SHOULD I HAVE REHEARSALS BEFORE SHOOTING MY MOVIE?
This is a question that I’ve thought about often. If you were to ask most actors, they will likely say yes, rehearsals are necessary. If you ask the producer in charge of budget, the answer is likely no. If you ask a director, I think you’ll find that the answer varies. So what are you supposed to do? Should you hold rehearsals?
With the four films that encompass my career, I’ve only held rehearsals for one of them. If you can tell me which one, I would be shocked. Hell, sometimes I can’t even tell, which leads me to believe they aren’t necessary, at least for the films I shoot. I don’t have heavy action, dance numbers or extensive camera movements. I have simple dialogue scenes with minimal movement, so what is there to rehearse?
REHEARSING ON SET
My first three films, we rehearsed on set. We would arrive to set and while we were setting up equipment for the shoot, I asked the actors to begin rehearsing with each other. After an hour or so of setup, I would ask to see the scene, so I can determine what we have and what we need. After a few notes back to the team, the rehearsal continues as I finalize my prep for the shoot.
I find this method to be very effective. When shooting a film, you’re shooting a limited number of pages a day. You’re not acting out a 90 minute play from start to finish. Weeks of rehearsing isn’t really necessary. To take this even a step further, the pages you are shooting are broken down into smaller chunks to be filmed separately.
When I first operated in this manner, I made the decision for the simple fact that I wasn’t paying people and I didn’t want to steal too much of their time. I was trying to cut corners and optimize time as much as possible. After three films, I wondered if I needed to schedule an actual rehearsal day. Would rehearsing improve the performances? Would it improve the film?
REHEARSING BEFORE FILMING
A simple answer to a simple question...no. No, the performances weren’t any better. No, the film didn’t improve. I found that my films remained consistently the same even after a full day of rehearsal on a short film.
We scheduled a day for everyone to meet and run through the scenes of the movie. It was a short film, 15 pages, and I didn’t see it necessary to schedule more than a single day. It was nice to get everyone together and have discussions but it’s essentially the same process I would do on set.
In fact, the day we shot the scenes, we STILL went through my rehearsal process. We set up equipment while the actors rehearsed and I would check in with them about an hour later. After a few notes and changes, we began making a movie.
Just to clarify, I’m not stating that you shouldn’t rehearse for your film. I think rehearsal is extremely important for everyone involved in making the picture. It’s important that everyone is on the same page. I’m vouching for the fact that you should rehearse ON SET as it’s a more efficient approach to the art of filmmaking.
Really, it’s entirely up to you on whether or not you want to rehearse prior to being on set. Look at your script and figure out if rehearsal is necessary. If I had heavy action or dance numbers that required a LOT of choreography, I would likely schedule days to hash that out. However, if you are shooting very simple scenes, I would save the day, save the time and save the money. I would just rehearse the day of, on set.
Whatever you decide, go forth, make your movie and enjoy the process every step of the way. Chase those dreams, work hard and do the best you can. That’s all anyone can ask.