This paper reflects on the process of writing and producing the author’s feature- length non-fiction film about Chaplin imitators in India: The Boot Cake. (www.thebootcake.com) It aims to contribute to debate about 1. innovative screen production processes and aesthetics, and 2. The value accorded screen practice research in universities. Writing and Improvising the Digital Essay Film investigates how semi-structured improvisations and collaborations might provide models for the film making process in a digital environment. Further, it reflects on screen production teams as innovative organisational and research units. The paper draws on the author’s body of practice–led research in screen media, on theories of non-fiction film forms, on the essay genre, and on the systems theory of creativity.