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A Cinema of Happenings: Exploring Improvisation as Process in Filmmaking

Howe, William (2015) A Cinema of Happenings: Exploring Improvisation as Process in Filmmaking. Master of Philosophy (MPhil) thesis, University of Kent,. (KAR id:62458)

Language: English
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This thesis supports a practice-based-research project that examines differing methodologies

of improvisation across the production of four film exercises: Fallen Angels (2005), Blood

Offering (2005), Birdman (2009) and The Graduate Workshop (2010). By investigating the

'materiality' of improvisation within my filmmaking practice, bearing in mind that between

the performer and the finished film there are inherent production processes that both finesse

and obfuscate the improvised performance, I seek to address a fundamental question 'to what

extent are the footprints of improvisation visible within the performance and aesthetics of film


This study brings together a number of ideas about improvisation practice, as

evidenced in the work of Mike Leigh (Abigail's Party, 1977, Another Year, 2010) and Daniel

Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez (The Blair Witch Project, 1999). I use dominant 'institutional'

practice as a counterpoint to the received ideas about improvisation. This research is further

informed by new materials, specifically, an interview with Penny Woolcock (Tina Goes

Shopping, 1999, Death of Klinghoffer, 2003) as well as analysis of my own practice.

Where existing accounts of improvisation have principally sought to define this as a

phenomenology within the context of theatre and live performance, this study identifies

distinct 'models' of improvisation process in relation to filmmaking. In comparing different

production approaches, on a project-by-project basis and by referencing other filmmaker's

processes, the thesis proposes a paired down schema for future work; identifying clear points

for developing and containing character, as well as recommending a structured approach for

developing narrative and filming. This project makes a distinct contribution to the study of

improvisation in film, by drawing attention to the importance of methodology in practical


Item Type: Thesis (Master of Philosophy (MPhil))
Thesis advisor: Shaughnessy, Robert
Thesis advisor: Allain, Paul
Uncontrolled keywords: Improvisation Film Methodologies Practice-as-Research
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of Arts
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 28 Jul 2017 12:38 UTC
Last Modified: 09 Dec 2022 03:14 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Howe, William.

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