Monday, August 7, 2023

No Rehearsals

By Scott Shaw


            I was in El Segundo a couple of days ago. My lady was enthralled with this bead store. So, I decided to go and take a walk around the old section of the city, as it had been a minute since I had been there. Just as I walked past this open front restaurant, I see a guy and he says to people sitting at all the tables, “Okay, we are going to do a full rehearsal.” Just as he said that, he notices me walking past. The funny thing is, he stops. Then, he and all of the people sitting at the tables follow my movements, stare at me as I walk past. I smile. Obviously, his mind was not locked into directing his actors and the actor’s minds were not locked into their characters.

            I continue on my path and went back to the bead shop. I tell my lady the story. She laughs and asks, “Was that the rehearsal, watching you walk past?”

            The guy, obviously the director, was a chubby, dark-haired guy, in his forties. The people at the tables were all young, blonde, in their early twenties. They obviously had a little bit of money for this production because I’m sure the rental of that restaurant wasn’t cheap. His mistake... He fell into the trap of tradition. He wanted to rehearse his actors. But, rehearsals do not work!

            I have long understood that you should never rehearse a scene with actors. Why? Because it makes their performance(s) stale. Whenever I’m doing a film, even if we are just testing the lights and sound for camera, and it is the first pass for the actors, I film the scene. The reason for this, oftentimes this first performance is the best—the most natural.

            It’s like life. Do you get to rehearse life? No, all you can do is live it.

            I believe all of us have played scenarios out in our mind, before they ever happen. We play them out the way we want them to occur. But, they are never lived like that. Life takes hold. Each person brings their own, unique personality into the equation, and the situation plays out different than we ever imagined.

            So, like true actors acting in a film, all we can do is live life and be in the moment. Though we may pretend to control it, though we may want to rehearse it, we cannot.

            Let life be what it is and react to it the way each scene uniquely presents itself. That equals a natural performance, natural freedom.

            No rehearsals. They don’t work.


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Scott Shaw Zen Filmmaking