Secret Life Secret Death

Improv Working Methods


Actors in the Model T at Mid-Continent Railway Museum 

with Director Genevieve Davis

I produced, directed, wrote, designed and edited SECRET LIFE, SECRET DEATH without a crew.  When I arrived on location, I set up the food for the actors.  They were all volunteers and I wanted them to enjoy themselves.  Next, I set out their costumes.  Then, when they arrived I dressed them.  Nobody wore makeup.  The actors did their own hair and I helped with that - except for the Dress Shop shoot, when a professional hairstylist did four gorgeous Titanic era hair styles on the actresses [for free].  

We did not work with a script.  Because the entire project has either a voice over or music, we didn't have dialog to worry about.  Just a general idea of what the scene was about.  When the day for shooting arrived I personally got everyone costumed and styled.   Then I explained the action and we started working to see what transpired.  I made adjustments.  The actors made suggestions.  Many good thingsproceeded from the actors trying out action in character.  Together we made it work.  Here is the  notice I emailed to the actors to tell them what we were going to shoot and how to prepare for the big Gangster Funeral and the scene where Minnie wakes up in hell, both shot on the same day.

Some actors were friends.  A couple were veteran actors I didn't know, but whose work I had admired.  The majority came from Craigslist!  I cast based on head shots and resumes.  Eighty-five wonderful people turned out to help me make this movie, including two babies and 6 kids!  Most of the actors I didn't even meet in person until the day of shooting.  

My past experience directing an improvisational Commedia Dell'Arte troupe for television and live performance helped a lot.  And I really enjoy working with actors.  They are nice people, friendly and out going, and are open minded about trying out different things with the character they are playing.  It was a wonderful process collaborating with actors to see what transpired with all of our creativity put together.  Like lighting a house on fire!

 --Genevieve Davis

The Actors