Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Improvisation and Scripted Dialogue

This video has been making the rounds a bit on facebook and it's incredibly impressive. It's hard to believe that some of these lines and scenes were completely spur of the moment. That brings me to talk a bit about improv. Once upon a time, when everything was still put on actual film, improv was rather dangerous. Film was valuable and carefully budgeted and unless you were a big Hollywood picture, improv could end up costing you a lot of money you didn't have.

Enter the digital age. Now, you can do take after long as you have the time. Time is also money and something that is critically budgeted. So how best to add improv to s scene? What are things you should consider when adding improvisation?

First, I recommend that an actor should nail what's on the paper first and THEN add the improv. Give the director at least one great take of what's in the script before you give or ask to give your own stuff. Sometimes the director will tell you just flow with it and then this may be not so important. If you are on a big set, clear any changes with the director before you start "insulting the writers". If you're a day-player, you probably just want to stick to the script.

Second, when improving, make sure you are acting within the constraints of who your character is. Everything you do or say should come from the character. Also, make sure that you aren't omitting important information to the story by changing a line or adding an exchange between characters that would affect the rest of the script. One added line or action can undermine what the author and director intended or make the scene seem awkward and out of place.

Finally, never fell bad when the director tells you they aren't happy with your interpretation. You may think you're a genius, but the director is the keeper of the vision. If they don't feel your take is what they need, they will tell you and you need to respect it. You may be right, but don't overstep your bounds as a performer and attempt to do the director's job for them. It's a good way to get replaced or lose out on future work. Your job is to bring the director's vision to life.

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