Let’s Wing It: Improvisation, Film and That Something Special

Can I improvise this post? Maybe, but you would never know whether it was planned and edited or truly simply improvised. Over-planning can be a dangerous activity. One can spend a lot of time preparing to all eventualities only to become paralysed by the process. Improvisation is also a process, but a more liberating one. In a way, it makes us achieve more and can lead to valuable and unexpected outcomes.

“Life is improvised” would say Dave Morris. In his TEDxVictoria talk The Way of Improvisation he explores a series of points he believes to be essential to the improvisation process.

1 – Play. Engage into something simply because we like it. Play taken too seriously becomes work, and we hate it. We overthink. We live in the future more than in the present; the fun is gone. Play places us in the enjoyable present.

2- Let Yourself Fail. Failing does not make you a failure. Failing can teach you how easy it is to simply start again. We learn to not be paralysed by the failure and it empowers us diminishing our fears.

3- Listening. Listening is the willingness to change. True listening makes you truly present in the moment and takes the ego out of the equation. There is no sense of ‘mine’ and ‘yours’, there are ideas that have the potential to be developed.

4-Say yes. The word yes allows you to keep a process alive. The word no kills the process. Yes is the the fuel to a conversation.

5-Say and. The word and (following the yes). It adds to the current discovery… and is a word of connection. On the way to working with people and

6-Play the game. There are set of rules. The rules give constrictions, a set of boundaries to funnel a creative process into ‘something’

7- Relax and have fun.

Film production is the art of planning. This does not mean that every single aspect is to be planned meticulously before production can start. A solid pre-production can establish ‘the rules of the game’ but also leave an open door for improvisation. The pre-production stage might be a better ground to let the creatives play, fail, listen, say ‘yes and’, but improvisation seems to often find its way into the set and into the final cut, sometimes creating some of the most iconic scenes or lines in cinema history.

25 Unscripted Moments in Films

Whether it is in comedy, music, poetry or survival improvisation is fascinating. The ability to ‘survive’ a ‘game’ improvising calls for respect. For one to improvise, one must have ‘ammunitions’. Are you prepared to improvise? How much have you failed? How much have you ‘trained’? A painter can improvise only once he can master the paintbrush. A poet can improvise only if he can access a wealth of vocabulary stored in his mind. A musician can improvise only once the musical skills have become a second nature.

Improvisation can give you a glimpse into the mind of the improviser. There is little time to censor or edit the thoughts before they become spoken words. Let us wrap this post with a glimpse into the mind of Robin Williams as he improvises his definition of ‘improvisation’.

Documentary Modes: Representing the ‘Truth’

Like cinema itself, my love for cinema has been divided between the fascination for ‘reality’ and the craving for ‘fantasy’.  While Méliès chose to embark us on fantastic voyages the likes of Flaherty and Grierson chose to explore the reality of our world instead. The line between fiction and reality is seldom sharp. Continue reading

Filmmaking, Emotions and Sound: Communicate with the ‘Designers’

Sound is at least half of your film; make it 60-70% of the experience depending on who you are talking to. You do not have to be a skilled sound designer, musician or composer to take advantage of its power. You have to, however, be able to communicate with the ‘creative forces’ that will shape the soundscape of your film. Continue reading

A Director Prepares: Visual Script Breakdown

Learning how to approach a task can be far more interesting and valuable than learning how to ‘do’ a task. In 99% of the cases, to translate a movie script into visual content is one of the duties of the film director. How would you approach the visual breakdown of the script? How would you transform the written words into visual information that can be shared with the production designer, the director of cinematography and the rest of the cast and crew? Continue reading

Survival, Filmmaking and Food

Food is on my mind… a lot. I am human. I will always remember my first time working on set; the memories of walking into the old disused hospital, the smell of the dust burning on the lights, the PA’s running around with their walkie talkies, The 1st AD’s voice, the director pacing back and forth between the set and the video village, the food. Ah, the food. Continue reading

Color Grading: Exploration, Temperature and Contrast

Colorists tend to approach the task of correction and grading through multiple passes. When mixing light, I start with the more surgical aspects of the correction before going through a series of artistic manipulations (color equalisation, relighting, isolations, looks,…) Every project brings a new set of challenges and a new set of directions and possibilities. I enjoy  the discovery stage the most. After understanding the emotions, story and motivations, I select a few keys shots from the various scenes and play; build a few versions before committing to a look. Continue reading

Emotions, Psychology and Evolution

According to Billy Wilder, if you want to be a director you must be a policeman, a midwife,  a sycophant, a bastard and a BjChFQOIUAEvdnj psychoanalyst. It took me some time to realize the importance of the last point and truly appreciate psychology. Continue reading

Is Cinema Dead? Cinema is Broken says Greenaway. 

386428_142132029220209_1520996886_n I was lucky/unlucky to attend Peter Greenaway’s lecture on Cinema in Pietrasanta, Italy. After a tumultuous (lack of) introduction the filmmaker’s dramatic voice quickly started provoking and capturing the audience. Cinema is dead. Who killed it? In Italy, was it Berlusconi? Or (as suggested by someone in the audience) was it simply Italian laziness? Greenaway is not the first nor the last to wonder about ‘the death of Cinema’. Recently, Tarantino’s now famous statement regarding celluloid rapidly bounced around the web gaining momentum and critiques. Greenaway’s reasoning appears to be different, as he accuses the likes of Tarantino to be suffering from the “Casablanca syndrome”.  He believes Cinema has been broken from within, incapable of adapting to a changing world. Continue reading

Film Editing Education: Rules (or Guidelines)

“I want to be an Editor!” I remember my young self saying those words proudly on my first day of Film School. It might have been because of the fascination I had towards the equipment (I had the unusual chance to experience tape-to-tape editing during my childhood and the rise of ‘affordable’ NLE’s created an entire new world for me to explore). It might have been the appeal of a quieter environment, when compared to the busy life on set.  Or, I’d like to believe, I was already aware that editing is an excellent directing school (but clearly, I was not). Continue reading

Anxiety and Boredom: Writers Block? Just type.

WHITE The blog has been quiet for the last couple of weeks. I could blame the summertime relocation to my homeland, the excessive availability of sunshine, tasty food and wine or the distraction of the FIFA World Cup. Truth is that the relocation was a piece of cake, sun did not shine every day and the World Cup only started a few days ago and has not become an obsession (the food and wine bit is true). I have been suffering the blank page syndrome and this has prompted me to browse the web in search of some insight on the phenomenon. What are the causes of writers block? Continue reading