Watching acclaimed British film director Mike Leigh being interviewed last week, I couldn’t help but pontificate on his unique directorial style.
Leigh uses lengthy improvisations developed over a period of weeks to build characters and storylines for his films. He starts with some sketch ideas of how he thinks things might develop, but does not reveal all his intentions with the cast who discover their fate and act out their responses as their destinies are gradually revealed.
Leigh’s vision is to depict ordinary life, “real life,” unfolding under extenuating circumstances. He makes courageous decisions to document reality.The critical scenes in the eventual story are performed and recorded in full-costumed, real-time improvisations where the actors encounter for the first time new characters, events or information which may dramatically affect their characters’ lives.
Final filming is more traditional as definite sense of story, action and dialogue is then in place. The director reminds the cast of material from the improvisations that he hopes to capture on film.