Film Workshop – Blocking Actors

by Peter D Marshall

Cinema is a matter of what’s in the frame and what’s out.” Martin Scorsese

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!

What is Blocking?

Blocking is simply the relationship of the camera to the actors. Essentially, it is the physical movement of the actors relative to the position of the camera.

When a director starts to plan the blocking of a film scene, he is thinking not only about his shots and camera positions, but he also needs to take into consideration other items affecting the scene such as lighting, window placement, vehicle movement, extras, stunts, special effects and of course, time and budget.

Where you put the camera (picking shots and angles) is determined by: what’s important in the scene; what is the scene about (scene objective), and what do the characters want (character objectives) and your choices can either enhance or detract the audience’s understanding of what the scene is really about and what the characters are feeling.

Viewer emotion is the ultimate goal of each scene, so where you place the camera involves knowing what emotion you want the audience to experience at any given moment. All actor movement must have a precise purpose and goal so a director needs to make sure that every move actors make has a specific purpose.

You want to reveal a character’s thoughts or emotions through actions because actions are more revealing of a character than dialogue. So when blocking actors, you want to drive the blocking emotionally so no actor movement is done aimlessly.

Audiences today are very sophisticated and they will assume that every shot, movement or word of dialogue in a film is there to further the central idea. Therefore, each shot you use can either enhance or detract the audience’s understanding of what the scene is really about and what the characters are feeling.

REMEMBER: Blocking is like a puzzle – keep working at it until the whole scene falls into place. And there is never one interpretation of how a scene should be blocked.

This 2-day hands-on workshop concentrates on constructing shots and blocking actors in a scene and is designed for directors and actors who want to better understand the complicated process of scene analysis and blocking actors on set.

In this workshop you will also have the opportunity to participate in blocking a scene with professional actors and the scene will be recorded to play back for discussion and review.

Course Objectives

The main objective of this workshop is to demonstrate why actors need to be given permission to discover how they want to move on the set FIRST – with minimal blocking suggestions from the director

I will also explain why good directors allow this to happen – by trusting their instincts and by practicing the 10 Step Actor/Director Blocking Process

By the end of this 2-day workshop, you should be able to:

– Recognize the importance of the actor/director relationship
– Effectively analyze any scene in your script
– Interpret the actor’s language
– Improve your blocking skills

DAY ONE

1. Introduction
2. Tools of the Director
3. Tools of the Actor
4. The Actor’s Language (21 Words You Must Know)
5. The Director’s Acting and Blocking Mantra
6. The 3 “R’s” of Screenwriting, Shooting & Editing
7. Shot Composition, Depth and Rule of Thirds
8. The 180 Degree Rule
9. The Psychology of Movement
10. 5 Stages of Shooting a Scene
11. What is Blocking?
12. Basic Blocking and Staging Techniques
13. The 9 Part Scene Breakdown Process
14. 15 Questions Directors Must Ask Before Blocking
15. The 8 Step Actor/Director Working Relationship
16. The 10 Step Actor/Director Blocking Process
17. DEMO: The 10 Step Actor/Director Blocking Process
18. Class Exercise (Prepare Scenes for Day Two)

DAY TWO

1. Review: 15 Questions Directors Must Ask Before Blocking
2. Review: 10 Step Actor/Director Blocking Process
3. Class Exercise: Scene Presentations with Actors
4. Playback Scene Presentations for Class Review
5. That’s a Wrap

 Who Should Take this Course

Film Directors, Screenwriters, Actors, Producers who want to more deeply understand the techniques directors use to create great shots and block scenes on set and directors and producers who wish to better understand how to communicate and work with actors.

How to contact Peter D. Marshall

If you are interested in finding out more about “Blocking with Actors,” contact me to find out the dates for the next workshop or to discuss how we can bring this workshop to your city.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Peter D. Marshall
pdm@actioncutprint.com

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