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The Director’s Chair Issue #156 – August 7, 2014 (Blocking & Rehearsing Actors on Set)

Free Monthly Ezine for Independent Filmmakers

August 7, 2014                Scene 15 – Take 8

Published once a month.

Publisher: Peter D. Marshall
Email: mailto:pdm@actioncutprint.com
Website: http://actioncutprint.com
Blog: http://filmdirectingtips.com


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Ezine Contents

1. Introduction
2. Bonuses for Subscribing to The Director’s Chair
3. Advanced Blocking Workshop – Toronto, August 9 & 10
4. FEATURE ARTICLE: Blocking & Rehearsing Actors on Set
5. Film Directing Coach Services
6. Subscriber Shameless Self-Promotion
7. Filmmaking Links of Interest
8. Product Promotion and Film Workshops
9. Subscribe and Unsubscribe Information
10. Copyright Information

1. Introduction

Welcome to Issue #156 of The Director’s Chair, Aug. 7, 2014

1. My Feature Article this month is called: Blocking and
Rehearsing Actors on Set. “When you first start directing,
blocking a scene can be one of the hardest – and most
embarrassing – parts of your job. Get it wrong here, and you
could waste valuable shooting time trying to get out of the mess
you created! Before you step onto any film set, you need to first
do your homework on Script and Character Analysis. You must be
able to understanding every detail of the script (what the story
is about; the themes; the story points) and character development
and analysis (the development and objectives of the characters).”
(Read the rest of this article below.)

2. Please send any comments, suggestions, questions or advice to:

2. Two Bonuses For Subscribing To The Director’s Chair

Thank you very much for subscribing to this ezine.

BONUS #1 – Here is the link to download Day One (41 pages) of
“The Art and Craft of the Director Audio Seminar.”

BONUS #2 – Here is the link to download the first 30 pages of the
“Script Breakdown and Film Scheduling Online Course.”

IMPORTANT: Once the pdf file has opened on your browser, go to
File, “Save Page As” and save the file to your desktop. All links
will now work in the pdf file.

3. Advanced Blocking Workshop – Toronto, August 9 & 10

When you first start directing, blocking actors in a scene can be
one of the hardest (and most embarrassing) parts of your job. If
you get it wrong here, you could waste valuable shooting time
trying to get out of the mess you created!

“Advanced Blocking” is a 2 day hands-on workshop with Peter D.
Marshall and concentrates on constructing shots and blocking
actors in a scene.

This workshop is designed for directors and actors who want to
better understand the complicated process of scene analysis and
blocking actors on set.

VIDEO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8p1Qkv7DoIM

For more info about this workshop, please vist Raindance Toronto:

4. Feature Article: Blocking and Rehearsing Actors on Set

Blocking and Rehearsing Actors on Set by Peter D. Marshall

When you first start directing, blocking a scene can be one of
the hardest – and most embarrassing – parts of your job. Get it
wrong here, and you could waste valuable shooting time trying to
get out of the mess you created!

Before you step onto any film set, you need to first do your
homework on Script and Character Analysis. You must be able to
understanding every detail of the script (what the story is
about; the themes; the story points) and character development
and analysis (the development and objectives of the characters).

The first thing I do when the actors arrive for a blocking is to
get them in a group and read the scene: no moving, no “acting” –
just reading the scene through. This makes sure everyone is on
the “same page”. (Sometimes actors do not have revisions and this
is a good time to find that out.) Also, by reading together, the
actors start to feed off each other – and you get to watch the

After the actors read the scene, I ask them to show me what they
want to do. I just step back and let them go for it. If it is a
set no one has been in before, I take a few moments to discuss
the physical lay out of the room – the door an actor will come
through; a window they can walk up to; which desk they can sit at

The actors then begin their first walk through – they read the
scene and walk around the set to get a feel of what they want to
do and where they want to be. During this initial blocking, I try
not to make any suggestions to the actors – it is important that
they show me what they have in mind.

Remember, this is the first time the actors have been together on
the set and they need their time to explore. As you watch the
actors, you get a feel for what they want to do, where they want
to go and how they are relating to each other.

On the next blocking, you begin to make your changes. Maybe you
want an actor to sit in a chair by the window instead of on the
couch; you ask an actor if it would be okay to pace beside an
actor and not in front of him so you can save a set-up; you make
a suggestion to an actor to move across the room instead of
standing by the door etc.

Once you have discussed the scene, and everyone agrees with the
suggestions, the actors do it again. This time, you begin to
figure out your camera placement based on their movement and what
you first had in mind.

As the actors go through the scene, you walk around them looking
at all your camera positions. Usually the DOP is with you to
discuss camera set-ups and positions. This is also a time where
you can stop-and-start the actors – move them around to get a
better background. During this blocking, a camera assistant will
place marks on the floor whenever the actors stop.

When everyone is satisfied, the actors leave and you discuss the
first set-up in more detail with the DOP and the camera operator.
When the DOP begins to light, you go over all your set-ups with
the First AD and the Script Supervisor.

When the DOP has finished lighting, the 1st AD calls the actors
back to the set for the rehearsal. This is when all the elements
of the scene are rehearsed together – actors, camera, sound,
stunts, effects etc.

When the actors arrive, it is important to tell them of any
changes that have happened since the blocking. For example: in
the blocking, an actor might have stopped on the left side of the
window and turned around for his line. But during lighting, the
DOP had to move his mark to the right side of the window.

Because the rehearsal process is for both cast and crew, the
first rehearsal will sometimes be a stop-and-start rehearsal: a
technical run-through with the actors (especially if there are
complicated camera moves.)

The actors should walk through their positions and let the Camera
Operator stop them to adjust their end marks or let the Sound Man
find a better position for his mic. Once the crew is happy about
positions and lighting, begin a full rehearsal.

During this first full rehearsal, watch the camera movement and
the placement of the actors in the frame. Are you getting what
you had imagined? Should you tighten up the lens? Should you
delay the dolly in? Should you change the actors positions

Once you are happy with this rehearsal and the crew has made
their adjustments, begin another rehearsal – and watch the
performances. If this is a TV Series, this will probably be your
last rehearsal, so concentrate on the actors and make your notes.

Unless there is a technical problem, I like to shoot after the
second rehearsal. (I hate great rehearsals – why didn’t we shoot
it!) I usually don’t give notes to actors during the rehearsal
stage unless it is about movement because cast and crew will only
give 100% once the camera starts rolling – and that is the only
time you will see if the shot really works.

The 1st AD calls for “Finals” and the “pretty department” (Hair,
Make-up, Wardrobe) goes to work on the actors. This is also the
time any technical adjustments are made: the camera crew gets
final focus marks and the DOP adjusts his lighting.

During the first take, you watch everything – camera movement,
performances and background action. Does the shot feel right? Are
the actors making the right choices? Does the dolly move come at
the right time? Very rarely does the first take get printed –
this is your first true rehearsal with cast and crew.

After the first take, make any technical adjustments and talk to
ALL the actors. This is the first time you have seen them working
up-to-speed and it is important that you give them all some

Talk with the DOP and the Camera Operator if you have any
concerns about the camera moves or the framing. (The DOP usually
watches the monitor with you and if he sees anything wrong he
will deal with it after each take.) Discuss the extras with the
1st AD or any line changes with the Script Supervisor.

If things are going well, the second take will be your first
print. Make a note of where you want changes and focus on those
areas for the third take. If you are shooting a “oner”, get at
least two prints for safety. If you are shooting coverage,
concentrate only on the parts of the scene you want corrections.

Once you are happy with the shot, and you have at least 2 printed
takes, move on to the next shot. Tell the Script Supervisor what
takes you like or what portions of several takes you like for the

REMEMBER: The Five Parts to Shooting any Scene

Block – Light – Rehearse – Adjust – Shoot

1) Blocking – Determines where the actors will be on the set and
the location of the first camera position

a. Blocking should be for movement only – not performance

b. Always block with the actors before blocking with the camera

c. Always let the actors show you what they want to do first

2) Lighting – The time when the DOP and the crew light the set
and position the camera for the first shot

a. The DOP lights the set and positions the camera with the
second team (stand-ins)

3) Rehearsing – The full camera rehearsal of the first set-up
with the actors and the crew

a. The rehearsal is about the ballet between the camera, sound
and actors

4) Adjustments (Tweaking/Finals) – When the DOP and crew make
technical adjustments to lights and other equipment based on the
changes from the full rehearsal

5) Shooting – You shoot the first scene, then repeat the process

a. This is when you have to watch for both performance and

b. Your notes will come after the first take (first time for 100%

Repeat the process all over again for the next shot.

5. Film Directing Coach – Peter D. Marshall

Actors, Singers and Athletes Have Private Coaches. So Why Not
Film and TV Directors? http://actioncutprint.com/filmdirectingcoach/

Hilary Swank used an acting coach to prepare for her role in Boys
Don’t Cry. She won her first Academy Award.

Singer Renee Fleming has always used a vocal coach. She has won
several Grammy Awards.

Rafael Nadal’s coach urged him on from the sidelines during his
Wimbledon tennis tournament win in 2010.

Arnold Palmer improved his game with the help of a coach. Even
Tiger Woods has had several coaches.

As a matter of fact, winners in nearly every profession
(athletes, actors, singers, business executives) know that
without the right coach, they won’t perform at their peak.

They know that without the support of an experienced and
qualified coach, they would constantly struggle to achieve

So if these top professionals in their respective fields use
coaches, why not film directors?

So why hire me as your film directing coach?

Along with my international teaching experiences and my 39 years
of professional filmmaking experience (as a TV Director and
Feature 1st AD), I feel I have the necessary qualifications to
help you achieve your dreams of being a creative and successful
independent film director.

With that in mind, I would like to introduce you to my Film
Directing Coaching services via Skype:

6. Subscriber Shameless Self-Promotion (Free Advertising)

The Director’s Chair gives you an incredible opportunity to get
Free Advertising for your services and your films.

Each month, I give two subscribers an opportunity to promote
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So if you want over 6000 filmmakers around the world to know
about you and your films, please send me your “shameless
self-promotion” to: mailto:pdm@actioncutprint.com.

Please limit your promotion to 300 words. I reserve the right to
edit the promotion for length, spelling and formatting.


1. Tanya Dorri: I am a long-time writer, new director looking for
industry work in the LA area. I am looking to build my resume. If
you are in need of a reliable, fast learner, and industrious
assistant, office helper, or crew member please contact me at
this email: tanyadorri@gmail.com. 310-503-4090

7. Filmmaking Links of Interest

1. 3 Reasons a Distributor Will Pass on Your Film

2. 100 Famous Directors’ Rules of Filmmaking

3. Christopher Nolan sees artists devalued with the digitization
of films http://bit.ly/1jVh1sk

4. 6 Filmmaking Tips from Andy Serkis

5. Break the Rules: Unconventional Directing Advice, inspired by
Wim Wenders http://bit.ly/TZIsER

6. Damon and Affleck resurrect ‘Project Greenlight’ filmmaking
contest http://bit.ly/TSAe1p

7. Here’s What You Need to Know Before Casting Your Film

8. How To Crowdfund Like Humphrey Bogart

9. 6 Filmmaking Tips from Terry Gilliam

10. Attention, Filmmakers: RED Digital Cinema Wants Your
Submissions to its YouTube Channel http://bit.ly/1rRtmyE

8. Product Promotion And Film Workshops

From time to time, I will contact you to inform you of film
workshops, filmmaking products or Online courses that I feel are
beneficial to filmmakers like yourself. Of course, you are under
no obligation to purchase anything – I only offer this
information as a service to subscribers of this free ezine.

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