For the next 2 weeks we are going to be looking at the Mike Leigh Project. Mike Leigh is a director and writer from Salford. He is 73 years old and is still creating original work. “Most of his work in theatre and film is done without any initial script. He and the actors improvise their characters and  the scenes under his overall control.” Here is Mike Leigh’s step-by- step method of working:

One on One
After Leigh chooses his actors, he works with them on a ‘one to one’ basis. He asks them to come up with a list of people that they know well or who they have briefly met.


The list is then whittled down and shortlisted. With improvisation the actor uses an amalgamation of characteristics or traits from these individuals, and with the guidance of Leigh, creates a final character.

Build the character
The actor, with the help of Leigh, builds an elaborate alter ego, mapping out the character’s life in fine detail. Their background, parents, upbringing, education, social standing and the list goes on.

Solo improvisations
Leigh will then set up a range of improvisations so that the character can build and begin to ground itself. This ‘one on one’ process can last for months and is done separately from the other actors.

Improvising with the other characters
When they are ready the character will then be gradually introduced to the other characters used in the film or play, again using improvisation. They are sent out in the ‘real world’ to interact with each other and even the unsuspecting public.

Collect best lines and moments
From these improvisations, Leigh makes notes. The best lines and moments from the improvisations are then distilled and scripted until a basic outline of a film or play is formed.

Specific scenes filmed
Specific scenes are then reenacted, loosely scripted and are then filmed. For a theatre piece, a script is devised for the actors the learn.

Final cut
From the hours and hours of footage, a final film is edited and cut together. Although this missing footage, is not seen by the audience, it has helped the actor create and strengthen the character.

Homework last week was to write down 3 people that you know really well and that you see on a regular basis. If you haven’t done that, you can do so now. Looking at your list work through the physicality and vocal qualities of these 3 ‘characters’ and create a timeline for them. Choose one which you would like to work deeper on- make sure you give yourself a challenge!


Acting Challenge

Once you have decided on your character stand with your eyes closed in neutral and picture your character. How they’;re stood, what they’re wearing etc, a visual image. Then step into the character as if they were a glove. Open your eyes and walk around the room, how does your character move? Sit? Walk? Stand? Lie down? Do this for about 5 minutes, then sit back down and record yourself telling us about you in character. Name, age, occupation, hobbies, interests, family life, home life etc then upload to the facebook page.

Challenge for this week: Continue working on these characters and take them out in public. Set each person a written task on paper for example; go out in public and sign up to your local library, order a coffee in character etc. Make them think of the three main characteristics and play with them. I.e. Confident, slow walker, mean. Next week we will discuss what they experienced.

Business Challenge

Time management-How effectively do you use your time? As training actors we all have other commitments, family, work, social lives. However, you need to work even harder in your free time to work on your business. Set yourself a schedule for how many hours you want to spend on your business this week. Create a timetable and stick to it. Make the most of your time.