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Working With Actors: Rehearsal

1. Rehearsal allows the actors to gain extra experience that will help them build the character while shooting.

2. During the rehearsal process, you get actors to ask the questions and give them specific experiences — ‘as if’ situations, scenarios to work with. Try not to give answers to their questions directly.

3. Get questions from the actors regarding the story and the characters. Give them an additional experience instead of answering the questions directly.

4. Samples of exercises you may find useful:

– Get the actors to stand in front of each other and ask them to mirror one another. First one actor, then another.

– Group mirroring exercise.

– To create intimacy, you can ask the actors to hug one another.

– Build intimacy on the memory of past intimacy.

– Empower your actors to kiss in the rehearsals; of course, if this is part of the story.

– Kissing exercise:

  • Look each other in the eyes
  • Lick your lips
  • Look each other in the eyes
  • Lick your lips
  • Tilt your head one way (the other actor tilts it the other way)
  • Than kiss

– Try only back-story improvisation for the rehearsal.

– Mirroring can be very powerful, and as a director, you should be leading the exercise. You can use “Perhaps you… now” to communicate what you need from the actors.

– Always make the rehearsal process and all the exercises safe.

5. For the violence scenes let the actors grab each other’s shirts, without pinching or hurting one another.

6. To strangle someone, you put two thumbs together in front of their neck. However, the person being strangled must be the one who is guiding your hands.

7. Any rehearsal should empower the experience of being on the set.


1. The back-story improvisation.

2. What was the past decisions the character made, which consequences may be or are still visible in the scene?

3. Add emotional memories/events and back-story that lead to the scene you are working on.

4. The point of the improvisation is to come to a decision about what happens (what is the subtext) of the scene.

5. In real life, people don’t make decisions until they have some time pressure hanging over them. Your characters must not be any different than that; you need a ticking clock over the characters’ heads to make them decide.

6. Add negative consequences to the time pressure. ‘You must decide now because something terrible will happen if you don’t.’

7. Get the actors to realise that they have to make a tough decision. This way you will help them to create an experience they can go with when needed for the scene.

8. Start the improvisation a minute before the scene starts.

Mini Rehearsal Just Before You Start Shooting

1. If you must adjust the scene just after the cut, you don’t need to send your crew away for that.

2. Give the actors physical exercise to remember.

3. Get an object that you were using during the rehearsals (a pillow, a cloth) to remind the actors of both, the actions and the feelings associated with that object.

4. Don’t ever bullshit your actors.

5. Ask your actors if they have any questions for you.

6. Give them only the essentials.

7. After “the cut” ask you actors “What did you see?”

8. Remind your actors of emotional continuity.

9. If the actors try to extract some specific information, you can always ask: “Sorry, is there a question?”

10. Don’t rehearse on the set more than 2–3 times before you start shooting.

Tool for Getting Actors out of Characters

1. Get out of the costume and make-up.

2. Ask your actors: “What is the difference between you and the character?”

3. Ask the actors what is next for them. By talking about their future, you take them out of character.

4. Help actors to reground themselves. You can use some stretching or another physical exercise.

While you are here, you might also be interested in Creative Distribution.

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