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Old 03-16-2015, 10:32 PM   #1
Aspiring Mogul
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How about just acting out the scripts?

I've been thinking about this.

When I posted a thread about doing a couple of scenes, I didn't even know about coverage, and I was shocked to find out that a simple scene can take several hours. I have spoken to a cinematographer who has said the real planning is far more complex than what I imagined.

OK, fair enough, and I'll have to get an appropriate crew. But, before that, I want to flesh out my scripts, and, quite honestly, I am approaching the time when I want to film, come what may. I am thinking of finding someone just to get a camera and do simple shoots of the scenes, like an enhanced table read, so I can get an idea of how the scene would work. I understand Jerry Lewis did something like this, to give himself ideas on what he really wanted.

Any thoughts?
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Old 03-16-2015, 11:21 PM   #2
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the more experience you have the easier it is to just wing it.

take a look at anything by william friedkin, he doesn't storyboard or even tell his camera guys the blocking. he films his narratives documentary style
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Old 03-16-2015, 11:44 PM   #3
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It sounds like what you're talking about is a combination of a table read and a rehearsal and blocking process.

Every director has their own style and what they want to happen in each step of the directing process. Each production also has limitations in which steps may be skipped, or taken more slowly.

You can try your method and see if it works for you.
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Old 03-16-2015, 11:55 PM   #4
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Thanks, Sfoster and Sweetie.

I think that I will need a combination of a table read and a rehearsal, perhaps even at the locations in question. My plan, perhaps, is to do a series of short films, to build up my experience, and then move on to more complex scenes/films.

Any other thoughts?
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Old 03-17-2015, 12:22 AM   #5
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I use an audio recorder at table reads
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Old 03-17-2015, 12:24 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sfoster View Post
I use an audio recorder at table reads
That has been suggested, but I think, at this stage, I would also need to film rehearsals, to flesh out my scripts.

BTW, I would be better off as a producer than director, because of my area of knowledge. That said, for a short film, a producer may well be a director, though not a DP or camera operator.
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Old 03-17-2015, 12:39 AM   #7
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Definitely film the table reads. Show the footage to the actors as well so they know what they need to improve upon
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Old 03-17-2015, 12:39 AM   #8
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I worked several times with a producer who would have a less-than-a-rehearsal but more-than-a-table-read "party" with all the department heads (and anyone else important to the production) present. It got everybody comfortable interacting. It brought up some cool ideas. It found a few weak spots. Everybody got to see wardrobe and H/MU (the sound team really appreciates that). Etc. It made for a comfortable, efficient, creative shoot.

She was also a "maniac" on double checking everything, having back-up plans, alternate locations, meticulous logs and lavish craft services; nothing was too good - within the budget of course - for the cast and crew. Which is why so many worked for her for free or a very reduced rate, including yours truly. Everything from prepro through post was fun because she planned the hell out of it and got solid people.
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Old 03-17-2015, 01:06 AM   #9
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BTW, I would be better off as a producer than director, because of my area of knowledge. That said, for a short film, a producer may well be a director, though not a DP or camera operator.
As I said, it depends on the production and the team.

On smaller productions you tend to double up on duties. You can get some weird combinations.

As the producer, what you really want to do is talk with the director to work out the best way to bring the production to life. As I said, everyone has their own style and preferences. What you want to avoid is pidgeon hole your director into a style that just doesn't suit them. You're going to do no one favors doing that.
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Old 03-17-2015, 01:12 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Alcove Audio View Post
I worked several times with a producer who would have a less-than-a-rehearsal but more-than-a-table-read "party" with all the department heads (and anyone else important to the production) present. It got everybody comfortable interacting. It brought up some cool ideas. It found a few weak spots. Everybody got to see wardrobe and H/MU (the sound team really appreciates that). Etc. It made for a comfortable, efficient, creative shoot.
That's what I've been thinking.

I think that's how I'll start, and it will let me get to know people in the industry.
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Old 03-17-2015, 10:25 AM   #11
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I have to say that reading through the threads, it makes me uncomfortable as a writer, producer, director and actor. At best, filmmaking has lots of iffy situations--locking down locations, cast, costumes, props, etc.--even with a script firmly in hand.

What you're talking about here really pushes the line of the screenwriting forum. However, I think it's important to realize that the script is a production tool and central blueprint for the production. With documentaries you can get away with 'less diligent' cinematography because it's more about editing commentary with b-roll. In narrative, you need more savvy.

As producer or AD, I allow 3 hrs to film one page. If it's a complex scene, I may need to allow 5 hrs. Most time, we can shoot a page in 2 hrs IF there's no equipment problems, location problem, prop/cast problems, sound/lighting issues, etc. Most student projects tend to allow only one hour per page and fall behind. I worked with one student who allowed only 30 minutes per page. Needless to say, many compromises needed to be made come shoot days. WHEN I have a properly formatted script, I can quickly breakdown how much time will be needed for locations and shots. So when you say, "before that, I want to flesh out my scripts, and, quite honestly, I am approaching the time when I want to film, come what may." it causes me to shudder.

As an actor, I have multiple commitments. Of four indie projects, I've received shoot dates for none, though they're all supposed to shoot over the next two months. You can't ask actors to put their careers on hold for an unspecified period of time. Can scripts and locations change? Of course. But once you start shooting, it is a royal pain in the ass if you lose an actor. So if you want to do a table read, be clear that this is not for the film. It may not be what you want to hear, but I'm telling you straight--don't bring in your film actors until you have the final script. If you have acting friends to help with the table read, go for it. BUT your final cast--especially at this time of the year--will have multiple paying opportunities coming at them. Money trumps free/deferred. So a comment like, "like an enhanced table read, so I can get an idea of how the scene would work." also makes me nervous. As an actor, I have worked with a director if the scene didn't feel authentic. Sometimes as a director your take on a character differs from the actor so you provide guidance. Central to both is the underlying story. If neither have a clue 'how the scene would work' it can create a bit of chaos.

Some actors can be prima donnas. When the director doesn't have a firm grip on the story to be told, it can collapse into a battle of wills. What you don't want is to re-cast a role at the last minute or re-shoot scenes. I've seen both happen and it's never pretty. Be clear that the table read is for potential roles but that auditions will be held later. Work out your script issues BEFORE you bring aboard your cast. Bring on your director, DP, Sound Engineer and crew. You need to have a director who can provide the synthesis of the table read and scene work and translate that story to the actual cast. I'm not saying you can't re-use actors from the table read, but have them audition with everyone else.

"Definitely film the table reads. Show the footage to the actors as well so they know what they need to improve upon" Film the FINAL table reads with your FINAL cast, not your planning ones. That will be useless. Since there is no sense of how they should be acting, there's nothing to improve upon at the initial stage. It's just to get ideas. You can film it, but it's only for use by you and the director to make determinations about where to go with the script.

As a screenwriter, I can't imagine how you'd even start a project without the project fully worked out. I'd never go to a producer and say "here's some ideas we can work out." I might pitch a concept to get the go ahead to develop a script but I'd never get the go ahead to shoot an idea that wasn't fully scripted.

If you're going to assemble a crew, you should also bring on board a script consultant/screenwriter. One, they can polish up the existing script. Two, once you flesh out your scenes, they can make the appropriate modifications to the script. Three, a film tells a story, it's not simply a collection of scenes. When you focus too much on scenes, you lose touch with the events that come before and after the scene and the evolving interpersonal dynamics. Actors can bring some of that. But without the guidance of an established script, you can find conflicting backstories arise. If you have a writer/director, all the better because s/he comes at the project with a unified vision.

Since we're in the screenwriting forum, I want to emphasize the importance of script as the movie's blueprint. As AudioAlcove mentioned, as an AD and actor, I love it when things are clean and planned. I know what my commitments are. You need me to shoot this weekend. Fine, I set aside that weekend for your shoot. The location is ours from 1:30 to 9:00, so the crew is in and set up by 2:30. Cast call is 2:00 to allow for makeup and wardrobe checks. We do the blocking on site, run lines so we do our first call at 3:00. We shoot until 6:30, break for a bite, finish any shots by 8:30. We breakdown and move to the next location or wrap and call it a night.

Fundamentally it comes down to respect. If you respect crew and cast, they will give you their all and often for free or very little. Part of that respect is time. Time is a valuable commodity. We all have other things we could be doing. So the concept of "Well, maybe I can get a bunch of actors together to just shoot some scenes to see what might work" reads to me as 'waste of time'. While some producers and directors might think that actors are 'arrogant'--what are you paying them to do multiple reads or act out scenes to give you ideas? I could be auditioning for a paying role, acting on stage, appearing in a paying commercial, working a job, or be involved in any number of things. What makes it worth my while as an actor? Do I get IMDb credit for a table read? If I asked my videography friends to spend a Saturday with me shooting some b-roll just for ideas for a film when they could be getting paid to shoot a wedding or paid movie work, they'd laugh at me.

If you're in film school or have acting buddies with nothing better to do on a weekend, this might be a good exercise. I'd still suggest pizza and refreshments for all involved. The time of talent and crew IS valuable. I'm just suggesting that before you take this approach, you evaluate what your real needs are. Since you feel more confident as a producer than director, you might want to hire someone to polish your idea or bring on a good director and turn over control to them to write/direct as they envision it. I don't say this to diminish your abilities, but as a producer, you make money when you have decisive individuals under you. That doesn't mean that they shouldn't check in with you, but you need someone with a strong creative grip and clear vision.

What I understand from your original post is that your script is still unsettled. You can't get to where Sweetie mentioned until the fairly FINAL script is in place. That meeting IS NOT the place to be writing the script. What Sweetie mentioned is what happens when you have a final script. They had worked out wardrobe and set locations. Yes, there will be minor changes as he mentions. And it is great to have everyone meet. But everyone is fairly clear to the story and only adding enhancements. It's not a time to 'flesh out your scripts'. The meat should already be on the bones at that point. Good luck.
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Old 03-17-2015, 10:56 AM   #12
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Thanks for your input, FSF. So what do you suggest? That I get a few actor friends, not the final cast, and go through the reads and rehearsals?
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Old 03-17-2015, 11:47 AM   #13
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If you don't have a solid, final script, that's your best approach. Brainstorm the script ideas. There is no 'rehearsal' at this point. Rehearsal implies you have a final script and the final cast.

DO create backstories for each of the characters in the scene. Give that to the actors so they can develop them. Then just tape the improvs. Give them some direction about what needs to happen in the scene. Not all actors are good at improvisation.

I had this situation arise in a film in which I was involved. The original ending wasn't very authentic. We talked to the director and we worked through the ending. We did a short improv of an alternate. It was powerful and captured on tape. But this is not an effective tool to make movies since we had no way to go back and re-create it for multiple angle takes. We acted within the moment and it was unscripted.

Can that be done? Yes. But it's one shot if done on set. If you do it with friends, you can capture different takes then use that to perfect your script. The script will allow your final cast to internalize the dialogue and actions so it becomes reproducible.

Having your final cast run the range can lead to diluted results in the actual performance. As an actor, I use muscle memory. So if I try too many approaches in the same scene, it's hard to lock in the one needed. What I hate to hear from a director "No, let's do it the way you did it the first time." After trying it three or four different ways, I don't always remember how I did it the first time.

As a director, you should always guide the actor towards the performance you want. "The first time you looked into her eyes before touching her cheek and leaving." Okay, now I can re-associate. Or being able to see the performance you want played back. However this is the kind of guidance you give after the final script is in place--dialogue and scene dynamics have been worked out. The director KNOWS what s/he wants. It's not about working out a scene, it's about delivering a performance.

You need the finished script as a starting point. The director and actors may work together to enhance the performance but the critical element for multiple shots with a single camera is that it's reproducible. And that's when the final cast table read, blocking and rehearsals come into play.
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Old 03-17-2015, 01:02 PM   #14
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If you don't have a solid, final script, that's your best approach. Brainstorm the script ideas. There is no 'rehearsal' at this point. Rehearsal implies you have a final script and the final cast.
I think I'll go with what Sweetie suggested, doing a combination of a table read and a rehearsal. So, yes, this is not a "rehearsal"; it's a combination between a table read and a rehearsal.



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Originally Posted by FantasySciFi View Post
DO create backstories for each of the characters in the scene. Give that to the actors so they can develop them. Then just tape the improvs. Give them some direction about what needs to happen in the scene. Not all actors are good at improvisation.
Yes, definitely. In fact, with science fiction, I have to create an entire universe, and that's where the fun comes in.




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Originally Posted by FantasySciFi View Post
Can that be done? Yes. But it's one shot if done on set. If you do it with friends, you can capture different takes then use that to perfect your script. The script will allow your final cast to internalize the dialogue and actions so it becomes reproducible.
I think I would do it with actors, though they may not be the final cast. This will allow me to create short films and practice, practice, practice. Thanks once again.
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Old 03-17-2015, 02:59 PM   #15
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The important thing is to have fun with it and learn. What you might do, is offer to let the actors use the clips for reel. Lots of actors would like reel to show casting directors. You could have a written agreement how much they may use and when to protect you film. If you are only doing scene studies, though, it shouldn't be an issue. Cheers.
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