“…Then there are the other directors I watch and wonder why they get out of bed in the morning, because of the stunning lack of homework they do.” – Anthony Hopkins
Prepare to work with your actors by clarifying your choices and jotting down possible objectives and strategies (active verbs) in your script IN PENCIL. Actors want to respect their director. After all, they must put a lot of faith and trust in them. The director is the eyes and ears of the actor. This is true much more in film than it is in theater. The easiest way to lose their respect is to be unprepared and not know what the film is about or what you want from the actors. So do your homework!
The Rehearsal Process
Step One: The Table Read – Intellectual Preparation. This is the time to share your directorial vision (and those of your creatives) and the only time you should speak intellectually about the script. Make sure the actors know what your vision is and how the other creative elements will be handled as well as how you see them fitting in to the overall theme (spine). Discuss backstory, motivations, objectives, obstacles, etc. with the actors and listen carefully and respectfully to their input. It is their job to contribute creatively. Ask the actors to work on preparing their roles based on this information. Make any changes to your own preparation in pencil.
Step Two: The Second Rehearsal – Emotional Preparation. This is the time for experimentation! Try different approaches with your actors and ask them to take risks. This is a time to try improvisation and trust exercises to build up the relationship between and with your actors. Keep an open mind. You may be surprised. Don’t ask for film worthy performances. This will make your actors stale when they get to set and not allow them to make discoveries. This is the time for emotional exploration and connections (relationships). It is also a time to get to know your actors and their process so that you can determine what directions and approach will work best for them. You can also identify any quirks they have that will need to be addressed on set.
Step Three: On-set rehearsals – forget it all and make sure your actors are listening and making connections. During the shoot it is very important to make sure your actors feel safe and supported. They must feel that you are in control and since they put their trust in you, they rely on you to be their eyes and ears. Actors need feedback! And they don’t want you to accept less than quality work. It is their face up on the screen and they want you to help them be great. You should speak with them before every take to remind them of their scene objectives and what happened the moment before. This is especially important when you shoot out of sequence. You should also give them feedback after every take even if just to say, we messed up sound so we need to do it again. Otherwise, they will think they did something wrong and spend the whole next take worrying about it. Also, let them know what the next shot is so they can relax. The most important thing for the actor on set is for them to really listen to their partner and respond in the moment. Your job is to make sure they do that, and that they do it within the technical considerations of the shot.
HAVE FUN, MAKE FRIENDS, AND WORK HARD!