So, what about the dialogue for a movie role? What's the best way to approach it? The approach to memorizing text in a film is quite different from memorizing text for a theatrical performance. In theater there are rehearsals; the director and the actors meet one another and talk. The play is worked on bit by bit, until it exists as a whole in a continuous fashion that makes sense to everyone involved, or at least that's the general goal.
Not so with a movie. Many times, there are no rehearsals at all, except for a brief run-through of the text on the set right before you shoot the scene. Often, you haven't met your fellow actors until you are in Makeup oi and Wardrobe on the day of the shoot; many times you meet them on the ™ set right before you are ready to shoot the scene. Sometimes you don't < even meet the director until you are ready to shoot. The script may have J changed many times since you last saw it, and it might change again before you're done with the day's shooting. One thing that is not likely to change is the action and what the scene is about. Each scene in a movie is like a building block, and its internal structure within the whole stays pretty much the same.
Directors are usually willing to change the text if it's too stilted or isn't working for the scene and the actors sound stiff. They may simply say, "Let's fix this," and pull out a pen and start crossing out and adding as they go. The actor is usually part of this process, and good film actors will naturally change text to make it more suitable for the action of the moment. I know every auteur director and screenwriter is cringing in their seats after reading this and saying to themselves, "Not with my script, not with my words," but in reality there are very few screenplays that are so perfect that they can't be improved when the actors enter the set to shoot the scene. Many experienced directors will talk about how all the preparation and vision in the world are only the beginning foundations that they build upon. When the actors come onto the set, there has to be flexibility for spontaneous creativity to take place for the betterment of the whole. This process often includes changing the text.
Certainly the dialogue must be worked on; all problems you might have in executing it have to be solved before you get to the set. It must be perfectly memorized. I know all the stories about actors in movies not knowing their lines, but that is a misrepresentation of the truth. Movie actors are expected to know their lines perfectly without any rehearsal at all. They must be quick studies who are able to completely change their interpretation at a moment's notice, as well as being totally comfortable with line changes, sometimes significant ones, that are instantly incorporated into the performance that is in the process of being shot. Flexibility is the key word here.
Every actor learns from experience what method of memorizing works best for her under these circumstances. I would suggest learning your lines devoid of emotion, with someone else holding book and reading all the other parts. You should be able to pick up your cues like you would in a speed-through rehearsal. It's also helpful if you can do ^ something else while you say the lines, something mindless like doing the c dishes or cooking. ^
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