Improv + Film = Awesome
Improvisation and filmmaking have been two of the three big interested in my life since I was a teen (the 3rd being puppetry). First time those two things merged was when I was studying theatre I formed an improv group with some friends and as well as live shows we also would make little improvised movies. And of course my film Destination Torquay didn’t have a script nor did most of The Golden Bang films
I’ve recently had two little improv films adventures. I just took part in “The Improvised Film Challenge” at the Miller as part of London Improv’s residency. The night was a crazy-fun event where teams of improvisers are given a title of a film by a live audience then have just one hour to go out and create a short film then come back and show it! I was on a team with fellow improvises Dave Waller & Jinni Lyons and my filmmaking buddies George Nidi & Elliot Willams. The title we were given was “Obama’s Brain (Not)”. I wanted to make sure we did something that was somewhat cinematic with cuts, action, score, etc and not just shoot something that we could of just done on stage.
I’m quite happy with what we did given the time limit we had and certainly learned what worked and how to do it better next time. You can see what our friends from The RH Experience did with their title here
Also I’m performing in a couple of episodes of a series of improvised short films by Katy Schutte, which have been super-fun. I’ll do a post about them when they’re online and you can see what i’m talking about.
As you know I am currently getting my act together and starting a production company and needless to say we’ll be making some improvised films (and giving ourselves a lot more then an hour to do so). I have a feature and some shorts in the works and will be looking into getting funding so I can have a budget but it will all happen regardless, I’m just going to keep making movies till someone pays me to then I’ll keep making better looking movies and not have a shitty day/night job.
I will very likely be using improv in my films in a similar way to how it is used by Adam Mckay (Anchorman, Step Brothers) Judd Apatow (Knocked Up, 40 Year Old Virgin, Funny People) and The Duplass Brothers (Cyrus, the Puffy Chair), starting off with a written script but just using it as a blueprint and allowing the cast a lot of freedom. You want your film to be as good as possible and an actor in the moment often knows the character better then the writer and the most perfect things can fall out of their mouth that you could never of written in a million years. Improv can be beautiful and funny like that.
I feel this way gets the best results as you always get the best of both worlds, the structure of a script and the randomness of improv, it just make more work and more options for the editor, which is fine as i’m the editor. and to all the improv purists who may think differently, let me just point out that “This Is Spinal Tap” the greatest “improvised” movie of all time had a script first that got them more then half way so you can see the type of end results this way can produce.
p.s. two days ago i spent more money then i have ever spent in my life on my new fancy camera. It’s on its way to me now! lets make movies! #iheartmakingshit