Saturday, February 16, 2008

ON ACTING: Rehearsal

In television acting and most low-budget (so-called 'independent-film') film acting, rehearsal time is relatively non-existent. Directors, writers and producers assume the actor has no problems. Why? Because time is urgent (the director wants all that is available for her/his technical needs) and time is money...and, moreover, most directors, writers and producers don't really understand and appreciate--and therefore don't respect--the effort and difficulty involved in the acting process!!

So actors, be prepared: Before an actor does a 'take'--performs while the cameras roll--the actor often only gets (1) one rehearsal before the director/cinematographer lights the set, and then (2) perhaps two rehearsals after lighting...the first one really being a technical rehearsal and not just for the actors per se. (And if you think you will have time to rehearse 'on film' during a plethora of 'takes', forget about it: most directors want--and expect--to 'print' the first 'take' and move on. And if the actor requires three or more 'takes' to get it right, that actor is judged severely.)

What should the actor do?

Rehearse a lot with the other actors on your own? Forget about that, too; most actors don't want to rehearse off-set. Why? Several reasons: (1) some actors feel they will get stale with too much rehearsal; (2) some are lazy; (3) some are too busy in the dressing room calling their agent and/or girl/boy friend; and (4) (and this is true more than actors are willing to admit): working actors are competitive rather than cooperative...and therefore don't want to risk exposing their good stuff in rehearsal and have the other actors co-opt it or find a way to sabotage it during filming.

Cynical? Perhaps. Maybe I just worked in my career with an unrepresentative and skewed set of actors who all failed 'sharing' in kindergarten...but...

I offer a corrective to all of the above: be a consummately trained, prepared and superbly talented and confident actor before you walk on the you can handle--survive the filming jungle--without minimal damage to your career and art from too little time and too much competition.

By the way, these harsh truths are not only exclusive to the acting profession; lawyers, doctors, executives and many, many other occupations inhabit and experience the same dog-eat-dog preparing and working conditions in their professional lives. People get paid 20% for the work they do, and 80% for with too-little-time-to-prepare and the misery of dealing with other people.

FINAL NOTE: The Screen Actors Guild doesn't give a separate award for "Ensemble Cast" because that condition is so prevalent on the set of a show!


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