Directing

Maximizing Actors’ Performances

actors

image by: Zestbienbeautouza

As soon as the cast is off book and reasonably confident, cover rehearsals with a handheld video camera using documentary techniques. However, read the whole of this section and consider the status and insecurities of your cast before deciding whether it can be fruitful to show them any of the results. You, however, can benefit greatly from screening coverage of rehearsals in private.

Cover each off-book rehearsal with a continuous take using a handheld camera, moving close for close ups, and backing away, panning, or tracking as the action requires.

This treats the rehearsal as a spontaneous happening to be recorded without intervention. It needs no editing because the camera takes pains to be in the right place at the right time. Taping scenes affords particular advantages to the crew and yourself.

Together, you can:

  • Privately or together review rehearsals.
  • Keep a check on running times. As the actors develop ‘business’ scenes appear to move faster but actually run longer.
  • Judge what works from seeing it on the screen.
  • Get early warning of mannerisms, clichés, trends, as well as subtleties that would otherwise only appear in dailies or postproduction.

During taping, the actors can:

  • Move freely as their characters demand because the camera is so mobile and attentive.
  • Know that the camera is there to serve their process, and does not treat them like puppets.
  • Get to know and trust key crew members.
  • Open their action to the camera instead of avoiding it, as sometimes happens.

While taping, the crew can:

  • Seek each scene’s optimal form in terms of camera angles, movement, lenses, lighting, and sound coverage.
  • Discover how to cover more action with fewer angles and longer takes.
  • Anticipate sightlines and movements from the imperceptible signs each actor gives when he or she is about to move or speak.
  • Begin asking for compromises in actors’ speed or destination to overcome a camera or microphone problem.

By the time formal shooting begins:

  • Everyone is at ease with each other and their roles.
  • Camera placements and movements that show the scene to advantage are known, not theoretical.
  • Shooting is based on a living reality, not the static, heroic concepts of the storyboard approach.
  • Dealing with the unexpected is easier when everybody knows the foundations.

Excerpted from Directing: Film Techniques and Aesthetics, fourth edition. Copyright ©2008, Elsevier, Inc. All rights reserved.

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