Scenarios for rehearsalRehearsal: one hour per scene

Goals of Rehearsal:

  • Slightly adjust rehearsal to actors and script. Be cautious not to fit the rehearsal to actors but to slowly get the actor to adjust to script and rehearsal
  • Locate subtext and clues to the subtext and bring to physical and emotional reality for the actor to better understand script

A typical rehearsal consists of the actors reading the scene in their normal person, maintaining eye contact with the other actors, so they get better acquainted with the script and each other as fellow actors and characters. Should there be a problem with one of the actors and their lack of participation, ask them what preconceptions they hold of the script. Engage the actors and get the creativity flowing after the reading is concluded so there can be an understanding of the actor’s character perceptions and interpretations.

This is where the actor, with the help of the director if necessary, fills in the holes of the character’s life. This means adding a layer of complexity to be able to clarify the understanding of the character and his/her life.

It is up to the director’s discretion and judgement just how much he will aid the actor. If the director comes to the conclusion that the actor simply needs time to better understand and assimilate with their character, the director will move on and work more closely with another actor. The point of this is for the actor to be encouraged to focus and associate with only his character instead of how his fellow actors will influence the character or what the point of a certain scene is. The actor must identify and feel as if he is a vessel for the character and therefore all the actions and words will seem a natural extension of himself.

Along the way try to maintain the actor focused on the present, versus having them too focused on the result. Keep the end result as open ended as possible. If the actor’s ideas are leading them down a much different path than one the director has in mind, the director should talk to them and try to investigate the reasoning behind such conclusions. The director can share information with the actor to better help guide them and come to the best conclusion.

The objective of all this is to generate choices so the actors can try “on their feet”. The time should be spent “doing” rather than talking. As soon as an idea or understanding has been reached that might provide insight, it should be tried out. Afterwards, the director will ask how it felt for the actor and what thoughts came to them. The objective is not, however, to determine from them if the choice worked. It is up to the director to determine if the cast is on the right track or not. The director wants to create an engagement between the actors and make the scene about people; human relationships.

The director has to constantly be listening to the actor’s subtext; both of the script and their own conversations. By doing this, the director hears the actor’s unexpressed impulses and resistances. The actor’s body language should also be closely monitored so the director can know when it’s time to add movement and make other changes to rehearsal accordingly.

Once movement is added, activities are also added, called “business”. At this point in the rehearsal, the physical and emotional aspects of the scene become intertwined. Depending on the style and tone of the piece, the physical parameters are explored and practiced. The rehearsals can also include improvisations. It might be that to aid an actor to tap into a moment in the scene, the actor can be asked to act out the scene without the script. This gives the actor the notion that it is not about the script, but the relationships and events and how they intertwine with each other.

Depending on the director, the cast can work on sections of a scene and/or an entire scene. It is based on the actors and their requests and what scenes the director feels need the most work. The troublesome sections can also be left for later;allowing for some ground work to be covered instead of jumping straight to the tricky part. It is all up to the director’s discretion and impulse.

The rehearsal is really dictated by what the cast is doing more than anything else. The director must keep an eye out for instances when an actor is simply acting, versus really feeling and living the emotions the character is feeling. The director must recognize this disconnect and address the issue accordingly. To be able to constructively address the issue however, the director must address it as a question or a moment that needs a little work and discuss it with the actor.

The answer might be a quick improvisation or for the actor to do a little more research on his part, as well as an example. It takes practice to be able to catch these “dead spots” but with total absorption in the piece, they will be noticed and the opportunity to address them will arrive.

The director must also be on the lookout for hints of the actor’s subconscious judgement seeping into the scene and character. If a misinterpretation arises, the matter should be addressed and the actor talked to. The director should ask on what grounds they are basing this conclusion/interpretation, and it is the director’s job to aid in clarifying a misinterpretation and bringing a deeper understanding of the character and subtext. It is also up to the director to choose when to give feedback and guide the actor or when to leave him alone in exploring and discovering the answer for himself.

Checklist for Scene Believability

  • The actor must be talking to someone and listening with an objective or intention in mind which should be that of the character’s.
  • The actor must feel that the life of the character – written and implied – is a part of himself as well.
  • The actor’s choices must engage each other.
  • The emotional events in the script must take place on camera. The emotions the actor depicts must be real and the audience must be able to see it.
  • The events – physical and emotional – must occur in a physical reality.
  • All Day Rehearsals – 2 weeks

Rehearsal Scenarios

This scenario is not to be attempted unless the director has experience in conducting rehearsals or dedicated actors.

There can be a full cast reading of the script with introductions before or after the reading. The introductions should be meaningful. For example, have the actors tell a story which helps them relate to the script and character, particularly their own.

There can also be rehearsals of the main actors to better establish and enforce the major relationships in the script. If there are three or more members, have them all spend some individual rehearsal time.

Although the rehearsal times are long, there is a lot of “doing” and not much talking in a well-organized rehearsal. There is the luxury of improvisation and ability to take a break from a scene causing problems and the chance to return to it later.

  • Afternoon Rehearsals

Rehearsal for two or four hours every afternoon for five to ten days is very helpful but must be spent wisely. The director will need to be well organized and the actors convinced that the time will be well spent.

The time can be spent either on the most major scenes, to assure the quality of those major film portions; on the scenes with all the cast, to build the relationships within the characters and actors and have these scenes run smoother; or an hour can be dedicated to each scene in the script.

  • During the Shoot – 1 hour per day

It is strongly recommended that during the shoot, an hour per day minimum, should be dedicated to quality between the director and actors. Find a neutral place to warm the actors up and help them connect more personally with each other, their character and the script.

  • As Needed

This is when there is a break during the shoot to address a problem or question with an actor. Notify the crew ahead of time what the plan is and bring them into your confidence.

Address the pause in such a way that the actor does not feel self-conscious and nervous about it, as this might cause more damage than good to the actor’s morale. Address the situation as if a break needs to be taken regardless.

  • Per Scene – 10 minutes

The last ten minutes before the shoot is not the time to spring something complex on the actors. Keep the conversation simple and ask if they have any questions. It is advised to use this time to reassure and communicate the director’s confidence in them. Although it is not advised, the director can use these 10 minutes to catch the actor off guard and shake up a performance that has become cautious. Only use this method if the actors trust the director.

  • Zero Minutes Per Scene

Do not make changes to the scene, stay laid back and remember some people prefer not to rehearse.