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An Interview with Sarah Jayne and Ivan Malekin, Directors of Life Improvised: Volume 1

by Mike Haberfelner

October 2022

Films directed by Sarah Jayne on (re)Search my Trash

Films directed by Ivan Malekin on (re)Search my Trash


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Your new movie Life Improvised: Volume 1 - in a few words, what is it about?


Ivan Malekin: Life Improvised is a anthological series of short stories tackling the moments that make up relationships: A first date, being stood up, a sexual betrayal, etc. But it isn't just romantic relationships we address – the film looks at friendship, family, even our relationship with our own mind during difficult times. As directors and writers Sarah and I are fascinated by human interaction and all its rules, expectations, and quirks. And we wanted to capture a brief snapshot of that in each story.


What were your sources of inspiration when writing Life Improvised: Volume 1, and is any of it based on personal experiences?


Sarah Jayne: Real life basically and the interactions that make up our day to day lives and the way humans react to situations out of their control. Some of it based on personal experiences, yes, the Covid-focused stories in particular. I guess in each story there is a little bit of relatability in terms of the emotion, even if the situation was not my own or Ivan's, we have experienced the emotion on some level.


Life Improvised: Volume 1 consists of a series of at least seemingly unconnected vignettes - so why did you choose exactly these little stories to make the movie, and do you see (or was there ever) an over-arching theme for your film?


IM: The stories are grouped into topics and themes. These are loneliness, first dates, betrayal and change. But Life Improvised actually began as a web series, a way for us to film small stories between the bigger projects we work on, try new ideas and just get onto set as that is our happy place. It was filmed over a period of three years whenever we were inspired to tell a new story, or work with a particular actor, or even film in a particular place. Hence the vignette nature of this collection and the slice of life feeling.


Do talk about your directorial approach to your story at hand!


SJ: From a director point of view, the approach is not not set in stone. This is because each story is stand alone to the next and each actor comes into the shoot with varied experience and abilities. What we as directors want from each story varies due to a number of factors such as time, location and experience as mentioned. The common approach Ivan and I did have was to make the characters and the story as a whole as realistic and relatable to the audience as possible.


On Life Improvised: Volume 1 in particular, what was the collaboration between the two of you like? And since this isn't the first film you've worked on with one another, how (if at all) did your working relationship evolve over the years?


IM: It varies with each story. Some we would co-direct, some either I or Sarah would direct alone, some I would write while Sarah would direct. We always talk the story over, make character notes, talk to our actors about their ideas for the character and then on the day, whoever is directing, would guide the performance and make decisions about what dialogue to use, camera angles, emotions, etc.


Over the years I have grown less controlling as a director, I think, as we have explored improvisation and co-directing. I am more open to input and letting things flow on the day and going with a moment, rather than trying to plan everything out beforehand and having a set idea of how everything needs to be.


What can you tell us about Life Improvised: Volume 1's cast, and why exactly these people?


SJ: What's interesting about the cast is that each individual came on board with varied levels of acting experience. Some had more acting training than others, and being an international cast, all had varied life experiences which stem from growing up in different parts of the world.


Each cast member brought something special to their role and added an international flavour to the volume as a whole. I love all the interesting accents that we bring together. For the Life Improvised micro-shorts Ivan and I often have an actor/individual we want to work with. Depending on where we decide to shoot or where we are travelling, we will often cast a person we have always wanted to work with, and the role is written with them in mind, or it can also be that we open a casting call, like we did in Croatia and Portugal for those roles. It's like a test for us – if we like what actors do in these short snippets, we will keep them in mind for bigger projects.


You've shot Life Improvised: Volume 1 pretty much all over the world - so where were your vignettes shot, and why exactly there?


IM: We have filmed in many countries, yes, an experience which we are very grateful for. We travel a lot and have lived in a few different countries now. When we are in a new country for enough time, we do like to plan a Life Improvised shoot, as it is always exciting and inspiring to work somewhere new.


So, with Volume 1, we filmed several stories in Malta as that is where we were living when we began the series. We filmed in Melbourne, Australia as we were born there and often travel to see family. We filmed in Berlin while visiting for a cast and crew screening of a feature of ours. We filmed in Lisbon as we ended up being stuck in Portugal for five months during the lockdowns. And we filmed one story in Zagreb, Croatia as that is our new home.


A few words about the shoots as such, and the on-set atmosphere?


SJ: Since each separate film was shot with a different cast and crew and in a different location or country,  it’s impossible to answer this on an individual basis. On a whole, generally we like to make our sets and shoots for these snippets of life a ‘hang out’ kinda affair – friends or collaborators getting together for a few hours or half a day, reuniting, meeting for the first time to hit a set goal and doing what we love – creating a small piece of cinema. We are yet to have a shoot where there is tension or animosity in the air, only good vibes with professional people, and I think that comes from choosing the right people to collaborate with.


The $64-question of course, where can Life Improvised: Volume 1 be seen?


IM: Life Improvised: Volume 1 is available to stream free on Tubi:

You can also watch each individual story on our YouTube channel. But the stories in Volume One have been edited slightly, sometimes extended, so we prefer this version. Volume One is like the director's cut of Life Improvised.


The title Life Improvised: Volume 1 alone already suggests a Volume 2 (and maybe more) - so are there any plans for a future instalment, and/or any other future projects you'd like to share?


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IM: Yes, I think there will be a Volume Two. We have already filmed a new episode in the series, this time in New York. It is a great way to explore smaller stories for us and meet new cast and work in new locations, so we can't see ourselves stopping. But Volume One took three years to put together. So it will be a while yet until we have enough stories for Volume Two.


Your/your movie's website, social media, whatever else?


Thanks for the interview!


© by Mike Haberfelner

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Thanks for watching !!!



Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD