are taken on character as well as any impetus for potential conflict during group improvisations.”

3. Shared History Session – Establish shared history between characters by bringing selected members of the cast together. Cast members that share a joint history are brought together and through discussion of key shared moments in their past, a back-story is created. There should, however, be no discussion of emotion. Improvisations are conducted on this back-story, building a sense of familiarity and memory for the character. This again allows the playwright to experiment with story world moments that have occurred outside of the script. Discussions are conducted with the actors and notes are taken on potential story avenues as well as further impetus for conflict during the group improvisations.“

4. Group Improvisations – Improvisation exercises using all (and or different combinations) of the cast. This process is aimed at directly enhancing the plot and getting motivations of character clear and consistent. Actors perform improvisations in character with differing aims and goals given by the Playwright. For some cast members, this may be the first time they have met the other characters.” “Notes are taken by the Playwright to further establish character and any new potential scenes or storylines are documented for future drafts of the script.”

Ulrich Seidl…


The following outline of Seidl’s unique approach to filmmaking  is taken from the ICA’s website.

1. Documentary Style –  The working method is: Shoot fiction films in a documentary setting. So that unexpected moments of reality can meld with the fiction.

2. No Script –  There is no script in the traditional sense. The script consists of very precisely described scenes – but no dialogue.During shooting the script is continually modified and rewritten. Seidl: “I see the filmmaking as a process oriented by what has preceded. In that way the material we’ve shot always determines the further development of the story.”

3. Actors/non-actors – The cast consists of actors and non-actors. During casting equal consideration is given to professionals and non-professionals. Ideally the audience should not be able to say with certainty which roles are played by actors and which by non-actors.

4. No Script – The actors have no script on set.

5. Improvisation – Scenes and dialogue are improvised with the actors.

6. Shoot Chronologically – The film is shot chronologically, making it possible to continually adapt and develop scenes and dramatic threads. The ending is left open.

7. Real Locations – The film is shot in original locations.

8. No Non-Diegetic Music –  Music is present only when it is an integral component of a scene.

9. Open Working method – The “open working method” also applies to editing. Rushes are evaluated and discarded at the editing table.The film is rewritten at the editing table. Several extended phases of editing are needed to identify what is and isn’t possible for the film. In this way, to take the example of PARADISE Trilogy, what had been planned as a single film became three separate films, each of which stands on its own, but which can also be viewed together as a trilogy.

10. Seidl Tableau – In addition to the fiction scenes, so-called “Seidl tableaux” are filmed – precisely composed shots of people looking into the camera. The Seidl tableau (which was born in the director’s first short, “One Forty,” 1980) has become a trademark of Austrian film and is now used by other documentary and fiction film directors. On each of his films Ulrich Seidl shoots numerous tableaux, even though they may not make it into the final cut.

“At some point I‘ll make a tableaux-film with all the unused tableaux-scenes that were shot over the years in all of my films,” he says.

Scanda Copti

Scandar Copti_3.jpg

The following outline of Copti’s  approach to filmmaking  is taken from the Filmlab website.

1. Finished Script – Unlike other forays into improvisation, SC often used a very precise screenplay and a well-constructed plot that demands precise emotional responses from its actors.

2. Surprise – Often uses the element of surprise to direct actors for certain scenes to get authentic emotional responses  – his actors often acting out his stories without being aware that they were being directed according to a pre-written script.

3. ‘Real Fiction’ –  The film  (Ajami – 2009)  is a work of fiction which shows “real” people acting in situations that are orchestrated by the directors, but very “real” to the performers, resulting in the actors projecting emotions on camera that they actually experienced at the time.

4. Workshops – This was achieved over specialized workshops, in which the actors were brought to each character’s emotional and psychological state as written in the script.

5. Psychological Profiles – In these workshops, the participants didn’t learn about text, goals, mise-en-scene or acting tricks. The focus was on the psychological journey of the characters through dramatic role-playing. Eventually, each actor deeply identified with his or her character as though the character was an extension of their own personality.

When the cameras started rolling, something magical happened – the actors forgot that they were in a fictional situation and their minds believed that what was happening was real.

Clements, P. (1983) The improvised play : the work of Mike Leigh, London: Methuen.

Marchand, R. (1985) Making Plays the Mike Leigh Way, Sydney; AFTRS.