Things To Do On Your

If you can't rehearse with the director or other cast members, you can still improvise on your own. Without the overseeing eye of the director, though, the work can only be considered improvisational, because whatever you do might be changed once the filming starts.

Most actors do not exist in a vacuum; they are part of a community of other actors. The first thing you need is a trusted a friend or colleague who knows your work and will be willing to assist you. The person must agree to be there for you, that is, to help you prepare. You can't allow yourself to be directed in this process; you just need an assistant to play the other parts and bounce around your preparations, so you can find things on your own.

Here are a few approaches and tips to rehearsing on your own:

• Single out one or two things per rehearsal that you would like to work on. No more than two! To start with, you might chose exploring the nature of the relationship between you and a scene partner.

• Pose questions that you will try to answer through your improv-isational work with your partner. Always go into an improvisation with a question that will set up a parameter within which to explore.

To improvise without parameters can be a waste of time. As in the sense memory work, it is best to wonder about the possibilities by giving your imagination free reign within a set of boundaries. You set up the boundaries by asking a specific question, rather than trying to prove a preconceived idea by forcing it on the improvisation. The right question will lead you to a usable answer or to the formulation of a better question. You only work on one or two elements at a time, so that you can explore them fully with- ^ out overtaxing the acting instrument. You keep what you feel has worked | from one improvisation, choose something else to work on, and layer it into § the next improvisation.

• Read the scene together, inserting the Inner Monologue when you don't understand something, either of your own text or of your partner's. Your partner should do this also.

• Use the Inner Monologue when you can't express with the text what you are actually feeling. Never bottle up your emotions or try to funnel them into a narrow, constricted idea of the character in a session with a friend. Listen to your impulses and express them.

Part of the reason that you bother to rehearse on your own is to give yourself more freedom than you will have in the professional situation. It gives you a chance to warm up to the character and work out the bugs. If you sanction a more permissive range of expression now, you will be able to uncover the problems with your preparation before you get to the set. Once uncovered, a problem can usually be solved.

• Try to find a situation that you are familiar with that is like the one in the screenplay and discuss it with your partner.

• Use this situation along with the one or two things you have isolated to explore the scene.

• Take your time. Don't worry about pacing and the rhythm of the scene.

If you have been developing the character, you might want to try some of your ideas out with your friend's help. See if you can create any of the sense memories you have chosen while looking into another pair of human eyes. You may find that your preparation will have to be adjusted when it encounters the opposition of another living being. It's one thing to be brilliant alone in your bedroom, quite another to hold your own against the forces of a scene partner. You want to check for tension here. Make sure that your preparation is not so strong that the emotion chokes you or so timid that it dissipates when you start putting some of the demands of the scene on it. You also want to make sure that you can remain flexible enough to respond to the other actor.

^ • Improvise the scenes that do not take place in the script but are part of oi the character's known history. This can either be events that take place

™ before the character's life as it appears in the script or events that we

< know have occurred but are not shown in the movie.

This can be very valuable work to create a believable character. It also clarifies relationships that you have in the movie by making a history. When you do this type of improvisation, keep it simple and always have a good time; have fun.

The trick is to find out what you can use practically and eliminate that which bogs the character down in any form of self-indulgence or takes you away from the action of the scene. In order to do this you need to isolate the elements and work on them separately before you can layer the part into a cohesive whole.

Don't allow your partner to direct you or give you advice on how to play the part. Remember that the only opinion that really counts is that of your director, and you will have to wait to receive that one. The work you do on your own can strengthen your confidence and give you a battalion of ideas that you can pull from as needed on the set. It makes you feel less vulnerable and more prepared to perform once the camera starts rolling.

I love the art of the screenplay and how this wonderfully compact, precise written form opens the door to creative choices through its clear-cut, crisp format. I have tried, in these last chapters, to help the actor to get the most out of the script before the shooting starts and to help him to use his technique to create the character from the information in the script.

In the next segment of the book, I'll talk about the shooting of the movie, the roles that important crew members play for the actor, and how the actor works in the whirlwind that is a movie set.

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