Relying on improvisation to construct a narrative is a tricky game to play, made even trickier when you’re not planning ahead. That’s the highwire act currently being performed by Untitled Fiction Project, created by filmmaker Alonso Mayo in association with the Gloria Gifford Conservatory for actors.
Each week through December, Mayo and two actors are meeting to improvise a short scene (no longer than 10 minutes), with each new episode building upon “the storyworld” from the previous installment. This means no rewriting of past episodes for the sake of the narrative, no way of changing what’s already happened — only moving forward.
So far, the story is pretty generic, focusing on a man (Jeffrey Casciano) torn between two women: one his wife (Lauren Plaxco) and one his mistress (Jade Warner). However, there’s a style to it that proves compelling, especially given the deficit of pure drama online, and the production values are professional quality. The color palette, full of rich shadows, proved especially compelling, as well as the intimate handheld approach to the cinematography.
Pace-wise, it could use a bit more energy to engage those afflicted by poor attention spans. Also, Casciano, as the main character, doesn’t do much to inspire likability; it doesn’t help that the character he’s playing is fundamentally not a great person, but giving him more dimension could be helpful.
The two episodes so far have performed well for an indie drama on YouTube, the first receiving over 13,000 views since its release on Oct. 8. On a creative level, the show’s success will depend almost entirely on how plotting evolves on a week to week basis. Currently, as a narrative experiment, there’s a lot of promise.
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