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Rehearsing on the Film Set

In the last article, I discussed Blocking – the first part of a five stage process of shooting any scene:

1) Block – determining where the actors will be on the set and the first camera position
2) Light – time for the DOP to light the set and position the camera for the first shot
3) Rehearse – camera rehearsal of the first set-up with the actors and crew
4) Tweak – make lighting and other adjustments
5) Shoot – shooting the first scene (then repeat the process)

In this article, we will discuss the Rehearsal process.

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 slightly?

Once you are happy with this rehearsal and the crew have 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” 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 feedback.

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 prints, move on to the next shot. Tell the script supervisor what takes you like or what portions of several takes you like for the editor.

And the five-part process begins all over again!

Copyright (c) 2000-2010  Peter D. Marshall / All Rights Reserved

{ 7 comments… add one }
  • Jacob June 3, 2013, 2:31 pm

    Hi could i be subscribed please. Cheers

  • Eve bramly February 28, 2014, 1:32 pm

    Thank you for this effort. You are very much appreciated

  • Larbi POPE WILLIAMS September 18, 2014, 3:29 am

    nice thought,could you educate us more

  • Ravi September 25, 2015, 6:08 pm

    Great articles and practical stuff!

  • kayongo September 20, 2017, 3:55 am

    This is a very good training text for budding film makers. I hope many people will find it useful as I have found it. Please give us more

  • KAYONGO SAMUEL September 20, 2017, 4:08 am

    well done for en-lighting us who love film making, i have made a big discovery on landing at you notes.Bravo

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