What to do in early stages of actors rehearsing a film?
April 9, 2004 3:34 AM   Subscribe

Continuation of my film:

I have a good passage written out, and I had my actors recite it today. It sounds pretty good, and I gave them direction during the rehearsal, but I still don't know exactly what I am doing. What should I make sure to do at this very early stage in rehearsing? (Script Inside)

Ok I am an ametuer I think this script sucks but fuck it here goes:


You think your a man? Cmon pussy. Take another beer bong.

I can't.

Yes you can.

Pete looks chris in the eyes. Chris drops beer bong and runs to the backyard.

Bob is talking to girlfriend in backyard
I don't care.

you never care.

Look its just a party. Who cares if some guy grabs your ass? Its all in good fun.

But hes your friend! You have to do something about it.

Do what? Codies passed out in the basement.

If you really cared about me you would make an example out of him

I guess I could piss on him.

Ahsley looks at bob in disbelief
(angry) If you want me ill be in the car
Ahsley walks off deck towards front of house

Bob sighs, lights cigarette
sound of people moving out of way, "clear!" "hes gonna blow!" "make way!"
Bob looks at screen door.

Chris runs out, puking on deck before he makes it to the grass.

Scene of Pete holding beer bong. Pete shrugs, opens two beers and loads the beer bong.

Kyle, Alex, Joe in Kyles room. Kyle takes a hit, passes it to Alex. Kyle is to the left, Alex in middle, Joe to right.

I dont think it was Ramses.
I believe it was tootinkamen.




Color me surprised.

Anytyhing left?

Alex takes a hit, checks the bowl, shakes his head.

Joe pulls out more weed from his pocket.

I feel that both of your contentions are incorrect. You see, the great pyramids have inextricably linked mankind to the heavens for centuries. It does not matter which pharoah did what because it was the aliens all along.

Kyle, Alex look at Joe. Joe has a serious look on his face.

Right on man. Right on.

Knowledge. The fundamental trait that seperates us from the aliens.

now your full of shit.

Alex is getting up

Where you going?

hit on the ladies

Kyle smiles
Good luck.

Joe gives agreed look of satisfaction on his face.

I dont need your luck.

Yes you do.


I brought 3 copies over, we all sat down in the living room, and everyone who had their part spoke out the scene. We did no physical acting, only dialog. Everyone liked it and was excited to keep going. We then brainstormed (more like I brainstormed and they threw some yes/no answers) over what the characters should be doing next. This is not the entire scene, only a prime cut from it.
posted by Keyser Soze to Media & Arts (17 answers total)
Basically the question is how to effectively rehearse this script, or any script; My job as director and how that affects right now, what to do when I know someone can't act, etc.
posted by Keyser Soze at 3:43 AM on April 9, 2004

Don't just sit around, actually act it out. Storyboard the script, so you know where you will be shooting from and how you will be shooting before you start. Make sure everyone knows their lines before you start shooting. Oh, and you seem to imply that you haven't written the whole script yet - well don't do anything more until you have finished it.
posted by Orange Goblin at 4:52 AM on April 9, 2004

Also, your actors are actors. Let them invent some part of their characters. If you're not sure how you're staging this scene, let them workshop it, and come up with position, actions, activities by themselves. That gives you something you can work with.
posted by armoured-ant at 5:26 AM on April 9, 2004

what everyone said...let them decide where and how they'll be standing/sitting/motioning during all this, and you keep in mind what it'll look like thru the camera, and what parts/people/statements you want to specifically focus on or draw attention to, and then direct them with all that in mind. For instance, is the Bob/Ashley thing something that should be close-up with lots of facetime, or should it be pulled back to actually show the emotional distance between them? or both?
posted by amberglow at 5:54 AM on April 9, 2004

I think the best advice I can give at this point is to make sure that your screenplay is properly formatted. It keeps everyone on the same page (har har) when all the dialogue looks the same, the scenes are seperated and identified, etc.

If you haven't already done casting I'd recommend that you film it if you can afford it. Some people come off better or worse on camera than they do to you personally. Some things might only be noticable when you watch the tape again.

What stage are you in, anyway? And how are you crewed. It's hard for me to give advice if I'm not sure what your set up is. Do you have someone to handle the props, set, and wardrobe or are you and the actors taking care of that? Once your script is completed I'd recommend making a list of the days in the film so you can keep track (or help the actors keep track) of what they're supposed to be wearing for each scene. This also helps if any of the sets change at all (ie: pile of puke, empty bottles).

Day for night can be a bitch. If you have any flexibility, try to shoot your night scenes at night.

When choosing locations, don't forget to have a good listen in addition to looking around. It's not fun when you get to a location, set up, and all the sound guy hears is the passing traffic or the furnace. Also, make sure to note the outlets in the room and think about how they would affect your set ups, where you might run cables, etc.

Never show the actors the dailies.

Oh, and watch your axises (axees? whatever), or at least be aware of them.
posted by ODiV at 7:23 AM on April 9, 2004

I think how you proceed depends on what you are trying to do. If your goal is to tell a good story, then concentrate on the script and get that right first - tell a good story. A great way to edit a script is to do what you're already doing - have people read it aloud to see if it sounds good. If you can get them to act it out for you as you revise, even better.

One bit of writerly advice - try and make your script action driven rather then letting dialogue move the story forward. That can work, but I think first-time script writers think about screenplays in terms of dialogue instead of actions and scenes - a stageplay is more about what people say to one another, but in film, you should strive to be more visually driven.

A word on formatting - if you intend to sell the script, then absolutely, make sure the formatting is 100% correct. Final Draft, although an added expense, is helpful for getting a script to 'look right'. If you're only writing w/ the intent of filming it yourself, then this is less important.

Read as many professional, produced scripts as you can both for how they tell a story, but also for formatting. There are a ton of places where you can download scripts for free.

That's just my two cents - it's awesome that you're undertaking this project.
posted by drobot at 8:12 AM on April 9, 2004

All the above posts are good; coincidentally, the technique of improvisational rehearsing, or blocking a scene, is quite common.

For a director/screenwriter, blocking allows an enormous canvas to work with. Many of your work's themes and undercurrents can be emphasized through nonverbal cues, such as the physical placement of the performers in an area, in relation to their physical expressions and use of props.

Outside of the benefits to actors and directors, it's a useful reference for post-production notes. One can more easily determine the pacing and continuity of the final edits with a dry run or rehearsal included with the daily production footage. Lighting and choreography, weither on location or a soundstage, will draw from such cues, as can ideas for musical scoring.
posted by Smart Dalek at 10:21 AM on April 9, 2004

great suggestions so far. i'd like to add:

always have the characters doing something, never just talking. Something that either defines their character or advances the plot. Work with the actors to have them come up with something that their character would be doing in that situation. Not only will that give them some ownership of their character, but, it'll make them less self-conscious about their acting, if they're distracted by fiddling around with the lighter or whatever.
posted by Miles Long at 10:41 AM on April 9, 2004

While I generally applaud the idea of learning by doing, I would suggest that you join a writers' workshop or perhaps take some classes before subjecting actors to your screenplay. It isn't very good. It certainly has the sound of something that was written in an altered state, but that's not the same thing as sounding like something someone in an altered state would say.
posted by anapestic at 11:43 AM on April 9, 2004

anapestic - way to be constructive. 'It isn't very good' will go a long way to making the script better. [/sarcasm]

I'm a big fan of writing workshops and grad writing programs, BUT you can get the same education by writing.

So what if your first script isn't so hot -- your second one will be a lot better. The third one -- better yet. So Keyser - keep at it. If you have the inclination, take a class, but you can get as good an education by reading scripts and books and watching movies. A workshop will help in that you've got deadlines and a captive audience, but if you're motivated and have people to read your stuff, that's just as good. Workshops can be stifling to a lot of people too, especially if the instructor stinks. I'd just keep at it and take a class when you feel like you can't make the script any better. It's a lot of work, yes, but that's why everybody doesn't do it.

Robert McKee's Story is a decent book, I'm told.
posted by drobot at 12:10 PM on April 9, 2004

I thought the dialogue sounded reasonable, one of the few things that bothers me is this exchange:

But hes your friend! You have to do something about it.
Do what? Codies passed out in the basement.

The phrase "But he's your friend!" is common enough, but if the audience doens't know Cody is one of Bob's friends, then having a character state what the other character already knows is an odd way to introduce that information. Do they both know Cody is passed out in the basement or is this for the audience's benefit?

And another thing bothers me, Chris goes running towards the backyard, then we have approx 20 seconds of dialogue, then Chris comes bursting through the screen door into the backyard, which is way too long, did it really take that long for him to make into the backyard?
posted by bobo123 at 12:19 PM on April 9, 2004

That part seemed fine to me if the context is right (the very beginning of the movie, maybe); it's the same 20 seconds shown to the audience from 2 different perspectives. Have to do some good cinematography to make it work, though, I think.

I don't care.

you never care.

This part sounds wrong to me. Would a boyfriend really straight-up say "I don't care", even if he doesn't?
posted by Tlogmer at 12:31 PM on April 9, 2004

Just about anyone can learn to write well given some practice and, often, some instruction. If someone thinks that he's writing at 10 and he's really at 3, then he's never going to move beyond 3. You do bad writers no favor by coddling them. The most constructive criticism in this instance is "learn to write."
posted by anapestic at 12:45 PM on April 9, 2004

anapestic - Telling somebody their work is no good is a sure way to make sure they'll never write again. That's not constructive. If you don't have the time to offer specific criticism, then something like 'hey, this is a good start - have you considered taking a writer's workshop?' would have been a much better response, IMO.

I don't think Keyser made any claims about the quality of the writing other then 'this sucks' so I wouldn't say this is a situation where the writer thinks he's a 10. It sounds like you, on the other hand, have taken a ton of workshops and are an awesome writer, so why not offer some encouragment? Learning to write well is a huge undertaking.
posted by drobot at 1:45 PM on April 9, 2004

Hey, I never said this script was high quality. First of all the script was not written in an altered state of mind (except maybe a few of the lines were written when I was sick and had a fever) and I posted it knowing full well it was no Wes Anderson.

Tlogmer, that didn't come up yet, but good point. I'll see what I can do. I have never heard of Blocking a Scene, I would have been screwed without it.

Now, let me explain what this script is really about:

This is a scene at a party (was anybody able to extract that from my jumble crap?) and represents a group of teenagers who are still immature. This is obviously self apparent, which I am trying to convey that the emotional age is still not quite yet 'flowered'.

Later on however, there are going to be circumstances. Chris is a problem drinker, an alcoholic. He is going to lose his job that hes had over a year and a half and fall into a deep hole which we don't know he will get out of. Tyler (a seperate character) is going to Jail. The script is early, rough, poorly worded, and immature. I want to keep the last two traits until I want to show the viewer something more.

And about Bob saying 'I don't care'. Yes, hes said that in the past. Thanks for everyones help, I don't deserve it.
posted by Keyser Soze at 2:05 PM on April 9, 2004

And by the way, WE ARE ALL FIRST TIMERS, except the cameraman. I am a first timer writing a full script, directing, all my friends are first timers acting. I want to make it loose and low key until they are comfortable, and them Wham! Kyle has to cry on camera. This will not only be for my amusement, but for the direction and emtional impact of the movie.
posted by Keyser Soze at 2:19 PM on April 9, 2004

Are you filming it all chronologically?

How long is it?
posted by ODiV at 8:30 AM on April 10, 2004

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