It was the result of a passing conversation with an administrator at AFTRS that led to the first-ever workshop. “We’ve got a week in the schedule, would you like to do something?” “Something I’m passionate about?” I asked. There was a long pause. “Well yes, of course.”
I immediately thought of the British film director Mike Leigh and his unorthodox way of working. I’d written a degree paper about his methods when I’d been a student at AFTRS many years earlier, and the investigation, the testing of the process, the working directly with actors, had given me a great deal of creative satisfaction. From a director’s point of view it had given me confidence to communicate with actors anywhere on any project. That was worth sharing with others, wasn’t it?
Since then there have been a great many workshops built around the CBI Process: workshops for directors only: (Directors create their own characters and live with them for five days – deeply enlightening about actor process, more than one has said, and changing how they view and communicate with actors); workshops for actors and directors together; workshops to kick-start projects or to prepare the cast in green-lit films; workshops for drama students and filmmaking students. And an increasing number of workshops in other countries, other cultures. As an aside, directing actors in a language one doesn’t speak is a fascinating study in director observation, immersion and intuition. It sharpens the skills!
Leigh’s body of work has been an inspiration to me throughout my career and later was a major reference point in my PhD.
“Leigh’s films include complex characters and strong performances by his actors; characters and situations that focus on the ordinary in everyday British life; a seeming verisimilitude within any given film in relation to the ‘real’ world – and how this conforms to audiences perceptions of their own worlds. As film and media commentator Andy Medhurst has observed: we respond to the characters as individuals rather than filing them away as types. (Medhurst, 2007:177)”
Reciprocal Fluxion, Flinders University Drama Centre, 2013.
My own journey with the process has been different – every director finds their own way of using the CBI Process – but the discoveries and joys have been just as profound.
Over time, there have been a number of directors who have used CBI Process or aspects of it in their work. These include: Michael Joy Men’s Group (2008); Annette Olesen Minor Mishaps (2002) and In Your Hands (2004); Kate Gorman Five Moments of Infidelity (2006); Ian Dixon Crushed (2008). There are directors whose use of variations on these improvisation processes I investigated as part of my research. These include Shane Meadows; Bill Bennett; Kriv Stenders; Pawel Pawlikowski; Dominic Savage; Debbie Isitt; Lynne Ramsay and Louise Alston.
As a result of the CBI workshops, more directors are absorbing elements of the Process into their work.
Recent director participants include: Jonathan Birch, David Bonneville, Chris Watson and Carl Rock (UK); Mario Mlakar, Luka Rukavina (Croatia); Dieter Primig, Ingrid Hubscher & Georg Mass (Germany); Kasimir Burgess, Brendon Skinner, Daniel James, Adrian Goodman, Sam Wark and Mitch Forrester (Australia): Vo Thach Thao and Vu Ngoc Phuong (Vietnam). Rising stars all with an appreciation of actors and an interest in powerful performances!
I’d love to take some credit for the careers of Kasimir Burgess (Fell); Garth Davis (Lion); Elissa Downe (Black Balloon and recently-announced Honored); Andrea Bosshard & Shane Loader (The Great Maiden’s Blush) and Jennifer Kent (The Babbadook) – but they have such terrific vision and innate talent they were clearly all going to get there whether they did my workshop or not! My respect and appreciation to them all.
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