Greenlight Script Coverage

Greenlight Script Coverage
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American Gem Short Script and Literary Festival


There are at least three major factors that should be taken under consideration when a director is casting a role (budget aside). These factors are the audience, the character or role and the physical appearance of the actor. It is crucial to take audience expectations into consideration when casting a role. Because audiences tend to type-cast certain actors in certain types of roles, placing an actor known for big muscle action films (a perfect example being Arnold Schwarzenegger) in a role such as Dustin Hoffman played in Tootsie would no doubt deter audiences. The personality projected by the actor must match audience expectations for the role.
Once the major roles for the film have been cast, a director can begin preliminary run-throughs (rehearsals) to help the actors develop their specific characters. The amount of rehearsal time afforded depends greatly on what the director requests, the availability of the actor, and the overall time constraints on the film. Generally rehearsals last 2-3 weeks before the actual shooting process begins. Rehearsals can be very helpful in establishing relationships with the actors, along with determining if a specific scene plays out as believable or not. It is a time when the actors can give input, ask questions and collaborate with the director on whether a scene will relay well to the audience. If not, this is the time to make changes.

Different directors have differing points of view as to whether rehearsal is important to the overall production of the film or not. On one side (say, the left side) there are those such as Paul Williams, "I am very actor oriented, and am very concerned with performance. I don't know how to do it without rehearsals." Next there are directors such as Bernardo Bertolicci, "I don't rehearse too much. I try, if I can." Leaning over to the right side there are directors such as Robert Altman "I don't have any real rehearsal period. I'm embarrassed to rehearse because I don't know what to do." Finally there are those on the far right, like Michael Winner, " I don't believe in rehearsal for a film."

There are many directors who would rather take several shots during the filming process than waste that time in rehearsals. Then, when that perfect impromptu action occurs, it is more realistic because it has not been played over previously. Once a scene has been rehearsed and the perfect action for that scene has been discovered, to recreate that perfect scene when the camera is rolling is sometimes difficult, because now the actor is trying to act out that impromptu action.
Shooting the Picture
With the rehearsal period coming to a close, preproduction ends and shooting begins. At this point, the director of photography usually works in close collaboration with the director to set up how each scene is to be shot. This collaboration could make or break the film. 

The first and most important question is where should the camera be placed. Before selecting the final placement of the camera, it is natural for the director to run through the basic actions of the actors, called blocking. It is rare that the movements of the actors are precisely set, rather, a general sense of the action is determined which helps to facilitate the camera actions. 

The director has a number of options as to where to place the camera. It can pan back and forth, up and down. It can move (through the use of a hand-help or steady cam) or can even follow the actor, or dolly. Directors usually begin with a master shot, in which everyone in that particular scene is included in one take. 

Next, the same scene will be shot several times over, but now the camera moves in and focuses on medium shots, over-the-shoulder shots, two-shots, or close-ups. It is important to get several shots (at different angles) of the same scene so there are a number of shots to choose from. 

A director's ability to select and control visual images begins with an understanding of specific types of shots. Long shots orient the audience to subjects, objects and settings by viewing tem from a distance. An establishing shot generally locates the camera at a sufficient distance to establish the setting, while a full shot provides a head to toe view of a particular person or persons. Medium shots provide a ¾ view of a person, while a close shot (or close-up) refers to isolation of elements in the shot, normally the head and shoulders of a person.

Camera angles are frequently used to establish a specific viewpoint, such as the involvement of the audience in a particular characters perspective and or action. By placing the camera in the approximate spatial position of a character, a point-of-view (POV) shot can be established. This type of shot often follows a shot of a character looking in a particular direction, which establishes the spatial POV in the scene. 

A variation on the POV shot is a subjective shot, which shows the audience what the person is looking at or thinking about. Other shots include reverse angle, low or high angle and overhead shots. Once the editing process of the picture begins, which shot to use will be determined. Along with this, one of the director's key jobs (which is shared by the editor during post-production) is to determine the precise duration of each shot.

A director can only coordinate the production effectively if he or she can communicate with everyone effectively. Because of this, directors have developed a relatively precise terminology with which to communicate with their crew. During multiple camera recordings, this may be crucial. 

The director generally begins each command with the specific number of the camera to which the command is directed (i.e. if there are 3 cameras used, they will simply be called cameras 1, 2 and 3). When the commands are given the director is specific and brief. For example, commands such as "ready camera 1" or "camera 1 zoom in to close-up" are very common, rather than saying something like "camera 1, if you're ready we're going to zoom in a little closer on the subject."

Some directors, such as Curtis Harrington (What's the Matter with Helen) say they are very dependent on the cameraman. Suggestions are welcome, although generally he has an idea of where he wants the camera to be placed and what lighting he wants present. 

James Bridges (The Paper Chase) admits that he still doesn't know that much about the camera. "I hire the best people, and I work with them and tell them what I want." Franklin Schaffer (Planet of the Apes, Patton) agrees, "Talk to a cameraman and tell him what you want, what conceptually you see the picture as. He will then come back technically and say 'I can get it this way…"

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