I love working with actors. My two favorite parts of making any movie are the rehearsals and the editing. The re-writes that come from rehearsals are essential. Asking questions of actors, and more importantly them asking questions of you as both a writer and director create dialogue and scenario changes that leave no gaps. One of the points of rehearsal is to work out any logic gaps or credibility issues with the scenes and words. Cutting lines feels like editing video, but live with actors. Sometimes something reads fine, but hearing it out loud makes you think “Hey, no one would stand there and listen to that much without intervening or doing something.“
It’s different for a writer/director in that I have to either have or find the answers to the actors’ questions. I get to interpret with the actors what the words mean. Sometimes it changes in the rehearsal process to incorporate what the actors bring to the table. I like the challenge of seeing if I know the characters well enough to answer all questions. Sometimes the answers find themselves, other times I have to create the answer, and sometimes the actor can find the answers. Finding a reason and a meaning in every line is important. The context, subtext, and everything in between makes for a more interesting performance.
From one single rehearsal last week, I changed 30%-40% of the dialogue in the script. Concepts and ideas get refined in the dialog. Clarification from the intent happens easier when you have an open mind to contributions. Rehearsals are somewhat sacred to me because I want to develop a repartee with the actors so we have trust on set. All the bugs need to be worked out BEFORE we get to set. I am going to fight to have a true blocking rehearsal on the actual location BEFORE the shoot sans crew. Even with great rehearsals, it gets disorienting on the actual location with the crew and cameras, so getting that extra chance to try it out at the real place develops a confidence in the cast on the day of the shoot because they have a leg up on everyone having already been there, done it, without the same pressures of the shoot day.
I’m only shooting a 5 page script in 1 shooting day. It will be a full day and my standards (for myself) are a lot higher than anything I’ve ever made before. I have 3 of the best actors in Central Ohio. I pretty much have a dream cast for Columbus thespians. Greg Sabo has the cinematography gig, so a polished, well lit and operated piece this shall be. He already started a shot list and it’s gonna be fantastic. We’re on the same page mostly, and to be honest, I like to rely on my camera person more than a director should. Most directors are 50% camera and 50% actors (or 75% camera and 25% performance), and I like the collaboration with actors and making performance my main concern. If I “cast” the camera person right, someone who knows how to tell a story with the camera, then I’ll be fine. I need to work with people who have more experience and are “better” than me at what they do. That’s the best way for me to learn.