We had actors. So many actors. But what do we do with them? Did I mention… ARGH?!
With our cast of 50 locked in we were looking straight down that ol’ filming gun-barrel. The novice wannabe director had to hitch up his pants and face the actors. And it seems that all of that panic, and waking from thespian-zombie nightmares was for naught.
Turns out that they are actually human beings. Who would’ve thought?
The rehearsal process for Bound By Blue was an eclectic one. Each of the main characters have very different perspectives of the world, and for three of our four cast this was rather distant from their own experience.; thus the acting.
Frank Magree played a being from another world; Richard Davies was a man with a phobia of being touched; and Debbie Zukerman, a woman bearing guilt over the death of her best friend. And it was all going to be improvised. Without a script. Yoinks!
With no money to spend on a rehearsal space we decided to be a little adventurous. We took Richard & Frank to a local shopping centre and instructed them to complete a circuit of the mall, but in the mindset of their character. The parameters were clear; the surrounding shoppers would cause emotional reactions based on the character’s perspective. We nicked this idea from a website on Method acting. To be honest, I wasn’t 100% sure this idea would work. And, after sitting by myself in the foodhall for 15 minutes, was concerned that they may not be coming back! But when they did reappear they had found it a success and discovered a gamut of emotional reactions that they had not imagined would occur.
Frank and Richard became very busy soon after and our chances at rehearsal were mostly relegated to emails and phone calls. We evolved backstories, discussed facts about the situation of the film and referenced existing performances. For Frank we mentioned Kevin Spacey in K-PAX and even Robin Wiliams’ Mork. His was a tough role as the exact origin of his character, Blue, was never exactly defined. How does a being from a world that has not been invented act? So we delved into some rather existential conversations about the human experience.
We were very worried at the time about the lack of face-to-face prep with Richard due to his paid work commitments. The minimal confidence I had in myself was projected onto him and we imagined all kinds of horrible fiascoes taking place on set. So when the record button was pressed on the very first shot of the shoot we were blown away with the amount of internal preparation Richard had gone through. Layers of emotions and history were evident in each performance. I had forgotten that the majority of the work is done by the actor in their own time; directors are just there to keep them on course.
Not having a script forced us to leap into the bottomless pit of potential failure and try things that we may otherwise have ignored. Debbie’s schedule was more flexible so we were able to allocate quite a lot of time to rehearsing. Debbie has been following the Meisner approach to performance, which we knew very little about. So in effect she became a teacher, helping to explain her process and offering up character development exercises. We played with conversations as the character and improvising backstory scenes. We also tried changing the action verb for a scene; testing out the intricacies of the intentions. For example rather than flirt with the man we would try tease, coerce or arouse. If one thing wasn’t working we would switch to something completely opposite and see what happened.
Jenny was a different story. She had found a connection with her character (the best thing you can look for when casting!) and was bursting with ideas and suggestions on how to turn Penelope into a fully-realised personality. I guess that there is enough distance now to admit that I was knee-knocking terrified of facing Jenny! She had everything we needed for the role and more, including an inside-out knowledge of her craft… what if she realised I was just a camera guy wearing a fancy director’s beret?
Either she never realised or Jenny was just too professional to laugh mockingly at me. Going with the latter, thanks Jen! Our rehearsals were more discussion based, ranging across the vast combination of possibilities that could come together to turn a picture in my head into a whole person. Of all of our cast she was the one who kicked me the hardest and forced me to answer questions I had never even thought could be asked.
The best advice we can offer: don’t bullshit. Tell your cast when you don’t know the answer. Hell, sometimes it’s worth telling them that even if you do; gets them thinking!
One of the best things we did was schedule specific rehearsal time before every scene during the shoot. There is nothing quite like being in the space, in the costume and makeup to bring a new level of inspiration to everyone on a set. Our improvising was enhanced ten-fold by allowing this time. We got a chance to play around, try things that were brilliant and lots of things that sucked immensely.
Mind you, maybe having a script does that for you anyway.
Make sure you pop back in next Tuesday for a cuppa, some walnut cake and Kate’s next perm-inducing episode of The Un-Movie Experience (also known as – The Difference Between Diva And Circus Freak Is Only A Lipstick Shade Apart).
Don’t forget that you can find out all of the most current info about Bound By Blue here!